Category Archives: The Games

Everything about Gaelic games (note: will mostly be about Dublin…)

The rollercoaster continues

The author reads from "A Parish Far From Home" at the Irish Embassy in Stockholm, Sept 23 2011.

It’s a long time since I spent a full week in Sweden, and even longer since I’ve felt as humbled as I did on Saturday.

The Irish Embassy had organised a reception to acknowledge the launch of the book, and it turned into a wonderful celebration of our club and our community and our games.

Displaying all the diplomatic skill he has honed on almost 40 years in the service of our country, Ambassador Donal Hamill made sure that his last official engagement before his retirement was dedicated to the ordinary people of Ireland, and his gracious speech highlighted not just my achievement with the book, but those of the whole club.

It might sound a bit far-fetched, but I don’t like being in the spotlight for my own achievements – I’d much rather share it with the lads or the girls or both – but I had to grab the bull by the horns.

I read two extracts from the book – the first in particular I still find tremendously difficult, a year after I forst wrote the lines- and then spoke about my gratitude to everyone there, and to the club.

I finished by saying that this book is but the first chapter in a new era for the Irish in Sweden, and that there was still plenty of time for everyone to make their mark.

I wasn’t joking. The previous Thursday the unstoppable Liam Kennedy had taken three others with him to a Swedish school and spent an afternoon teaching them to play hurling and Gaelic football. The kids loved it.

Our Embassy in Stockholm is in a beautiful location, with breathtaking views over the Stockholm archipelago.

As I stood by the window in the sunshine and read from our story of our first season, a thousand miles away in Dublin the future was taking shape – three of our girls had been selected to play for the European county in a seven-a-side competition.

Later we found out they’d made it to the final.

Long before that, we’d decided that this tale is far from over.


Dubs delight made the world a little smaller

It only happened a few hours ago, but I’ve just watched it again. I’ll watch it many more times.

I’ve waited sixteen years for it, so I’m going to make the most of it.

In the most dramatic of circumstances, Dublin banished sixteen years of failure and won the All-Ireland Gaelic football final.

I was one of the lucky ones in that I had a ticket, but circumstance intervened and I couldn’t travel to the game.I was lucky enough to be able to see the game at home- the rest of Stockholm was equally lucky in that it didn’t have to witness the madness in my front room.

Others weren’t so lucky. All through the game I was getting messages from all over the world, asking for a stream so that people could see the game on the internet.

All over the world, owners of Irish pubs abroad battled with a moral dilemma- to show the showpiece of Gaelic games, or to show the soccer matches from England and Scotland that draw the crowds and keep their businesses in the black.

I called last week for the GAA and its broadcasting partners to get together and stream the game free around the world; it didn’t happen, but if the will is there hopefully this will be the last year when Irish people around the world are denied the chance to be part of something so indescribably huge.

For despite the sometimes bitter rivalry between the capital and the rest, what is often forgotten is that a victory for Dublin’s Gaelic footballers or hurlers is a victory for everyone in the country.

Gaelic games in Dublin are built on the efforts of people from every corner of every county who give so much to the games and the Dublin clubs.

Most of those who will celebrate into the wee small hours in the Burlington Hotel have a mother or a father from beyond the Pale; all will have been coached or mentored by folk from the country.

And every single person in Croke Park today will know someone who has left our country to try to build a better life for themselves.

Dublin’s victory today made the world a little smaller; the GAA has a chance to make it smaller still by going back to the drawing board and making the games available free of charge over the internet to ex-patriates.

Because the Dubs showed today that this is so much more than just a game.

This is who we are.

And so it begins…

The courier arrived this morning with the first copies of the book and, as yet another dream came true for me, once again I felt like the luckiest man in the world.

This game and this life and these people are a gift that just keeps on giving, and at the same time as I’m very proud and humbled and grateful, I feel an enormous sense of responsibility as the book hits the shelves.

Even though it’s my book, it’s our story, and it’s not just those of us in Stockholm or Sweden or Scandinavia either. It’s a story of Irish people triumphing over adversity all over the world.

I’m looking forward to giving a new perspective on our country, our games and our people. These are exciting times.

On Saturday I head back to Ireland to begin promoting it, but first I’m looking forward to presenting it to my two daughters after dinner tonight to see what they say.

Because even though I now have the book in my hands, this story is not over yet.

Not by a long way.

Was it worth it?

The John Aherne trophy- staying in Stockholm for another year.

Every midnight call. Every e-mail. Every sms saying “I can’t come to training”.

Every bruising training session. Every pulled calf muscle. Every tight hamstring.

Every night spent pacing a pitch in the darkness.

Every kit order. Every bank transfer. Every missed DHL delivery.

Every referee. Every player. Every volunteer.

Every missed point. Every fluffed chance. Every bad bounce.

Every late night. Every early morning. Everything inbetween.

Yesterday we did it.

We retained our crown against some fantastic footballers, in some horrible conditions.

Was it worth it?

Damn right it was. And it’ll be worth it again next year. And the year after that.

You heard it here first

Dublin hurling boss Anthony Daly- next stop Shanghai?

Having watched the Dublin hurlers perform heroically yesterday, winning a minor but losing a senior All-Ireland semifinal, I found myself wondering why this isn’t the most popular game on the planet.

On a weekend where the Premiership started with a whimper with barely an incident of note and the Irish rugby team went through the motions against France, Croke Park became a sporting Colosseum. Even hurling’s most ardent critics would find it hard to fault the display of strength, speed, skill and sheer bravery that was witnessed there yesterday.

Given the right circumstances, I have no doubt that hurling could become a massively popular sport overseas, and the emergence of Dublin as a hurling power is ample evidence.

Here was a city whose indifference to hurling for the last forty years was worn like a badge of pride; it was a “country” game, nothing for the sophisticated citizens of the capital.

But those who believed put the structures in place, coached the kids and oversaw the development of the game in every detail. The result is not just a testimony to their work; it is a vital component in keeping the game competitive and adding to the drama.

The rest of the world is as oblivious to hurling as Dublin once was, but that could all change should the same approach be taken and the time and money invested in bringing it to their attention.

After all, there are many corners of the world in which sports based on the stick and ball are popular- ice hockey and unihoc are huge in Scandinavia and North America, and the likes of lacrosse and field or land hockey are played on American college campuses and dusty Asian sports fields alike.

If we could somehow put aside the notion that Gaelic games are really only for the Irish for a while, we could examine the possibility of really making an effort to spread them to the four corners of the earth.

When my imagination is allowed to run wild I look at my team-mate on the Gaels, Guo Guodong of China, and I think of how brilliant it would be to see him and his countrymen come to Croke Park for the Hurling World Cup in 2024.

Make no mistake- these are our games and we love them, but they are not lessened in any way by sharing them with the rest of the world.

Dublin’s Tyrone masterclass

Visited the Dubliner here in Stockholm last night to watch Dublin destroy Tyrone.

It’s not often I go out to watch a match as I can’t usually behave myself in public and I end up shouting at the telly and making a show of myself.

Last night probably wasn’t an exception, and even though the Dubs played better than I’ve seen in a long time, I’m sure I still effed and blinded a few times in the general direction of the TV.

Dermot Connolly finally played the kind of game that most observers knew he had in him – if he keeps up this form he might well leave his reputation for inconsistency behind and become the new hero on the Hill.