By Brendan McTaggart
“You’ll be a happy boy after that win, McTaggart?”
If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times. It’s fair to say, I was more than happy to give my tuppence to anyone who wanted to listen on Saturday afternoon and night after Dunloy’s nail biting win over St Brigid’s in the minor football championship.
When I put pen to paper last week, it was more for a ‘release’ of pent up frustration from what had transpired in the days beforehand. Once I had it typed out, it kind of helped me to deal with my ‘inner demons’ and draw a line under what had been a tough few days. As an afterthought, I sent it to the chief editor Curly and he published it on the Saffron Gael.
The reason why the internet and Social Media can be a useful tool. It can get a message out there in a few clicks of a button and before you know it, a few thousand people have read had a look at your scribblings. The reaction to the piece was quite overwhelming and one I hadn’t bargained for if I’m being totally honest. It was something I suppose, everyone could relate to. At one stage or another, we’ve all been that soldier.
Back to social media. It’s such a great tool in the right hands. Antrim PRO Sean Kelly has been a great advocate for Twitter since he came onto the Antrim administration and in fairness to him, he hasn’t quite ‘Made Antrim Great Again’ but his contribution to Antrim GAA through twitter has been outstanding. Again, in the right hands social media is a useful and powerful tool.
But for every action there’s an equal reaction. Just like where there’s yin, yang is never far away either. We haven’t had to go far or look too hard in recent times to see exactly what I’m talking about. The recent craze of videoing the local rumble in the jungle at a championship match.
Before I go any further, I’m not condoning the violence and in itself it’s a blight on our game. It’s unsavoury and unsightly. Not the kind of scenes we want to expose our youth’s to. I had two of my four daughters in Dunloy when St Johns and Cushendall spilled over and my eldest was with me in Ballycastle for Dunloy and Loughgiel’s Battle of the Dugouts. As any parent will relate to, my first thoughts went straight to their safety. On the way home there was one thing that I stressed on both occasions however. What happened at the full-time whistle? A shake of hands and that was that. What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch. It’s something to be lauded within the GAA and something that is encouraged within clubs up and down the country but it comes down to one word.
Now I know there’s been video clips doing the rounds of matches, players and spectators going overboard. I even read someone calling it ‘common place’ on Twitter.
How many matches is there up and down the country every weekend for the last six weeks or more and we’ve had a handful of these incidents at most? And let’s face it, the only reason we’re seeing them now is because Wee Johnny has the latest iPhone and wants a few likes or retweets with the hopes of another media outlet picking up on them. A want for five minutes of fame.
Now Mr Nolan is latching onto it with his radio show. I never have been his biggest fan, in fact he is on a list of people that include Danny Cipriani and Graeme McDowell who have blocked me on twitter. Cipriani and McDowell I have no idea why, Nolan…..aye, I think I know why but that’s for another day.
Anyway, mini rant over.
Back to respect. It’s something that’s earned, not given. Each player that takes to the field in recent times no matter the grade, train through the heavy grounds and frosty nights with biting cold winds in preseason to make themselves a better version if what they are. There’s a want, a need and a desire to do whatever it takes to win and the seeds for this is planted while doing the endless sprints and drills under floodlights in the winter months. If that means winning ugly and if that’s what is required, these lads are prepared to go the extra mile and ‘against the grain’ to do it. To make the hard yards worthwhile. Look at Loughgiel’s tactics against Dunloy. The Shamrocks have been famed for playing a brand of hurling that is hugely entertaining for neutrals of the game and took them to a second All-Ireland title not that long ago. I didn’t see it coming. Anytime these two titans have played each other in the past 12 to 18 months, the games have been exhilarating and hurling of the highest class. The Shamrocks changed things around a bit borne out of necessity to get the win on the day but with no less skill or passion.
It’s what the club scene within Antrim has in spades. From Junior B through to Senior, each player and management team goes out with a sense of pride for their shirt and passion for their club. A will and a drive to get the win.
The passion is there but it goes hand in hand with respect. So long as we continue to encourage the respect while instilling the passion from an early age, our game will remain healthy as it is now and grow as it continues to do. The hurt from defeat will remain with players until this time next year and most if not all, will use that hurt to get through the dark nights in January and February. But all in the name of passion for their club and wanting to become that player they dreamed off as a child. Winning championships with our school friends, brothers, cousins and sometimes uncles or nephews. It’s what makes the club championship so great and while the respect and passion continue, we will always encourage our wee ones to take part.
Our games are in a good place as it’s where clubs and county’s up and down the country have worked so tirelessly to achieve. I have no doubt the recent video clips with spectator violence will be yesterday’s news soon enough providing they are dealt with in the manner they should be by the respective boards but as we cast our eyes towards the coming weeks, there is more memories waiting and ready to be written for more clubs. Let’s make them that lasting memories of the 2018 championship.