A mhuintir na hAontroma, speeches are important

Antrim fan Liam Tunney does not agreee with Paddy Heaney’s views on banning speeches for all winning captains and felt strongly enough about it to put pen to paper

“No harm to the Saffron fans who were outraged, and I certainly wouldn’t want to cause any offence to Conor McCann, but you cannot be serious.”

Paddy Heaney, Irish News, December 16

Paddy Heaney is right, there was a bit of a furore on Twitter last Sunday.

Conor McCann stood on the steps of the Hogan Stand, shifting impatiently while John Horan finished what he had to say.

Obligatory roar complete, he began to unfold a slightly crumpled piece of paper, ready to serenade Antrim’s first national hurling championship trophy in 14 years.

Around the world, Saffron supporters, restricted to watching on a screen, turned up the volume. What would the All-Ireland-winning captain have to say?

They were left with urban myth. And a nagging  sense they should be switching their energy provider.

To cut the victory speech from broadcast was a final, casual show of contempt from throughout the afternoon.

Cargin’s Kieran Close was as surprised as anyone to hear Ger Canning describe him firing over frees with the camán at Croke Park. We await Ciaran Clarke’s big ball county debut.

And while Antrim would love to merge the talent of Conor McCann and Neil McManus into one, Conor McManus is a Monaghan footballer.

Yes, the modern victory speech is usually sterile and rarely produces anything of note, but that’s not the point.

Outside of Ulster, discontinued since 2017, this was Antrim’s first championship trophy since the 2006 Christy Ring Cup win, where they beat Carlow in the final by 18 points.

The build-up around the county in the run-up to the game was the first time the current generation of Antrim children have experienced anything like it.

Casement Park has been out of action since 2013, with Antrim out of hurling’s top flight since 2015. The way the current team has gelled under 2020’s difficult circumstances has reignited hope.

Had this been a normal year, the county would have emptied. Croke Park would have been heaving with Saffron jerseys and Plan B would have been the GAA’s only option.

Those supporters would have hung on every word of Conor’s speech.

He could have said anything – even rolled out a Fr Ted list of all the corner backs who’ve fouled him over the years – and still got a rapturous response.

But, unlike the Limerick supporters watching their team at home, we never got the chance. I’m sure Fr PJ McCamphill, watching in Nairobi, would have appreciated the custom.

Paddy describes it as an anti-climax, but if it’s your team, it’s the crowning moment.

You’re not listening to its content. You listen to it so that in 10, 20, 50 years’ time, you can say you remember the feeling, or describe it to a wide-eyed youngster holding their first hurl.

Occasionally though, you get iconic moments like Joe Connelly’s 1980 ‘Muintir na Gaillimhe’ speech.

After a 57-year drought, the Galway captain stood in front of a riotous support and proclaimed they were back.

He handed over the microphone to a team-mate who led the maroon choir in a rendition of ‘The West’s Awake’ that would bring goosebumps to a wooden post.

That team-mate?

Joe McDonagh.

Hope and history and all that.

A mhuintir na hAontroma, tá craobh na hÉireann ar ais in Aontroim.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.