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Eamonn Fitzgerald: Time to honour the heroes of Jadotville

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Eamonn Fitzgerald speaks to Kerry All-Ireland winner Noel Lucey about his brother, Jimmy, who survived the infamous Siege of Jadotville

Heroes should be remembered and it is never too late to do so. I have often been critical of the need for the Irish Senate, seeing it as a talking shop and an unnecessary huge expense on the Irish taxpayer.

However, I was very heartened to read the Seanad report last week and the resolution to honour 155 Irish soldiers, whose incredible bravery as peacekeeping heroes in Jadotville in 1961 has been for the most part ignored by successive governments for the past 59 years.

More about that later but first of all let us focus on two Kerrymen who were central to the mission, Pat Quinlan and Jimmy Lucey, who are sadly both now dead. Any of our readers who have seen the film ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ will appreciate the incredible story from 1961. Commandant Pat Quinlan was the leader of the A Company of the Irish Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion. Jimmy Lucey played at midfield for Kerry in the 1962 All-Ireland final alongside Mick O’Connell. His brother Noel played at centre back that day and earlier this week I spoke to Noel, living in Glenflesk, about that 1962 final win and about his late brother Jimmy.

MAGICAL

My own memories of the 1962 All-Ireland are of listening to Micheál Ó Hehir creating those magical pictures for those of us at home listening to him on the wireless. We didn’t have a TV, even though that was the first All-Ireland televised live. I had it tuned in to Radio Éireann long before the throw-in and it was a good job, because there was an explosive start to the match. Kerry won the throw-in and unlike the modern ploy of working the ball in usually involving several inter-passing movements, the ball was dispatched route one to the forwards as Dr Eamonn coached at that time. No dilly dallying with it but send it in long to the forwards whose function is to score.

Gary McMahon was corner forward and he punched the ball past Aidan Brady in the Roscommon goal. Kerry were a goal ahead and all it took was 34 seconds, the fastest goal ever scored in an All-Ireland final and that still stands 59 years later. Gary has long since passed away but his younger brother Eoin, a solicitor in Newcastlewest, often told me that ever since then when he goes to an All-Ireland final he stands up for 34 seconds and only then can he relax and sit down on his seat knowing that his brother’s record stands for another year at least.

Johnny Culloty was the Kerry goalkeeper in 1962, when the Kingdom won the All-Ireland title for the 20th time.

My other memory of that game was of Jimmy Lucey catching a fine ball very early on in the game, then turning around and kicking it in towards his own goal providing an unexpected present for the unbelieving Roscommon forwards. Many friends said it happened much later in the game but Noel Lucey said my memory was correct. Goalkeepers were in no hurry to kick out the ball after a shock goal. Aidan Brady went long with the kick-out, as was the only game tactic of the day. No short kick out to the corner back. Jimmy Lucey fetched the O’Neills ball turned and kicked it in towards his own backs. I said to Noel that maybe Jimmy wanted to pass it to his brother. Maybe so, but he didn’t exert an accurate kick-pass. The ball landed some yards to Noel’s side, but any danger was quickly averted by that brilliant left halfback beside him, Mick O’Dwyer, who nipped into the ‘bearna baol’ and sent the leather up to either Dan McAuliffe or Jerry O’Riordan.

ATTACKED

Just one year earlier, Jimmy Lucey and 154 of his lightly armed fellow Irish soldiers were attacked from 7.48am on the morning of September 13, and all hell broke loose. They were holed up for five days fighting for their lives, in what is remembered as the Siege of Jadotville. They were sent to protect settlers and locals as part of a UN peacekeeping mission in the hostile and volatile situation in the Congo.

They were led by another Kerryman, Commandant Pat Quinlan from Caherdaniel parish. I got to know Pat in Dublin in the late 60s/early 70s and met him on a number of occasions where Kerrymen met. There was no ‘eirí in áirde’ in Pat Quinlan’s demeanour about his incredible leadership in Jadotville on September 13-17, 1961 and he didn’t say too much about their ordeal, although he was hurt by the reception they got when they came home.

They were publicly condemned. He was referred to as a coward for calling for a ceasefire and surrendering. He had no other choice with rations and waters supplies exhausted. The Irishmen’s bravery, masterful tactics and gallantry were all forgotten. In 2008 Maurice O’Keeffe recorded an audio documentary on Jadotville for South County Dublin Council. He found that the survivors had raw feelings about how they’d been portrayed.

“Crowds would abuse them at football matches. Some turned to drink or suffered terribly in other ways,” O’Keeffe said.

“They weren’t recognised for their courage; they were seen as traitors for surrendering.”

Sadly so many of the heroes of Jadotville suffered in later life with post-traumatic stress. Some died by suicide, alcoholism and other ailments. It reminded me of what happened to the heroes of 1916, who were very unpopular in the eyes of the Dubliners for drawing all this trouble and fighting to the capital. That changed after the executions of the leaders and they became heroes.

Hordes of indigenous Katangese, as well as French and Belgian mercenaries, attacked the Irish, and the terrible ordeal began. The peacekeeping force, aided by Quinlan’s competence and tactical strategy, kept an estimated 3,000 attackers at bay. They lived through a five-day downpour of shells and bullets but with supplies exhausted and help unable to reach them, he called surrender.

Then followed six weeks of captivity as prisoners of war, not knowing if and when they would be executed. What is remarkable is that none of the 35th Irish Infantry Battalion were killed, whereas up to 300 of the attackers were reported as killed. Five of the Irish were injured.

Leader Quinlan kept their spirits up, kept them together, and kept them alive.

Jimmy Lucey survived and I asked his brother Noel earlier this week what he remembered about his brother’s ordeal and near death on UN peacekeeping duty.

“Not an awful lot really, but I do remember my mother and father listening in closely to the reports on the radio at that time at home in Caragh Lake. There was no television there at that time, not even electricity. The reports were coming in about the Irish soldiers being ambushed, then captured and imprisoned. They didn’t know whether Jimmy was dead or alive. It went on for a long time, day after day and I remember they survived and they were home before Christmas.”

And did Jimmy talk to you about Jadotville?

“He didn’t say much about it at all. But one day he did tell me that one of the other lads was shot in the arm and Jimmy pulled him in to safety and saved his life, otherwise he would have been riddled with bullets. I also remember that when they came home they didn’t get a great reception because some people didn’t like it that they surrendered after five days in the siege.”

KERRY TEAM

“We played together with Kerry,” Noel continued. “He was in the army base in Naas and I was in the Air Corps. We played in the Whit Sunday Tournament in the Park (the Fitzgerald Stadium) in May or June of 1962 against Roscommon and that was Jimmy’s first day playing for Kerry. We met them afterwards in the All-Ireland final. He played very well and was picked at midfield with Mick O’Connell. He played his first championship game with Kerry against Waterford in Listowel.”

Kerry then trounced Cork in the Munster final in Cork on July 15 and easily beat Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park. Jimmy and O’Connell held sway in all those games, and then on to the final where they beat Roscommon 1-12 to 1-6.

Jimmy went back on two further UN Peace missions including Cyprus. Mo bhrón, he had a short life, surviving the attack in Jadotville and the other UN missions, winning that coveted medal with Kerry, but his life was short, too short. He died of cancer while still a very young man.

His brother Vincent played at right half forward on the Kerry team beaten by Galway 0-12 to 0-9 in the 1965 All-Ireland final. Paul Lucey, the fourth brother, certainly played with the Kerry juniors and if memory serves me well the four brothers won a Kerry SFC with Mid-Kerry.

I understand that some of those 155 Jadotville heroes are still alive. Some efforts were made over the years to honour the heroes of 1961. The A Company received a unit citation in Athlone some years ago. There were also talks of individual medals for distinguished service and gallantry.

Attempts were made by successive governments but it never happened and that that gap is still there.

Noel Lucey and his late wife Mary (nee Shine) had five daughters, Karen, Linda, Saundra, Áine and Deirdre, all great runners who have won numerous titles at local and national levels. I often saw them in full flight. With the Lucey DNA and coached by their father, they were winners in several arenas. Sadly, Linda passed away recently. She was married to Pat Eviston of Eviston House Hotel.

Back to the Seanad. Thanks to the efforts of Mark Daly, the Seanad cathaoirleach, Simon Coveney, Minister for Defence, Frances Black (the singer who said that that some of those soldiers  in Jadotville were as young as 15 year old) and other senators a new move is in train to award Distinguished Service Medals (DSM) and Military Medals for Gallantry (MMG)  to the Jadotville heroes.

2021 will be the 60th anniversary of the siege at Jadotville. I hope there is no obfuscation in the Seanad report and urge Minister Coveney and those who have the power to officially honour the heroes of Jadotville, to do so promptly, even if most of the awards are granted posthumously. Their relatives will appreciate the much longed for recognition.

 

Main pic: Jamie Dornan portraying Quinlan in the 2016 film ‘The Siege of Jadotville’, which is currently available on Netflix.

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Eamonn Fitzgerald: Keane should know 11 of his 15 starters

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Kerry manager Peter Keane speaking with David Moran after the Super 8s match against Mayo in 2019. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile.

As Kerry ramp up towards the championship, Eamonn Fitzgerald gives his assessment of their preparations to date.

One certainly learns more from defeat that from victory, so what has Peter Keane and his management team learned from the 2020 debacle?

In fairness to the Kerry management, they have opened up the panel, brought some new players into the fold. They will bring them along hoping they will be in contention for places in the resurrection, which occurs when they start the 2021 championship campaign with a home game versus Clare in the Fitzgerald Stadium.

Tomorrow, Kerry will meet Tyrone in the NFL semi-final. Their league title is at stake. Too many supporters give them no credit for winning the 2020 National League.

If Kerry win and Dublin win as expected, there won’t be a league final and it will be a shared title. That is disappointing for the players. The GAA should have done better and ensured they a final had to be played.

IDEAL PREPARATION

Peter Keane and the Kerry players have had the ideal preparation for the championship. Three competitive league games so far and one more tomorrow. The Kerry selectors used the matches wisely, trying out as many players as possible to see which combination will deliver success.

Injuries forced their hands for all games and some established players were rested. That gave game time to so many players.

That huge win over Galway in Tralee was a great morale booster. They ran up a big score, inflicting a 22-point defeat on Galway, the worst ever margin of defeat for the Westerners. It was magical stuff, Kerry going at them from the throw-in and imposing their game on hapless Galway.

In my report I said that one swallow does not make a summer, but that one swallow was most welcome and hopefully the rest of the flight would follow to make a summer of delight in Kerry.

The eagerly awaited clash with the Dubs did not disappoint. Kerry were like the proverbial curate’s egg, good and bad in patches. Leaking three early goals was ominous. Had we learned anything about basic defending?

Dublin went seven points clear and looked odds-on to make it a 10-point win, but Kerry responded magnificently hitting six unanswered points. It looked all up when Dublin converted a late penalty, but David Clifford came to the rescue in the dying minutes of the game to snatch a draw. Lessons to be learned against the top opposition. Kerry forwards are very good, but the defence is still the Achilles heel.

Roscommon proved as tough as ever, but Kerry competed well. Still that goal leakage at the back was a worry. Diarmuid O’Connor improved steadily and will start at midfield v Clare.

Tomorrow’s very competitive match v Tyrone will tell us more.

STARTING 15

I expect at this stage Peter Keane and his selectors have 11 positions filled to start v Clare. They haven’t a surplus of class players and injuries will deprive them of a full hand.

I’ve still to see the Peter Keane gameplan, his stamp on this team. Every manager in any team sport wishes his/her team to play in a certain matter. The defensive tactics in Cork failed. Thankfully, that has changed in the three league games of 2021 and that is encouraging.

The ball is going in much quicker and sooner so that the inside forwards are brought into play. They score freely and once you get the ball inside 50 metres defenders are quite likely to foul. With Seán O’Shea that’s a pointed free in most cases.

I’m not suggesting that the Kerry defenders should send the ball anywhere out of their way. Leave that to supporters of Charlton. Get it out long and accurate setting up an attack, instead of lateral passing and not progressing.

I expect that the Kerry selectors have pencilled in 11 places and the discussion really is for the remaining starting four. They will also will be very mindful of seven other subs. The starting 15 will not be the 15 that will finish. Such is the intensity of the modern game.

DEFENCE

Shane Ryan has been out injured for this league and must be doubtful for the early stages of the championship. Kieran Fitzgibbon has been catapulted into goalkeeping duties and he has performed quite well, especially playing behind a much-maligned defence.

The goalkeeper is just not alone a ball stopper, but he is called into play once the opposition start moving out the ball from the other end of the field. He can see possible developments long before his defenders do. He can see the runner, gaps opening and real danger, before defender do. They are too taken up with marking their own men. The keeper is the eyes and ears of the defenders and must be sure and vocal. It will take time for him to assert his authority and the same goes for the kick-outs. Understandably, he hasn’t always succeeded in picking out a fellow player, be it short or long. That will come. Even Cluxton had to learn.

The defence has been much-maligned and leaking so many goals substantiates that argument. In their defence they are often at sixes and sevens with extra men galloping through, because other players let their men sally up field unmarked. However, I cannot understand why this sextet – and it could be any six – do not realise that their first duty is to mark their own men. Too often they stand off their opponents and gift them the initiative.

These are elite players who have been coached in the art of defence in their own clubs since they were juveniles. Too often, some but not all, do not seem to understand that there really is no defined tackle in Gaelic football, but you can get in close. Use your hands strategically and prevent the attacker scoring or laying it off to a fellow player. That’s all legitimate and there is no need to concede a free. I could name several players at club level who operate this defensive tactic so successfully. Great Kerry backs of the past did it. I think of players such as Paudie Lynch and Mike McCarthy.

The present Kerry defenders are plenty fit enough. They need to be near their direct opponents and be pro-active instead of being reactive. Rarely is there need for a long inaccurate clearance. A hand pass, or preferably an accurate punt kick will set the Kerry forwards in motion.

The Kerry full back line should not be drawn 50 yards from goal and certainly not sprinting out as a link man into the opposition’s territory. How often have we seen it by some of these defenders? Mind the house, don’t leave the goalkeeper exposed and the goal leakage will dry up, or curtailed at worst.

I also feel that Gavin Crowley should not be lured into up field sallies. He has a very onerous job. He must mind his man and also mark space. Tim Kennelly and Mick Morris before him were not classy players but were highly effective centre-backs. No yawning gaps to allow Brian Fenton, Eoin Murchan, or Jack McCaffrey exploit this this tempting mortal sin.

Primary duty for wing backs Paul Murphy and Gavin White is to mark their own man and when the two or three opportunities arise in the game they have the explosive pace to go up field to score or assist in a score. If that run breaks down it is not as serious, as if it happened to a centre back exposing the middle for those Dublin invaders.

MIDFIELD

Midfield has been a problem area for Kerry. David Moran has given Kerry great service over many years, but I contend that he should not be on the starting 15. He may well be on the finishing 15.

I like Diarmuid O’Connor. Big, strong, mobile, well able to score when the opportunity arises, he has a great engine and has youth on his side. Who should partner him?

Jack Barry is in the frame to start, but not Tommy Walsh.

I also expect Kerry to have a Plan B. My preference is to include Seán O’Shea and Paudie Clifford in the half-forward line, one of them centrally and both tasked with helping out at midfield. The older Clifford is mobile, brave and eager and could do a very effective smash and grab possession ploy. He should start. Now he is more even-tempered than he has been in the past. He can open a defence route one and knows when to deliver to the full forward line. I feel that we can get more out of Seán O’Shea.

I hope Peter Keane doesn’t fall back on the Cork gambit where the half-forward line’s role was to go back to their own half-back line helping out. Tracking back is important, but that last-ditch ploy inevitably draws out the inside forward line. Wouldn’t David Clifford’s marker love to see him 70 yards from goal? Even Kerry’s jewel will not score from that position. Again, send in the ball quickly to Kerry’s best scorers, Clifford and whoever is with him. Paul Geaney, Paudie Clifford, Tony Brosnan and Killian Spillane are in the frame to score.

You can have all the fitness in the world, elaborate game plans and astute use of the bench, but those ingredients alone will not propel Kerry forward in a realistic bid for Sam 2021. Pride in the geansaí will oil the winning machine.

Over to you the present Kerry players, whichever 15 starts v Clare, then Tipperary followed by Cork. Bryan McMahon the former Kerry player and songster was spot on with the importance of dúchas and tradition.

“You cannot box or bottle it, nor grasp it in your hand,
But pride of race and love of place inspire a love of land
.”

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Tom O’Sullivan and Tony Brosnan start as Keane makes raft of changes

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Tom O'Sullivan, Peter Keane and Tony Brosnan. Pics: Sportsfile.

Dingle defender Tom O’Sullivan and Dr Crokes sharpshooter Tony Brosnan have been named in a much-changed starting line-up for Kerry’s National League Round 3 match against Roscommon.

The pair had missed out on Kerry’s first two matchday squads of the season but they look set to feature from the off in Dr Hyde Park on Sunday. The game will be shown live on the TG4 Player (throw-in 3.45pm) with deferred coverage on TG4 at 5.35pm.

O’Sullivan is joined in the full back line by his namesake, Graham O’Sullivan, and Jason Foley, who moves from No. 2 to No. 3. Regular full back Tadhg Morley drops to the bench.

The versatile Brian Ó Beaglaoich will line out at half back alongside centre back Gavin Crowley and there will be a first start on the other wing for Mike Breen of Beaufort. First choice wing backs Paul Murphy and Gavin White are listed as substitutes.

David Moran and Diarmuid O’Connor retain their spots at midfield as Jack Barry misses out on the 26 for the second week in a row.

Stephen O’Brien gets his first start of the year at right half forward with Ronan Buckley of Listry on the 40 and Paul Geaney at 12 for the third consecutive fixture. Seán O’Shea is named amongst the subs.

There is no place on the panel for Killian Spillane as the Clifford brothers, David and Paudie, are joined in the full forward line by Brosnan. David will captain the side in Paul Murphy’s stead.

As expected, Kieran Fitzgibbon holds on to the No. 1 jersey. Eoghan O’Brien of Churchill has been drafted into the extended panel to provide extra cover in the absence of the injured Shane Ryan, but goalkeeping coach Brendan Kealy continues to deputise as sub keeper.

Liam Kearney of Spa makes his first matchday squad of the campaign.

Roscommon, meanwhile, are expected to name their team tomorrow. Listowel native Conor Cox, who made seven appearances for Kerry before transferring to the Rossies in 2019, was a 50th-minute substitute in both of their matches to date.

Following those defeats to Dublin and Galway, Anthony Cunningham’s side will be facing into a relegation playoff semi-final whatever the outcome of Sunday’s match.

Kerry can mathematically join them in the bottom two but Peter Keane’s men would need to lose by at least 14 points and Galway would also need to beat Dublin.

Kerry team to face Roscommon

1. Kieran Fitzgibbon (Kenmare Shamrocks)

2. Graham O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses)

3. Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue)

4. Tom O’Sullivan (Dingle)

5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht)

6. Gavin Crowley (Templenoe)

7. Mike Breen (Beaufort)

8. David Moran (Kerin’s O’Rahilly’s)

9. Diarmuid O’Connor (Na Gaeil)

10. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare Shamrocks)

11. Ronan Buckley (Listry)

12. Paul Geaney (Dingle)

13. David Clifford (Fossa)

14. Tony Brosnan (Dr Crokes)

15. Paudie Clifford (Fossa)

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Adam Moynihan: So many GAA rules need tidying up

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Seán O'Shea evades the challenges of Brian Fenton and John Small. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Is there a sport in the world that alters its rulebook more frequently than Gaelic football? Every year when the first ball is thrown in, we’re left scratching our heads, frantically googling “GAA rule changes”, trying to come to terms with the latest updates to our playing protocol.

The changes to the advantage rule are causing consternation at the moment but the irony is that the game already has a number of laws that are either vague or poorly enforced. Below are just a few that come mind.

Surely it would make sense to iron these out before we even think about introducing further amendments.

1. Advanced mark. At its best (I would say less than 10% of the time), the advanced mark is a decent rule that rewards long-kicking and catches close to the goal. At its worst (the remaining 90% of the time), it’s a stupid rule that rewards nothing skills like short-kicking and unchallenged chest-catches. Plus, it abruptly stops the play for no good reason.

Of all the rule changes in recent years, it possibly holds the title of ‘most hated’. It simply has to go.

2. The tackle. You can only use one hand, but sometimes that’s a foul. You can only use an open hand, but sometimes that’s a foul. You can’t pull an opponent, but sometimes you can. You can’t push an opponent, but sometimes you can. What is a Gaelic football tackle? It’s so vague and open to interpretation. From game to game and even from tackle to tackle, you never really know what’s going to be foul and what isn’t.

It’s a difficult one for rule-makers to sort out but it’s not going to sort itself out, that’s for sure.

3. Booking both players when there’s a wrestling match. The ball is coming up the field. As the play approaches, a corner forward and a corner back become entangled and end up rolling around on the ground. Who do you think initiated that contact? Who has something to gain from that wrestling match? It’s almost always the defender. Is the forward supposed to go limp and play dead like they’re being attacked by a grizzly bear?

They have to stand up for themselves, and they shouldn’t be booked for doing so.

4. Feigning injury. The law states that attempting “to achieve an advantage by feigning a foul or injury” is a bookable offence. While the “foul” part can be tricky to spot on the fly, the latter half of the rule is generally far more black and white. Thankfully, players flopping to the ground and holding their faces when they’ve barely been touched is less prevalent in Gaelic football than it is in other sports, but it does happen. Yet how many yellow cards have been brandished for this infraction?

The shame of getting booked for playacting would be a huge deterrent and help stamp this behaviour out for good. It should be punished to the letter of the law.

5. Moving frees too far forward for dissent/impeding the kick. When a free is awarded, the penalty for dissent or impeding/slowing down the taking of the free is 13 metres. How many times have we seen an over-zealous referee bring the ball forward 20 metres or more?

I recall playing a minor game for Legion out in Rathmore. I committed a foul outside of our 65-metre line. For questioning the call, the ref carried the ball forward well inside our 45. For questioning the distance, he brought it in – and this isn’t a joke or an exaggeration – to the 13-metre line. That’s roughly 55 metres of a penalty instead of 26.

That’s an extreme example, granted, but even a five-metre bonus out the field could change the course of a match.

6. Hop balls. From the throw-in at the start of each half, every player bar the four midfielders is meant to be inside the two 45-metre lines. A metre or two encroachment here or there isn’t the end of the world, but in the 2019 All-Ireland final we saw what happens when the rule isn’t properly enforced. At the beginning of the second half, there were two extra players within the 65s by the time David Moran touched the ball down. Another six were just about to enter. One of those six, Eoin Murchan, gathered possession and scored a season-defining goal.

If a rugby or soccer player got away with being 20 metres offside from a kick-off, the referee would be demoted to the lower leagues in a flash.

Hop balls during open play are even messier. The players not contesting should be 13 metres away from the referee. The most you’d normally get is five, and that’s if the referee makes a big song and dance about it. By the time the ball reaches its apex there is invariably a sea of bodies awaiting its return to earth, and the resulting maul is anything but pretty.

Allowing the two nominated players to properly compete for the hop ball would lead to a greater possibility of clean possession, and some football as opposed to a spot of rugby.

7. Steps. Speaking of that Eoin Murchan goal… (No, I will not let it go.) The manner in which players travel with the ball is one of the most fundamental aspects of Gaelic football, yet it is arguably the least properly policed. Four steps is the rule. Four steps before you have to release the ball or hop or solo. But, of course, the inside joke is that it’s not four, is it? Not really. Sometimes five is okay. Sometimes six. You’d get away with seven. Maybe eight. Possibly nine. Ten? Ten is taking liberties. But yes, you could feasibly get away with ten as well.

Stringently enforcing this particular law might seem like a potential nightmare because players are so used to getting away with five or more steps. It would certainly prove contentious at the beginning, but everyone would adjust.

As it stands, it’s just another half-enforced rule that makes you wonder why they bothered writing it down in the first place.

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