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Grealish is winning over the Irish… Rice? Not so much

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Adam Moynihan gives his take on the Irish public's "complicated" relationship with Jack Grealish and Declan Rice, while also asking the tricky question: can a person be both Irish and English?

Without wishing to resort to bottom-of-the-barrel “you know you’re Irish when…” humour, you know you’re Irish when, at some point in a major tournament, you are utterly consumed by the giddy anticipation that precedes the English national team’s newest implosion.

Annoyingly, it appears as though that joyous moment of self-destruction might not actually happen this time. Which is weird.

Nevertheless, hating the English is undoubtedly one of our favourite things to do, even if that hate is becoming more playful and less actually hateful as time goes by.

There are still some proper hate figures when it comes to Anglo-Hiberno relations, though. The Royal Family. Cromwell. Churchill. Thatcher. Grealish. Rice. And not necessarily in that order.

The latter duo could help to bring football “home” on Sunday evening, a feat which will no doubt make them eternal heroes in the country of their birth. But back in the home of their forefathers (Grealish has four Irish grandparents and both of Rice’s parents are Irish), winning Euro 2020 will do little for their popularity, which plummeted when the pair separately decided to switch allegiances to England having represented Ireland at underage level.

Rice actually played three times for Ireland’s senior team before defecting.

The decisions (Grealish’s in 2015 and Rice’s in 2019) left Irish football fans absolutely furious. Not only were we losing two desperately needed high-potential players, we were losing them to England. It left a very sour taste. There was a time in Ireland when the mere mention of Grealish’s name was sure to incite furrowed brows and some fairly choice expletives. He was well and truly hated.

They say time heals all wounds, however, and an informal poll carried out on my Instagram this week seems to suggest that, in Grealish’s case at least, all is forgiven.

Over three-quarters (77%) of the 250 respondents said that they now “like” Jack Grealish, with the remaining 23% standing firm and stating that they still “hate” him.

The poll itself can’t claim to be a completely accurate reading of the entire room – most of my followers are from County Kerry and roughly from my own generation or younger – but it’s a remarkable figure nonetheless, especially when you consider how despised the Aston Villa player was following his change of heart.

Perhaps the fact that Grealish has blossomed into such an exciting talent has impacted Irish soccer fans’ perception of him. He has lit up the Premier League in recent seasons and is now a target for a number of clubs, including Manchester United - one of the most popular teams on these shores.

He does also seem to come across as a genuine guy and whenever he speaks about the controversial transfer, he is respectful to Ireland. The Birmingham native, who played Gaelic football as a boy, clearly has legitimate ties to both communities and, considering how well his career is going, no Irish supporter can seriously claim that he made the wrong choice by opting for England.

Rice, on the other hand, still divides opinion. There is a well-founded perception that the West Ham midfielder did not handle his defection as well as he could and, perhaps, should have, and that he strung Ireland along for longer than he needed to. Maybe he always wanted to play for England? Maybe Ireland was just a stepping-stone?

The poll revealed that 60% of my followers still “hate” Rice, which is lower than I would have guessed but is still in stark contrast to the positive approval rating achieved by Grealish.

BOTH

Another question in the survey threw up an interesting figure. When asked if it is possible to feel both Irish and English, as Grealish and Rice apparently do, three out of five people said no, it isn’t.

Can one be both? To get a better grasp of the concept, I spoke to a number of locals who have mixed Irish and English backgrounds.

One, a woman with an English mother and an Irish father, said she has loyalties to both countries. “I feel a sense of belonging in both places,” she explained. Another, a man who was born in London before moving to Ireland with his English father and Irish mother when he was five, explained how he has “grown attached” to both Ireland and England.

Despite spending most of his life in Ireland and feeling Irish, another man, who was born in England, “admitted” to supporting England in the Euros. “Who else am I going to cheer for when Ireland fail to qualify?” he asked. He still feels a connection to the place of his birth.

The majority of English/Irish people I interviewed were not at all shocked that such a high percentage of Irish folk apparently believe that you have to pick a lane, so to speak, when it comes to nationality.

“Irish people are fiercely loyal to Ireland,” one pointed out. “So it makes sense that they struggle with the idea of someone feeling both Irish and English.”

But that’s exactly where Grealish and Rice fall. They were never simply Irish. They are not, now, simply English. They are both.

Of course, most of us will understandably stop short of supporting our neighbours in the final on Sunday. I’m fairly sure the right to enjoy watching England lose on penalties is enshrined in Bunreacht na hÉireann.

But, if the English do bring it home, maybe we can take some small bit of pride in knowing that they couldn’t have done it without a little help from the Irish.

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Glorious weather for Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships

It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough […]

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It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough Bay on Lough Lein.

Hundreds flocked to the Valley shore to see the coastal clubs of Kerry race in crews from Under 12 to Masters. As well as clubs from around the Ring of Kerry, there was a strong representation from the Killarney clubs with the Workmen, Commercials and Fossa wearing their colours with pride. The atmosphere, colour, fun and fierce competition produced a spectacular day that will live long in the memory.

The event was opened by the Councillor John O’Donoghue, vice chair of the Killarney Municipal District who congratulated Flesk Valley on their centenary, which occurred during 1920, and wished all of the clubs a successful day’s racing.

The first race was preceded by a special blessing of the boats by Fr Eugene McGillycuddy, who also remembered Brendan Teahan of Cromane Rowing Club in his prayers.

Afterwards John Fleming, chair of Flesk Valley, expressed his immense pride and satisfaction with the success of the regatta.

“It’s our first time ever hosting a regatta, but we wanted to do something special to mark our 102 years in existence,” he said.

“It was a lot of work, but we have a fantastic hard-working committee in Flesk Valley who really pulled out all the stops to make it happen, and we received fantastic support from our members, parents, other clubs and local businesses.”

John also thanked the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association, in particular Mary B Teahan and Andrew Wharton, and the staff of the Killarney National Park for all their support and encouragement in hosting this event.

This was a qualifying event and the Kerry clubs will be heading to Wexford next weekend to complete for honours at the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships.

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Live referee mics should be the norm – swearing concerns be damned

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by Adam Moynihan

I was disappointed to learn that the GAA are preventing TG4 from using their live referee mic in this Sunday’s Wexford hurling final.

(And not just because I had already written an article saying how great live referee mics are and how they are sure to be implemented across the board. Ctrl + A. Delete.)

TG4’s GAA coverage is superb and they raised the bar once again when they mic’d up referee John O’Halloran for the Kerry hurling final between Causeway and Ballyduff.

Pinning a microphone on the referee is standard practice in televised rugby and judging by the positive response to Gaelic games’ first foray into this territory, I was expecting it to become the norm.

It still might but, explaining their decision to The 42, the GAA said that they were not aware beforehand of the ref mic being trialled in Stack Park on Sunday.

“They believe such a development will require more discussion and education if it is to be implemented on a more regular basis in live TV coverage and could possibly need a policy change,” Fintan O’Toole reported.

The image of the Association is surely the primary concern here.

Players and managers – usually the worst behaved participants when it comes to things like swearing – will be among those who get “educated” on the subject. Some verbal abuse that might otherwise be muted for television viewers will, in all likelihood, be picked up by the referee’s microphone. You would imagine that the teams involved will be reminded of this the week of a televised game.

It also makes sense from Croke Park’s point of view to speak to referees and give them guidance on how to conduct themselves when the mic is on.

In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if senior GAA figures are currently fretting over the possibility of an agitated ref making headlines for something they say in the heat of the moment. And make no mistake about it, some match officials can eff and jeff with the best of them.

A friend of mine (a Wexford man, funnily enough) recalls an incident when a teammate was unceremoniously taken out of it by an opponent.

“Ah ref, for f***’s sake!” the victim complained.

“I gave you the f***ing free,” the referee replied. “What do you want me to do, slap him in the face with a wet fish?!”

The GAA might think that a referee swearing like that would leave all of us red-faced. In reality the clip would be a viral sensation and the general public would probably call for the official in question to run for Áras an Uachtárain. (He’d get my ****ing vote.)

The odd swear word from someone involved is bound to sneak through every now and then but you’d hear the same – and plenty more – at any match you attend from Cahersiveen to County Antrim.

Implementing the referee mic on a wider scale is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t appear to take a huge amount of effort or expense for the broadcaster to set it up and, more importantly, it offers a wonderful insight into the unknown.

Listening to referees explain their decisions in real time will clear a lot of things up for commentators, analysts and the media. We will no longer have to speculate about what they did or did not see, or what specific rule is being cited, or why.

Viewers, especially those who might be casual followers of the sport, will appreciate it too and become more educated; I know that’s how I feel when I watch rugby, for example.

It just leads to greater transparency and understanding.

Well done to TG4 and the Kerry County Board for being the pioneers. I’m sure others will follow their lead – as soon as the GAA allow them to do so.

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