08 February, 2011

Irish people: Is the following sentence familiar?

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National Pride:  Irish International Rugby Players
Soldiers are we, whose lives are pledged to Ireland. Sound familiar? It should. It's the first line of the Irish National Anthem, as Béarla (in English). Boomed out at Croke Park or Landsdowne Road, it forms an unwritten contract between the Irish people and the players involved. When the Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll sings the Anthem (as Gaeilge - in Irish that is), we know that he means it. 
When Ireland's international football captain:  Robbie Keane was asked by journalists if it was his desire to play for Mother Ireland which prompted him to move from Tottenham to West Ham to secure first team football and thus improve his international credentials, Robbie replied: "I haven't really thought about my position with the Ireland team."
Robbie Keane:  Pride in national jersey???
How then did the Dubliner feel about his national team manager (Giovanni Trapatoni) publicly expressing his willingness to select other strikers instead of him?
"If I'm not playing for Ireland and someone else comes in, I would walk away," - hardly a reply to suggest a great desire to play for one's country eh?.....Or a desire to fight for one's place in one's national team selection.
One wonders how does Robbie Keane's views make Irish fans feel? When I say "fans," I mean real fans: the people who take out credit union loans to travel to places like the Faroe Island and belt out "Amhrán nabhFiann,"  not knowing whether they'll ever be able to pay back their loans. Or the fans struggling to make ends meet under the rotting carcas of the Celtic Tiger?
If nothing else you can't doubt G Neville's loyalty
A day after Ireland's record goalscorer spoke those words, Manchester United's Gary Neville announced his retirement from (all forms of professional) football. They could have been talking about different worlds. Neville spoke reverentially of his club and his teammates. For him, his journey from a £29 a week 16 year-old, to a 35 year-old veteran railing against the dying of the light, was about heart and soul and ferocious loyalty.
Who can forget the astonishing incident between him and Peter Schmeichel after United's greatest Dane had moved to City in the twilight of his career?
In the tunnel before the next derby, Schmeichel moved down  the line of his old United teammates, embracing each. When he reached Nevile, the captain, he put his arm on Neville's shoulder, only to have it shrugged off.  As Schemeichel attempted to speak to him, Neville stared straight ahead, completely ignoring him. The treachery of moving to City could not be forgiven. 

It is some kick in the stomach for true Irish fans when our multi-millionaire captain matter-of-factly remarks that if he isn't in the starting XI, he won't be there at all.
True National pride:  Brian O'Driscoll
It was reported this week that Brian O'Driscoll took a substantial pay cut to play out the rest of his career in Ireland. Throughout the Six Nations, we know that O'Driscoll will put his body where you would not put a crowbar. 
Keane, meanwhile, with all his millions, says himself, the fact he is Irish (football) captain is a matter of indifference to him. What's even more galling is that he isn't English born, of the great Irish diaspora.
He doesn't qualify under the granny rule. He wasn't headhunted in Wales after an FAI official scoured the registry of births.
This is a working class Dub, born and bred.
Yeats was right: "Romantic Ireland is dead and gone, it's with O'Leary in the grave".  "Who," Robbie Keane might ask, "is O'Leary?"

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