Category Archives: Sport

Unholy trinity of bad news for Ireland

UPDATE:

Fintan O’Toole hits on two of the three items mentioned below, and more, in his column “Ireland is nobody’s little darling anymore.”

ORIGINAL POST:

It’s said that death and other bad news come in threes. This trio just arrived:

  • France won the right to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with Ireland finishing a distant third in voting behind South Africa. The World Rugby Council decision also means the tournament is likely to head to the Southern Hemisphere in 2027.
  • Ireland is the worst performing country in Europe for taking action against climate change, according to the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index. Dropping 28 places from last year, Ireland now ranks 49 out of 59 countries. Ireland is also “back-sliding” on its targets to achieve a 100 percent renewable energy system by 2050.
  • Dublin is now rated one of the worst cities in the world to emigrate to due to the lack of affordable housing and high cost of living, according to Expat Insider 2017.

Expensive Dublin will not be hosting any rugby World Cup games in 2023, and the Irish government located in the capital city isn’t doing enough to combat climate change.

Dubs dispute ESPN’s description of their fair city

Dublin media are howling over descriptions of the Irish capital in an ESPN The Magazine profile of native son Conor McGregor, who is scheduled to box Floyd Mayweather Jr. on 26 August, near Las Vegas.

“In the piece, McGregor’s childhood upbringing in the ‘projects’ of Crumlin and Drimnagh suggests he was brought up in the Gaza Strip or 1920s Chicago, not a neighbourhood in which this writer lived for six happy and peaceful years, oblivious to the grenades whizzing by, or the fact that I should have been taking an armed escort whenever I had to cross the Liffey,” Jennifer O’Connell complained in The Irish Times.

RTE radio presenter Rick O’Shea took to Twitter: “I grew up in both the ‘projects’ *ahem* of Crumlin and Drimnagh. This is lazy stereotyping bullshit of the highest order.”

I sure don’t claim to know every corner of Dublin from my half dozen visits over 17 years, but the story by Wright Thompson sure does seem over the top:

Dublin is best understood by exploring its many divisions, its unending physical and mental boundaries. The city, and its current champion, McGregor, are defined by those limits. It’s a clannish, parochial place. Crossing the wrong street has traditionally been reason enough for an ass-whipping.

Other divisions in the city revolve around class, and while Conor’s success allows him safe passage across gangland boundaries, it can’t overcome his Dublin 12 roots. The Irish national daily papers have long served as the mouthpiece of the upwardly mobile and educated. McGregor rarely makes their pages. On the first morning of the prefight media tour, The Irish Times and the Independent ran a combined 128 words about it: one small story about Mayweather’s tax problems.

Ah, ha! Could that be the problem: Thompson’s jab at the Dublin media?

As The Guardian noted: “This is not the first time that U.S. media’s depiction of the supposed dangers of life in Europe have attracted ridicule.”

“Whatever the neighborhood, Conor McGregor’s charisma transcends Dublin’s tribalism,” is the published cutline below this Finbarr O’Reilly photo in the ESPN story.

Happy Blogiversary: Five years, 500 posts

This is my 500th post since I launched the blog on 22 July 2012, with the goal of publishing “research and writing about Irish and Irish-American history and contemporary issues.”

This post also coincides with the publication of my latest story for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It’s about Ireland’s Great Famine, based on several letters written to a Catholic priest in 1847.

The Published Stories section of the blog contains all of my Irish-related work for outside newspapers, magazines and websites since 2000. Best of the Blog contains my annual round up of each year’s most significant stories, and other favorites exclusive to the site. See the list of St. Patrick’s churches I’ve visited, and check out other Irish interest places to visit.

Angie Drobnic Holan, my wife, has lovingly contributed to this effort as webmaster and editor. She has been unfailingly supportive, including the many evenings when she implored, “It’s time to turn off the computer and come to bed.”

I also want to thank my readers, especially those who subscribe to the blog via email. I appreciate the “Likes,” shares and re-tweets on social media. Sure, this blog doesn’t get the traffic of commercial sites, but l am grateful to everyone who stops by for a look, especially readers in Ireland.

Himself, at Carrigafoyle Castle, North Kerry, 2012.

In pursing my Irish history interests, I’ve been fortunate to visit numerous archives and libraries, where I obtained much valuable assistance. Among some of the places I’ve been able to visit:

My research also has benefited from the always-expanding menu of online resources. My laptop has become a time machine. It has whisked me back to 19th century Ireland and America through digitized documents and letters, newspaper archives, maps, photographs and vintage video.

Thanks again for reading the blog and supporting my work. Please keep coming back.

Ireland offers the world a bid and a bank

These two stories are related only in terms of Ireland offering itself to the world, albeit in vastly different ways. Readers are welcome to share their quips about any similarities of banking and rugby. MH

An initial public offering for 25 percent of state-owned Allied Irish Banks has opened on the Dublin and London stock exchanges. The bank was nationalized in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The government stepped in with a €21 billion ($23.50 billion) taxpayer bailout. The IPO is expected to raise €3 billion. As Reuters reports:

A successful flotation would mark another milestone in a dramatic turnaround from a banking and fiscal crisis that wrecked the country’s economy a decade ago. … One of Ireland’s two dominant banks, AIB returned to profit three years ago. It has cut its huge stock of impaired loans by more than two-thirds since then, and this year it became the first domestically owned lender to restart dividends since the crash.

Meanwhile, Ireland also submitted its bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023. The “Ready for the World” proposal calls for hosting matches at a dozen stadiums on both sides of the border.

France and South Africa are also vying for the tournament. World Rugby will announce the successful candidate in November.

Here’s the slick promotional video, narrated by Northern Ireland-born actor Liam Neeson:

 

Best of the Blog, 2016

The centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising and my sixth trip to Ireland made this a great year for the blog. Major elections in Ireland, the U.S. and the U.K. also produced outcomes that will have significant impacts for years to come. And there were other historical anniversaries and interesting contemporary developments. So let’s get right to the annual wrap-up:

Elections of 2016

  • In February, the national election in the Republic of Ireland ended in what Irish Times columnist Una Mullally described as a “weird, fractured, all-over-the-place result.” … In my ancestral home of County Kerry, brothers Michael and Danny Healy-Rae, both independents, took the top two of five seats in polling that ousted Fine Gael Minister of Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan and others. … It took until late April for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to reach a deal on forming a new minority government coalition.
  • A May vote on all 108 seats of the Northern Ireland Assembly resulted in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and [nationalist] Sinn Féin remaining the two largest blocks, “while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising,” the London-based New Statesman said. … Children born just before or after the April 1998 Good Friday Agreement began to turn 18 in 2016 and enter the electorate. 
  • In June, United Kingdom voters decided to leave the European Union by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, while the Northern Ireland electorate favored remaining in the E.U. by 56 percent to 44 percent. The so-called “Brexit” raises a number of tough questions about border controls with the Republic and the northern peace process. It has stirred talk of reuniting the island of Ireland, allowing the six northern counties to remain in the E.U. by joining the Republic.
  • For the second consecutive U.S. presidential election  cycle, two Irish-American candidates vied for the number two job. … Donald Trump’s victory drew harsh criticism from many Irish and Northern Irish political pundits as “America’s Brexit.” … Trump invited Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the White House for St Patrick’s Day in 2017, continuing a tradition that dates to 1952. Aside from the photo op, however, there are serious issues to discuss, such as the tax conditions of U.S. businesses operating in Ireland and Irish immigration.

The entrance of Trump’s Doonbeg golf course in County Clare with U.S., Irish and Trump flags.

Rising centennial

  • Sunday, 24 April was the calendar centennial of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising. It also was Census Day in Ireland, which revealed a changing, modernizing country. … The 100th anniversary generated plenty of opinions and interpretations in Ireland, the U.K., the U.S. and throughout the world.
  • I produced more than a dozen stories about 1916, including a five-part series on U.S.-Irish relations; Q & A style interviews with an Irish film producer and a U.S. archivist; and other original features. This work is gathered into the new 1916-2016 section of the blog.

Books about 1916 on the shelves at Eason & Son on O’Connell Street next to the General Post Office, epicenter of the rebellion. July 2016.

Other news and features

  • Irish tourism continued to grow in 2016, fueled in part by 1916 centennial. Fáilte Ireland suggested the market needs to continue “offering more compelling and authentic branded visitor experiences rather than relying on a hazy green image and warm welcome.” … In July, I visited the new, interactive Epic Ireland emigration museum in Dublin, then later contrasted it with the stalled effort to open an Irish American Museum in Washington, D.C. … I also visited Titanic Belfast, which was named the world’s leading tourist attraction for 2016. … For those considering a trip to Ireland, I published travel suggestions based on my visit. … I also introduced a new section of the blog featuring U.S. museums, libraries, cultural centers and programs devoted to Irish ancestry and contemporary connections.
  • 2016 was the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz. … It also was a Leap Year, which marked the 128th (or only the 32nd) anniversary of the opening of the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway, a personal interest of mine, on 29 February 1888.
  • New York drug maker Pfizer and Dublin-based Allergan called off their proposed $160 billion merger after the U.S. Treasury Department announced new steps to curb tax-avoiding maneuvers called “inversions.” … The European Union’s antitrust commission ordered Ireland to collect €13 billion ($14.5 billion) of back taxes from tech giant Apple.
  • Revolution in Color,” a 90-minute documentary told Ireland’s struggle for independence from Home Rule to Civil War through beautifully colorized archive newsreel and photos. … The Journey,” a new film about the unlikely Northern Ireland peace partnership between Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness and the late unionist firebrand Rev. Ian Paisley, debuted to dreadful reviews. … Sonder Visuals produced a montage of drone-captured images of Ireland–rural and urban, natural and built–that fly past as quickly as the many voices (and dialects) that describe living there.

Freelance stories

In 2016, I published three Irish stories outside of the blog:

Guest posts:

I was pleased to welcome several guest bloggers this year, including:

I appreciate their contributions and encourage other readers to contact me for future guest posts.

Departed in 2016

  • Alan Rickman, British actor who portrayed Éamon de Valera, at 69.
  • Sir Terry Wogan, Limerick-born star of the BBC, at 77.
  • John McLaughlin, former Jesuit priest, speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and conservative provocateur, at 89.
  • Dr. Edward Daly, former Bishop of Derry, at 82. In an iconic photograph from “Bloody Sunday” in January 1972, he waved a blood-stained handkerchief ahead of a group of injured civil rights protesters as they tried to pass through British troops.
  • William Trevor, novelist and short story writer, at 88.

From the Archive:

View of the coast at County Kerry .

First history of GAA published 100 years ago

UPDATE:

I heard from Vincent Carmody of Listowel, a local historian and author. He writes that Thomas F. O’Sullivan and his book are not forgotten. Story of the GAA received at least five mentions in The G.A.A., A People’s History, a 2009 book by Mike Cronin, Mark Duncan and Paul Rouse.

Carmody continued:

When in Listowel, [O’Sullivan] was the driving force, both as a player and administrator of the local G.A.A. club. He later served as an administrator at both County and National level of the Association. He is credited with the proposal of Rule 27, of the G. A.A.s rule book. This came into force in 1902 and it read, ” any member of the association who plays in any way, rugby football, jockey or any imported game which is calculated or injurious affect our national pastimes, is suspended from the association” . This rule was commonly known as, The Ban. It was for a long time rigorously enforced, indeed in 1938, the then President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, was banned from the G.A.A. , for his attendance at an International Soccer match in Dublin. The rule was deleted in 1971.

ORIGINAL POST:

A journalist’s book about the early decades of the Gaelic Athletic Association this year quietly reached the 100th anniversary of its publication. Thomas F. O’Sullivan’s Story of the GAA was based on an earlier series of newspaper articles.

thomas-f-osullivan-1The book’s 1916 publication has been lost amid all the attention to the same-year Easter Rising. Even the 1916 entry of the special 1913-1923 centenary section of the GAA’s website overlooks the book, written by one of its own members. You can read the organization’s 28 May 1916 official statement after the uprising.

Michael Cronin of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University, Leicester, England, briefly noted O’Sullivan’s book in a larger essay on “Historians and the Making of Irish Nationalist Identity in the Gaelic Athletic Association.” He wrote:

O’Sullivan was a GAA official and the book presents a highly simplistic notion of the Association’s past beginning with the seven pioneers who met in Thurles in 1884 to reawaken the Gaelic nation through sport and taking the narrative up to 1916 by recounting details of major personalities, decisions taken by the Central Council and recording the results of matches.

Although there is no explicit mention of the Easter Rising as such an inclusion would have meant that the book would not be approved by military censors, there is an implicit celebration of the Rising as those GAA men who took part are included in the list of GAA personalities.

Although not a widely researched history, as it is more of a contemporary account, O’Sullivan’s book is important as it sets out an accepted chronology that is rarely challenged by subsequent authors. This chronology, while celebrating the games of the Gael, primarily revolves around the role of the GAA in reawakening the national spirit.

O’Sullivan’s book does receive several mentions in The GAA & Revolution in Ireland 1913-1923, edited by Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, a 2015 commemorative publication specially commissioned by the GAA.

O’Sullivan was a Kerryman, born in Listowel, according to a short History Ireland bio. He wrote for the nationalist Freeman’s Journal. 

Supporting books and bookstores in the U.S. and Ireland

UPDATE:

Here are the winners.

ORIGINAL POST:

On our way back from a long, post-election weekend on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, my wife and I stopped at Unicorn Bookshop on U.S. Rt. 50, which offers “a full range of secondhand books, everything from the average to the rare.” We walked out with an armful of books, though I couldn’t find any Irish-related titles of interest.

BGE IBA brand mark CMYK blue 2015On 16 November, Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards will announce the winners of this year’s contest at a gala ceremony in Dublin. Established in 2007 by a coalition of Irish booksellers, “the over-riding motivation behind the awards is to celebrate the extraordinary quality of Irish writing, to help bring the best books to a wider readership annually, and to promote an industry under severe competitive pressures,” the contest website says.

Winners are decided by an online web-poll divided into two constituencies, a public vote and a specialist Academy vote, weighted equally and combined to produce the winners. The Academy includes 300 booksellers, librarians, non-shortlisted authors, reviewers, and journalists.

See the shortlist for Fiction Awards in 10 categories, including the Listowel Writers Week Poem of the Year. Nonfiction Awards are being contested in six categories, including cookbook and sport.

 

On Chicago, baseball, rugby and Irish news coverage

UPDATE:

The “black stain in Irish rugby has been removed,” with a first ever victory over the New Zealand All Blacks in 29 attempts, 40-29, before more than 63,000 in Chicago.

ORIGINAL POST:

The Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series victory, which ended a 108-year championship drought, generated plenty of headlines on Irish media websites. The same was not true in print the last time the team won baseball’s fall classic.

I searched the Irish Newspaper Archive but couldn’t find any Cubs coverage from October 1908. Two days after Chicago’s Series win over Detroit, the Freemans Journal reported on a “big fire” that destroyed a railroad office and corn elevator in the city. A few weeks later, Kilkenny People detailed the sensational  case of a native-born priest who survived being shot twice outside of his Chicago church “by a ruffian whom he was attempting to arrest.”

Most contemporary Irish media coverage of the Cubs’ 10-inning win over Cleveland also included references to the 5 November rugby match between Ireland and New Zealand at Chicago’s Soldier’s Field. The teams have played 28 times over 111 years, with Ireland’s best result a 10-10 draw in 1973. Maybe another championship drought will come to an end.

Meanwhile, Cubs fans can select from plenty of Irish gear at the team’s official MLB shop.

shirt

 

Biden in Ireland; McIlroy out of Olympics

As we await the outcome of the Brexit referendum, two other stories are worth a quick look:

  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s sentimental state visit to Ireland, and
  • Golfer Rory McIlroy’s decision to skip the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro due to concerns about the Zika virus.

Biden, in Ireland through 26 June, has met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President of Ireland Michael Higgins. According to a White House statement, Biden discussed the Brexit with both Irish leaders, as well as “the continuing need for reconciliation in Northern Ireland, particularly the need to deal effectively with the past.”

In addition to numerous stops in Dublin, Biden is also visiting his ancestral roots in counties Louth and Mayo. His maternal great-great-grandfather emigrated from the port of Newry, County Down, in 1849, according to genealogists. That was the middle of an Gorta Mór.

The Irish Times said: “Biden’s gregarious and emotional, garrulous and generous. He’s also, by all accounts, a bit of a spoofer. In other words, he’s a proper Irishman.”

***

As for McIlroy, The New York Times reports:

The Olympics were fraught with complications for McIlroy from the start. As a Northern Irishman, he had the choice to compete for Britain or Ireland. In 2012, he earned the animus of people in Ireland, including those in the Golfing Union of Ireland who had shepherded his development, by suggesting that he was leaning toward representing Britain because he had always felt more British than Irish.

In 2013, he said, “If I was a bit more selfish, I think it would be an easier decision.” He later pledged his allegiance to Ireland, and when asked in May about his commitment to competing, he said he was focused on the bigger picture. With golf guaranteed a spot in the Olympics for only the next two Summer Games, he said, it was imperative that the sport put its best foot forward.

Ali in Ireland: More than a boxer

The 3 June 2016 death of boxing legend and global personality Muhammad Ali is generating retrospectives and remembrances around the world. There’s plenty of coverage of his visits and connections to Ireland.

  • Ali fought in Dublin in 1972. “Ever the showman, [he] immediately captured the heart of a nation by announcing that he had Irish roots.” Ali was the great grandson of Abe Grady, who left Ennis in County Clare sometime in the 1860s and married an emancipated slave in Kentucky. From the BBC.
  • “On the morning they played their Croke Park final against Kerry in September 2002, each member of the Armagh [Gaelic football] squad woke up in the CityWest Hotel to find an inspiring letter had been pushed under their doors in the middle of the night.” From The Belfast Telegraph.
  • In June 2003, Ali and former South African president Nelson Mandela opened the 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin. From The Irish News.
  • Ali returned to Ennis in 2009. From the Daily Mail.
  • “The Parkinson’s Association of Ireland is deeply saddened to hear of the death of the great Muhammad Ali.” Letter in The Irish Times.
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Ali in Ennis. Photo: AP.