Pat Brosnan

Emigration and the G.A.A.

During the past year or more the tide of emigration and exodus of many of our young people to other countries is no doubt having an effect on the viability of G.A.A. clubs throughout the country.

At local level, many once vibrant and successful clubs are finding it difficult to find enough players to field teams at district or county championship competitions.  This has compelled clubs to amalgamate with others in an effort to get sufficient players.

This seems to be a bigger problem for men’s clubs in both hurling and football rather than ladies football and camogie teams for the time being at any rate.  However there are many young girls taking the ferry boats to England, Wales and Scotland, or flights to the United States, Canada and Australia, in their efforts to find employment.

While tens of thousands of non-nationals have settled in Ireland during the past couple of decades, something that was encouraged by many of our politicians, we remember Mary Harney declaring on radio or television that this state needed to import 30,000 each year.

Now it looks as if many of these we imported are no longer in jobs and the country has to provide for them with Social Welfare from scarce financial resources  while so many of our own people have to go abroad to earn a living.

Naturally, this does not apply to people from England, Scotland, Wales or the Isle of Man who are operating a business, or working here, or who may have settled or retired here. These and indeed many other foreign people who are employed here are contributing their share to the economy and deserve every recognition.

It is only the spongers who come in and exploit our social welfare system and find the country a soft touch without any intention of working or contributing to our society that is objectionable

On the other hand, let me make it quite clear that my personal attitude to foreigners working in our country is one of good will and tolerance, having worked while abroad with people from all over the world, of every class, creed and colour.

But what is really sad is to see the cream of our youth – the young footballers, hurlers and camogie players having to flee the country in search of a job. This is just not good enough. Of course there are genuine cases of people seeking political asylum here because of poverty and persecution in their own countries.

But these are the exceptions and need to be considered on their merits and treated with the utmost sympathy.

The Secretary of the Gaelic Players Association was on radio one morning during the week and mentioned that while the Association has a Benevolent fund the demands on it are enormous, with trying to help some of its members who have fallen on hard times through injuries, unemployment, mortgage arrears and so forth.

It must be stated that my knowledge of this Association is rather limited without any idea of its total membership, or if it is open to other than county players. In our playing days there was no insurance, no compensation for injuries acquired, one had to deal with such things on their own without any help. Many years ago while playing in a football match for St. Patrick’s team, Rathfarnham, in a Dublin Junior game, a shoulder injury has affected me ever since. Although insurance compensation for player’s injuries is still rather inadequate, it is a big improvement since the time that there was none at all.

While emigration of Gaelic players is a big loss to clubs trying to survive at home there is, however, a balancing factor that those who do emigrate will be of great benefit to G.A.A. clubs and promoters in other countries.

While the G.A.A. has in recent years greatly expanded its international status, not alone in countries such as our near neighbours in England, Scotland, Wales, the United States, Canada and Australia, but it is also now firmly established in some Asian countries where there is even a Championship between the various teams. So while it is certainly regrettable that so many of our fine young and well educated people have to go in search of employment abroad many of them will carry  the games, culture and traditions of the homeland with them wherever they go. It is of course possible that emigration is affecting all sports and all codes throughout the country. But we mostly only hear about its impact on the G.A.A. clubs. That is probably due to the fact that the G.A.A. is still the dominant sporting organisation in the country and much of its strength and popularity come from the fact that it is to a large extent anyway rural based rather than in the major cities.

Most of the latest crop of emigrants also come from remote rural areas, small towns and villages, so that is one of the reasons why the G.A.A. is having difficulties in keeping players.

But the same problems arose many years ago when players and sometimes elected officials left the country to go abroad.

 Back in early 1957 Lyreacrompane G.A.A. club elected me as its Chairman. But later on that year it became my own turn to emigrate and work abroad for the next 10 years. So really it is nothing new for G.A.A. people to emigrate, it is unfortunate, of course, from a club view point but that is the reality.

We can only hope that the new Government will try and stem the tide of emigration by keeping their promises to those who elected them, and providing more jobs at home particularly for the young people of our country. That would be the only way that the G.A.A. and indeed everybody else as well would benefit from the change of Government. But that as the saying goes is another day’s work.

 Drama Production

Big crowds attended the Athea Drama Group’s production of John B. Keane’s play “The Man from Clare” on each night that it was held. On Thursday night of last week the late John B. Keane’s wife Mary attended the production. Many of those who attended the play praised the superb acting by the large cast. Some described it as much better than any professional production. Well done to the producer Theresa Halloran and to all who took part in any capacity that made it such a success.

 Ireland’s Cricket Win

Ireland’s sensational win over England in the cricket series last week was hailed as a mighty victory, as most wins over England in any sport usually are. But to beat England in one of its own most popular national field games was certainly a rare experience.

By all accounts 3 of the Irish players were named “Johnson, Mooney and O’Brien” and there was a yarn in circulation that after the match some smart guy remarked that these 3 players made “Toast” of the English team, but apparently his mate remarked that the proper description should be the “meat in the sandwiches”.

Again Ireland’s win in the Cricket world last week reminded me of the time when we lived in Somerset during the time of the big freeze up in 1963. The English Cricket team at the time had gone to Australia to play in a competition known as “The Ashes”.

The background to this competition apparently is that some disgruntled person after a match away back in the distant past, probably around the end of the 19th century, burned a wicket stump out of frustration. Someone, however, came on the scene after the stump was burned out and he preserved the ashes in an urn so that is the Trophy that England and Australia have been competing for ever since.

But to get back to 1963 during the big freeze coal deliveries came to a standstill and when a B.B.C. interviewer who was out getting opinions about the Cricket Tournament asked a London man “What do you think of The Ashes” his reply came quickly and in an agitated manner -“Ah sure, we didn’t see a lump of coal for the past 6 weeks not to mind ashes”. This was broadcast on the B.B.C. television station at the time and we heard it.

Many years ago there was a priest in South Kerry who was a famous handball player. If my memory is correct his name was Fr. Tom Jones. We used to hear it said that as well as his undoubted skills as a handballer he had also a great interest in Cricket. We do not know if he ever played it. As we all know Cricket was one of the 4 games banned to G.A.A. members for several years under the foreign games rule. The others were hockey, rugby and soccer. How times have changed since then.

 A Story and Song

Mary Lyons of Castlematrix was Pat O’Donovan’s guest at the “Story and a Song” programme on West Limerick Radio 102fm on Saturday afternoon. Mary, who is a native of Lixnaw, sang some great songs including “Lovely Addergown”, “The Story I tell you is true”, “On an Irish Country Home”, “The Chapel Gates of Cooraclare”, “A Mothers love is a Blessing”, “The Close of an Irish Day” and “My Wild Irish Boy”.  This was a lovely programme, worth listening to.