Steering our young people away from the wrong path


Acts of football hooliganism has been with us a long time. Back in the 1970s and '80s it was the scourge of English football - and we saw it this side of the water too.

I recall an FAI Cup game in Lourdes Stadium, Drogheda between the local side and Bohemians and there was red murder. Fists flew and the blood flowed - and who could forget 1995 when English fans ran riot in Lansdowne Road.

What you don't expect is to witness it literally in your own backyard. Yet that's what happened in St Mary's Park, Navan last week. An underage game of soccer had to be abandoned because a group of young people who had little else to do decided to cause trouble.

They hurled objects, including firecrackers, onto the pitch from outside the perimeter fence that surrounding the playing arena. The referee felt compelled to abandon the game. It was the latest in a disturbing series of incidents that have taken place in the area in recent years.

At one stage things got so bad the local club, OMP Utd, felt the need to spend a very considerable amount of money on erecting a fence around their pitch to stop people driving cars onto the playing area and extensively damaging the surface. The dressingroom was also targeted.

Such incidents are disturbing because it suggests there is an indifference, a nihilism, a lack of respect, among a certain cohort of young people. Not all young people of course.

The vast majority, in my experience are brilliant, conscientious, respectful and willing to learn but there can be no denying there is a cohort there who simply want to cause trouble - and you would have to wonder what kind of citizens they will become in the years ahead.

Yes, you might say, but that has been always the way, hasn't it? There was, it's surely fair to assert, always in schools group of young people who rejected learning, who railed against the system. The worry is their ranks are growing.

Recently in a discussion with a teacher I was somewhat alarmed to hear him say there are students emerging from the school system who can barely read or do basic maths.

They just kind of drift through without getting a handle on any of the skills they will need to know in the years to come. The worrying aspect, the teacher added, was that there appeared to be an increasing number of students in that category - and they don't take kindly to be corrected or put back on the path to redemption. Neither, in some cases, do their parents who become irate when their son or daughter is disciplined or corrected in some way.

I have heard teachers in the past talk about "helicopter parents" and how some over-protect their children instead of letting them make their own mistakes.

Hopefully the incidents of hooliganism that occurred in St Mary's Park are a one-off - and not a sign of a deeper malaise in our society.

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