Meathman's Diary: When sports stirs passions and the odd temper

Last week somebody said something that caused me more than a ripple of concern. He’s somebody who is tuned into the sporting scene but not given to pessimism. However, he momentarily drifted over to the dark side when he said: “There might not be any local GAA allowed back until August or September at the earliest,” or words to that effect.

The truth is that he could be right and that makes me concerned further about the mental welfare of people – the young and not-so-young – because if the lockdown has shown us anything it is that sport is one of the great sociatial safety valves; it allows people to express themselves, to work off some steam.

Sport, and politics, can certainly stir up passions; deep passions and unfortunately they are not always vented in the ‘right’ way. We have seen plenty of that over the years when the likes of Celtic and Rangers meet up or Manchester United and Liverpool.

There are plenty of local examples too to underline the point. There was the incident that occured 25 years ago when in north Meath a major row flared up one night in a street in the village of Drumconrath that made the headlines.

It was a row - as described in John Feeney's report on the front page of the Meath Chronicle - as an altercation between "football supporters" from Meath Hill and Drumconrath in the early hours of a Monday morning. It was clear drink had been taken and it seems there was some "bad mouthing" or banter that appears to have got out of hand.

It wasn't just a few people either "as upward of 60 people became involved in scuffles resulting in some minor injuries, as well as three broken windows and damage to three cars."

And it wasn't just all males either as one woman had to have an x-ray for a suspected broken finger. The row rumbled on and extended from one end of the village to the other with "running rows along the length of the street."

One bystander compared it to a "free-for-all, a faction fight" and it seemed to go on and on with somebody, no doubt a local resident worried about his or her property, feeling alarmed enough to call the Gardai.

"The row continued in the area for about an hour but had subsided to shouting and goading by the time two Gardai patrol cars arrived," it was reported.

Locals admitted that when the two teams respresenting the respective villages met up on the football field there was usually no shortage of "robust exchanges" as players, many of them well-known to each other, battled for supremacy; for the pride of the parish.

And, of course, as you might expect that year both Meath Hill and Drumconrath made it to the JFC final. The game was won by Drumconrath - and thankfully there was no outbreaks of violence; instead all the battling was done on the field of play.

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