Belfast Telegraph

Tempo ready for a little local difficulty

By Declan Bogue

A well-known politician up on Stormont Hill is given to saying that the GAA is modern day faction-fighting. He uses it as a term of endearment.

Because the GAA is about many, many things, but what it is most about, the very point of the whole thing, is your place cutting lumps out of another place. Modern-day faction fighting. Your crowd bating the crowd over the next hill.

That's what keeps us going, what provides the thread that holds the whole thing down.

Not 'financial partnerships' as announced by Tyrone last month and depressingly covered by the media. That stuff is a million miles away from the essence of the GAA.

So, taking that as our premise, I don't think there could be anything more parochial than what I and many others are readying ourselves for on St Stephen's Day up at St Patrick's Park, Tempo.

For the second year running, our club Tempo Maguires will be hosting a seven-a-side tournament, with the teams made up of eight major townlands of the Parish.

Can there be any rivalry more intense than that?

Just 24 hours after cutting into the Christmas turkey, a couple of hundred players, supporters and helpers will gather around two mini-pitches and watch the holders Doon/Pubble Gaels take on Glen Shamrocks.

The country boys of Clarnagh Rangers will look to put manners on the even-more-country boys of Brockagh Babes. Everyone will be hoping to get one over on the 'townies' of Edenmore Gaels.

And then we have our own townland, Mullanaskea St Matthew's. Our attachment to the Saint's name comes from the once-thriving camogie team that belonged to this area.

As the furthest away townland to the pitch, the Mullanaskea area has had a sometimes detached relationship with the club. It is not uncommon for brothers out of the same house to be attached to different clubs than Tempo, such as the celebrated and storied McShea family.

Add in the popularity of hurling in the area and the subsequent excuses that presents for skipping training in either code, then you can see how 'that end of the parish' was viewed with a measure of suspicion.

Therefore, we will be doing our utmost to prove a few people wrong on December 26. Then again, so will everybody else.

Last year, a dirty stroke was pulled when former county player Damian Kelly convinced one of our star players Stephen Cox that there would be no entry from Mullanaskea, and he might play for his own team, the neighbouring townland of Ballyreagh. Tried the same this year, but we have him.

The geographic borders of townlands and their sudden importance brings to mind those other lines from Patrick Kavanagh's 'epic'; 'Who owned that half a rood of rock, a no-man's land surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.'

A series of excellent interviews with the team captains have been conducted by Niall McElroy and published on Twitter. Each one has goaded the competition a little more than the last.

Now, we realise that this kind of competition raises all sorts of questions about us as a people. There will be some overlap among the same people who will give it everything they have on Boxing Day, with those that decide they might skip the odd training session in high summer. That's competition for you.

A famous article once documented the split in the old Ballygawley club, before the birth of Errigal Ciaran.

Basically it occurred after a fall-out following events in an inter-townland competition.

The article described it as having occurred at a time of the year that the rest of the sane world had packed away their footballs and hurls.

How then do you explain the appetite of Eugene McConnell, a Tyrone referee who crosses the county border to come and referee the tournament?

Clearly, there is a level of madness involved.

There are some rules to be observed. Every team must have a player who has celebrated his 40th birthday. Every team must also have an under-20 player.

After that, much like Fight Club, the rules are; there are no rules.

Kavanagh put it best through the ghost Homer at the conclusion of the aforementioned poem; 'I made the Iliad from such a local row. Gods make their own importance.'

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