Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Tyrone GAA team's rebel yell is blow to strong community bonds

It provided one of the biggest moments of satire this year when Steve Coogan deployed it in a send-up of The One Show through his Alan Partridge character.
It provided one of the biggest moments of satire this year when Steve Coogan deployed it in a send-up of The One Show through his Alan Partridge character.
An image from footage taken on the Tyrone GAA team bus
The band playing in Aughnacloy
The Tyrone GAA team bus
Quincey Dougan
Mickey Harte
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Come Out Ye Black and Tans is having quite a moment, isn't it?

A ditty about a Dublin inner-city character who would return from the pub by night and sing about inviting the neighbours out for a scrap, it was written by Brendan Behan's brother Dominic in a pastiche of his father.

Quite how many Black and Tans chose to settle in north inner-city Dublin after their 'work' was done is anyone's guess.

But it provided one of the biggest moments of satire this year when Steve Coogan deployed it in a send-up of The One Show through his Alan Partridge character.

Singing a rebel song on prime-time BBC? And getting away with it? Genius.

The Brady Family Ham company also used the song and changed the lyrics for an amusing advertising campaign, so perhaps the edges were rubbed off it a little.

If there was a joke, it backfired spectacularly on Saturday evening when the Tyrone team were held up in Aughnacloy as they returned from beating Cavan in Clones in round four of the All-Ireland Qualifiers, and some belted out the song as bands were parading through the town.

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To give some context, this parade - organised by the local Lisgenny Flute Band - used to take place at 7.30pm on a Saturday.

However, that coincided with the local Saturday night Mass at St Mary's Church.

So, in the spirit of co-operation, the band delayed the start to 8.30pm.

Here's a detail for you: the stewards at the parade actually waited until the local parish priest, Fr McEvoy, was safely in his drive and waved to him to signal that, with the parishioners returning home, they would start then.

Like many other country bands, this is not a blood and thunder, 'Kick The Pope' outfit. It is more inclined to play hymns. It is not uncommon for some musicians in these bands to double up and play with the Brantry Hibernian Pipe Band and parade on St Patrick's Day.

If all of that sounds inclusive, it is because of the outreach work done in the community, of which I am a part of, having moved here in 2015.

Since settling here I have become involved in the local GAA club, Aghaloo O'Neill's, and have also helped, along with others, a hurling and camogie club, Cúchulainn An Ghleanna.

Our aim in both cases is to attract as many people with an interest in playing Gaelic football, hurling and camogie, from all faiths and none. As long as you enjoy sport, you are welcome.

Aghaloo have been very successful in attracting players from various faiths. One in particular has emerged as a real leader within the senior team and puts an incredible amount into working on his game. Added to that, when there is a pitch to be lined or weeds to be sprayed, he is first through the gate.

He is a serious asset to the club, so our phone conversation yesterday was illuminating. For the past few years he has been raving about the homely feel of the club to friends, but the moment the clip was circulated he began receiving messages of the 'I told you so' type.

If you are inclined to believe that the GAA is sectarian, then this would only back up your prejudice. A flagship county team singing rebel songs on the team bus? Let's not over-intellectualise it, it's deeply stupid behaviour and somebody on that bus should have stopped it instantly.

There are lifelong friendships between those in the local GAA clubs and members of this flute band.

When Tyrone have won All-Irelands in the past, and even when they lost last year, the first place the bus stops is Aughnacloy, where there is a stage laid out for them to welcome them back into their county. Are we serious about shared spaces here or not?

How difficult must it be for some of the Tyrone players at work this week? Some are in respected professions and will have Protestant clients. Others will work for firms and teach in schools that will take a very dim view of it.

As a body, Tyrone GAA is far from sectarian. More than most, it has gone out of its way to host inclusive events and show off its premises to others.

Last November I attended a brilliant talk organised by Tyrone GAA, researched and delivered by Dr Donal McAnallen, hosted at the Garvaghey Centre of Excellence on GAA members who had fought in the First World War.

When you entered, you were asked to fill out a sheet asking you what club or society you were from. I noticed quite a few had entered 'RAF' as their club. They have also hosted the 'Friends of the Somme' group.

From talking to local people of other faiths since, the main reaction was not of outrage for the sake of it, but just disappointment.

It will take a while for it to wash away.

Declan Bogue is the Belfast Telegraph's GAA writer

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