Brexit, Love Island, insurance costs, the Mercosur Beef deal and all the other big news stories of the day will be set aside in Roscommon this Saturday as our senior footballers go into battle against Tyrone in the first round of the Super 8s at Dr. Hyde Park.
The GAA is a massive part of the lives of the majority of Roscommon people and that’s the way it always has been. I have often wondered why there is so much passion for football in Roscommon. I guess it has to be traced back to the mighty men of the 1940s who not alone won two All-Irelands but who dominated the game in Connacht for almost a decade. From the time I was able to comprehend it all, my late father regaled us with stories of the likes of Brendan Lynch, Jamesie Murray, Donal Keenan, Owensie Hoare and the rest of that great team. It was incredible to witness the affection that those men were held in. They were heroes.
Their legacy has been carried on over the years, and while we haven’t won a senior All-Ireland since the 1940s, men like Gerry O’Malley, Aidan Brady, Dermot Earley, Tony McManus and many more gave us fantastic days out in Connacht and further afield in more recent times. There are plenty of modern-day heroes too like Fergal O’Donnell, Frankie Dolan, Gerry Lohan, Francie Grehan and Paul Earley who helped to keep the primrose and blue flag flying.
Now in 2019 our young people have new heroes to follow like Conor Cox, Diarmuid Murtagh, Niall Daly and Enda Smith, to name just a few. For a small county, Roscommon footballers have a huge and passionate following and we will see that again this Saturday in Dr. Hyde Park.
Not only will there be a big and enthusiastic Roscommon following at the match, I also know of arrangements being made by Rossies all over the world to be in front of a TV on Saturday to cheer on Anthony Cunningham’s men.
I remember many moons ago travelling to Roscommon matches all over the country with my late father, the primrose and blue flags out the window of the car as we journeyed, always in hope and with huge excitement. On many occasions we returned home beaten and disappointed. But come the next league campaign and the next Connacht Championship game, all that disappointment was forgotten about.
In Roscommon we have a great county with mighty people. However, we have little industry and a small rural population. The majority of our young people have had to seek employment elsewhere, either within Ireland or further afield. But one thing that has always brought the entire county together has been the GAA, and our senior football team in particular.
At 5 pm on Saturday evening everything else will stop as the ball is thrown in at Dr. Hyde Park. A win would put Roscommon within touching distance of an All-Ireland semi-final. A win would lift the hearts of Roscommon people not only within the county, but all around the world.
I read this quote recently: “The GAA is the glue that keeps Rural Ireland together” – and who could argue with that? It certainly applies to this county. Yes, the GAA has many faults –and will continue to make mistakes in the years ahead – but in a world that has changed so much in recent decades the Gaelic Athletic Association has remained as popular as ever. It makes a massive contribution to all our lives. The gives our people a sense of identity of which we are very proud.
This Saturday people will wear their primrose and blue shirts with pride in New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne and further afield too.
The match is previewed in detail in the centre of this week’s edition. This Saturday will be a huge day for Roscommon people everywhere. The best of luck to all concerned.