Ten Questions About Irish Culture

If we look carefully, we can see the effects of history in the culture all around us. Can you think of any historical reasons for the following things that you might notice in Ireland today?

Read through the questions and then click the link below to see some suggested answers. 


1. If you look at a food menu in an Irish pub or restaurant, you’ll see lots of dishes with potatoes… Historically, why have potatoes been so important in the Irish diet?

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Senior Touch Championships – Fears, Tears, Beers & Ten Years

Fears

Final. Sunday, October 10th. Coimbra, Portugal

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7.30am Wake Up

All the signifiers of the day of big finals are here, all so familiar and still stressful. The stiff, aching muscles, the soreness in all my body from the previous two days tournament. The tight shoulders after a restless night’s sleep. I wish I’d slept more but I can’t change that now. The feeling of anxiety in my stomach. A quiet breakfast, nodding to people, nervous joking among some of the players. I keep my head down in my muesli, in my thoughts.

A lot goes back for me to the Senior Mixed Final in 2016. The start of the bad times. Continue reading

Endgames, Origin Stories & Superheroes Inside Us: World Cup 2019 Malaysia in Review

From Infinity Gauntlets…

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With the abruptness of a Thanos finger snap, everything is reset and all the World Cup planning and hopes and thinking is done.

To Westeros…

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Wanderings, Lies, Values, Heartbreak & Silver Linings – European Touch Championships 2022.

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The Song of a Wandering Touch Player

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head.
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:

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In the traditional Irish poetic form the aisling, the poet feels weak with thinking of the woes that have overtaken the Irish Gaels and he falls into a deep slumber. In his dreaming, a figure of radiant beauty draws near, so bright, so stately, she is Erin, the nation of Ireland, and she is filled with sorrow. 

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Her true mate, her hero, who will restore Ireland to its rightful place among the proud nations of the world, is in exile away beyond the seas.

Help is coming

In the sixteenth century, Pope Clement VII refused to annul King Henry VIII’s marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. England lurched towards Protestantism. Ireland remained staunchly Catholic and this had far-reaching effects into the ensuing centuries.

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English oppression of Catholicism in Ireland led to the religion becoming inextricably intertwined with Irish nationalism and resistance to English rule. From the early 1600s, Irish leaders sought assistance in the fight against England from Catholic countries abroad.

For a long time, it seemed that the Irish nation was constantly waiting for either the Spanish or the French or the Papal army who were rumoured to be ‘on the seas’ and coming to liberate us.

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For much of the week of the Euros, the Irish M30s were waiting for similar reinforcements to arrive. We had a player coming who would add greatly to our team.


Semi Final vs France

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On Day 5 of the tournament, we would finally face France in the last four. They’d beaten us 6-2 in the group stage. Some said to us at the time that the score didn’t reflect the match but they were still clearly better than us in that game. We had to do something more, show more that we’d previously done.

‘So that team that think they’re ready to see you, they think what they seen on film? They ain’t saw what film shows. Because every day is a new day, every moment is a new moment. So, now you gotta go out and show them that I’m a different creature now.’

One thing we knew we could rely on as a team was our effort, our ability to stay in the fight and stay together as a team. This was a great group of lads, led by great coaches.

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And we knew our reinforcements were arriving.

But then, like so many times in Irish history, our hopes were dashed. The player that was supposed to be coming to join us, now was not. I took the information in and for a moment my head dropped.

Yet, unbeknownst to most of us, something had already stirred, forces had moved, a Fionn MacCumhaill like figure was arising from the mists of time…

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Flown across at the last moment, it was Eddie Devitt who appeared at the Irish players tent to play for us.

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With the final piece to the puzzle added…

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…a quick wave to his fans before the game from Darren…

…cheered out on the pitch and whipped up into a battle frenzy…

…the raiding hordes of Irish Fianna were ready to be unleashed on the French,

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Straightaway, I injured my calf.

I tried to hide it on the pitch. I had to adapt a bit my ambitions and throw everything into what I could still do, drive, defend, communicate.

The first half was tight, 1-1 until the last play of the half. And then I was caught. My body position and pre-touch position were not great, but if I was moving ok, I’d get away with this. I couldn’t get my footwork going and move fast enough.

They were 2-1 up at half-time. I walked off knowing it was my fault and somewhere Erin was weeping quiet tears of woe.


The support and text messages from home mean a lot when you’re playing these tournaments.

From Fiona McGinty (our manager ten years ago in Treviso) after our quarter final win against Belgium.

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From Kaja’s other godfather, Jim, she’ll meet him soon, to me and Fed.

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I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

What are your values? I know what mine are.

I know what the M30s values are, decency, excellence, respect, togetherness. I know even those of the MO, because I trained with them so many times, hard work, relentlessness, pushing the boundaries, shaking hands with everybody, being on time.

Our Touch organisation? I’m not sure.

When someone is assaulted in a team, do you have a position on that? I’m not saying what the position should be. The matter was handled extremely well by the leaders within the team. Maybe no more action needs to be taken. But is that discussed?

My friend is considering whether he will ever wear the green jersey again. And if he doesn’t, do you have a position on that?

What did you think when things were blatantly happening at previous tournaments? I thought some of them were disgusting. Did you have a position, a process, a procedure? I didn’t see it.

Just because I have had a great experience at this tournament, I have not forgotten experiences here four years ago, and three years ago at the world cup and the fact that my experience now may not be somebody else’s. I think of the people who may already have stopped wearing a green jersey.

I saw an incidence of subtle bullying at this tournament on a young player from a figure who has a long history of it. Maybe it wasn’t anything but maybe it was. Is there any position on this? Any procedure or process? I don’t see it. It’s not good enough.

Should I rather look to the Carphone Warehouse for my values?


Second Half

Clear eyes, full heart.

In that second half, I rediscovered something I’d forgotten in Touch, the love of defending. Six players holding out another team on the line for repeated sets… joy.

At the other end of the pitch, our attack pod took over.

There was controversy too. We argued with the referee that the scorer was dummy half and the score shouldn’t count. The French were adamant it should count. In the Irish post-match analysis, another controversy was mentioned.

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In fairness, this time the French were hard done by.

But in the end, we had enough to do it.

To win it 5-4.

One of the best things in this tournament for me was the elation of some of the more experienced players at making this final, players who’ve been there as long as, or longer than, me – our captain Fitzy, Nick, Fraser, Brian watching on from the box, Glen. It hadn’t struck me before that they’d never been in a European final, never had a chance to win a European medal.

And now here we were.

FULL MATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYZ9tv1bW08&feature=youtu.be

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European Touch Championships, Nottingham. Days 3 & 4

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Day 3 Game 1 vs Belgium

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Perception is everything. We played Belgium in a tournament in Brussels in May. I was coming back from injury, I was still struggling, and had played almost no Touch in months. We didn’t have a full team and they beat us well. I couldn’t handle the speed they were coming at us and couldn’t believe how good Belgium had become.

In our game today, I was watching the first couple of sets from the box and everything seemed manageable. I went on the field and felt very in control, nothing that stressed me unduly. This was a comfortable performance.

Watching back at the video, I’m happy with how I’m responding to mistakes. I’m agitated about the error, giving away a score when I’m on the pitch pains me. I could analyse about three things wrong here straightaway.

Intercepting and dropping the ball on last touch is unforgiveable.

I’ve got better at getting straight back in the game and not compounding a mistake with another one.

Diarmuid arrived in today for the tournament and it’s great playing with him. I combine with him here and a few other times. I’d never really played with him before but the understanding is immediate.

You can see the experience and intelligence, making simple things look easy. No drama. Score.

I did score a try myself. An easy finish really.

FULL MATCH: Men’s 30 | Belgium vs Ireland | European Championships 2022 – YouTube

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European Touch Championships, Nottingham. Day 2

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Top Swedes

We’d only one game today against Sweden so here in no particular order are my top 5 Swedes:

1. Eric the Red – since he and his friends pillaged and plundered in Ireland and my red hair probably goes back to him at some point.

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2. Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite and giving himself a prize. I think that’s what happened.

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3. Anita Ekberg for that scene in La Dolce Vita in the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

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European Touch Championships, Nottingham. Day 1

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And we’re off.

Game 1 vs Luxembourg: Won 8-0

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The highlight of this game for me was playing in every position on the pitch – middle, link and wing. I hadn’t played wing since the World Cup in 2011. It was great.

For some reason, I thought of the character of Boxer from George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. Give me a job and I’ll do it. I loved it.

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One of the things I’ve done in preparation for the tournament is visualise every pattern we run from the vantage point of every position, so I can slot into any position. As you get older, you’ve got to find your point of difference anywhere you can get it.

We did some good things in this game and others were a bit like a when Ireland drew 1-1 with Lichtenstein in soccer in 1995.

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Manager Jack Charlton said after as an explanation, ‘It was difficult. They were running different angles from what you expect teams should do.’ The excuse was treated with derision at the time.

I found that in our game against Luxembourg. It was hard to run some of the systems. What we really needed to do was run a simpler game plan.

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European Touch Championships, Nottingham. August 2nd-6th, 2022

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The Approach 1 – The Right Side (of History)

On the taxi drive from the airport into Nottingham, the sights are slowly becoming familiar, evoking feelings and memories of the last Euros here in 2018.

I look out the right window as the thick trees of the university campus reach out onto the road and I’m thinking about what I was thinking and feeling back then. I was agitated, on the edge of fury, listening over and over to a Podcast soundbed of Roy Keane, that equally inspired and fueled my rage. I wasn’t liking anything around me or myself.

I remember how I walked alone through those campus trees on the morning of that tournament and imagined if I did my own Saipan, continued walking, got on a plane and flew out of there.

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I had to allow myself to imagine it to ease the pressure in my mind. I got close, and not really close.

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Irish Romance

ROMANCE AROUND THE WORLD

What countries do you think are being talked about in the five descriptions below? Match the five countries to their romantic style.

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  1. ‘Romance here is all about elegance and style. We talk deeply about love and romance, usually accompanied by good food and wine.’
  2. ‘People are passionate, hot-blooded and sensual. This is expressed in our typical dance as well as our relationships.’
  3. ‘Equality is important in relationships. Men and women adopt non-traditional gender roles. Women here are independent and usually work, while men also share the housework.’
  4. ‘Our approach to romance tends to be informal and easy-going. We’re not into melodramas. There lots of conversation and fun and then let’s see what happens from there.’
  5. ‘Couples are polite and respectful to each other and are quite traditional. Families have a big influence on your choice of partner. Couples often wear cute matching t-shirts and hats.’

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Really Useful Words – ‘Just’ & ‘Actually’

I ACTUALLY JUST ATE, THANKS.

There are certain words that are used very frequently by native English speakers. Their meaning is not always 100% clear, and sometimes they have more than one meaning, but they are very useful and can make a big difference in making your English sound more natural and authentic.   

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‘Just’ and ‘actually’ are two words that do not always have exact meanings that you will find in your dictionary. They both have very useful and sometimes varied functions. They can be used in subtle ways to connect and express attitude about things we say or write.

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Visual Ireland – Fashion

THE CULTURE OF CLOTHES

In a previous blog, we saw how the Tara Brooch and Gleninsheen Collar were worn to show social status in ancient Irish society. In the modern world, what we wear also communicates information about who we are and our place in society.

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Throughout the world, clothing and image can have multiple functions. Apart from providing protection from the elements, clothes in all cultures are used to communicate messages such as social status, intentions or belonging to a certain group. Clothes are also worn for modesty (the parts of the body that must be covered may vary around the world.) We dress differently for business and recreation.

Do you think a lot about what you wear? What do you think your look communicates about you?

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Visual Ireland – Architecture

CITIES

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What is your favourite city in the world?

Here are the top ten cities to live in, according to Forbes magazine,  in 2021: 

  1. San Francisco, USA
  2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  3. Manchester, England
  4. Copenhagen, Denmark
  5. New York City, USA
  6. Montreal, Canada
  7. Prague, Czech Republic
  8. Tel Aviv, Israel
  9. Porto, Portugal
  10. Tokyo, Japan

Have you been to any of these cities? Do you agree that they are good places to live?

Cities may rank high as good cities to live in for their design and planning because of good infrastructure and facilities, clean public spaces, good public transport systems, the ease of getting out of the city to the countryside, good traffic management, green areas and location.

Do you think that some cities are better to visit than to live in? 

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Visual Ireland – Ancient Art

VISUAL SYMBOLS

Do you have any possessions – a phone, a bag, a piece of furniture etc. – that you’ve personalised? 

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Throughout human history, decorating our property (or ourselves) has been a way to enrich our identity, to make our mark in the world. We often decorate objects with symbols that represent our character or our beliefs, as a way of advertising who we are.

What visual symbols would you most associate with Ireland? Continue reading