Lowlifes shouting abuse from stands should be banned for life

Our man Frank on the disgusting verbal abuse suffered by a League of Ireland manager; How Covid hasn’t gone away (you know)… and some Bank Holiday entertainment locally…

Soccer, or Association Football to give it its full title, has always had its share of bad publicity. All of us who are of a certain age can clearly remember when hooliganism almost ruined the game in England back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

For a number of years parents were afraid to let their kids go to matches, we had barriers erected all around a number of grounds to stop hooligans making their way onto the pitches, and all over Europe English hooligans wreaked havoc in any cities where their favoured teams were playing.

The situation was so bad that in 1980, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said the three biggest ills that plagued her country were the IRA, the miners and hooligans.

During the 1970s and ‘80s there were several instances of unruly and aggressive behaviour, but it was the deaths of 39 fans at the European Cup final in the Heysel Stadium in 1985 that brought matters to a head. The game was between two giants of European football, Liverpool and Juventus, and to quote an English magazine, Sports History Weekly, shortly before kick-off a mob of drunken Liverpudlians charged their Italian counterparts and created a melee that led to the deaths of 39 fans (nearly all Italian) and caused serious injuries to hundreds of others.

The result of all of that was that football and law authorities finally came down heavily on clubs and their thuggish supporters and since then the barriers have been removed and we see very little violence nowadays at any of the big soccer matches.

However, we now seem to have a new problem in the game and that is verbal abuse from the stands. The recent racist abuse that Real Madrid player, Vinicius Jnr has suffered in a number of games has highlighted how deep-rooted the problem is. Here in Ireland, we would have felt that we were safe from all that type of stuff. I do not recall any major incident involving any of our League of Ireland clubs. That is at least until last week.

All changed on Friday evening last when supporters of Cork City taunted Shamrock Rovers manager, Stephen Bradley, about his nine-year-old son’s serious illness (young Josh had suffered from leukaemia). His father, who manages the League of Ireland champions, admitted that he seriously considered stepping down from his position. It seems he has had a huge amount of support since people heard of his son’s illness, so to go to another League of Ireland club and be mocked about the illness by opposing fans must have come as an awful shock to Stephen and the Bradley family.

In my opinion that behaviour has to represent the lowest point on whatever scale you care to mention. Scumbags, thugs, and lowlifes are just a few of the milder names that come to mind for the cowardly abusers, and I am glad to say that everyone on Leeside, including Cork City, are intent on punishing the offenders. I hope they throw the book at them, and issue lifetime bans from Turner’s Cross.

As for Stephen Bradley, his wife Emma and son Josh, while I have never met them and probably never will, my thoughts and prayers are with them and I really hope young Josh makes a full and complete recovery.

Sport, by its very nature, is meant to be a relaxing way of getting away from life’s problems, but I doubt if Stephen Bradley is feeling that way right now.

Covid hasn’t gone away (you know)

It’s a very warm Monday afternoon out here in Creggs as I write, and I am thinking how great it is to have almost returned to normal living!

On Sunday we had large attendances at a lot of the GAA games that took place around the country, and thankfully the wearing of masks seems to be a thing of the past.

All this would lead you to believe that Covid-19 is, like the Celtic Tiger, very powerful but relatively short-lived… and now gone but not forgotten. And yet as I read my text messages this morning (maybe it was my emails) I was advised by the HSE that as I am a (very) senior citizen, I should get my spring booster vaccine before the end of May. They go on to tell me that the booster provides good protection against becoming seriously ill if I get Covid-19, so the obvious message is that Covid is still here, probably forever, and we still need to be careful.

And so, after I finish this week’s column, I am going to follow their advice and book what I think will be my fourth or fifth vaccine. As it happens, despite having an abundance of underlying conditions, the one time that I contracted the virus I was hardly sick at all, so even though many people don’t believe in the vaccines and refuse to get them, I for one am convinced they helped me when I did get it, so I’ll be off to get my next shot as soon as possible. So my message is keep enjoying life as best you can but don’t drop your guard.
Local events this weekend

Talking of enjoying yourself, as this weekend is the Bank Holiday weekend I’m sure there will be lots of events taking place in your local villages and pubs. Certainly if you happen to be around Creggs you will have plenty of entertainment to look forward to.

On Friday night, 2nd of June, Creggs GAA Club are holding their first table quiz for a few years, and a new, young crew including Ronan Dowd and Gerry Keegan (well not so young) are going to set the questions, so they are sure to come up with some interesting and entertaining ones to test the mettle of the attendees.

Tables of four are only €40, there will be a raffle on the night, and it is all due to kick off at 10 pm or so –  after the Junior B team take on (and hopefully beat) Oran in Creggs in their league match. Everyone is invited to head down to Mikeen’s after the game, and the good news (for me) is that despite the new youthful look of the table quiz committee, the position of quizmaster has not changed hands and yours truly has had his contract renewed for this time at least.
Then if you have any energy left after wracking your brains for the answers, on both Saturday and Sunday nights you can dance the night away up in Gannon’s, where Jenny has the brilliant Odd Sox band on Saturday and Clonberne’s own country music sensation, Jason Travers on Sunday. I also believe (although not confirmed as I write) that Mikeen may have an 1980s and ‘90s disco on Saturday night.

Also, just to let you know that the newly-appointed Minister for Bingo, Olivia Harris, tells me that last Friday night week’s Bingo was the best yet (sadly I missed it as Creggs had an 8 pm football game), and hopefully there will be another big promotion later in the year! Watch this space.

And finally…

We all realise as we get older that sooner or later it will be our turn to leave this world. In the last week I have heard of the deaths of two men that I soldiered with in different ways in my younger days. First Mick Berry, a great Galway Corinthian who I played rugby with (for Corinthians) and against (for Creggs), passed away last week. If ever anyone epitomised what it meant to be a good club man, Mick did. Only last year I happened to run into him in Garavan’s in Galway and we talked of old times over a pint or two of the black stuff.

Then last weekend I heard of the death of John Higgins who I worked with in the Bank of Ireland in Dundalk way back in the 1970s. He was part of a group of six or seven of us who were the best of friends back then in the border town.

John was the son of Cavan football legend, Mick Higgins, who was the sergeant in the Cavan village of Tullyvin. Many a time they gave me a lift to Longford on a Friday evening. They would be going to the greyhounds where Mick would have a dog or two racing, while I would be thumbing home in the era before I became a motorist. Anyway, they were two good ones and our world is a poorer place for their passing.

To all their relatives and friends, I offer my sincere sympathies. May Mick and John rest in peace.