I do not wish to trespass into the territory of my sporting colleagues when stating it is already crystal clear to me that Dublin will again easily win Sam Maguire in Croke Park next autumn.

I suggest it is a fact that their second string would easily account for most oppositions and the result of the All-Ireland final, barring a miracle, is already a foregone conclusion. 

On this island miracles only really occur in the vicinity of Knock and, sadly, as we have seen over the decades, never for the local team. 

The Dubs of today, riding a long winning streak, albeit in the roboticated and bastardised version of the grand old game, have shed the brittle inferiority complex which afflicted their best teams for so long and nowadays possess that kind of strut and even arrogance which is the Sunday suit of real champions.

That sporting reality, however, is secondary to the main point I wish to make today. 

I have not researched the family backgrounds of the modern Dublin stars yet am prepared to bet that the overwhelming majority of these metropolitans are descended from rural families no more than two or three generations removed from the spade, the pitchfork, the bog bank, the hayshed, and the horse and cart trundling towards the nearest creamery with a load of milk churns.

The modern sporting success of the boys in blue is a cruel enough indicator of the social and economic reality that Dublin City’s capital dynamic has been, and is being achieved day in day out at the expense of rural Ireland. 

The depleted countryside everywhere is dying in its tracks because almost all the roads of life and development for the rising generations point towards O’Connell Street and the sprawling city around.

In consequence of the actions and inactions of successive Governments is it not a fact that, as Dublin’s dynamic as a growth centre grows yearly, the small towns and villages of rural Ireland — and their communities — grow weaker by the day? 

Parishes struggle to fill the 15 jerseys of the local team because so many of the young men have been sucked by career development moves into Dublin and beyond. So many of them have no other choice because there are few jobs at home.

Schools and bank branches and garda stations and other critically important services such as post offices are closed down on a weekly basis. 

The people of rural Ireland, facing service limitations and deprivations from all quarters, are being driven off the land, out of their hamlets and villages and towns in increasing numbers. 

Is that a deliberate policy or is it the lack of any real development plan for almost all of Ireland outside the old Pale?

I wish I knew the answer to that question.

As Dublin struggles with a housing crisis because of its growing population and exploding development it is a concurrent fact that there are literally thousands of empty homes scattered through the provinces today, not all of them either merely the holiday homes of the wealthy and privileged. 

The implications of Brexit pose a major problem for a dwindling and ageing farming population everywhere across the land. One poignant indicator of the rural realities of today came two weeks ago when a group of country postmasters occupied the GPO where it all began.

Our post offices, a vital element of public service for the communities they serve, are under constant pressure and there have already been many closures in recent years. 

Close the bank, the post office, and the garda station in a small community and bus the children away from home to a school outside the parish and some of these actions might seem to make economic good sense in the short term but, taking the longer view, they are totally negative for the people of the ‘Four Green Fields’. Again the pure truth.

What will rural Ireland look like in 30 years time? How many villages will have died totally behind the rusty petrol pumps for the cars that call no more because the drivers now work and live in Dublin?

How many small farmers and their families will have been moved off their farms to create the one huge ranch seen as necessary for economic progress?

Will it ever happen that all of north Leitrim, now home to the friendliest and liveliest folk in the land, is designated as a ‘National Park’ and a breeding sanctuary for corncrakes throwing their harsh voices nightly over hundreds of deserted homes? 

How long will it take for the currently popular Wild Atlantic Way along the west coast to become totally and quietly wild because all the locals have been driven to hub towns inland?

All in the name of progress of course. For how long more will mighty Kerry be able to provide credible opposition in Croke Park for the strutting Dubs? 

When will the Kildare identity be subsumed by the extended Dublin city boundary? 

How many more seasons on the playing fields will it take for Dublin to suck enough real hurling blood from Kilkenny and Tipperary and Wexford to enable them to achieve a historic double one September (sorry, August) and lift both Sam Maguire and Liam McCarthy in the one month? I know the questions. I do not know the answers yet.

Sport is life and life is sport. 

Just now the hue of the jersey is blue.


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