It is powerful to discover you have friends in high places.

That has been my heartwarming experience, since I was speaking with ye last week.

I was humbled, shocked and awed, to see that within hours of launching a campaign here in defence of the noble Irish spud, the entire Chinese nation, God bless them, came out behind us by announcing that this year, for them, is the Year of The Rooster!

The writer in public spaces like this never knows who and where the readers dwell, you know.

Delightful, accordingly, to discover that Irish Examiner wisdoms are being perused as far away as Beijing, and acted upon too.

I would be nitpicking if I admitted I would have been happier if the Chinese had named their year the Year of The Golden Wonder, when expressing their support, but Rooster spuds taste good as well.

The purest of truths, again.

In the wider global context, across all the social and economic scales, I am thinking today that the wise Chinese are really on to a good idea, by attaching special significances and qualities to incoming calendar years, such as the one we have just been introduced to.

Is this a custom and practice which maybe we should ask our leaders to consider adopting as soon as possible?

I know our currently fragile Government would be likely to set up a commission of inquiry as a device to kick the can down the road, but maybe there would be some firm decision in the end.

Such a decision could be beneficial to us as a nation in the post-Brexit world, where we will need all the friends we can garner, as well as the mighty Chinese.

We could declare next year, for example, as the Year of the Undocumented Irish, because those brothers and sisters of many of us are likely to be needing all the support they can get about then.

Sadly, another truth.

There are many intriguing options opened up by such a system.

We could have years dedicated to the welfare of Small Farmers, Mushroom Growers, Mayo Footballers (God love them too!), Syrian Children, Bumblebees, Saint Patrick’s Day, Wild Atlantic Way (worth millions in tourism), Blarney Castle, even the Battle of the Boyne.

That last one could prove to be a very healing gesture indeed, as torrid times lie just ahead of us, with election fever striking north of the border.

Even as you read this, there is a strong case developing for the Year of The Country Bus.

Maybe you are waiting hopefully for one to arrive just now.

Likewise the One Teacher School, The Country Shop, The Rural Post Office, The Garda Station, The Library, or The Local Bank.

In short, any of the many vital elements that are somehow being stripped away from the countryside about every second day, as this Year of The Rooster enters its second month already.

On a personal note, I read somewhere lately that the peerless Valentina Island footballer Mick O’Connell reached the milestone age of 80 this very week.

Had I my way, I would designate this year as the Year of Mick O’Connell for sure.

In a pure way, in the years of his soaring prime in Croke Park with Kerry, he somehow represented the very, very best of the country culture of which the GAA is still such an integral part.

The game today breaks my heart when I see it, because it has been converted into a roboticated class of athletic basketball, where all the players look alike, behave accordingly, and where all the gorgeously inspiring facets of the old game, especially the high catching by the midfield eagles like Mick O’Connell, has disappeared.

That is very sad indeed.

What has happened to the game, all that centralised basketball stuff, no individuality or parish character allowed, in some strange way hallmarks what is happening in the counties where, if you like, small villages and towns and hamlets are being drafted quite deliberately into larger hubs (like GAA county teams?) that are easier to manage, whatever the cost.

Something like that, anyway.

Many thanks to the Chinese for their support of our drive to protect the reputation of the Irish spud.

And, above all, and very sincerely, warm birthday good wishes to Mick O’Connell, from an Ulsterman whose provincial hopes he so often destroyed down the Septembers of different years to now.

All forgiven, Micko.


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