THE founding fathers of the GAA would be delighted to know that nearly 130 years after the organisation was established, a great many pupils at one Co Cork school base their Irish identity on hurling and football.
This week, third-class pupils in Scoil Náisiúnta an Chroí Naofa in Glounthaune were asked what St Patrick’s Day and being Irish meant to them.
Many of the boys and girls described Irish national games and Irish prowess in golf and rugby as something that made them proud of their Irishness.
“Last year, I brought a hurley to Portugal and I hit the ball and people were all watching. They came over to play and it felt really good,” said Brian Smith.
Jane Cowhey had a similar experience in the US. “I made a friend in America once and I asked her did she want to play hurling. And she said ‘what’s hurling?’ and I showed her and she thought it was great.”
All described St Patrick’s Day as “fun” and “cool”. And while they all raved about their local parades in places such as Midleton, Cobh and Cork City, they all had an admirable knowledge of St Patrick’s life story.
As Edel Corcoran put it: “On that day, I feel what St Patrick was going through. He had a hard life. He was taken to be a slave when he was little. He escaped but then he went back to tell them about Christianity.”
The Irish accent and Irish language were also described by many of the children as something that separates them from other nationalities.
Colm Moynihan said: “It means having our own language. It’s bad when you’re young and have to learn it but, when you’re older, it’s good as you have a secret way of talking when you’re in other countries.”
David Barry remarked how “our accent is clearer than other countries’ accents,” while others repeatedly described the Irish accent as “our own”.
Daniel (Donal) O’Connor could see the language’s potential as a foreign policy tool however. “If you were in Africa and you were Irish and a secret agent, you could fool people by speaking in Irish to other Irish spies,” he explained.
BRIAN SMITH, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s really fun. You see lot of people you know at the parade. You see people who used to babysit you at the parade. Last year, a girl that used to babysit me was in the parade. She was the most beautiful girl in Cork.”
On what being Irish means: “It’s really, really, good. Last year, I brought a hurley to Portugal and I hit the ball and people were all watching. They came over to play and it felt really good. It’s also really good to speak two languages.”
SORCHA KENNEDY, 8:
On St Patrick’s Day: “I really like going to the parade. There’s balloons there and floats and marches. I go to the parade in town and in Glounthaune. You get lots of sweets too.”On what being Irish means: “Being Irish means living in a magical country. There’s lots of fairies and leprechauns. I love being Irish.”
PATRICK EJEJE, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s fun to go to a parade and wear green. I go to the parade and there’s lots of celebrations.” On what being Irish means: “It’s good. The people are friendly. You have St Patrick’s Day celebrations. You also have sweets. I like sweets.”
CLODAGH HAYES, 8:
On St Patrick’s Day: “I like it. It’s the day after my birthday. Also if you’re ever in trouble, St Patrick is one of the saints that I usually pray to. I love the parade as there’s lots of nationalities and hurling and Chinese dragons.”
On what being Irish means: “We were known always as the holy land. I think we’re probably still the same. Religion is very important.”
RONAN YEMDJI, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s nice. He made us know, you know, Christianity. We’d have no churches without him. I also go and watch all the superheroes that I used to love when I was small at the parade. I watch Superman, Power Rangers. Cinderella’s there too.”
On what being Irish means: “It means to be friendly. It’s a small country but the Irish are better than the English. I think they’re more fun too. We have a different religion to them. Every country has a different saint and St Patrick is our one.”
CIARA IRWIN, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It means that everyone is having fun. It’s such a great day. We go to church first and then to the parade. We put on all green stuff and our parents and friends are there.”
On what being Irish means: “Being Irish is special. St Patrick’s Day is well known and they have it in New York and stuff. It’s our own day and we celebrate it. We have our own special language and our own accent too. We also have famous people like Jedward and Westlife.”
EMILY HOLLAND, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s like fun. It’s our own holiday. It’s when we celebrate what being Irish is all about.”
On what being Irish means: “We have our own accent. We have our own language so if we are in Australia, we can speak in Irish and keep secrets. In England, they used to hate us and say ‘no dogs, no Irish“, now they love us. They love us because the Queen came here, to the market and stuff. I loved that’.”
DAVID BARRY, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s about having fun. I like the parade. We go to the Cork City Parade. There’s loads of marching. My whole family goes and we go over by Penneys.”
On what being Irish means: “I’m proud to be Irish. There’s no earthquakes or anything. We don’t have very hot weather or very cold weather. We’re good at soccer and rugby and golf. Our accent is also clearer than other countries”.
EDEL CORCORAN, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “On that day, I feel what St Patrick was going through. He had a hard life. He was taken to be a slave when he was little. He escaped but then he went back to tell them about Christianity. Most clever Irish people still care about Christianity now. People who don’t care about anything probably don’t.”
On what being Irish means: “People are proud to have shamrocks and leprechauns and all our symbols. I’m happy that our national colour is green as my eyes are green. Leprechauns stand for Ireland. They are different to goblins, elves and brownies. They’re sometimes mean and cruel but leprechauns don’t get fooled easily.”
ANNA MULCAHY, 10:
On St Patrick’s Day: “I really like going in the parade. I go to the Glounthaune parade. After it, we do Irish dancing and go to the playground and go spinning in the playground.”
On what being Irish means: “I read in one of my dad’s books that we are the most friendly country. Irish kids are also good at being mischievous. I like being mischievous.
“We also have a good sense of humour. We love laughing.”
SHANE O’MAHONY, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s a special day. We go to the parade. I go to the Cobh parade and they give sweets at the parade. I think it’s special.”
On what being Irish means: “The good thing about being Irish is theaccent. The other accents are harder to understand. We have our own language too. That’s really good. It’s hard to understand other languages though.
“You know St Patrick wasn’t Irish?”
AMY FOLEY, 8:
On St Patrick’s Day: “I think it’s good to go see parades. It’s a day out. I have zogabongs for St Patrick’s Day. They’re old. Last year, I wore a green skirt and a green top for the day.”
On what being Irish means: “The other countries all talk really differently. We have hurling and football too. They don’t have that. I like supporting the hurling and football teams. American kids play basketball a lot. Irish kids play basketball but not as much.”
CONÁLL ROONEY, 8:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s really fun because at Fitzpatrick’s shop you get free ice cream. There’s a really long line and the ice cream is green.”
On what being Irish means: “Back when there were saints, we were the land of saints and scholars. Maybe we still are saintly. We’re a good people. We’re friendly and we have famous actors like the guy that died recently who was Grandpa Jo in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [David Kelly].”
COLM MOYNIHAN, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s fun to go to the park and play with your friends after the parade in Glounthaune. Sometimes we go to the Dingle parade. That’s really good too ‘cos it goes really near our house down there.”
On what being Irish means: “It means having great hurling and football teams and being good at soccer and rugby. It also means having our own language. It’s bad when you’re young to have to learn it but when you’re older its good as you have a secret way of talking when you’re in other countries.”
TOM DWYER, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “I love it ‘cos you get dressed up. Last year I had my face painted green and had a green hat, top and pants.”
On what being Irish means: “It means having hurling and football, games that nobody else has.
“That’s the good stuff. The bad stuff is that we have less money than other countries ‘cos of the recession.”
BRIAN OSOEGO, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s exciting. You get to dress up and get lots of sweets. I wear green and orange to the parade.”
On what being Irish means: “Being Irish means learning Irish but that can be quite challenging. I also love the Irish rugby team. That’s the best.”
DANIEL JIMMY-FADAIRO, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s a great day, being there at the parade and seeing everyone else there watching the parade. It’s a great way of getting your friends and family and everyone together”. On what being Irish means: “Being Irish means thinking of the colour green which is all around us here. It also means thinking of St Patrick as he helped us to learn about God. Irish people also have their own special accent and their own special sports which nobody else knows. Americans have basketball and stuff but you don’t really hear everyone here talking about basketball.”
DONAL O’CONNOR, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “It’s great. You get together with your friends and family if you go to the parade here in Glounthaune. You have lots of food and sweets too and you get to play in the park after the parade.”
On what being Irish means: “If you’re Irish, there’s no one like you. My friend came over from England and he’d never seen Gaelic football and he tried playing it and he loved it. He thought it was much more fun than soccer. If you were in Africa and you were Irish and a secret agent, you could also fool people by speaking in Irish to other Irish spies.”
FAYE PHILPOTT, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “I really like it because me and my brother and parents go to Ballycotton Cliffs for a walk. I’ve only been to a parade once. This year, I’ll be in CADA rehearsing for a show at the Everyman.”
On what being Irish means: “You can play football and hurling which other countries can’t do. I don’t like soccer as they’re always complaining to the referee and in rugby, you can hurt badly. I love football as it’s fun and my uncle is my trainer.”
JANE COWHEY, 9:
On St Patrick’s Day: “I love it as you get a day off school and you get dressed up in green and go out with your friends.”
On what being Irish means: “I made a friend in America once and I asked her did she want to play hurling and she said ‘what’s hurling’ and I showed her and she thought it was great. Also, we have Fiona Shaw who is a really good actor.”