The news filtered through in dribs and drabs last week, but the bottom line was consistent in all versions of the story. Redmonds GAA club is to close down.
The disappearance of the club crystallises any number of issues facing the GAA and, by extension, Irish society, but one of the clearest is something that gets precious little discussion — urban depopulation.
Last week the TV news carried coverage of the closure of post offices in remote parts of the South Kerry Gaeltacht, which is a devastating blow to a community on the very periphery of the country, and one that deserves all the exposure it gets.
However, the decline of Redmonds is a different version of a similar story.
Every October or so you can have fun with the country’s few large cities as you track the movement of GAA club power, from the inner urban area over 100 years ago to the suburbs mid-century and now, with people enjoying a far greater degree of mobility, the ascendancy of clubs on the outer edges and margins of those cities because that’s the only place houses can be built, so that’s where the population is.
The disappearance of amenity areas from the inner city has run in parallel with the change in demographics in Cork. Over a dozen years ago I chatted with Redmonds officials about this change, and they pointed out that the population in their traditional catchment area had been transformed utterly: Gone were the large families in places like Barrack Street and Greenmount which had helped to populate their teams for decades.
In their place? Flats and apartments with transient populations, many occupants staying only for a couple of years before moving on and out, never putting roots down in the area.
The irony, as a couple of the Redmonds lads pointed out, was that where new families had moved in, often the kids were so small that it would be years before they’d be old enough to wear the jersey, and the club didn’t have an underage section anymore anyway, so the vicious circle stayed intact.
In 2011, I spoke to Sean Holland of Redmonds about their situation. He pointed out another challenge for the club, given their location: “The likes of the Barrs and Nemo have been taking those players for years, which is part of the reason we’re in the situation we’re in with the club as a whole.
“With those clubs drawing from the area we’re trying to attract lads the whole time. It’s easy to say, ‘it’d be terrible if Redmonds disappeared’, but that’s the problem. It’s an easy thing to say but there are only three or four of us keeping the thing going, whether that’s coaching teams, making sandwiches, first aid, or booking bands for the bar. I’ll be honest, it’s getting on top of me at this stage, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it next year, but look, my father was a Redmonds man, so what can you do?”
If you can’t answer that question, you won’t know what a blow the loss of Redmonds is.
It means that a string of stories and nicknames, great days out and shattering defeats, a hinterland of beliefs and superstitions and long-forgotten arguments, scores and games and sendings-off — all of that gets swept away. Identity, in other words.
As the news filtered through about Redmonds last week I noted a glossy rebranding of Cork as a tourism-industrial destination, with much-trumpeted if confusing hashtags and a heralded launch involving what I have heard described, with a straight face, as brand architecture.
It’s not either-or, of course. The disappearance of Redmonds is not a result of, or linked to, the city being ‘positioned’ in a specific way.
But the city derives its identity in the first place from a hundred small groups like Redmonds — clubs and choirs, neighbourhoods and schools, organisations and teams, all of them mingling and sparking and working, together and separately.
Redmonds are meeting in the clubhouse this Wednesday at 8.30 pm to see if they can find a way to survive. I hope they do. Because if one club or organisation disappears, doesn’t that diminish them all?
Untimely call on retirement
It sounded like a joke missing a punchline, but it turned out to be true: an American football player retired last weekend - at half-time in a game he was playing in.
The Buffalo Bills’ Vontae Davis didn’t come out for the second half of his side’s defeat by the Los Angeles Chargers yesterday week.
He later released a statement saying he’d recognised he couldn’t play to the same standard after his ten years in the league: “. . . today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard. I shouldn’t be out there any more.”
Some of his teammates didn’t realise he was gone until the second half, and were pretty annoyed, as you might imagine.
Yet I see now that the discussions about the Davis situation aren’t all condemning him for his actions, with some worthy acknowledgement of his decision, even if the timing left something to be desired.
Which leads to the question of how you or I would take such a decision in the middle of a game, or even in the middle of a working day.
Would you take the live-and-let-live approach or would you adopt the same view as Lorenzo Alexander, one of Davis’s former teammates?
“I never have seen that. I don’t have nothing to say about Vontae,” said Alexander. “I’m going to give him a little bit more respect than he showed us today, as far as quitting on us in the middle of the game.”
Best of luck to these Leeside offerings
Best of luck to a couple of new books hitting the shops in the next few days, both of which have a very localised appeal.
Hibs! A History of Cork Hibernians 1957-1976 by Michael Russell is published by Onstream and details — as you might guess — the story of Cork Hibernians in their glory days, which stretched to the bell-bottomed, mutton-chopped mid-70s.
Going back even further in Leeside history, The Old Brigade: The Rebel City’s Firefighting Story 1900 — 1950 was launched last week.
Written by Pat Poland, an old friend of this column, it need only be as good as its predecessor,
For Whom The Bells Tolled, to find a permanent home on my shelves.
Injured in line of duty
Best wishes this morning to Declan Murphy of St Finbarr’s senior football team, who picked up a nasty injury in Saturday night’s Cork SFC clash with Douglas.
It’s always noticeable when a player gets a serious injury that the reaction from others on the field of play is instantaneous, as happened over the weekend.
Murphy came off his line to make a brave block when Douglas’s David Hanrahan broke through — if that had gone in the game might have had a very different conclusion (as evidenced by the fact only three points separated them at the final whistle).
As soon as he went down in a heap it was obvious he had a bad knock, and afterwards he was taken out of the dressing-room on a stretcher to hospital.
Get well soon.
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