The alliance between last year’s All-Ireland club football finalists St Gall’s and transport and storage specialists McCulla Ireland is a small but significant example of how sectarian animosities are being set aside.
Under the three-year, £30,000, deal, all St Galls’ players will wear the McCulla logo on their jerseys and the company will get tickets for big matches at Croke Park.
McCulla’s, who have numerous business links with the Republic, say the deal is all about getting their name out in front of new customers, but even five years ago, the company admits, this kind of cross-community deal would have been regarded as a form of treason.
Club PRO Kevin Sheehan agrees the sponsorship deal is a sign of changing times in Northern Ireland: “It’s something which happened spontaneously. Nobody was pushed into it. There were no politicians coming along trying to make the match.”
Given their location and sporting code, St Gall’s membership is by definition Catholic. “In all honesty, I don’t know of any Protestant members, though there would be quite a few heathens and atheists,” joked Sheehan.
Kevin Sheehan foresees the day when his club will have Protestant members. He says the flinging of sectarian jibes at Fermanagh hurler Darren Graham is an unfortunate blip which isn’t helpful.
“Maybe it’s just part of the process we have to go through. If anything, it might be an incentive to make an effort to overcome these things and tell the people responsible that this kind of behaviour isn’t welcome.”