As I’ve said before, and will probably say again, I see the major influence on Irish culture as being “Not Like England” (NLE). Actually, I previously said “Britain”, but Scottish culture, especially that of the west coast, shares many influences, including the Gaelic language. It’s English culture that is the most vilified, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, currently, because of the large number of Brits who live and work here. Whenever I take the DART to Dublin on weekends, we pass by a cricket field, one of a few dedicated pitches in Ireland, with a match there every summer weekend.
Sporting life here is dominated by the Gaelic Games, Hurling and Gaelic Football, which are only seriously played here and on the east coast of the USA. Hurling has a long history, derived from the same ancient roots as hockey, but Gaelic Football is, if you like, a less formal variant of soccer. The Games are overseen by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), who are, to put it politely, highly nationalistic and insular. They financed the almost total rebuilding of the huge Croke Park stadium, which is heavily used at the moment, but rarely at other times of the year.
Association Football (soccer) and Rugby Union are played in Ireland too, of course, but the official national stadium, Lansdowne Road, is frankly run down and badly under-funded. The USA played Ireland in a friendly game before the World Cup this year, and the stadium was packed, but the pitch was a watery mess which could not be drained properly. There were complaints about the facilities, especially from American visitors used to more modern arenas and ballparks.
So, could major Soccer and Rugby games be played in Croke Park, with its larger capacity and modern facilities? It would mean additional revenue for the GAA, with little chance of a clash with the GAA schedules. This idea has been put to the vote at least twice in my time here, and you can probably guess the result. The members voted to keep “foreign sports” out of their pure Gaelic arena. NLE.
Despite all that, we still see the word Royal attached to institutions, most notably the Royal Victoria Eye & Ear Hospital, where I had some tests last year. (That’s another story, which reminds me that I’m due for an eye check-up, must make an appointment.) Another is the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin’s main showground, exhibition and equestrian sports centre, in Ballsbridge. The latter is always called the RDS, which is probably why the R-word doesn’t arouse more comment. That and the fact that Ballsbridge, with neighbouring Donnybrook, is an upmarket area which includes most of the foreign embassies and consulates, and a high proportion of Brits. The abovementioned cricket ground is close by, too.
Genteel enough today, but in the past..? If you look up the dictionary definition of donnybrook it looks very different indeed.