October 02, 2015

Irish Rugby unites Ireland

The IRFU flag

Terence O'Neill was asked in an interview in 1965 with Telefís Éireann, 'Prime. Minister, when Ireland is playing England, in a Rugby International for instance, what do you feel, as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, as somebody from Northern Ireland?' Terence O’Neill responded:
"I think we all feel the same and we all cheer for Ireland and we always have done."
The interviewer John O’Donohue continued: 'You don’t find any awkwardness in questions of allegiances when Rugby is being played?' Terence O’Neill returned:
"No, certainly not."
Jack Kyle said:
"That was the wonderful thing about [Irish rugby, the absence of religion]. When the various unions were splitting up, the Irish Rugby Union said: “we play as one country”. Those of us from Ulster were very fortunate that happened. It was also a much greater honour for us to play for the whole country. I think it says a lot that during all the Troubles, never once did a southern side fail to come north or a northern side fail to go south."
Éamon de Valera said:
"For Irishmen, there is no football game to match rugby and if all our young men played rugby not only would we beat England and Wales but France and the whole lot of them put together."
Ciaran Kearney wrote in March 2013 in An Phoblact on the subject of how Irish Rugby accommodates Ulster Protestants:
"Hoisted high above the despairing Irish [rugby] fans were three flags: the Irish national flag, the Tricolour; England’s red and white St George’s Cross; and the gold and red provincial flag of Ulster. 
This is not the first time the provincial flag of Ulster has been on display at Ireland’s rugby internationals. In the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the Ulster flag and the Irish flag were carried by the country’s team into competition. This is the way by which the Irish Rugby Football Union has come to terms with the divided identities on our island.
Andy Pollak wrote:
"Sporting organisations [in Ireland] were split [by the border] roughly half and half, with Professor Whyte suggesting that those sports organised on an all-Ireland basis before partition tended to continue as before, and also that more middle-class games (rugby, tennis, golf) were more likely to remain all-Ireland than working-class sports such as soccer and cycling. (He noted the small irony that the world’s most popular game, soccer, was split by its Southern, nationalist adherents setting up their own separate organisation in the face of opposition from its Northern, unionist followers who tried to keep it united under the Belfast-based Irish Football Association)."
Michael Longley said:
"When the rugby is on I don’t for a moment want England to score a try, but I’m not going to deny my father and my mother and the Britannic part of my background."
Michael Longley said he and Louis MacNeice were "excessively interested, obsessed "with rugby
"Louis MacNeice used to come to Belfast to recce for the BBC for programmes and his recce’s always coincided with rugby internationals. So I’m pleased there’s another poet who’s excessively interested, obsessed would you say with rugby." 
Bob McCartney said:
"In Northern Ireland... Your caste was denoted by the games you played."
Fellow RBAI-alumnus and essayist Robert Lynd wrote:
"Every time Bleddyn Williams got the ball I felt as apprehensive as if the frame of civilization had been threatened. And when Daly scored the second try I experienced such ecstasy as I had known in youth at the news of the relief of Ladysmith." 
Terry Wogan said on Ireland v England 2007 in Croke Park:

"Notwithstanding the history that’s between us, the friendship is greater and that again epitomises the spirit of rugby."
Beckett was the same. I was like the northern protestant and Irish winger Trevor Ringland, Irish and British. 

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