Sunday, February 25, 2007

When In Rome

This week I experienced my first Rugby match. The Irish don’t watch their matches at home on the tele…they gather together to watch the match at the local pub. “When in Rome” as they say. The Goal and Post Pub in Shanagarry was packed with fans young and old to watch the historic meeting of Ireland and England in the six nation playoffs. The game was being played to a packed crowd of 82,000 at Croke Park in Dublin (which is the home of the Galiec games) because the new rugby stadium is still being built. Although Irish/English relations have improved in recent years there are still old wounds that were opened in the weeks leading up to this game. Apparently during a meeting of the teams in 1921, the British Army assassinated the coach of the Irish team and killed innocent fans. Some felt that the British national anthem should not be played at Saturday’s match as a sign of protest. But true to the reputation of being the most respectful fans in the European Union, Ireland welcomed the English with applause and showed restraint during the playing of “God Save the Queen.” The president of Ireland, Mary Mc Aleese, was at the match and per protocol greeted every member of both teams prior to kickoff. I sat with Sharon, from the cookery school office, and teacher Pam. The three of us were misty eyed before the game even started. We watched with awe as the Irish National Anthem was played and tears streamed down the faces of the massive rugby players such as Ronan O’Gara, Shane Hogan and Brian O’Driscoll. The sense of pride and reverence was astonishing. Besides the brute strength and skill of these men, the emotion helped to propel the Irish to a 43-13 victory. I loved the game and have learned a few interesting things: A “try” is actually a score and if a player is penalized he is sent to the “sin bin.” The only thing I never figured out was the purpose of the “scrum.” It looked like a group hug to me. There are several more matches to go before the championship is decided. From what I am told it looks like the Irish are favored. Go Ireland!!