Dribbling, pucking and being teed off

Off the fence
Dribbling, pucking and being teed off

Off the fence
Áine Ryan

SPORT. It is wacky. Take golf, for example. How daft is it for intelligent human beings to walk around in circles following a tiny white spherical object, which they then attempt to put into a small hole in the ground. 
Okay, if it was only about the skill involved in swinging and putting, I could accept that it is a good way of getting fresh air, becoming aerobically fit. But there is all that golf club culture around the game.
There is the fashion, the jargon and the gender discrimination. (I refer to Portmarnock Golf Club and a Supreme Court case lost by the Equality Authority in November 2009.)
Add in all the boasting and bragging about bogeys and birdies. Plus all those (subtle) but keenly competitive quips about handicaps.
I mean, men in yellow v-necked jumpers. Gross. Men wearing multi-coloured shoes that tap-dancers would be embarrassed to wear. What a turn-off.
Who would want to spend an evening in the bar of a carpeted clubhouse analysing how your ball landed in the rough and you were forced to use a reverse flip to get it out?
Give me a sweaty rugby players’ dressing room any Sunday afternoon! Only joking. (I wouldn’t be able for the scrum.)
Fundamentally, sport is about skilled individual or teamwork and competition. Millions of people all around the globe play a plethora of sports either on an amateur or professional level.  Tennis,  hockey, Gaelic football, camogie, baseball and soccer are just a small sample of games that become a way-of-life for participants.
Just over a century ago when this island nation was rediscovering and rekindling its Celtic cultural roots, the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), by Michael Cusack in a Thurles hotel in 1884, was a central plank in our sense of nascent sovereignty. It was equally as important as William Butler Yeats’s and Augusta Gregory’s contribution to the literary revival through the establishment of a national theatre at the Abbey.
As we are all aware, Queen Elizabeth’s recent visit to Croke Park was replete with historic, political and cultural symbolism.
For sports fans, following ‘your team’ gives a sense of identity. The colours of the jerseys and flags, hats and paraphernalia confirm this.
My father often reminds me that my first words were when, aged two years, sitting astride his shoulders at a Gaelic match in Tullamore (the town in which I was born) and shouting “Up Offey. Up Offey.”
Just like being part of a religious group, sport affords a sense of belonging for both fans and players. It is filled with ritual too.
Although I do scratch my head when these rituals transform into hordes of football hooligans using a game to vent aggression and create wanton destruction.  That, old chaps, is when a game of golf seems like such a civilised idea.