I went to one. At Croke Park. A long, tortuous journey on the hired, rickety team-bus through twisty, narrow-streeted wee towns; before all the new roads existed. A friend, Gerard Greene, came along. He played harmonica to pass the time. The girls ignored us, and talked about showbands and stuff. Gerard, a promising apprentice wit, described the match itself as a typical festival of fighting female Fenians. When he overheard me repeating this Taste The Difference bon mot at St Colman's College the following day, the Dean gave me six of the best with his notorious leather strap.
My sister was a bit of a gael. My father, though, never said a word to me about playing anything other than my beloved soccer. With hindsight, I can see he had a quiet way of signalling that the GAA Mickey Harte types, whatever they may think, don't own being Irish. And it was a short step from there for me to understand that they are, in fact, just a bunch of thooleramawns and turnip-snaggers.
Anyway, the rest is legend. I was expelled from St Colman's for having long hair, and mocking, and sneering and jeering at, and relentlessly deriding the GAA and the Catholic Church. But years later society, and history, realised that, if anything, these renegade broadsides had made me emphatically more Irish than any gang of bony-arsed GAA bogmen in baseball caps or mammy's-boy sickos in dog collars.
Consequently, and mainly thanks to my Thermopylae-like stand back then, my son got an Irish name that's not only spellable but also pronounceable (Liam), divorce and gay marriage were legalised, the Pope came to Dublin to receive a public bollocking from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and women's rights were granted. Welcome to the Ireland my da and me made.
⏩Michael Praetorius spent his working life in education and libraries. Now retired, he does a little busking in Belfast . . . when he can get a pitch.