This inspiring documentary is a must-see for all GAA fans
"We have a weapon, more powerful than any in the arsenal of the British Empire. And that weapon is our refusal, our refusal to bow to any order but our own, any institution but our own" - Liam Neeson in Michael Collins.
In a time when Northern Ireland was engulfed in sectarian strife, a parish in Armagh used the GAA as their peaceful weapon of refusal. On Monday night, we will be invited to see how Crossmaglen Rangers executed that plan, and carved out a legacy of success in the process, when Crossmaglen: Field of Dreams, is aired on BBC 1.
Writing in his Sunday Independent column, Joe Brolly - who was treated to an early screening - transcribes an interview with Armagh and Crossmaglen legend Oisín McConville who is now the manager of the six-time All-Ireland winning club.
In it, McConville passionately explains how the St Oliver Plunkett GAA pitch became an empowering symbol for the local people when the British occupation built a barracks on the club's premises and installed a 'Sniper At Work' sign, to try and oppress the Cross people.
'Sniper at Work' sign in Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland. The Prov. IRA used snipers in Armagh to disrupt foot patrols. pic.twitter.com/zgYRFK2qUu— History Facts ²⁴⁷ (@historyfacts247) July 26, 2015
"I was scared sh**less. There is archive footage of the barracks being constructed in 1976. By then, Cross had been christened bandit country, and the empire decided to build an enormous fortress on top of their Gaelic football field. As one plummy voiced English army officer said, 'it was all rather disconcerting. The people completely ignored us.'"
Not only did the scare-tactics fail, it stirred the people to mobilise their forces for the purpose of chasing All-Ireland glory.
"Wasn't it great to stick the two fingers up to them and say regardless what you do, you can land your helicopters pitch on top of us, you can throw our clothes and our bags out on the street when you search our cars on the way to training... Wasn't it great to say, 'But f**k youse, we're gonna win the All-Ireland anyway'".
But while those stirring statements of intent are heartening to hear, this documentary also deals with the numbing devastation of a death in the family. Oisín's mother Margaret tells the story of how she lost her son just days after a soldier was killed near their home, which illustrated how sadness and grief affect everyone.
"My oldest son Thomas got a scholarship to the Gaeltacht when he was 16 and a half, and he went and he never came home. He drowned there. On the Sunday before Thomas died, a young soldier was blown up down at the corner by a bomb on a bicycle. His mother's door got a knock on the Sunday, then my door on the Tuesday. It was the same grief [for both of us in] losing your son."