Monday 11 December 2017

From Knock to Dalymount Park, there's a light that will never go out

I've been thinking a lot about the Diet of Worms this week. Well, since I heard the latest news from Knock.

It's not that I'm embracing weight loss or fretting about chip-van hygiene or hang sangwidges. The Diet of Worms, in case you've forgotten, was an assembly in 1521 that declared Martin Luther a heretic. This was after the Augustinian monk had been warned by the Pope that he'd be excommunicated if he kept protesting about the sale of indulgences.

I'm not looking for a theological row here. Just wondering how things might pan out if Marty McFly were to transport the monk across five centuries to Mayo in his souped-up DeLorean, saying: "Where we're going, we don't need roads."

From humble rural beginnings a century ago, Knock has developed into a bustling international transport hub with an airport, a local museum and a basilica that can hold ten thousand visitors. As a venerable place of pilgrimage just off the N17, Knock has moved with the times.

The latest initiative shows that someone on the campus is tech-savvy.

"For those who are unable to come to Knock in person, we invite you to light a virtual prayer candle online," explains the shrine's website.

If this really was Back to the Future, Marty McFly would have to explain to Luther about Visa and MasterCard and how a suggested €2.50 will "light your candle" at the click of a mouse. "A church mouse?" he might ask.

The last time I gave much thought to Knock was when I came across something about Pope Paul II visiting in 1979. That was the time the crowd at Ballybrit Racecourse was entertained by some jolly japery from Fr Michael Cleary and Bishop Eamonn Casey.

Ultimately, the indiscretions and hypocrisy of those two chaps severely undermined the power and influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland.


Today you might think €2.50 is a small price to pay if someone's troubled spirit is lifted, even briefly, by navigating the menu, sharing their billing address and completing their online transaction.

As Morrissey once said: "There is a light that never goes out."

Another important site, sacred to many, has also been in the news this week. This one was formerly known as "Pisser" Dignam's Field.

The good news is that the shrine, now better known as Dalymount Park, will remain under grass and be spared having some urban brutalist architecture erected on its turf.

This is an excellent result for the board, volunteers and supporters of Bohemian FC and also for those with an interest in football in Ireland.

Even for, I suspect, members of Shamrock Rovers, who were afforded temporary lodging there during their years of wandering, the gates of Glenmalure Park having been locked against them.

Gone the way of many Irish institutions, such as the Theatre Royal, the PDs and the Man on the Bridge, the Dalymount Roar is today simply folklore. But when the Ireland team played there, that Roar was a twelfth man.

In agreeing to stump up the €3.4m debt owed to Zurich bank, Dublin City Council has done a sterling service for the wider community and thrown a lifeline to the struggling SSE Airtricity League, which, though strong on enthusiasm, has shown itself lacking in business nous.

From Pele to Bob Marley, all the greats have played at 'Dalyer'.

But sadly, unlike the exploits of Jackie Jameson, Jason Byrne and Johnny Logan, a certain historic display on the famous ground was never officially recorded.

It was, as historian Diarmaid Ferriter might say, back in the day, during a charity cricket match, when batsman E.J.M. Carr gave a stirring display. Appearing to shove the bat in front of his face for protection, he scored runs willy-nilly as the ball raced across the perfectly manicured outfield.

Whatever about woolly memories, it seems we'll always have Dalymount.

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