Unsettling Signals?

13 November 2010 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Two relatively small but significant matters brought to light at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s Joint Policing Committee meeting in Monaghan Town provide much food for thought.

Fine Gael public representative Tommy Hagan drew attention to complaints he had received about young people cycling at speed along the footpaths of the town and the danger this illegal practice posed to themselves and pedestrians.  Colr Hagan also voiced concern about the risks to both the participants and others arising from the growing habit of youngsters skateboarding on the newly paved centrepiece of the recently completed works at The Diamond.

Misdirected youthful exuberance, perhaps, but surely nothing to get alarmed over?  A more considered view of these matters – and many similar instances aired at policing and other public forums in our county on a regular basis – might suggest that such behaviour is symptomatic of a bored and restless youth population with energy to burn, but little productive purpose towards which to expend it.  Certainly the experiences of Colr Hagan could be adduced as evidence to support the chronic lack of leisure facilities in the Monaghan area for adolescents to avail of – and we are sure that none of our urban centres in the county would make the claim that young people are embarrassed by choice in their locality when it comes to healthy recreational alternatives.

Are the young people who came to Colr Hagan’s attention at risk of more than a chastisement from the Gardai or an aggrieved pedestrian, or a few bumps and bruises, from their escapades, which seem imbedded with more than a trace of defiant indifference to authority?  The recent “Don’t pour your dreams away” campaign, which sought to counter teenage drinking in Monaghan Town, suggests that they are more pernicious activities towards which their energies could easily be channelled.

There is such a richness of organisations working throughout our county on behalf of young people, and such an evident need for more recreational facilities for them, that a forceful lobby could easily be mounted towards the meeting of what is undoubtedly an exigent need.  The money that beautified the centre of Monaghan Town was drawn from European resources.  Surely there is similar funding to be accessed from that quarter to prevent unsettling signals of youthful unrest manifesting themselves into something much more sinister and injurious in time?

UNITED WE STAND!

There are rare occasions when sport transcends its customary parameters to assume an almost mythic sweep.  At such moments, the stories with which it captivates sometimes tell of wonderful achievement, and sometimes of heartbreaking disappointment.

For those of our readership who follow the fortunes of the county’s senior soccer club Monaghan United, last Monday night’s promotion/relegation playoff with Bray Wanderers at the rainswept Carlisle Grounds on the Co Wicklow coast conjured up one of sport’s myth-making tales.  Regrettably it was one of triumph turned cruelly to tragedy, with Monaghan losing a dramatic penalty shoot-out and with it the chance of promotion to the Premier Division after that dream had been brought agonisingly close to realisation by a late extra-time goal.

The narrative is related in our sports pages this week, and we imagine any reader with the capacity to be moved by the emotion of sport, even if they do not have a particular predilection for the soccer code, will respond to its drama.  We also hope that the episode, and the season of exceptional achievement which preceded it, will prompt a greater appreciation of the value to the county in having representation in the senior ranks of the sport.

For this is certainly an undervalued, and undernourished, resource at present.  Considering the popularity of soccer as both a spectator and participant sport in this county, the support base commanded by Monaghan United is surprisingly small, and the potential possessed by the club as a flagship for its locality has gone largely unutilised.

Promotion to the Premier Division might, of course, have changed things.  The attention accorded the lower tier of senior soccer in this country has grown scandalously scant in the national media.  Now drastically reduced by cutbacks in broadcasting and newspaper resources, the profile of First Division soccer in Ireland was never proportionate to begin with, and represents a burdensome barrier which clubs like Monaghan United have to surmount in order to attract fans and commercial sponsorship.

Within Irish soccer, however, the Monaghan club has been exalted as an exemplar of administration.  A programme of painstaking infrastructural development, accompanied by prudent husbandry of its finances during a period when spendthrift policies forced a number of higher-profile clubs to the brink, has won the Mons considerable admiration – and surely been key factors in the club’s selection as the locus for the development of one of the FAI’s regional soccer centres.

Its programmes for young soccer talent are also widely availed of from across the county, making the lack of support attracted by its senior side all the more puzzling. The club have made some strides forwards in increasing its fanbase this season – helped a great deal by the on-field achievements of a squad which, astutely guided by manager Mick Cooke and coach Pat McGibbon, accomplished two thrilling cup runs in addition to that epic odyssey to the brink of promotion.  But a more thorough and more broad-reaching marketing approach is obviously needed if the club is to achieve the level of support through the turnstiles and the sponsor-friendly profile commensurate with the seat at the top table of Irish soccer to which it aspires.

But the Monaghan sporting public, too, have a part to play, and not merely as individuals.  Organisations in local communities working to provide young people with healthy recreational outlets and counter some of the social ills to which an under-occupied adolescent population are prey have an opportunity to formulate more formal and mutually beneficial links with the club than have thus far been availed of.

It may be too soon after Monday’s profound disappointment for those close to the club to appreciate it, but this has been the most remarkable of Monaghan United’s 25 years in the senior soccer ranks, replete with memorable moments and thrilling nights of sporting excitement.  A longer view of their situation would suggest that, in a year’s time, the realisation of planned developments at their Gortakeegan base will leave them sounder on an infrastructural footing for the prospect of promotion.  And the emotional rollercoaster they have just stepped off will certainly have bequeathed reserves of character upon which to draw for next season’s campaign.

Their ultimate goal may have eluded them, but Monaghan United have done much this season to instil pride in sports followers throughout our county.  They deserve commendation and applause for that.

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