2 August 2013 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The brilliance of the summer sunshine we have lately enjoyed may have become interrupted by intermittent cloud and rain, but Monaghan people are still basking in the warm glow of the feel-good factor generated by our county footballers at all levels.
With last weekend’s historic Ulster Final double still fresh in our minds and hearts, attention turns to Croke Park this Saturday when the senior side attempt to negotiate the difficult hurdle of traditional provincial rivals Tyrone and advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Success is a potent addictive, and if the popular desire within the country for further cause for celebration is a tangible factor in a football contest, there will be the force of a juggernaut behind the Farney men as they step out onto the hallowed sward of Headquarters to vie for further glory.
Last weekend’s victories, and the celebrations that followed, will long be remembered. Their occurrence formed the centrepiece of a rate conjunction of causes for happiness that also embraced the zenith of the spirit-refreshing summer weather and festive events in several locations, notably the Muckno Mania activities in Castleblayney, a significant cultural celebration of the marching band tradition by the community of Drum, and the hugely successful inaugural country musical festival in Monaghan Town.
In recessionary times the need for communal gathering and festive diversion is accentuated – taking joy in a great sporting achievement or enjoying an open-air music or entertainment event serves a restorative purpose, a tonic more revivifying for our spirits and our mental health than anything that can be medicinally dispensed.
But we would be underestimating the celebratory events in which we have partaken these last weeks if we dismissed them as mere escapism.
The female and male footballers who have done the county proud in recent times are also doing a great deal to communicate the positive aspects of an active lifestyle and sporting involvement – very important messages for young people in particular to be exposed to.
Unlike many of the sporting figures that modern marketing offers up as icons for admiration and emulation, those who excel in Gaelic sports are easy to identify with: they are integral to the community they represent, men and women we can meet as easily on the street as see on the pitch, our own people.
The burden of expectation can be all the more onerous for that familiarity, but our current coterie of footballers carry it lightly – whatever else it falls their way to achieve in the course of this summer, they have already done their county proud and carried the banner of Monaghan very impressively into the wider arena. They are the best of ambassadors.
The county’s provincial footballing achievements have added sustaining fuel to the much-needed commercial fillip that the aforementioned and other festival events organised throughout our county have also importantly contributed to.
The rich calendar of festivals now established in Co Monaghan has become a significant factor in economic activity.
While it would be difficult to accurately measure the annual yield of them in commercial terms, or put a sure figure on the visitor numbers they attract, the former number is surely in millions and the latter in tens if not hundreds of thousands.
To get an impression of their importance to the county’s economy, one could imagine for a moment the consequences if this scale of revenue were not available to businesses and services annually, if this level of through-flow of people were taken away from our towns and villages at commercially crucial times of the year.
Our festivals are a vital resource – but are the benefits of this feature of the county’s economy being maximised to the full?
The question posed is surely worthy of some form of systematic review.
In some instances better co-ordination of festival activities is required to avoid similarly themed events taking place in different parts of our county at the same time.
There also seems a need for some individual festivals to be organised in a manner that delivers an equity of commercial benefit across the area of their location – the complaint is often heard that, where some festivals are concerned, traders in a particular area reap a considerable bounty while others in different locations have their normal flow of business disrupted.
The organisation of festival events is an onerous task discharged largely through voluntary effort, but the longevity of the tradition in some instances has bequeathed us a considerable “brains trust” of experienced individuals who could surely serve in a consultative capacity on a co-ordinating body.
A good degree of co-ordination and oversight in this area has already come about this year due to the need to produce a coherent programme for Co Monaghan’s participation ‘The Gathering’ tourism drive.
Perhaps, when ‘The Gathering’ has come and gone, the committee involved in it could remain in place as a mechanism to ensure that the maximum benefit is obtained from Co Monaghan’s annual festival programme, that clashes and coincidences are avoided and that all traders in a festival location, not just a select or geographically fortunate few, enjoy to the full the commercial benefits that circulate at these times.
There is also an obvious role here for the Chambers of Commerce active in our county – and a pressing need for the reinvigoration of the once vibrant Chamber in Monaghan Town, which has regrettably fallen into slumber.
We can still taste the tingle of the feel-good factor, and hopefully the Monaghan senior team will give us a refresher of the tonic at Croke Park on Saturday.
But let’s not miss the opportunity to maximise the benefits of the festival factor that has grown to be a significant contributor to both the civic and commercial wellbeing of our county.

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