COUNTRY PRIDE MEETS COUNTY PRIDE!

23 July 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

By PETER HUGHES

“What a wonderful night to be in Monaghan!”

Jimmy Buckley’s declaration at the outset of his high-octane performance on the stage of the Monaghan Country Music Festival on Sunday simply said it all.

The final night of the big music event, blessed with perfect weather after three wet and glowering precedents, received the added benediction of the appearance of the Monaghan football team that earlier had wrested the Ulster title from Donegal in an epic, nerve-fraying encounter in St Tiernach’s Park in Clones.

By the time the players and their mentors bounded onto the stage shortly after 11 pm to be introduced by Northern Sound’s Sean McCaffrey, the crowds milling though The Diamond and Church Square had reached legendary proportions.

The improbable estimate of 10,000 that has circulated in the evening’s aftermath compels authentication in those who witnessed this prodigious assembly of happy people.

In recording the figure, your correspondent bows to the journalistic advice imparted by a character in the John Ford Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend!”

History will reinforce the statistic – like Woodstock was to the cultural landscape of the 1960s, this was one of those special moments in Co Monaghan’s cultural story that will compel the memory in those contemporaneous with it: “I was there!” with such vividness that the factual or imaginary status of the recollection becomes irrelevant.

Jimmy Buckley, introduced as “the voice of Irish country music”, found himself with a crowd of stadium proportions to entertain – and he did it royally, exhausting his songbook and striking several resonant chords with the occasion. His latest single, a cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”, got an encore reprise less for commercial reasons one suspects than for the whole new meaning its words took on for those in the crowd expectant of the arrival of their blue (and white) clad footballing heroes.

Monaghan jerseys of sundry vintage began to overwhelm the country regalia as the predominant livery as the evening wore on – but the music and the crowd’s delight in it was never eclipsed.

Never can so many have milled in the streets of Monaghan so convivially – alcohol induced merriment rather than malice, mutual apologies rather than glares were exchanged after inevitable accidental comings together, and the only violent activity to combust took the form of spontaneous bursts of some very skilled jiving and line-dancing.

The formal jiving competition, played out to the lively music of ebullient Redhills performer Eamonn Jackson, even produced an inadvertent compensation for the day’s defeated, with Aidan Finn and Sarah-Louise Montague from Donegal carrying away the trophy and €500 first prize. Sarah-Louise’s wan smile when told by her prize-giver, “At least youse won something today”, would have distilled a tincture of compassion from even the most partisan Monaghan heart.

Not that the goodly number of Donegal supporters who had drifted in from Clones to balm their sorrows looked particularly in need of sympathy – accustomed to conspicuous recent victory on loftier stages than even the provincial one, they could afford to be generous in defeat.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Cavan/Monaghan Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys joined the crowd in the early part of the evening and looked delighted that the festival she had of….

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