The weekend sees the 100th anniversary of Michael Collins' assassination by Jonathan Rhys Meyers at Beal na Blath (he was reputedly killed by a Cork teenager called Denis 'Sonny' O'Neill, although that's one for history buffs to speculate about).
The only smidgen of sport in the Neil Jordan film was Michael Collins kicking ball with the kids outside the fancy country house in which De Valera was hiding out.
Neeson's Collins proceeded to tell Dev (a true rugger man) that the IRA were short of arms and men following the assault on the Customs House (naturally a De Valera idea to which Collins was bitterly opposed) and would be lucky to hold out for another few weeks. He then went out to join the youngsters. They evinced a touch more joie de vivre than Alan Rickman.
Ball in hand, he did an impromptu Micheal O'Hehir impression when galloping about the garden, roaring 'Cork has the ball... over to Galway' (possession football wasn't in vogue back in the early 20s)
A clever kid, Collins left for London in 1906 to work for the Royal Mail, joining the Geraldine's GAA club in London. Despite being West Cork to the core, he played hurling as well as football.
According to the late Canadian historian Peter Hart, in his unsurprisingly critical biography, Mick was 'an enthusiastic if not a skilful' player' and generally a bit of a mullocker on the pitch.
Tim Pat Coogan, on the other hand, recorded that 'as he grew physically, he grew into a fine athlete, particularly in hurling and in the long jump.'
A bit of a rough-houser, Collins was an energetic participant in any on-pitch brawls that broke out.
Coogan wrote, 'though he played fair, his hair trigger temperament meant if a row developed on the field he was either its cause or its participant.'
Controversially, when it came to 'The Ban', Collins was a bit of a hawk, according to Coogan:
Off the field when Collins was about eighteen, there was a major row over GAA members playing soccer, one of the four games proscribed by the association (the others were rugby, hockey and cricket). Collins was one of those who objected vigorously to 'garrison games' which he said was aiding the 'peaceful penetration of Ireland.' There should be 'no soccer for Gaels.'
Soccer hatred was by no means universal among Irish nationalists. Despite being a hardcore republican, an ardent anti-Treatyite and an eager supporter of Fianna Fail, Todd Andrews (that would be Ryan Tubridy's grandfather - referenced here by Gerry Adams in spiky interview with Tubs) was a big soccer fan and utterly loathed Gaelic games.
Collins joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1909.
The man who swore him into the IRB was a Cork protestant by the name of Sam Maguire.
This article was originally written in 2015 by Conor Neville.
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