Pick a side.
Well – as I already knew from playing football every lunch break at school, you rarely get to pick your side. It picks you. And to be honest, you should be grateful that you’re on any sort of side at all.
And whatever team you’re tentatively part of (not that they pass the ball to you, mind), they won’t stop going on about it. Your name – Aidan O’This and William McThat. How you say the letter ‘H’. Whether or not you have fun on a Sunday. The name of the school that considers you as a pupil. Whether you call it Derry or Londonderry. Does he kick with his left fut?
I saw myself as Northern Irish. Not quite Irish. Sort of British. That’s how I explained my fudged identity in the confusion of a land that means different things to different people.
Years later, it was Paddy Kielty’s BBC documentary that gave me a moment of clarity. The Good Friday Agreement meant that I could be both Irish and British. That I didn’t have to pick a side. I could reserve the right to follow both English Cricket and Celtic music. I could just be me – a jumbled up collection of bits and pieces accumulated along the way.
But watching Ireland play Six Nations rugby has always been a source of hope for me. For when Ireland is playing rugby, North and South sing together. We wear green together. We fight united.
And quite often we even win.