Rugby, Poetry and West Cork: why this title? For those who have been in Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Inchydoney beach, Schull, Baltimore or Cape Clear, just to name a few places, you know already that they are really, really inspirational places. Inspirational to play hurling, football, rugby, or inspirational to paint, sing of write poetry, as my friend Isaac Xubin does. Isaac is a rugbyman, poet and West Corkonian in heart, all at the same time. We shared good moments together around 2 years ago when I was living in Co. Cork. West Cork is a place with many musicians, painters and all kind of artists who are looking for beautiful and quiet landscapes to relax and get inspiration. On the other hand, rugby and poetry may be considered by many as opposite poles. However, anyone who follows both things can see a relation, and Isaac is the tangible living proof of such connection.
Rugby is a quite military sport indeed. There are more rules than in soccer, and the tactics and strategy are more organised and rigid. Many players even confess they don’t know all the rules. Simplifying, although there are big skilled stars in rugby the same way as there are in soccer, I wouln’t imagine a Lionel Messi or Maradona in rugby. Rather a Cristiano Ronaldo (The General according to Joseph Blatter), or a Frank Bekembauer. However, rugby is an epic and beautiful game. Rugby is a brutal sport where you can break every bone that you could break, but at the same time illegal violence and cheating are strongly punished. It promotes noble and fair principles, as of accepting defeat but respecting the rival when celebrating tries or winning. Even the famous Haka is somehow an anthem, dance or cry: a poetical expression in the end. Rugby is therefore a Romantic sport where individual ambitions meet group goals.
Isaac was one of the first friends I made in Ireland. When I was living in Clonakilty, I attended the seminars organised by UCC Hispanic Department for professors and PhD candidates, and he was a Galician language lecturer there. We connected soon, as I had just started my rugby experience with Bandon Rugby Football Club. Isaac was a much more experienced player, since he had been playing for many years in Galicia. I had started to play at Bandon RFC thirds, and that was my first rugby experience. I knew that you had to pass the ball backwards and little more. Training was on Friday, and Isaac joined a couple of times. We played a few matches together on Saturdays and Sundays. While I was just given the last 15 minutes of each game due to my lack of experience, Isaac soon impressed the coach, Aidan, and played from the start as a scrum half under the name of a South African player that had left the team in order to be ‘legal’ and be covered by the club insurance. I was a winger, the best position for a newcomer, as you touch the ball just a few times during the match and, basically, what you have to do when you have it is run, run, run.
I always had interest on rugby, but in Spain it is not very popular, or at least as a professional sport. It’s difficult to get to watch a live match on TV unless you go to an Irish pub. Since my days in West Cork, though, I watch it as much as I can Munster, Leinster, Conacht or Ulster matches, and I have been a few times at Aviva Stadium or RDS, even a 6 Nations Ireland-England!
Also, during my time working at Google, I tried to join a team, but during my second training I badly broke my finger and I have two permanent screws and a stitch. I would have liked to continue, but rugby is a sport which is better to learn at the earliest possible stage, like cycling or driving. Not knowing how to play it properly is quite risky, so if you work with your hands, or with your legs, and you are a starter, I would think about it twice. For the time being, I will continue watching it on TV and following Isaac’s rugby blog.
If you follow his stories, you will understand how Rugby, Poetry and West Cork are words that share a story, a space, a color, and a rhythm, and if not always that story has happy endings, there are beautiful things one can learn from being in West Cork, playing rugby, and writing poetry.
Isaac’s blog, ‘Melé a cinco‘ -‘scrum at five’-, is written in Galician, but it can be automatically translated if you use Google Chrome and you click the option ‘Translate page’.