Thomas Hynes, Bohemian FC community director, tells a story about a man out on parole.
Hynes knew the man from working in Mountjoy Prison. We know this happened 20 years ago because Stephen Kenny was Bohs manager. We know this because Kenny secured tickets for the man to bring his family to watch a game in Dalymount Park.
“He sat down where I sit, my family and friends said hello to him,” said Hynes, “but nobody knew who he was, because there was no need to know who he was. He was there with his wife and two sons.”
In 2019, the same man intercepted Hynes at Dalymount with a bear hug.
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“’Tom I want to thank ...’ and I said, ‘no, we have been through this before, you don’t thank me, the Bohemian Foundation opened the door and you stepped through it and did the work and turned your life around.
“‘No’, he said. ‘My son just signed for Bohs.’ It meant so much to him. You don’t always hear these stories but people need to know that work done behind the scenes really does matter.”
The Phibsborough club seek new methods to reduce the number of Mountjoy prisoners that reoffend. Currently, frisbee games are run by Social Sports Dublin, sign language and hairdressing tutorials are also available.
On a dreary Monday morning inside the Mansion House on Dawson Steet, the foundation was rebranded “Bohs in the Community”. Politicians, including Government minister Roderic O’Gorman and football people, including FAI president Gerry McAnaney, were present to support detailed plans to enhance the club’s role as socially responsible leaders in Dublin North Central, an area with the highest crime rate in Ireland.
Hynes was on a roll.
“When Stephen Kenny was manager of Bohs I was working with the homeless and Stephen very kindly got me 10 tickets so every Friday these men, who were in recovery, could go and mix with a crowd and blend in, because at a match nobody is paying them any attention. This had a tremendous impact on their recovery. I thought to myself, we have got to carry this further.
“Now we will do it in a more professional manner because, through football, we have the gift to turn a person’s life around. We have the gift of putting a child on the right path.”
Bohemians’ work in the community is nothing new. On arrival as manager last year, Declan Devine was so “blown away” by the genuine nature of off-field endeavours, that he made it part of the pitch to sign players.
The GayBohs flag has flown at Dalymount since 2016, but that is a story all by itself. Climate justice officer Sean McCabe will speak to La Liga sides in Madrid next week about how football can save the planet. Children in direct provisions centres get Christmas presents from club fundraising. Kids in Palestine receive Bohs gear. “Refugees welcome” is stitched into the shirt.
“I really want to commend Bohs for responding to some of the racist, xenophobic rhetoric that has reared its head all over the country,” said O’Gorman, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. “When parts of the far right protest they get a lot of media coverage and attention but we know that communities all over the country are coming together to welcome refugees. That’s why the launch of today’s strategy is timely.”
True, but last week, as the BBC twisted itself in knots over Match of the Day anchor Gary Lineker’s tweet about the cruelty of UK Government policy towards refugees, would have been pitch perfect.