Linfield goalkeeper Roy Carroll certainly caused a stir last weekend when he chose not to shake hands with any Cliftonville players just before kick-off in their Danske Bank Premiership game at Solitude.
Not many people like to go public on such sensitive matters because it’s pretty certain you’ll upset someone in what is more often than not a no-win subject.
But to be honest I’ve never been fazed by what others may think of me — it’s much more important to address the problem than continue to bury our heads in the sand.
Obviously, Roy still harbours resentment at the Cliftonville team choosing to snub the National Anthem prior to last season’s Irish Cup Final at Windsor Park.
Both he and the Reds players will undoubtedly have their own reasons for doing what they did but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s no big deal. It’s merely indicative of each other’s interpretation of how they feel and what they believe in.
However, thanks be to God, this is still a country of free choice and that must never change, nor should we lose sight of the fact that where we live is globally renowned for many of its inhabitants having an inbred ideal that you’re either one side or the other of our political divide — something I happen to think will never change, it’s the nature of the beast.
I reckon the best we can ever hope for is to agree to disagree and move on because whenever we have a political impasse in this country, it only creates a simmering minefield during the interim period.
Anyhow, back to the football and irrespective of who thinks Carroll was right or wrong last weekend, the entire situation could have been avoided by cutting out this nonsensical protocol of both teams having to shake hands with each other before every game — it’s false and it’s wrong.
I’ve heard it was introduced as an advert for the spirit of the game but, once again, it’s obviously another bright idea by some deluded individual who has probably never played the game but has worked their way into a desk job in the corridors of power.
By all means shake your opponent’s hand after a match if you so wish, but please don’t inflict this humiliating ritual of making it a compulsory part of our game.
Believe me, all teams have players who dislike some of their opponents and it’s been like that for as long as I can remember. It’s not confined solely to football, it’s prevalent in all walks of life, so why force these people to shake hands?
Despite the odd blip, we must never lose sight of the fact that sport builds more bridges in Northern Ireland than all of our politicians put together ever have, so it’s absolutely vital that we continue to do just that.
I would be fairly confident that the vast majority of us are all sick, sore and tired of this country’s current political stand-off so it’s our duty to continue with our struggle to keep our communities together and we can do just that through sport.
Also, let’s not forget that it’s not so many years ago that Linfield and Cliftonville couldn’t even play their games at Solitude for security reasons, so the fact they now can is surely testimony and a measure of how far we have come as a society.
So I can tell you here and now that I for one have no intention whatsoever of discarding all the hard work which has been done behind the scenes by both these clubs to enable these games to be possible once more.
But by the same token, let’s not kid ourselves that these two clubs love each other because, quite simply, they don’t — so my advice is to just accept that fact and get on with it.
As I’ve said many times before, let’s just agree to disagree and move on. To keep looking over our shoulder and to dwell on the past will never lead us to the road ahead.