“His father’s from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold”

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It’s almost September, so of course I have been taking the time to focus on my local love – the GAA. Last week saw an absolutely riveting El Clásico between Dublin and Kerry, in which Kerry suffered a narrow defeat by a somewhat cooler-headed Dublin (though there was a bit of controversy over a decision by the ref in the dying minutes, which made the defeat for Kerry even more sickening. But that’s the beauty of sport – the devastation of defeat makes victory all the sweeter.

So we can look forward to a Mayo v Dublin football final on September 18th. Will the curse of ’51 finally be broken? Or will the Dub’s domination continue? And I’m even more excited about this weekend’s hurling final between the surprising double-darers Tipp and the behemoth Kilkenny. There is going to be serious craic & bantz in Croker at the weekend between the supporters of these closely-located counties.

And from my observations, the GAA and its supporters can really split opinion across the people of Ireland. On one end of the spectrum you have avid and completely committed supporters who don’t wash their lucky jerseys from May to September, and on the other there are the city-slicking hipsters who sneer at the culchie red-necks burning a trail at weekends making their way to Semple Stadium or Croke Park with a paper bag full of hang sangwiches and TK red lemonade.

I am firmly and proudly in the middle.

I may be what is considered a fair-weather follower, whose interest really only peaks around quarter final time. But I would happily watch any game between any of the counties, if only for the commentary and the provincial half-time TV ads if nothing else. And if I’m honest, I’m definitely a bigger fan of the small ball. The skill and technique required to play a game of such finesse is almost equal to the skill required to watch it, knowing what’s going on and where exactly the ball is at all times.

Below is my list of favourite things about the GAA championships – some are hurling-specific, and some are related to football, but most can be enjoyed regardless of the size of the ball 😉

The commentators

We are all familiar with the infamous wordsmith Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, who can be credited with the quote that is the title of today’s blog post. There is an infinite number of Mícheál-isms, from “Pat Fox has it on his hurl and is motoring well now, but here comes Joe Rabbitte hot on his tail… I’ve seen it all now, a Rabbitte chasing a Fox around Croke Park!” to “Teddy looks at the ball, the ball looks at Teddy…”, each of which will bring a smile to your face. Have a look here for some more. http://www.thescore.ie/micheal-isms-the-best-o-muircheartaigh-quotes-40543-Oct2010/

One of the lesser-known poets of GAA punditry is the internet sensation Effin Eddie. Eddie Moroney was a local commentator who came to stardom when one of his commentary sessions from the Tipperary Under 21 football final between Aherlow and Eire Og Nenagh in 1992 after having a schkinful in “the Glen” the night before went viral. Click on the link below to check out a taster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOS-XQ0oZYM

The seeing lads in a GAA jersey in every corner of the globe

We’ve all seen it – you’re on holiday and walking along the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Veronica’s strip in Tenerife or the Great Wall of China, and who should you see coming towards you but a ginger vision with a farmers tan, proudly parading his county colours for all the world to see. Wherever I’ve travelled in the past, that sight has always given me a little pang of homesickness. But don’t forget the golden rules of wearing your jersey abroad:

  1. It is not ok to not wash it regularly
  2. It is not ok to use it as a stamp of superiority, even if it is a Cork jersey
  3. It is not ok to wear the entire kit, including shorts and socks – you are a fully-grown person, not an eight-year old on no-uniform day

The local support signage

If you drive around the country during summertime in Ireland, you cannot help but notice the county-colour bunting, painted shop fronts and hand-painted signs hailing “Local hero Sheamie – bringing Liam home”. It seems like every town and village is trying to out-sign each other with witty quips and using as much farming paraphernalia as possible to create the best and most imaginative “Up <insert count name here>” banner (here’s a fine example). A recent favourite of mine is the sheep painted in the blue and gold of Tipp.

The bringing a foreign friend to the pub to watch a game of hurling for the first time

There is some evil delight in bringing a foreign friend to the pub for the first time and watch as they stand in shocked amazement and declare “Was zum Geier ist denn da los?”, “C’est quoi ce bordel?”, or “他妈的发生了什么事?” (loosely translated as “what the f**k is going on here?!”) You watch as their heads jerk furiously from side to side as they try to understand why 30 Irish men are brandishing sticks and trying to hit each other, and no idea if there is a ball, and if there is, where is it? You chuckle softly to yourself as you sip your Guinness and feel some pride in one of your national sports.

The seeing Kilkenny knocked out early

This is a personal and prejudiced favourite – being from Cork, Kilkenny is our hurling nemesis and we will gleefully cheer when they are no longer in the championship. And even if they win the All-Ireland, we can still be smug and mature enough to remind them that Cork have both a hurling and footballing tradition – so there!

The “Mayo for Sam”…. every year

Every year the lads from Mayo hope and pray and wail that this will be their year. And 2014 was the year they really outdid themselves. They even enlisted the support of well-known GAA supporter Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters; and Jamie’s dad, Harry Redknapp has also jumped on the Mayo4Sam bandwagon. The reason behind the campaign is the legend of the “curse of ‘51”, which is said to prevent Mayo from winning another All-Ireland while any member of the Mayo All-Ireland winning team of 1951 is still alive. For more background on the curse, check this link.

So, just a few tidbits to get you interested before the final weekends start, and the following fixtures can be enjoyed in the comfort of your local boozer, or from a tent at the Electric Picnic while taking shelter from the predicted hurricane! Fingers-crossed it’ll be a Blue & Gold tent 😉

Sunday, September 04 @3.30pm

Kilkenny v Tipperary (Hurling)

Sunday, September 18 @3.30pm

Dublin v Mayo (Football)

 

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