We Irish like to believe,
that others view Ireland,
as a land of hills, mountains, friendly people,
pubs, music and craic.
However that is not what we Irish see.
Living here is similar to life in most countries.
There is of course the beauty, music and “craic”,
but equally we also have,
unemployment, violence, and corruption,
evident in everyday life.
However we do have something unique here.
It is at the very heart of a huge number of people.
It divides counties, and marriages,
and consumes the nation for weeks.
It is the GAA.
I had come from Dublin,
and a non GAA family,
so I didn’t get it.
I was in nursing training,
and only got one day off a week.
Spending two hours of it,
going to watch him play in a match,
was not my idea of fun.
Even minor matches,
were of the utmost importance.
The supporters were fanatics.
On days when the rain poured down,
they stood to watch their team.
I would wave my footballer off,
and bid a hasty retreat to the car.
When the match was over,
out I’d go and listen to the talk around me.
I could then “comment” on the match,
and of course criticize the ref,
as well as if I saw the whole thing live.
Well tomorrow is All Ireland Hurling Final Day.
This is a sacred day among the Irish.
The county I live in, Cork,
my husbands home county,
are playing against County Clare.
In local language it is a clash between,
The rebel county (Cork)
and the banner county (Clare).
There is huge excitement around.
Cork take their hurling very seriously.
The towns and city are covered in Red and White,
the shop assistants, teachers and pupils all wearing Cork jerseys.
There is a carnival atmosphere around.
From early morning tomorrow,
our city of Cork will empty.
Tens of thousands will leave and head to Dublin.
The hallowed grounds of Croke Park their destination.
Some smarty will put up a sign in a field on the border,
“Last to leave turn off the lights”.
The road will be a sea of cars,
with red and white flags flying.
Those who remain,
will flock to pubs and GAA grounds,
to sit and watch the match.
Winning is everything.
If we do win, the county will party,
and those who do make it to work on Monday,
will not be at their most productive.
If we lose the county will be bereft.
They really do go into mourning,
and autopsies go on for weeks.
I myself would of course love Cork to win,
but at heart I am a Dubliner, a Dub,
and my boys are playing in two weeks time,
in the All Ireland Football Final.
I would normally “keep my powder dry until then”.
I would watch the match but I would not be overly excited.
However yesterday I was given a reason to shout for Cork.
The winning team receive the Liam McCarthy Cup, “Liam”.
The following day without fail,
they take “Liam” into the two major children’s hospitals in Dublin.
In intensive care in one of those hospitals,
a young GAA fanatic is recovering from his bone marrow transplant.
Dressed in red and white,
a Corkonian true and true,
the last thing he wants to see Monday morning
is a Clare man coming to see him, holding Liam!
So tomorrow I will roar and shout for Cork,
with real passion.
And my husband will be over the moon,
believing that at last,
I have left my Dublin roots behind.
But secretly I will be shouting,
in the hope that my young friend in Dublin,
gets to meet “Liam” on Monday,
in the company of the boys from the rebel county!