News Off the Ball

Thursday 27 October 2016

Fans of Big Three not eager to welcome newcomers to the club

Michael McCarthy

Published 15/07/2015 | 02:30

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald can be a polarising figure
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald can be a polarising figure

A lack of foresight - or, more accurately, a failure to look at the GAA calendar - meant I'd planned a weekend in Kilkenny instead of being in Thurles for Clare and Cork last weekend.

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We watched the match in a small pub with a handful of locals, a surprising amount of whom were decked out in official Kilkenny paraphernalia, given their team were five weeks away from their next game.

The reaction to the match was both surprising and something I'd encountered before. Kilkenny fans, in general, wanted Cork to win.

I've experienced it in the past when watching hurling in Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary. I'm not sure it's even a conscious thought, but as the game went on, more and more of the crowd were visceral in their support for Cork and their disdain for Clare.

Davy Fitzgerald, despite behaving in a very low-key way (for him), was certainly not the most popular man among the bar's audience.

Maybe his polarising nature explains some of it, but it just seemed to me there was a sense that Cork belonged, and Clare didn't.

There's an old guard there in those three counties. While they are rivals, there's definitely a feeling they are more comfortable playing each other.

Everything was good-natured, and after storming out of the pub in a huff after another Championship defeat for my team, I was greeted with an embarrassing, but endearingly Irish, pub-wide round of applause on my return some 20 minutes later.

Over the course of the evening that followed, I talked to some of them about this idea. My conclusion is that a county like Kilkenny fears nobody. They want to play their rivals because they are not in any way afraid of them.

When you're from Clare, and almost every other county, you hope for the easy draw.

In Kilkenny, an All-Ireland is all the more sweeter if Cork and Tipp are put to the sword along the way. Clare are not part of their little game. Neither are Limerick, Waterford, Galway or Wexford. We're small potatoes.

Irish Independent

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