Thursday 29 September 2016

Irish sport's civil war takes away from joy of big days

Michael McCarthy

Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30

If Ireland win the World Cup in a month, will the begrudgers be as loud as the supporters?
If Ireland win the World Cup in a month, will the begrudgers be as loud as the supporters?

Last Friday, Off The Ball took its American bow, broadcasting from across the Atlantic for the first time with a show from Boston College. We were there for the launch of Aer Lingus College Football Classic which takes place next September in the Aviva Stadium.

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In Boston, sport is everywhere. It's all you hear about on the street, and in bars and restaurants. The media and fans are demanding, sometimes even vicious. Legends of the game like Bill Russell and Ted Williams hated the place after they left. The Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, and followed it up in 2007 for good measure, was chased out of town by the 'Boston Globe'.

What also struck me though is how the different sports intertwined peacefully. A conversation about the Bruins' pre-season form could end up warping into an analysis of Tom Brady's performance last week.

Snide

While taking this in, I happened to check Twitter before Ireland's first World Cup match with Canada. As always when Ireland play rugby, the snide comments from football fans were in abundance.

This is not unique for the Irish rugby team. Rugby fans can be incredibly smug about their sport "not being soccer" as well. Add two GAA sports to the mix, and it's like a constant civil war in Irish sport.

Instead of being fans of your city or country, we too often choose a sport to follow. Because of this, we miss out on the genuine community element of supporting big time sport.

If the Red Sox win the World Series, everyone celebrates. It matters to the city, not just to the fans. Arriving back in Dublin yesterday, I didn't get the impression anything was any different after winning the All-Ireland the day before. And if Ireland win the World Cup in a month, will the begrudgers be as loud as the supporters?

Irish Independent

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