A summer of sport
From GAA and hurling to the World Cup and Wimbledon, there’s something sporting for everyone this summer. But first read Pat Fitzpatrick’s indispensable guide to everything you need to know about angry GAA supporters, horny women watching football and fake Kerry modesty
Published 20/06/2010 | 05:00
Summer sports, where would we be without them? Recession making you angry? Let it all out by going mental at a GAA match. Bored housewife? Get an eyeful of foreign flesh during the World Cup. Raining outside? Watch Tiger Woods at the Open and see if you can catch him thinking about sex.
Those who wonder why we don't get as angry as the Greeks have obviously never been at a GAA match. There's nothing off-limits. While the soccer crowd chant and the rugby crowd sing together, a GAA crowd is nothing more than a collection of individuals going bananas in public.
We love our national games because they turn us into world-beaters at the one thing that matters to every true Irish person. Cursing.
All over the ground, timid little men are on their feet going purple and screaming at the poor referee or their own centre-back or the other crowd's kit man or at the sky. It's the only sport in the world where the St John's Ambulance people watch the crowd rather than the match.
One dodgy call from an umpire and they're off into the stands to help some fan who has gone mental. You'll see them asking the people around what happened. "That bollix of a linesman flagged for a free, that's what happened. Our friend here got up and screamed, 'Jesus, ref!' 17 times in a row and then collapsed." "Anyone know the person's name?" "Sister Regina."
Forget about therapy. There's no amount of post-Celtic Tiger anger that can't be released at a championship match this summer. Pick a Saturday evening match in one of those provincial towns that can't quite handle the crowds. You'll find the queue to get into an carr chlos -- usually a mucky field two miles from the ground -- will build the fury nicely.
It's perfectly acceptable to have a fit when you see the prices the GAA charge to get into a play-off match in the middle of the largest recession ever to hit this country. Don't blow your top at the turnstile. The kind of stuff you're allowed to say and do inside the ground will get you arrested out here.
Be careful though. A GAA championship match can't start before a minute's silence in appreciation of the secretary of Wolfe Tone Davitts, who passed away after 80 years of service to Clare hurling. You don't want to be in the middle of your freak-out while that's going on, unless of course you're screaming at the referee. It's never too early to start on him, or too late. If you still feel livid at the final whistle, it's quite du jour to "escort" the effin' ref off the pitch.
Cork were brillunt
If there is one thing you can be sure of this summer, it's that a Kerry player will give a post-match interview saying, "Fair play to Cork, they were brillunt out there today. I'm sure the people back in Kiree won't mind me saying that wan bit. They were due a big performance against us in Croke Park, and Crysht they delivered it today. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say Cork were brillunt." And then he turns away to join the celebrations after beating Cork in another All-Ireland Final at Croke Park.
Nothing hurts more than being buttered up by a Kerryman. That is why a lot of Cork fans don't follow their footballers to Croke Park when Kerry is the opposition. If a Rebel really wants to leave off steam, he chooses to watch the match at home so that when Tadhg Sean Maidhc from the West Kerry Gaeltacht says ye were brillunt, he can throw his can of Murphy's at the television screaming, "Shut up, ya smug Kerry langer."
He'd miss that if he went to the game. If Tadhg Sean Maidhc doesn't make him angry enough, he can fall back on his natural Cork paranoia and remind himself that everyone else in the country is delighted when the Rebels lose. It's not remotely true but try and tell that to a Corkman.
Kerry aren't the only team to brillunt the other crowd to death. The GAA post-match interview is all about false modesty and humility. It sets them apart from the soccer and rugby wide boys, who have to be paid to get out of bed.
Or at least it used to. GAA players have already claimed a bigger piece of the pie through the Gaelic Players Association. How long before we see the launch of an aftershave called The Gooch Pour l'Homme?
The GAA bandwagon
If the recession doesn't get you, then the ash cloud will. A lot of families will be staying at home this summer. This means a whole new audience looking to the GAA for a bit of fun, Irish style.
You might be worried that the kids will be exposed to a lot of colourful language, but come on, it's nothing the little feckers don't hear at home. In fact, it's cruel to shelter your kids from the cut and thrust of Irish cursing. It will only leave them at a disadvantage in later life.
There are some things worth knowing before you hop on board the bandwagon.
You will need a view on the new hand-pass rule in football. Forget about constitutional issues and the economy. Nothing divides Irish people more than whether a fella should be allowed to pass the ball with an open palm. It's as well to be against the new rules for now; the smart money in Ireland these days is against everything.
Everybody likes to get on television. The easiest way to do this is for you and the kids to wear the colours of one county and let your partner dress up in the other. The Sunday Game loves this bit of family rivalry. Who cares that you're all from the same county. And don't forget to wave.
Remember, your county chooses you. Never ever admit that you decided to follow a team because you liked their style. If a fan can change county, then so can a player and where would we be then? In England, playing soccer, that's where.
It's very important to hate at least one player on your own team. This is just in case you're hammering the opposition and there's nothing to freak out about. Every time he makes a mistake, you can pour all your self-loathing and guilt into fits of screaming at the whipping boy. If he plays well, you can freak out even more with: "Typical! The bollix can do it when he wants to."
The Dubs are the Tiger Woods of Gaelic Football. The fact is that the championship couldn't do without them. Who else would pack out Croke Park year after year in early June, convinced this must be their year?
Somehow though, the Dubs have become the romantic underdogs, the crowd that other counties adopt as their second team. This is because they feel sorry for them. After watching them try and preserve their heritage on match day, Meath natives actually pity the Dublin exiles that have moved to their county.
It's sad to see the whole family decked out in blue in the pub, with the wife saying to her husband: "I'm losin' the will to live, Deco. I've tried to get dem to speak normally but every one of me kids is starting to sound like Hector." It's enough to melt any heart.
Culchies on the TV
If it wasn't for the GAA, you'd hardly ever see culchies on the TV. You'll get the odd glimpse on Ear to the Ground and Nationwide, but that's mainly for sensible culchies who have their own artisan cheese business. Things are different from June to September.
This is where you get to see the true culchie: cute, cranky and up for a fight. And that's just the football panel on The Sunday Game. Pat Spillane, Joe Brolly and Colm O'Rourke have the classic culchie dynamic: slagging the crap out of each other for laughs until somebody gets the hump over nothing, and suddenly there's a chance Spillane will break a chair over Brolly's head while telling him he's brillunt at d'aul analysis, but it doesn't happen because Michael Lyster has the look of a Guard.
It's never like that with the hurling panel. Men who grew up playing a sport that involves hitting and being hit with a lump of ash are very good at keeping their cool. This is why The Sunday Game hurling panel has the polite feel of a staff-room meeting at a minor boarding school.
First, the weather. You know that New Zealand guy who effectively controls the national mood now with his long-range weather forecasts? He has spoken. That spell of good weather we got in late May, early June? That was our summer.
You're going to need the World Cup to get you through the warm, bright, drenched evenings. The first round is nearly finished now, so it's a perfect time to latch on to some likely winners. We're the world champions at bandwagon-jumping, so make sure you get it right.
The good news is that South Africa is in our time zone. It's one thing to become a fanatical supporter of Cameroon but are you really going to get up at three in the morning to watch them? No.
Not that it's all going to be a blast. After the Paris handball, watching the World Cup this year is going to be like watching everybody else having sex with the ex-wife. That should be us. So pick a team or two or three.
If they're still in the tournament, you could always support England like a proper grown-up human being. We know all the players and Wayne Rooney is more Irish than the Irish themselves, with the big Mayo head up on him, you keep telling yourself.
And then you go and watch England in the pub and end up almost joining the IRA. It goes to penalties and you realise you'd gladly hand over both kidneys to see Rooney miss. When he does and the English fans set the stadium on fire, you hug the person in the Celtic jersey next to you with a tattoo saying "26+6=1" and agree with her that the Irish fans would never behave like that.
When Clive, the quiet Englishman at the end of the bar, says that he always supports "you Irish", the whole pub laughs at him and says, "Penal Laws, Clive. Catholics weren't allowed to own a horse. So shut up."
Then you wake up the next day and realise your World Cup dream -- where England are two up on Germany with a minute to play in the final and still lose, so you turn over to the analysis on the BBC and enjoy an hour of pleasure to match anything you went through in Italia 90 -- is over.
If you want to attach yourself to the eventual winner of the World Cup, then keep an eye on Eamon Dunphy. At some point early in the tournament Dunphy will say of some team in his sad, things-were-better-in-the-Seventies voice: "There's something wrong in that camp Bill; the manager is a deeply flawed individual and the lad X isn't right in the head. It's sad to see it come to this for a former giant of the international game."
This country will probably win the tournament. Put a bet on them and leave it at that.
Whatever you do though, don't become a World Cup wannabe. This is the Irish man who identifies, say, Spain as the likely winners and starts stalking Spaniards who live here.
Let's call him Mickito. He's the Irish guy in the pub full of Spaniards in Temple Bar, wearing their away jersey and saying "hola" in a ridiculous accent, as Spain take on Brazil in the final. He'll learn enough Spanish to complain to his new friends that you can't get decent tapas in an Irish pub. He'll take a nap in the afternoon in preparation for the big match.
The only difference between Mickito and the actual Spaniards is he drinks 10 pints during the final to their one. So he gets a bit busy-handed at the final whistle with the two stunners from Seville standing next to him who can't figure out why he keeps singing Ole Ole Ole. They have one extra drink to celebrate and get out of there. Mickito jumps into a fountain. Another World Cup is over.
Something for the ladies
It's different for Irish men this World Cup. Four years ago, as his wife drooled over the latest collection of well-toned Johnny Foreigners on €10m a year, our man Donal could console himself that he was a property genius worth well over a million on paper after his latest off-plan purchase in Bulgaria. There'll be none of that this year.
Donal will have to live with the fact that his wife finally understands offside because she'd like to stray there with Cristiano Ronaldo, who has suddenly turned into a ride. She's looking at Thierry Henry and thinking, "I definitely would." The turncoat. That hurts.
There's actually somebody for every woman this year. Even putting aside Didier Drogba and his little ponytail, there will be any number of long-haired Latin types for women with a Shirley Valentine complex. If she's bothered to learn how to pronounce the name of Holland's Wesley Sneijder -- "Sshnyder" -- then look out. And then there's a whole batch of guys like Brazil's Kaka and Spain's Casillas, who look handsome in a short-back-and-sides Irish way. This sexy supermarket could tip a few Irish marriages over the edge.
Golf is all about Tiger Woods this summer. Once he gets over his sore neck, we'll be waiting for him. We will watch every shot he plays in the world's most boring sport, because he's a well-known person who had sex with a lot of bimbos. Nobody ever said we were complicated.
We reckon there's an outside chance the world's richest sportsman will end up chasing a saucy-looking blonde around the fourth green shouting, "I'll be OK once I get to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, but in the meantime, you're so hot." Who'd want to miss that?
If Tiger's neck doesn't stop him coming to the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare in July, then you could go along and see him in the flesh. Might be best to wear a good pair of runners if you're saucy and blonde, unless you're into that kind of thing and wouldn't mind being caught by a Tiger, ya dirty trollop. Don't forget, you could get 25 grand for your "Tiger Sex Romp Shame" story and times are tough.
Of course, if Tiger doesn't play this summer, golf will go back to being about men in beige slacks high-fiving their caddies. In other words, it will be about golf. And nobody wants that.
Nostalgia isn't half what it used to be. Gone are the days when Wimbledon on the telly meant youngsters in the street playing tennis. In fact, it was a crucial part of growing up as an Irish curser. Who can forget the sound of a three-year-old shouting, "I cannot fucking believe you!" at his five-year-old sister over a double-fault while his parents looked on lovingly, saying, "The little bollicks must have picked that up from John McEnroe. I could weep with pride."
Not any more. When kids see tennis on TV these days, they grab your credit card and run outside to order the latest Xbox game with tennis in the title. The game starts with a tennis match but then the player steals a car and drives around a post-apocalyptic urban landscape picking up hookers and dealing drugs. No wonder they find real life so disappointing.
That said, the days of buying your child a new games console every six months are gone with the days of remortgaging the house to buy yourself a new BMW because you're worth it. The really courageous will buy two rackets and ball in Lidl for a tenner and send their children outside to play on the road. If they start crying and saying they're being punished for a recession they didn't create, then start crying yourself and say, "Welcome to my world." You'll feel better for it. And the kids might lose a few kilos.