Friday 24 November 2017

Cork fans are in the red as they get ready to cheer on the Rebels in All-Ireland final

Clare supporter Maeve de Paor (9) stands tall in the midst of her Cork-supporting schoolmates in Gaelscoil Ui Riordain, Ballincollig, ahead of the All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday
Clare supporter Maeve de Paor (9) stands tall in the midst of her Cork-supporting schoolmates in Gaelscoil Ui Riordain, Ballincollig, ahead of the All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Tens of thousands of Rebel fans are expected to make the trip to Croke Park this weekend for the All-Ireland hurling final against Clare. And they're rearing to go.

SHE is a proud Rebelette but when it comes to the All-Ireland hurling final little Maeve de Paor (9) is first and foremost her Clare daddy's girl.

Maeve and Gaelscoil Ui Riordain third-class teacher, Marcus Mac Mathuna, were islands of saffron-and-blue in a red-and-white ocean yesterday as the Ballincollig, Co Cork school joined the All-Ireland final excitement.

"I'm from Cork but my daddy, Senan, is from Clare. That's why I am wearing the Clare jersey for him," Maeve explained.

But the 26 other third-class students proudly wore their 'blood-and-bandages' Cork colours – and vowed good-humouredly to make life hell for Marcus their teacher on Monday morning if the Rebels overcome the Banner and take their 31st title.

"I'm from Clonlara in Clare and I was in sixth class back in 1995 when Clare beat Offaly to win the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time in over 80 years. It is still the best sporting memory of my life," Marcus said.

TRIUMPH

Having cheered Clare to triumph in both 1995 and 1997, he is now sweating on getting a ticket for the Croke Park final.

Marcus proudly wore his 1995 Clare jersey to class yesterday despite good-natured heckling from students and staff alike.

"If I don't get a ticket, and I'm praying that I do, I'll go back to Clare to watch the match with my family and friends in Clonlara. Where else would you watch it," he laughed.

It will also be a special Sunday for Cork legend, Gerald McCarthy, who was part of the great Rebel three-in-a-row All-Ireland side of the 1970s and then went on to manage Cork. Gerald's first All-Ireland final was back in 1956 as a teen.

On Sunday, he will take his daughter, Ciara, who is eight months pregnant, to the match along with his two grand-sons.

"It will be my grandson's first time seeing Cork in an All-Ireland hurling final so it is going to be a very special day for the entire family," Gerald told the Irish Independent.

Gerald, who runs a trophy shop on Princes Street, said he expects the winners' medals to end up in Cork hands.

"It will be very, very close and Clare has a very good and very dangerous side. But I think Cork has just enough to see it through," he added.

The last Corkman to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup, Sean Og O hAilpin, echoes that view.

"It will be very tight. There is very little between the two sides," he told the Irish Independent.

"I think Cork should shade it for three reasons: tactically, they won't give Clare the freedom of Croke Park, Cork has an age-old tradition of rising to the occasion to win All-Ireland finals and I think they also have the right blend of experience and youth."

"Clare has a great young side. They are definitely the coming team in hurling. But I think Cork should just about have the edge for Sunday."

Excitement over Sunday's match has infected virtually every workplace across Cork and Clare. The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDFB) decked their Model Farm Road premises out in red-and-white bunting with even some guide dogs wearing the Cork colours.

But it was a case of divided loyalties for friends and dog welfare officers, Charlotte Spencer and Marie Neville.

Charlotte's family hails from Shannon in Clare while Marie lives in Kanturk in north Cork, where the townhas three local hurlers in the panel.

"None of us could get tickets for Croke Park on Sunday. They're like hens teeth here. Our last hope now is to win a ticket in the Irish Guide Dogs charity draw," they said.

Irish Independent

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