‘There’s not a jersey to be had in the whole county’
Clare All-Ireland hurling preview: for €4 I got a hat that sings a verse of ‘My Lovely Rose of Clare’
Ten-year-old twins Colm and Noel Flynn from St Finnachta’s national school, Sixmilebridge. Photograph: Inpho/James Crombie
Full disclosure from the start. This report comes to you from a Clarewoman. A Clarewoman who was present in Ennis on the night in 1995 when Anthony Daly’s team came home and the whole county went, frankly, cracked. There is no more appropriate word. If we win on Sunday, I forecast that the din of our collective Clare Shouts will be heard as far as Cork. And we’ll go even more cracked than last time.
In Quin earlier this week Claire Titley, owner of the Monk’s Well bar, was keen to tell me that she had a pair of tickets for the match. If I wanted to enter the draw I had to buy 10 pints. I couldn’t decide if this was brilliant marketing by a publican or shameless encouragement of alcohol consumption but since I knew I’d be eaten alive by her desperate ticket-hunting customers in the bar if I voiced an opinion on the latter I kept my counsel. We’re wise like that in Clare. After all, we’re the county where the original Wise Woman, Biddy Early, came from.
In Sixmilebridge, where manager Davy Fitz is from, the local Centra had a basket full of paraphernalia in themed Clare colours. It was a basket of wonders, with no fewer than 18 separate items on offer, including a “hairy hat” and a “singing hat”.
Who from Clare does not need a singing hat in saffron and blue? I delved deep into the basket, fighting off competition from other shoppers, one of whom was lamenting: “There’s not a jersey to be had in the whole county.” I found the singing hat, but it did not sing for me. I took it to the counter and Centra employee Joe Bracken fiddled with the mechanism. “I can’t believe a Kilkenny man is trying to fix a Clare hat,” he confessed with sorrow. The Kilkenny man could not fix my hat, which just goes to show they’re not good for much at all at all, those Kilkenny lads.
In the end, it was a fellow Clarewoman, another Centra employee, who made my hat sing. For €4 I got a hat that sings one verse of My Lovely Rose of Clare when I press a button in the brim. It is fantastic. I may even enter it for the Eurovision next year.
When I walked into Helen Stritch’s bar in Clonlara she was watching footage of herself and her bar on an iPad. “Look,” she said excitedly by way of greeting, holding out the device, “it’s me.” I looked at Helen looking at herself on a recording of the 1pm television news that day. There are six people from the village of Clonlara on the team, and RTÉ had been filming there the previous day.