Cocky Cork and GAA tradition stand in way of Banner triumph
There ain’t a Cork hurling fan in existence who right deep down in their marrow believes Clare have an earthly
Cork is Cork, so when it gets serious – and it can hardly get more serious than an All-Ireland final – Cork wins, boy. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Tradition is a biggie in the GAA, not just in terms of sepia-tinted flim-flam, but apparently a factor in what can happen on the pitch. How often has it been said the only thing separating various counties isn’t so much talent but belief? And this Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final is a prime test of this dated, un-aerobic, non-glycogen, lactic-free tradition theory. Because there ain’t a Cork hurling fan in existence who right deep down in their marrow believes Clare have an earthly.
That’s got nothing to do with the Munster Championship result earlier in the summer, or bookmaker odds, or the prospect of Davy Fitz going “tonto” on the sideline. It’s just that Clare is Clare and Cork is Cork, so when it gets serious – and it can hardly get more serious than an All-Ireland final – Cork wins, boy.
Such a view inevitably contributes to the caricature of Cork arrogance, while simultaneously feeding into that pose of near-Texan separateness that some of us born and bred in the Rebel county like to assume occasionally. All that people’s republic crap, with Michael Collins, Roy Keane and assorted other headcases sculpted into a red-and-white Rushmore psyche programmed to affect disregard for what everyone else thinks.
And of course the truth behind the front is very different. Cork thinks very deeply about what everyone else thinks. Specifically, it is absolutely preoccupied by what Dublin thinks and consumed by the insecure suspicion – accurate as it so happens – that if Dubs think of Cork at all, they tend to consign it to that all-encompassing wasteland beyond Newlands Cross reserved for rednecks.
But everyone else outside the capital is fair game for that “shite from a height” stuff in which Rebels love to indulge. So when it comes to an All-Ireland hurling final – even though no one close to the Cork team will ever admit it and despite how very unfashionable such old-school traditionalism is – deep, deep down, swimming around in all that Leeside haughtiness is the conviction: “f***ing Clare, no problem.
And the real beauty of this in terms of GAA tradition is that Clare realise it too. They know that Cork realise that they know how this is supposed to pan out. It’s irrational and infuriating, but there all the same. Whether it’s irrelevant or not is another matter.
Tom Kenny will be the only player on view this Sunday with an All-Ireland medal in his pocket. But rare is the Cork hurler who has ever stood in Croke Park on All-Ireland day and didn’t think “about time I’m here” rather than “wow! I’m here”. Does that constitute confidence, arrogance, delusion or the sort of belief that can give a team a crucial edge?