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
Too old school? Then ponder why the reverse is true when Cork play Kerry at football? There ain’t a Kerry man out there who isn’t mortally offended when the Kingdom don’t beat their neighbours when it matters. Why do Wexford always give themselves a chance against Kilkenny despite decades of evidence that any joy against the Cats is fleeting? Or those queasy moments when Tyrone face up to Derry? Fill in your own examples anytime you like. It’s not like there’s a shortage. And all of it because of that vague intangible that is tradition.
It’s an irony of GAA culture that so much of its identity is based on the largely arbitrary scrawl of a Whitehall pencil in drawing up county boundaries, prompting centuries’ worth of cute Kerry, mean Cavan, cocky Cork, jackeen Dubs and all the other superficial portrayals that are so deeply burrowed into our DNA like cartoon ticks.
Logically it’s ridiculous. Why Youghal should feel separate from Dungarvan but not Castletownbere is irrational.
But we’re talking Ireland here, and the deep sense of place that makes a broke, wet rock on the edge of everything believe it is in fact the centre of the universe, a belief inextricably bound up with Gaelic games, and provoking, many believe, a set of assumptions that are as real in practise as they are silly in theory.
This combination of place and tradition is the sporting equivalent of the bee that mathematically shouldn’t fly but still manages to get around pretty well. And if it pertains to Sunday, then there’s only one winner. Because forget about form lines, tactics, motivation and any uber-hydrated sacrifice of limbs on the altar of an All-Ireland “megal”. There is a fundamental belief within Cork hurling that you do not lose to Clare when it counts.
It’s 35 years ago now since Clare went into a Munster final half-time only a couple of points down and with the prospect of a force 10 gale at their backs, convinced it would propel them towards breaking that notorious Munster championship hoodoo.
Apparently, the atmosphere of presumption in the crowd was tangible. The Clare team started singing in the dressing-room, so the story goes. And then Christy Ring famously and bluntly reminded the Cork team of their responsibilities, along the lines of: “We are Cork and we don’t lose to them.”
Quite what the relevance of something like that to 2013 should be is questionable, but dismissing such an inheritance in terms of belief is too pat. Of course the responsibility to live up to it can be a load too, but that would be to acknowledge that Clare might have a shout this Sunday.
And believing that is not on. Tradition says so.