For a nation with a reputation for begrudgery and a benign hatred of watching anyone do well, we sure love getting behind our own when they’re competing internationally. Be it the Oscars, the Olympics or Crufts, we’ll get behind every Irish hopeful up for a prize with everything we have. We will cheer for them as if they were family. That’s our Paul, that’s our Brendan, that’s our Colin, that’s our James, our Colm and our Kerry.
This was our year, we told ourselves. It had to be. Ireland has always punched above its weight creatively, but for 2023 we had what’s known in film-industry-speak as an absolute heap of Oscar nominees: 14 in all. There’s so many of us in it, we thought, we have to come away with a good few little gold statues to put in the good room at home.
Aer Lingus even put on an Oscar express, flying out nominees and their plus-ones – as well as some colleagues in the Irish press whom I would have happily challenged to a physical fight for their free tickets out of the Irish winter and into the California sunshine.
In the end we came away with two Academy Awards, An Irish Goodbye won best live-action short, and Richard Baneham scooped a trophy for his visual-effects work on Avatar: The Way of Water.
The real glory was seeing the audience of stars sing Happy Birthday to James Martin, the star of An Irish Goodbye, as he collected the film’s award alongside Ross White and Tom Berkeley, its directors.
As a country we handled the results with predictable dignity, by collectively shouting “we was robbed!” into the sky and shaking our firsts. “This is just like Irish dancing and competitions being fixed all over again,” cried one friend – a former world contestant still working through her trauma – as if all we had to do was get Colin Farrell a better wig and a sparklier Irish-dancing dress to impress the judges.
That friend was all of us. We almost expected to win for showing up – just like me demanding the gold medal as the only entrant in the Girraween under-14 girls’ 100m hurdles when the adjudicators ruled the competition void.
In any case, only amateurs think the Oscars are for recognising the contribution of talented people to the art of film. It’s actually an annual festival of looking at all the frocks and remarking: “I wouldn’t have chosen that, now,” while we sit in Penneys tracksuits with yoghurt down the front of them.
In the true competition of gúnas, at least, we know Kerry Condon was the supreme winner, and the pride of the parish, in her yellow number.
And if you’re still disappointed, there’s always Crufts next year.