Fintan O’Toole: Ireland, land of a 32-county hockey team and a 26-county rail system

There are very real ways in which there is no such singular place as Ireland

The Irish Hockey following their reception at City Hall. The fabulous women who mesmerised us all on both sides of the Border are from Coleraine and Cork, from Belfast and Dublin, from Derry and Larne. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Irish Hockey following their reception at City Hall. The fabulous women who mesmerised us all on both sides of the Border are from Coleraine and Cork, from Belfast and Dublin, from Derry and Larne. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

On the day the Irish women’s hockey team beat Spain to become the first Irish side in history to qualify for a world cup final in any sport, I tried to book online a train ticket from Dublin to Derry.

The Irish Rail website had a nervous breakdown. First, it repeatedly told me that I didn’t want to go to Derry – I wanted to go to Park West and Cherry Orchard, presumably because this station name contains a rhyme for my actual destination. When I persisted, the system relented and offered me a ticket for Skerries – not quite a rhyme but close enough. And definitely enough to underline the message: the “Irish” in Irish Rail does not include the city where the Troubles started almost 50 years ago. If you want to get a ticket for the Derry train, you have to buy it in Belfast.

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