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23 July 2009 Edition

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More than a game BY MATT TREACY

Seeking to lay ghosts in the ancestral homeland

WHEN my grandfather and father arrived back home to Drimnagh after the 1961 final in which Tipperary beat Dublin by a point, my grandmother looked at my grandfather before he had a chance to open his mouth and said ‘Don’t say a word Mattie.’ So the poor man had to sit smoking his pipe quietly and savour the victory surrounded by moping Dubs.
Of course like many other Tipp exiles in Dublin part of him was no doubt proud of the fact that for the first time ever Dublin had a team almost wholly comprised of natives playing in a final. The only exception was Paddy Croke who was himself from Tipp. 
Tipperary men had featured prominently in earlier finals for Dublin including our relation Tommy Treacy who won All Irelands with Tipperary in 1930 and 1937 and played for the losing Dublin team in the 1934 final. Indeed my grandfather played in an All Ireland junior hurling final for Dublin in 1926 in which the entire team I think, mainly from Commercials, were Tipperary men and most of them were barmen and publicans, another genetic trait! 
So, when hurling in Dublin eventually stood on its own two feet, it was a matter of pride for Tipp men, many of whose sons were prominent and that is a connection that survives into the present team, quite a number of whom have Tipp antecedents. And of course there is a Treacy in there, David, hiding in the corner as usual! There must be a corner gene there somewhere although young David certainly doesn’t hide. 
That genetic link if you like is strong in all of the clubs that have nurtured the game through the bad times. Sons and grandsons of past players are prominent at all levels. In my own family myself and my cousin became the third generation to play in a Dublin junior final, although unlike ourselves the uncles and grandfather actually won it.

Of course we are all like small children this week running around planning our return to the ancestral homeland and the home of hurling, back playing with the big boys for the first time in nearly 50 years. And there will be tears welling up in not a few eyes I’d say when the men in blue jerseys stand shoulder to shoulder facing the flag during the anthem. It may be only a step on the road but it has been a long one and one that often seemed only to bring heartbreak and despair.
And if that happens some of us will be like Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch, whose elation at Arsenal winning the league for the first time in 18 years (18 years! Jaysus Dublin hurling supporters could stand on their heads for that long just once someone supplied them with the odd pint and a sandwich every so often) quickly turns to resentment at the fact that his girlfriend who had only been following them for a year was also celebrating. Where had she been in the bad times? We’ll be the same, glumly appraising the newbies and thinking to ourselves: ‘Where the feck were you when they played Laois that time in the Walsh Cup down below and had to fight our way out of the ground.’ Actually what they should do is find the photograph of the stand during the Roscommon Division Two match in Parnell a few years ago and ensure that only the 200 people there are given tickets for the final. And maybe a special badge or a nice hat.
While we are entitled to indulge in some sentimentality there will be none among the team. Anthony Daly brings with him to the poor cousin that has been Dublin hurling the Clare memory of the hungry years which were worse for them than for the Dubs and worse than the defeats was the condescension and the sneers. 
We could never hate the Cats or the Yellabellies the way Clare people hate Tipp. Laois maybe (only jesting) and maybe it’s because we were never really a threat but the Leinster big guns never rubbed our noses in it the way Tipp did to Clare. They’re actually quite nice about it in fact. 
That hurt drove Clare, or at least it drove men like Loughnane and Considine and Daly who dragged Clare hurling off its knees and in a remarkably quick space of time they were transformed from whipping boys into boys who would sow it into you. Arguably that lost them whatever affection they won in 1995 and Jamesie O’Connor or the Sparrow once said that Clare had become as hated as the Dublin footballers and that is quite an achievement!

Dublin of course are a long way from where Clare arrived at and they might never do so but it won’t be for the want of trying. Sunday’s game in a way is a sort of a bonus. It was as much realistically as anyone could have hoped for at the start of the year but now that they are there they must try and win it. 
Possibly the worse thing that could have happened to Dublin was the fright that Limerick received last week from Laois who played their best game for many years and for a while looked like pulling off what would have been the coup of the Championship. Whatever complacency or cobwebs there might have been will have been well and truly banished. 
Limerick have shown over the past few years that they can be a match for anyone on the day. They also bring with them the experience of Munster finals and an All Ireland final and they will be very hard to beat on Sunday. On past form there has been little between them but Dublin have only beaten Limerick once and the odds must again favour Justin McCarthy’s side, whatever the bookies say.
As for ourselves we will be travelling with more than the hope in the old days that we wouldn’t take a hammering. But still with more hope than expectation. There are ghosts to be laid yet. 

An Phoblacht Magazine


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