8 October 2009 Edition
More than a game BY MATT TREACY
Names of the game
I HAVE been struck from an early age at the difference between the official nicknames given to county teams and the more usual expressions applied by fans.
Dublin are still referred to in programmes as ‘The Metropolitans’, which has a decidedly Batmanesque ring to it. In actual fact, it refers to the original hurling club established in the city by GAA founder member Michael Cusack.
Of course, the Dubs are more commonly referred to by Dubs as ‘The Dubs’ or by enemies as Jackeens or Jacks. Received wisdom is that the term refers to the flying of Union Jacks by Dubliners during a visit by Queen Victoria. I am happy to say that is nonsense. In fact, her visit to Dublin in 1900 was marked by violent protests and she had earlier fallen out with the ‘Jackeens’ over the refusal of Dublin Corporation to pass votes of homage to her wastrel son on his marriage and the birth of his son.
Jackeen dates back much earlier but, mind you, it is not complimentary so can continue to be employed as a term of abuse by those of you so inclined – and I know that you are.
My favourite definition is of a sleazy character who loitered around Dublin theatres. Obviously a member of Aosdána, or maybe a critic from the Sunday Independent.
CIARA has called Kilkenny ‘The Bees’ since her early introduction to Dublin hurlers getting unmerciful hammerings from the same. I trust that it is an entomological reference and that she was not using it in the same sense as Kevin Myers. Cork people call them ‘The Wassies’ (as in wasps) but are far more likely to use stronger words.
Most counties have fairly neutral and banal titles. Wexford is ‘The Model County’; Louth, ‘The Wee County’, and so on.
I can’t recall what the official term for Roscommon is although in recent times they have become known as ‘The Rossies’. The pejorative term is ‘Sheepstealers’. Reminds me of a story of a chap from a parish in Ros particularly famous for its theft of ovines who was the only person from the place ever known to have been admitted to Heaven. He was caught trying to sneak out with the Lamb of God under his coat.
Carlow are, for some bizarre reason, known as ‘The Scallion Eaters’, also as ‘Piss-in-the-powders’, a reference to their premature decommissioning in 1798.
IT IS noteworthy too that some of the counties most famous for their ‘robust’ style of football have been rewarded with deceptively benign monikers. A bit like those tropical insects that disguise themselves as flowers.
Offaly is ‘The Faithful County’. What is all that about? ‘Sly Puck in the Back of the Head County’ more like. And Wicklow, ‘The Garden County’. Is that short for ‘The Referee’s Buried Under the Garden Patio County’ maybe? And then there’s Armagh. ‘The Orchard County’. Not ‘The Flying Elbow County’ then?
Tipperary rejoices in the title of ‘The Premier County’ but are better known to rivals as ‘The Stone Throwers’. I have no idea of where that comes from but there were unsavoury incidents at a Munster championship match in Killarney in the early 1970s when a rival goalkeeper was surrounded and allegedly pelted by hostile Premier people. Tipp relatives of mine, however, swear that the hardest items thrown were oranges. I’m not sure about that. Tipperary people throwing away food sort of stretches my credulity.
IT is also sometimes suggested that longstanding GAA rivalries have historical roots.
Wexford and Cork were the giants of hurling in the mid-1950s, taking part in some of the classic games of all time. I have heard it proposed that one of the reasons for the intensity of those confrontations – played in the best possible spirit, by all accounts – was that the North Cork Militia had performed a particularly nasty role in Wexford in the suppression of the 1798 rebellion. Unlikely, you would think, but those Wexford folk have long memories.
Then there was the suggestion that one of the causes of the Kerry-Dublin animus was that so many Kerrymen were members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police during the 1913 Lock-Out.
Another theory dates back to the Civil War when the Treaty split was reflected in the two counties’ senior football teams. Most of the All-Ireland winning Dublin team in 1923 were affiliated to the O’Toole’s club that was dominated by pro-Treaty Volunteers while the losing Kerry team was weakened by the absence of anti-Treaty Volunteers like the famous John Joe Sheehy.
There was also, apparently, a Dublin supporter who used to parade in front of Hill 16 when the Kerry team came onto the pitch in the 1950s. He would point to them and exhort his fellow Dubs: “Look at them. The men who betrayed Roger Casement!” It probably just all goes to prove that when you feel strongly about something, there is always the temptation to add everything else to the mix as well.
I’M afraid the best example of this that I can recall does not reflect well on some of my fellow Dubs.
When Dublin played Tyrone in the 1984 All-Ireland semi-final, Tyrone (unsuccessfully) attempted to establish a psychological advantage by leaving their dressing room first and arriving down at the Hill 16 end for the pre-match kickaround.
This affront was variously greeted by stunned silence or noisy outrage. The reaction of one group of young lads was particularly funny as they spotted the Red Hand on the Tyrone jerseys and proceeded to launch into a ditty that cast aspersions on the Queen and the UDA. I’m sure that ex-internee Eugene McKenna would have been suitably amused.