What Does it Mean to Be an Irish Sports Fan?

July 8, 2007 at 1:27 am 4 comments

In a sporting sense, what does it mean to ‘be’ Irish? I pondered this last night as hundreds of white-clad fans with Dublin accents chanted ‘Yorkshire! Yorkshire!’ at the Shelbourne versus Leeds game at Tolka Park. >>>

Shelbourne v Leeds United

I have supported Bohs and Leeds since I was a child. I also support Ireland, and generally support any League of Ireland team that is playing in Europe.

If Bohs were playing Leeds, I would always want Bohs to win. Yet last night, I wanted Leeds to beat Shelbourne. So my football allegiance is clearly not based on my nationality.

However, back in the mists of time, I started to follow Leeds mainly because Johnny Giles played for Leeds, and he was Irish. And, while I had no problem hearing Dublin accents chanting for Leeds last night, I was frankly baffled to hear them chanting ‘Yorkshire! Yorkshire!’

Ireland v League of Ireland

Here’s another interesting dilemma.

When I was in school, a League of Ireland selection once played against the Ireland international team. Dalymount Park echoed with competing chants: ‘Ireland! Ireland!’ and ‘League of Ireland! League of Ireland!’

I had never before considered such conflicting loyalties, even on the way to the match, but I instinctively supported the domestic players. They were the ones I watched week in and week out, even those who played for rival teams.

They were ‘we’, in a much more real way than the Irish international team could ever be, traveling over ‘to’ Ireland from their usual location inside our television sets. And yet, apart from this one game, I have always supported the Ireland team.

Football Dreams

I’ve no real conclusion to this post. I’m just wondering what sporting allegiances say about our nationality, if anything.

But I do know one thing for certain. I would love to see Ireland win the World Cup. Yet, if I could only choose one football dream to magically come true, I would prefer to see Bohs win the Champions League.

Entry filed under: Ireland, Sports.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Paige Harrison  |  July 8, 2007 at 10:35 am

    You do know, of course, Michael that supporting a bunch of overpaid, under-performing lads thump an inflated sphere around an incongruously marked field really doesn’t say anything about anything. Other than highlight the poignant fact that society forces lads to “grow-up” and be responsible. Football is the secret door you lads keep to hold on to some semblance of childhood. Women use romance for pretty much the same effect.

    Watching football allows you to regress to a time of carefreeness to a time when Kenny Samson/Dalglish/Rodgers* was a mercurial genius who really cared about the game and loved his club just as much as you. You adopted your club because your Dad did or didn’t or because you found those shiny Admiral shirts fashionable or because they had the best chants or because … well the point is you got to choose something for yourself for the first time in your life. It was your first love choice. (For me, it was Donny Osmond but I’m not embarrassed. Much!) You didn’t get to choose your nationality.

    And anyway, the thing is, back then, you’d no real sense of nationalism – except in the sense that the Men from U.N.C.L.E thought rise in nationalism a ploy used by the Men from A.U.N.T.I.E. to ensure world domination. So it is difficult to correlate football with any sense of national identity.

    (*) Apologies about the Kenny’s, my big brother used to adore someone called Kenny but I can’t remember anything other than he used to wear a no. 7 on a very cute arse.

  • 2. Michael Nugent  |  July 8, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    I’ve never heard it put quite like that, Paige, but I think you’re right.

    So Leeds, or maybe Johnny Giles, was my first childhood crush (along with Captain Kirk, the Virginian, Pelé, Jairzinho, Slade, Sweet, Gary Glitter, Lyn Paul and Suzi Quatro), and Bohs was my first real-life love choice. Hmmmmm…

    Also, despite the best efforts of the Men from A.U.N.T.I.E., my first international crush was England in the 1970 World Cup, because they had four Leeds players. I later jilted England for another real-life love choice when I started watching Ireland play live.

    By the way, your brother’s Kenny was probably Dalglish, going both by the number 7 and the relative cuteness of the three arses.

  • 3. Paige Harrison  |  July 8, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Agh, the Virginian……!

  • 4. Michael Nugent  |  July 8, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    The Virginian was my first favourite cowboy, before I dumped him for Pete Duel from the early series of Alias Smith and Jones.

    In retrospect, I’m more concerned about liking Gary Glitter.


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A blog by Michael Nugent

Welcome to my blog about living in the maddest country on earth. Please feel free to leave a comment.

I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohemians football club in the 1970s.


Bionic Bohs

As mentioned above, if you like Irish football and/or cultural nostalgia, I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohs in the 1970s.

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