Dublin and Cork – two worlds collide again this weekend.
Thankfully, the television build up of the rivalry seems to be free of the mythological nonsense that used to presage big GAA matches during the boom period. Ads depicting Cuchulainn passing the sliotar to Niall of the Nine Hostages, fending off a potential hooking by a berserker Viking; all accompanied by a tagline of “Not Men, But Centaurs” are no more.
County rivalry in Ireland can feel a bit manufactured anyway. County boundaries were fairly arbitrary decisions made by Normans, Tudors and other interlopers. Some counties no longer exist. Tyrone used to consist of Upper Tyrone and and an area called Nether. (No one wanted to lose a game in Nether in the mediaeval championship. A beating in the Nether region was very hard to take.)
In any case, the rivalry between Dublin and Cork is not an easy one to define. In both GAA codes, the counties have not met that often. In football, Cork were often preventing from cultivating any hatred of Dublin because Kerry wanted us all to themselves.
In hurling, there is no long standing rivalry either. Cork played Dublin in the half-light of a wintry League afternoon or the two teams stumbled upon each other somewhere in the furze of the myriad hurling championship bigback-door.
Outside of GAA, is there a rivalry between the cities themselves. Sort of. The Dublin attitude to Cork is one of benign tolerance. The average Dubliner has two thoughts about Cork. Number 1 – he was down there for a weekend with the lads and couldn’t get over how handy the city centre is . “Next of all Steo says I’ve to meet a mate on the other side of town we were there thinking ‘Sufferinjaysus Steo’ but it was only five minutes away janoreaman?” The other Dublin view is a puzzlement at how obsessed with being from Cork, people from Cork are.
In turn, Corkonians have two views of their own about Dublin: 1: You’d want to mind your bag when you’re up there for fear of gurriers. 2. Even if you avoid the gurriers, you may still be gouged because Dublin is Fierce Dear Altogether. Most Cork conversations about Dublin will contain an anecdote of the sequence of events that happened after “I handed yer man the fifty euro note” and their disbelief with how little change they got back. It is for this same reason that Cork accents are only used in voiceovers for ads if the protagonist is disgusted at the cost/surprised at the value of something.
The rivalry is further complicated by the fact that a lot of Cork people live in Dublin. There are some jobs that just can’t be got in Cork, like ‘Vice President of Strategic Thought-Leadership Implementation’. For most Corkonians, the plan was always to move back home once a goodly amount of Dublin shillings had been squirrelled away. The recession has scuppered when they got stuck in Dublin in negative equity. Forced to stay a lot longer than planned, they are contemplating the appalling vista of children g¬rowing up wanting to emulate Bernard Brogan and Conal Keaney so a number of Cork parents will consider tattooing the Cork Crest onto their child’s arm.
The economies of the two regions differ subtly too. If Dublin was a country, it would be like America. No matter how foolish the boom and deep the recession, if there’s a recovery it’ll happen there first. Cork is more like Columbia, a different language, a tradition of rebels and a large amount of foreign earnings derived from pharmaceuticals.
In fact, Cork hurling has had ‘a patent cliff’ of its own. Eight years ago we were dominant but too much reliance on existing products and not enough development of alternatives meant we were hit hard when others copied and bettered the formula. (Not that you could compare Tommy Walsh to generic copies of Viagra although Kilkenny do feel a couple of inches bigger when he’s on the pitch.)
For all our carping, Cork needs Dublin to help define its own existence. Like Jerry needs Tom or Newstalk needs RTE. When staunch Republicans in Man United shirts hurled abuse during the Queen’s visit, we were determined, she’d at least have a bit of craic with a fishmonger. When Dublin claims to be the capital, we give a Rebel passport to Bruce Springsteen.
But this evening after eight years of pain, what Cork needs most of all is a win. There’s nothing to rival that.
This article was first published in the Sunday Business Post on August 11th