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20 Steps To Becoming A More Authentic Irish Sports Fan In 2014

Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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The soul of the Irish sports supporter is a beautiful thing. But it needs to be refined and protected. The ultimate Irish sports fan believes some things as an article of faith. The ultimate Irish sports fan also makes it his business to do certain things and give voice to certain opinions.

Here are the 20 steps to becoming a more authentic Irish sports fan in 2014.


1. Tell as many anecdotes as possible involving Moss Keane

Whenever there's an after-dinner story to be told about Irish rugby, Mossie's name is never far away. Indeed, even if the witticism in question was uttered by another rugby player, at some point down the line it will invariably be attributed to Moss.

Classic of the genre: Leinster out-half in the 70s, Mick Quinn, and his Munster counterpart Tony Ward were part of a crowd drinking in the Lansdowne club bar (the perfect scene for a Mossie anecdote); Moss was there too. Keane shouted in Wardy's ear that he was "the best out- half he ever played with." Quinn overheard this and cornered Mossie near the toilets, jokingly prodding him "“So your man up there is the best out-half you ever played with?” Moss replied "Not at all Quinny, you are by far, it's just that I have to play with the little b****cks for Munster.”


2. Get blocked by Stephen Jones on Twitter

Be prepared to be called a twerp spouting drivel and be abused for your lack of followers. Jones' twitter account is protected (largely thanks to Irish rugby fans) so you will have to be allowed follow him.



3. Read a anthology of Con Houlihan articles and insist that he was a better writer than Tolstoy and Joyce and Dostoyevsky

Whenever you find yourself sitting next to an old boy in a pub, have a good old laugh about that Paddy Cullen line about running back to his goal-line, like "a woman who smelt a cake burning in the oven". If the auld fella misquotes the line, as is 85% likely, do not under any circumstances correct him.

Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

4. Continue to make ironic reference to Gary Breen's legendary status

Learn the words to the terrace classic, 'We all dream of a team of Gary Breens'. It is not an onerous task. Whenever asked to instance a legendary Irish footballer from the late 1990s, always blurt out Gary Breen's name first.



5. Talk as often as possible about Roy Keane. The man hasn't been discussed near enough. There should be a Professor of Roy Studies at UCC

In the past 150 years, the five major figures in Irish life have been, in no particular order, Parnell, Michael Collins, Eamon De Valera, Haughey, and Roy Keane. All these men inspired fanatical love and fanatical hatred in equal measure among their countrymen.

Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE


6. Mock the Aviva Premiership at every available opportunity

Whenever you refer to the Aviva Premiership, you must always remark about how boring and turgid and inferior it is. Always preface it with adjectives such as the "turgid Aviva Premiership" or the "mind-numbing Aviva Premiership."

And always say "Aviva" as well. Mentioning the sponsor usually diminishes the grandeur of the competition. Get more aggressive in your dismissals of the competition on internet forums where English posters are questioning the competitiveness of the Rabo Pro 12



7. Blame all the ills of Irish football on the wage packet of John Delaney

There's only one solution needed to all the ills that beset Irish football. Cut John Delaney's wages. John Delaney's wages are standing in the way of Ireland playing like Spain, a vibrant League of Ireland being able to compete at Champions League level.



8. Travel to an Irish away game and get a pint bought for you by John Delaney

Completely change your opinion on the man.

9. Get it right in your head as to what the two greatest performances of all-time are

Never mind anything Messi, Ronaldo, Pele or Maradona have done. If anyone asks you, the two greatest performances of all time were Paul McGrath against Italy in 1994 and Roy Keane in Turin in 1999. Even if you hadn't seen either game, and you have your suspicions that at least one of the performances has been over-hyped and is now just a short-hand media cliche, you must insist that these two displays are unmatched by anything else in football.


Talk in awe about how a crocked McGrath didn't give Baggio a sniff all game. And talk about how Roy got booked and "knew he was going to miss the final" and still with almost divine selflessness "pounded every blade of grass." It is essential that you use the phrase "pounded every blade of grass" here. We've have heard enough accounts of how no blade of grass in Turin that night went untouched by Roy Keane's studs.

Picture Credit: David Maher/SPORTSFILE.

10. Get involved in a twitter slagging match with Joe Brolly and/or Colm Parkinson

Argue with Joe over a rule change or his analysis of a match or a few choice comments about your own county. Don't start a crusade against his organ donation campaign. That'll make you look needlessly mean.


11. Keep an eye out for MLS players with Irish surnames. Honestly, Jack Charlton's harnessing of the granny rule only scraped the surface


This is a modern one. Robbie's former teammate Mike Magee and Maurice Fitz's nephew Shane O'Neill are two names we need to be alive to. Jack Charlton used to go sniffing around Oxford United's poky ground to find the grandson's of adventurous Irish grannies. O'Neill and Keane could be heading for LA.


12. Tell every foreigner you meet about hurling

Don't worry about over-hyping the game. Such a thing is impossible. If there was ever a Nobel Prize for Sport, the first ten prizes should go to hurlers, if not the sport of hurling itself. State frankly that hurling is "the best game in the world." This is not hyperbole, just a sober statement of fact.


13. Argue that Ireland would have won Euro 92 had they qualified for it

That Denmark eventually won the tournament only confirmed to us that we would have won the thing, had we not frittered away qualification to an entirely useless England team. If only a vicious war had broken out in England rather than bloody Yugoslavia then Ireland would have got in there rather than the jammy Danes.

Yes, Euro 92 is frequently regarded as the one that got away. Despite the fact we qualified for every tournament around about it, and despite the fact that in Euro 88, we were eight minutes away from reaching the semis and knocking the eventual winners out, this is still the one that we could have won.

14. Take the a special moment to lament the sale of Shamrock Rovers' old ground in Milltown

The greatest old ground in the world. The San Siro and the Nou Camp bow before it's old-fashioned romance. Tell yourself you might have gone there more often you knew they were closing the place.

Gets misty-eyed about this old place
Gets misty-eyed about this old place


15. Get annoyed about the categorisation of Northern Ireland sports stars

Whenever the issue of a Northern Irish sportsman's tribal identity is brought up, allude to the classic BBC commentators' practice of referring to him as British when he wins a World Championship/Major and a plucky little Irishman when he loses/misses the cut

A long-standing complaint but one that survives. Eddie Irvine and, particularly, Barry McGuigan were dragooned into the United Kingdom's embrace after stirring victories and shunned as gallant Irishman after bad losses.


16. Insist that the Irish team that were horrendously unlucky not to qualify for the 1982 World Cup were better than any of the Jack Charlton's teams

Robbed in Paris and Brussels. The Irish team that almost qualified in 1982 were plonked in an absurdly hard group with France, Belgium and Holland. They managed to push Holland, finalists the previous two World Cups into 4th place in the group, defeating the Dutch and the French in Dublin.

However, Ireland lost out to Belgium in Brussels thanks to referee who was more than likely bribed, and then Kevin Moran was penalised for a phantom hand-ball in Paris.

17. Roll your eyes at the English media's jingoistic hyping up of their football team's chances

Argue that you are not anti-English, its just that their blaring and inexplicably cocky tabloid media turns you off big time. Try to forget about the Irish media's performance in the lead up to Euro 2012.


18. Whenever you meet a Mayo person, feel free to slag them about the fact that they haven't won an All-Ireland irrespective of how shite your own county is

A cruel one here but something most sports fans from the other 31 counties engage in. Even if you come from a county that has never won anything or is unlikely to ever win anything you can still engage in this activity. Until such time as Mayo win the big one, this game can go on.

CAUTION: If Mayo do lose the All-Ireland football final this year, as is probable, then you have to wait a safe period of time before you can slag them again. Doing it so soon after a third All-Ireland final loss in a row is all wrong.

19. Do not, under any circumstances, utter a bad word about any of the following; Paul McGrath, John Hayes, or Kevin Moran

Anyone else can be taken down a peg or two with relative impunity. These three men, however, more than any other in Irish sport, emit a saintly aura. They are people's men to the core. Humble and self-effacing.

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

20. At training, if someone is playing badly, point out that he's "having a 'Macedonia"

One of those inside jokes that every Irish football supporter was in on. Eventually. Quite why Macedonia has been singled out we're not sure. 'I've had a San Marino', 'I've had a Liechtenstein', 'I've had an Austria' were all contenders surely.





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