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'There's A Fanatical Support For Gaelic Football In Ulster That Doesn't Exist Elsewhere'

'There's A Fanatical Support For Gaelic Football In Ulster That Doesn't Exist Elsewhere'
By Conor Neville

When the provincial system came under threat in hurling, the traditionalists would let go the cry 'But the Munster championship!'

The world and its significant other are currently devising alternative football championship formulas, with the more radical leaving no room for provincial football.

Increasingly, the Ulster championship now fulfils the same function in the debate that the Munster championship did for years in hurling. It is the ace in the hole of the conservatives.

At the launch of the Ulster championship yesterday, Kieran McGeeney attacked the portrayal of the Ulster championship in the (southern) media, even suggesting that if relations worsened further we might be required to segregate rival supporters.

On the Racket, we spoke to Niall McCoy of Gaelic Life about how Ulster supporters feel about their treatment in the national media. And we spoke about the curious fanaticism that seems to propel Gaelic football in Ulster.

Last year, Joe Brolly pondered the mystery of Galway, notoriously the most laid back football county in the country. He described them as 'surfer dudes' and 'modern trad musicians' who aren't moved to take their football terribly seriously.

This made them roughly the antithesis of every Ulster football county.

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Ulster is the only province which boasts a newspaper solely devoted to Gaelic Games, and it is possibly the only province where such an enterprise could survive.

Furthermore, their pre-season tournament, the McKenna Cup, attracts crowds which dwarf those of the O'Bynre Cup, the McGrath Cup and the FBD League.

I had a talk with Brendan Devenney about Gaelic Life (the newspaper) the other day and it was his opinion that it just wouldn't survive in any other province because there is that fanatical support in Ulster that just doesn't exist elsewhere. But I still think it's probably just the result of a really competitive championship.

Has this ethos been forged by politics? Two-thirds of the province hold a vote in next month's Brexit referendum. Does this factor make Gaelic football all the more important up north?

There's an element of truth in that. People from the six counties, they do take some abuse when they go down south. I've heard it myself in the stands. I just laugh, I think it's crazy that that stuff still goes on  ...I wouldn't repeat the language but basically about going back up north of the border etc, etc.

McCoy's also gave an in-depth preview of this year's Ulster championship and explained persuasively why people need to give Kieran McGeeney time to get things going in Armagh.

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Listen below from about 26 minutes in.

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Read more: Kieran McGeeney Offers Grim Prediction About Where Anti-Ulster Bias Might Lead

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