What Does it Mean to Be an Irish Sports Fan?
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 Shels versus Leeds game at Tolka Park. 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 Shels. So my football allegiance is clearly not based on my nationality. However, 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!’
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.
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.
[Reposted from That’s Ireland]