The dilemma of the dual supporter
I’d like to apologise to Jason Ryan and the Wexford footballers, on behalf of myself and my kids. We weren’t in Croke Park last Sunday, on a day when the lads needed our support. The Wexford football team has a core of very committed followers, and we’ve got great value from the team over the last decade. Great days out, wonderful victories, an odyssey to a league final in 2005, to the All-Ireland semi-final in 2008, with two near things against Dublin in the last two seasons.
The game against Longford was important. For both teams, the prize was a crack at Dublin, with little external pressure- the whole country would expect the reigning All-Ireland champions to safely progress to another Leinster Final. For the losers, it would be a long road from the first round of the qualifiers back to Croke Park in August for the quarter finals –four matches with the likes of Cork or Kerry, Armagh or Tyrone, and Derry or Donegal waiting.
My problem is that I’m a dual supporter. And just like the players with dual status, the Brian Malone’s, Ciaran Lyng’s, and Matthew O Hanlon’s, sometimes I’m faced with difficult choices. Last week was a case in point. Travel to Tullamore on Saturday evening to watch a young team embark on the first step of the long road back to becoming genuinely competitive with the top teams, or go to Croke Park for the football, a tight game that would define the season for Wexford.
We went to the hurling, not least because I had some commitments on Sunday morning, but I felt hugely guilty sitting in front of the TV at 2pm when the ball was thrown in. I know that supporters can’t affect the game, but letting a few roars when the team need a bit of encouragement (or a wake-up call) is as close as I get. The footballers have never received the support their efforts deserve, and I felt like I was abandoning my post.
Last year, having played Dublin to a standstill, the footballers met Limerick in Portlaoise. The prize- Kerry in Croke Park in an All-Ireland quarter- final; a mouth-watering prospect. Yet only a few thousand showed up for what was a minor classic full of great scores, controversy, with a cliff-hanger of a finish. We lost, but I left that evening very frustrated, but very proud of the team. The only question was where all the Wexford people were. The answer came the following Wednesday evening. Wexford hosted the U-21 Leinster hurling final against Dublin, with 17,000 crammed into Wexford Park. For whatever reason, it’s still hurling first for most supporters. This knowledge only increased my guilt at not travelling last Sunday.
Any frustration when Longford got their late equaliser was tempered by the knowledge that I could be there for the replay. That and the feeling that both teams will benefit from the extra game, particularly if they are to dethrone a Dublin team that made a real statement of intent while Wexford and Longford were warming down. Now all roads lead here to Tullamore again, and at least I know the best parking spots now. Loch Garman Abu