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Life & Style

Which county in Ireland should I support – a second-generation Irish dilemma

Which county in Ireland should you support?
Which county in Ireland should you support?

WHEN Mayo took on Dublin last Sunday in the All-Ireland final I should have been extremely excited.

My mother hails from Achill Island so I should have been eagerly anticipating the big match – but I wasn’t.

Sure I was hoping they’d win. It would have been great to have Sam Maguire residing in the west of Ireland for a year, but I won’t lose any sleep over the Dubs celebrating their win.

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I may get lynched next time I step foot in Mayo for writing this, but when it comes to Gaelic games my allegiance has always been with Sligo – where my father comes from.

When your parents are from different counties and you are second-generation Irish, this is the dilemma you face.

It came up in a conversation with QPR youth team coach Steve Gallen after last year’s final between Mayo and Donegal as his parents hail from either county.

Who do you support? There was a split in the Gallen clan that day which happens in many Irish families when the GAA season kicks in.

For me, I identify more with Sligo. Why is this? It’s certainly not because I’ve spent more time there.

In my childhood the six week summer holiday was not evenly divided up, and rarely was Sligo the first port of call. However, I felt more at home in Yeats Country.

Sure Achill got more sunlight and has spectacular scenery but I’m a Brennan and in Sligo there’s far more Brennan’s than you’ll get in Mayo.

Also the farm my father grew up on had a lot more going on than my mother’s had in Mayo.

Benbulbin, Co Sligo
Benbulbin, Co Sligo

This may sound odd considering Achill is so remote but in Sligo the area my Dad is from, Moyrush, is so quiet it requires the farm life to remind you that there are other living beings in the neighbourhood.

However, it was my little piece of paradise as a young fella.

If I wanted to jump on the glory hunting bandwagon then I’d throw my lot in with the green and red of Mayo who, despite losing on Sunday and now having to wait 63 years for an All-Ireland, have come a damn sight closer than Sligo have.

However, supporting Sligo when living in London develops character in a person. In many ways it’s a lot like supporting QPR.

When you go outside the British Isles and tell people you support the Super Hoops, you are usually greeted with a look of disbelief swiftly followed by two questions; Who? And why?

It’s the same with Sligo.

In my school I didn’t know one other person with a parent from Sligo.

There were plenty with Mayo connections and my best mates always seemed to have something to celebrate come September when the football and hurling finals rolled round as their parents hail from Kerry, Tipperary and Cork. So I developed a thick skin.

The truth is I’ve never been to Markievicz Park in Sligo but I’ve frequented the Showgrounds, home of Sligo Rovers (Current League of Ireland champions).

That’s one reason why I didn’t watch the match on Sunday.

Soccer is my passion as illustrated by my sulks during childhood when the locals in Achill would switch up the game from soccer to Gaelic.

When I did manage to get the ball I’d drop it at my feet and have a lash a goal.

I didn’t understand the rules – still don’t – and to be honest I’m not interested in learning them.

Some would have said the fairytale ending on Sunday would have been a Mayo win to give the bragging rights to the Culchies for another year.

London's GAA heroes
London’s GAA heroes

But as an Irish Londoner the Disney moment happened months ago for me, and many of my tribe, when London reached the Connaught Final against Mayo.

Sure we were well beaten but as Sligo and QPR fans will tell you, there’s more in supporting a team than winning things. It’s a sense of belonging that runs much deeper than silverware.

Which is why last Sunday I was out and about in London with my son whilst his Castlebar-born mum and his Mayo grannies were biting their fingernails for 70 minutes.

There’s plenty of Mayo blood running through the little man but when it comes to sport, it’s with his feet not his hands where he gets the most enjoyment.

Like father, like son – well certainly in my case. Never mind Brennan’s bread – he has a Brennan head

Sligeach Abu!!!


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6 comments on “Which county in Ireland should I support – a second-generation Irish dilemma”

  1. Tim Foley

    Similar dilemma here and as a Second Generation'er, (Pity the term hasn't been abbreviated down yet ), it could, for many with split allegiances, have proved a difficult choice had Mayo, (mam's county), met Kerry, (dad's), in the final. For me, and I guess for many Segers, (there!! I did it) like me, it's the county culture, atmosphere and places along with your relations in a county that you identify with most. The choice is made easier if you spent most of your youth in one county and in my case that was Kerry.
    However, that did allow me the luxury of shouting for Mayo for all the good that did, when they were second generation to Dublin in the final.
    As a Seger, I consider myself fortunate to have two counties forming the blend of my ancestry and could seek out a GAA jersey with Kerry on the front and Mayo on the back should they meet in the final once more but I won't. Much as I love Mayo and it's in my genes, Kerry is in my heart, soul and veins.

  2. Tom Conniffe

    As a proud second-genner, I don't feel that an affinity with Gaelic sports or with either of my parent's counties of origin is necessary to confirm or heighten my sense of Irishness. My mother's from Sligo, so no GAA success there to reminisce upon, and the aul' fella is from Galway, so I remember, but only vaguely, their great hurling teams of the 1980s. While my early visits "home" were to various relatives in those counties and Cork, I've since travelled extensively throughout the island and my love for Ireland as a whole trumps any narrow county-based leanings. That said, it's always good fun to see the Dubs being beaten at Croker!

  3. Siobhan Gorman

    Mayo Abú - least that's what I was shouting last Sunday! Though last year was difficult for me with Mom from Donegal and Dad from Mayo - sat on the fence and wanted the best team to win! Spent most of my summers, as have my children, on the family farm in Mayo, with many visits to Donegal, so relate to Mayo except when they are playing Donegal. Then it's time to say "may the best team win"!

  4. Boole

    The British Isles?
    Where is that? Somewhere between Rhodesia and New Amsterdam?

  5. Tommy

    Dad is Kerry Mum is Sligo, a very tough choice for me...

  6. Boru Buí Bolg

    Sahf London Irish meself, but both parents from County Wexford, so the GAA County thing is easy for me.

    Having said that, Dad's from Wexford Town and Mam's from Enniscorthy, so the rivalry was possibly even more intense than if one of them had been a Kilkenny Cat! My sister was always a Yellow-belly through-and-through, and meself a Scalder. The brother was less interested in such things, but was probably more on the Yellow-belly side.

    This all while growing up in SE London. Ah, the weird world of the Second-Generation.


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