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Piss on the Ramblers, shit on the Dubs


It won’t come as much of a surprise that I decided to give Chelmsford a miss and instead headed back to Munster. Or, to be more specific, an area south of the city of Cork known as Turners Cross. Thanks again to Ryanair’s generosity (£22 round trip, and that includes taxes) and a bit of careful planning, I was about to witness a piece of history.

The game in question was Cork City (the second team of SW19) versus Derry City. Second vs first. Last game of the season. Having led the Eircom league (eL) for a great deal, CC were victims of a bit of a late Derry surge of form. Having been something like 33/1 outsiders at the beginning, the Candystripes headed into the final game needing a draw at worse to clinch the title. Needless to say, this had the potential to be a bit of a brown trouser evening.

The tickets for this game (remember that Turners X has an 8k capacity) sold out about 10 days before the game. Put this into context : most eL games don’t sell out 10 seconds before the game starts. Despite recent successes, Irish domestic football is still by far the poor relation, behind the usual sports such as GAA, rugby and watching Celtic/Man U on a barstool.

But this was different : the local radio station was bigging the game up, plenty of “good luck” messages from lifelong Rebel Army members, that kind of thing. The local paper gave an 11 page special for the game, far outshining the coverage of Cork GAA’s annual piss up. Though in a slight re-affirmation of roles, the front of the paper said, in tones reserved only for the deaths of heads of states, “Keane Leaves United”……..

The game was also shown live on RTE Two, and I think it might have been on TG4 as well. Now, TG4 is the national gaelic language station, and claims to celebrate Irish story telling, drama and culture. Which basically means it shows Batman cartoons in gaelic, documentaries about poets from Mullingar, kids in Celtic shirts and, er, that’s it. There’s something symbolic in the fact that all its adverts were in (American) English.

So, arriving at Turners Cross during the Cork rush hour, and the place was heaving. Seriously, imagine the games at Plough Lane against Liverpool and Chelski and you’ve got the jist. In need of liquid refreshment, I ventured into the pub by the ground (known as the Horseshoe) and wished I hadn’t. Somehow managing to move sufficiently enough to obtain said beverage, I decided enough was enough and drink outside. A smart move on my part I smugly thought, except as soon as I stepped outside, some suited guy blocked the doorway and prevented anyone from coming in. This was at 6pm.

Unabowed, I ventured along to another pub, called the Turners Cross Tavern. A bigger pub, newer than the Horseshoe and actually very pleasant. At least, it would have been had about half of Leeside not been in there…..


Finally taking the hint that I should be in the ground, I breezed my way through the turnstile (for some reason, there were hardly any queues into the arena). I took my usual spot* on the Shed for the last time. The terrace behind the goal was hosting its last game before being demolished for a UEFA friendly new stand. So regardless of the result, there was a piece of history about to be written.

* – well, as usual a spot as you can get when you live over 360 miles away from the venue and only get there sporadically. Does this make me part of the one-game-a-season brigade?

Just like my last trip to see City (here, in case you didn’t read the last SW19 travelog), the noise was pretty electric. Plenty of singing, with drumming to boot. One song of note was an extention of solidarity from those from the Rebel country towards their comrades and brothers from the six counties. At least, I think that’s what “What’s it like to have a Queen?” was about…..

There was also a song done to the tune of “the animals went in two by two, hurrah, hurrah”. You’ll know it when you hear it. Just to explain that the penultimate line of the song provides the very title of this article. And Ramblers are Cobh Ramblers, a small team who play in a nearby (picturesque) place called, er, Cobh. Or Queenstown, if you prefer*. Imagine them as a bit like Kingstonian, without the chip on the shoulder.

* – yes, the very same Queenstown as in the Titanic. Actually a big emigration port in the past, though does have a slightly disappointing museum/visitors centre. Nice looking golf courses nearby though.

There was even an anti-RTE chant. Bit of a long story but in short, RTE’s coverage of the eL isn’t that great. Just imagine how BBC/ITV treated us during the 1980s. And it showed far too many Dub teams. That said, I do have a disturbing penchant for RTE’s Afternoon Show….


Finally, after what seemed like ages, the game got under way. Here it was, the clash of the titans. Cork v Derry. The Republic vs NI. Michael Collins versus Martin McGuinness. Roy Keane versus Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud. Jack Lynch versus …. er, I don’t know anyone else from Derry. But you get the drift.

Any thoughts that this would be a tight, defensive game evaporated immediately. CC went for it, and could have been one-up within the first 30 seconds. Whilst Derry sort of got going a bit, in the cold light of day, CC were up for it more.

That said, the game could have gone badly wrong had CC not gone ahead. A cross in from the left, and John O’Flynn rose up to head home. At least I think he did, trying to see what was happening wasn’t particularly easy 🙂 It was one of those sort of games where the longer it went on, the more the home side would have been frustrated. There may have been a panic substitution, and the away side getting a break and ending the entire season. However, it wasn’t.

Needless to say, with these sort of occasions, the game felt three times as long as any other contest. JO’F scored after about 25 minutes. Even the 20 minutes before half time felt long. Just imagine how long 14 May 88 was, and you’ve got the idea.

Half time came and went without incident. The atmosphere was still electric, but coupled with a “fuck me, 45 more minutes of this?” vibe. I considered standing on the bank of the Shed terrace, but my calf muscles were groaning. This was nothing compared to the mental muscles being tested when I saw a guy in a Chelski tracksuit…..

Anyway, the second half started. Shit or bust. While Derry were straining, Cork were grunting like men possessed. But the Candystripes started getting into it and maybe, just maybe, a second goal was needed.

And lo, it came. Fuck knows what happened, all I remember is getting jumped upon by a guy in a Celtic fleece. I think I may have to scrounge a copy of the game from somewhere*. For purely journalistic reasons, obviously.

* – note for any passing Cork City fan. This is not a hint. Honest 😉

Bascially, the rest of the contest isn’t worth mentioning. It was game over. Quite simply, Derry bottled it. Or maybe they just didn’t have a chance – very few teams would have come away from Turners Cross that evening with some sort of result. Time will tell if both sides will be a flash in the pan – Cork have been building for a couple of years now, and providing they don’t do a $helbourne (ie be good for a couple of seasons then slump) there’ll be many more nights like this.

Derry on the other hand will be in the UEFA cup, although perhaps more intriguingly, they’ll be in the all-Ireland Setanta cup competition. The thought of drawing Linfield could mean an 18 certificate.

There was however one massive negative. Whether it was the occasion getting to everybody or something more sinister, about 90% of the crowd decided to do THAT “Easy” chant. Major black mark, although it only happened once. I had visions that after that little episode, a load of leprechan hats (with the Rebel Army logo stamped on, natch) would be suddenly brought out and everyone going “Ole ole ole”……

Thankfully, sanity prevailed. Rather optimistically, the PA announcer requested that everyone was to stay off the pitch. We can all guess the reaction to that, though the garda near me started laughing quite knowingly. He immediately got summoned to attend a safety briefing along with a few dozen stewards. This was going to be as effective a law enforcement operation not seen in Ireland since the Sallins train robbery.

True to form, the pitch invasions started. The unluckiest person in the ground has to be the one nabbed by the above mentioned copper, because everyone else bundled onto the pitch. After a spirited attempt to serve the public failed after two seconds, the garda shrugged his shoulders and stood around waiting to wave to the telly.


In the distance, and as the pic above shows, I saw Damien “Rico” Richardson, Cork’s jubilant manager (first time in over 40 years he’s ever won a league title) being carried towards the Shed. Which was a problem as he wanted to go back to the dressing room. This was some turnaround : last time I saw City, in April, there was a split in the ranks. Many were angry that previous manager Pat Dolan had gone. A couple of blips in form and some were calling for Rico’s head. And, further proving that you should be careful what you say sometimes, one Cork fan on a website even called him tactically retarded…

Has to be said that both the CC and Derry fans had a bit of a love-in at the end, hands being shook, that type of thing. Basically, the two sides have quite a lot in common : both are clubs who have come back from the brink. Both have a similar outlook and a sense of humour. And both share a healthy and perfectly rational dislike of the jackeens (people from Dublin). Indeed, every Derry fan I met was sound, and I think a trip to the Brandywell may be in order next season. To see the champions, naturally.

The presentations started, not that you could see them of course, but we did get treated to an impromptu celebration up the terraced end. How the players got there I don’t know, but imagine about 5 or 6 players, with FAI league trophy, in the middle of a packed covered terrace and not going anywhere for a while. This was special.

Eventually, people left. I managed (albeit for about 0.01 seconds) to touch the trophy. Shame that the guy holding it at the time wasn’t so keen on me getting my grubby mitts on it. Oh well. Although the terrace was eventually vacated at about 11pm (though doubtless some lone fan is still there, pining over his own special bit of barrier), the pubs were doing fantastic business. I didn’t know how fantastic a business, but had I gone into one of them, I think I’d still be waiting to be served.

Anyway, that was that. Next time I get down to the Cross, the terraced area will be gone, and for those who read my original article from two years ago, I still can’t seem to get a bloody cup of tea inside the ground. And Barrys Tea advertise in the ground as well. Obviously knew I was coming.

CC look on the verge of becoming quite a force – the backing’s there, the support (whilst pretty inflated for this game) is worth the proverbial goal start, and rumours of a pre-season invite to Vietnam abound. Insert Gary Glitter/looking at young talent quip here. As long as CC don’t suffer having the top players being pinched by English clubs for peanuts, perhaps there will be an Irish version of FC Thun or Artmedia Bratislava next season.

Anyway, which way to the Slovenian champions ground….?