Sunday, 18 September 2016

The unwritten rules of GAA

So here I was, with my husband and kids, watching the All-Ireland final Dublin vs. Mayo, in a Meath pub. The majority of customer were wearing their Dublin jerseys, kids included. There was only one guy in a corner, trying to hide, with a Mayo jersey. Poor lad, I felt for him because I always end up in this situation when France is playing against Ireland.

We sat at a table with a few parents from the school. One of the girls' dad was from Mayo, but she was supporting Dublin because she lived there most of her life. Her kids were supporting Dublin as well, because they were born there, despite living in Meath most of their lives.

I've been given numerous explanations over the years about which GAA team you are supposed to support. And it's kind of serious business in Ireland. A lot more than in France where basically you can support any French soccer team and it doesn't really matter where you're from or where you live.

Now here's a little game. Try to guess which team a person is supposed to support.

You're a foreigner, spend you first year in Dublin. Now live in Meath for 10 years.

Answer: Dublin.

Looks like it doesn't matter how long you've lived in a place. The first one is more important than the rest. You've started off in Dublin, now you're a Dubs fan for life.

You're Irish, originally from Mayo. You've moved to Dublin for work and you've been living there for 20 years.

Answer: Mayo.

Again, the first place is the most important. You might even have played GAA as a kid in Mayo before emigrating to the capital. That alone makes you a true Mayo fan.

You're born in Louth. Your mum is from Kerry. Your dad is from Dublin. You've lived in Meath most of your life.

Answer: If you've played GAA in Meath as a kid, you're supposed to be a Meath fan.

You're only born in Louth so it doesn't count. Wherever your parents come from doesn't count either. Occasionally you are allowed to support your parent's team in case yours hasn't made the final. But if both teams play each other you have to remain faithful to yours of course.

You live in Dublin. Both your parents are from Kerry. You've never played GAA as a kid.

Answer: Kerry.

You haven't been involved in the local GAA community so instead, you look up to your parents and share the pride you have for your true origins. Or you can rebel and decide to be a Dubs fan. Whatever rocks your boat. But more than likely you'll be a Kerry fan.

I'm pretty sure there are more complicated situations than the ones above. It always amaze me how Irish people take GAA so seriously, but looking into it, I've realised that this sport gives an actual sense of community to people. As a kid, you're part of a team, a family and this feeling of belonging will follow you all your life.

As for my family, well, we're all Dubs fans. We lived in county Dublin when we arrived, and even though we've lived in Meath for 10 years, our heart will always be with Dublin... Up the Dubs !!