[Click here for Part One – The Rest of the World]
Part Two – Ireland
Counties simply don’t mean as much to anyone else as they mean to Irish people. That’s why, out of those nearly 7000 counties or equivalents in the world, Ireland’s 32 counties are the top 32 counties.
I really mean that. If I insult your county in any way – and I will – please note that I still perceive all Irish counties to be in the top 32 out of some 7000 other counties. And there’s one in Iran called Shaft County, so you should know that I’m being serious here. That name alone should make it top 10, but it isn’t.
Anyway, we all know why we’re here. You want to see controversial and inflammatory comments about your own county that you’ll abuse me for in the comments. Let’s go, then!
As soon as The Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills are involved, you know you’re off to a good start. The Glens of Antrim are some of the most scenic parts of Northern Ireland, while Belfast is hard to beat for a weekend. Unfortunately, the people of Antrim have given up on the county side of things, letting the Brits goad them into using boroughs and the like instead. Which is probably for the best, since Antrim aren’t up to much in County GAA anyway.
Like Antrim, Armagh does not operate as a county in administrative terms. That said, thay have some tidy footballers and you could find far worse things to do than a day trip to Slieve Gullion. Another good thing about Armagh is the name “Armagh” and how enjoyable it is to say Armagh in a “Norn Iron” accent. Thus ends my list of good things about the Orchard County…
Have you ever seen a Carlow GAA jersey? If you haven’t – before you Google it – take a moment to imagine what it might look like in your head. If you had the colours of green, yellow, and red to choose from, what sort of jersey would you put together? Now, you or I, our version of that jersey, that imagined jersey, would be deeply flawed. You see, our design would be influenced by some level of self-respect… and that’s just not in the mindset of Carlow GAA. Go on, now Google it…
Quick run-down of the established stereotypical comments about Cavan: border county, tight with money, potholes, cute hoors… In reality, Cavan would be another commuter hub for Dublin if they didn’t end the M3 at Kells. Cavan Town and Virginia are lovely towns, the county has a lake for every day of the year, and half the country wants to get married at Cabra Castle. All that said, Cavan people are tight hoors and the roads are atrocious.
There’s a lot that’s positive and likeable about the Banner county. Historically, it used to be a part of Connacht before it got downgraded to Munster status. Heard the phrase “To Hell or to Connacht”? It’s referencing the Burren in Clare from that time. Now, there’s no shortage of limestone in Galway – Inishbofin is essentially a rock – but it’s pure sneaky of Clare not to own up to giving Galway and the rest of actual Connacht a bad name. You might even forgive Clare people for that, if it wasn’t for them charging people to see the Cliffs of Moher. It’s bad form is what it is.
A fantastic dual county with great traditions in both codes, amazing natural scenery with so many beautiful places worth seeing, Cork would be a great spot if it wasn’t for the people. Cork people see themselves less as a county and more like an independent state. They make jokes about seceding to form their People’s Republic of Cork, they wave Confederate flags… So, naturally, the question for the rest of the island always becomes: why do we keep them?
No one would ever call it London-Galway.
Donegal is Ireland’s Alaska. Swap Deadliest Catch for Donegal Catch and you’re halfway there. The rest of the country doesn’t really know what’s going on up there and we’re reluctant to find out. There’s scenery that’s practically unrivalled, even the mountains have mountains on them and you travel up both ways. Every single motorist is a rally driver by default. Being from Donegal is like its own religion, where in spite of the length of the journey from the other parts of Ireland they find themselves in, Donegal people all make a regular pilgrimage home. You’d worry about them, to be honest…
I had a teacher in school and his favourite joke was “Why are Down players so confused? – Their fans keep shouting Up Down!” Other than that, what does anyone know about Down except travelling up to Newry searching for a bargain? The Mourne mountains are truly impressive and “The Star of the County Down” is a belter of a tune, but that’s about it. Let’s hope the Brits don’t spoil the shopping by putting up a border.
Dublin isn’t a county, really. I don’t mean in the GAA argument that there should be North and South Dublin teams, either. There are in fact 4 councils: Fingal, South Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, and the City Council. Now, Galway has a City Council and County Council as well, but the Dublin divisions are motivated by contempt for one another. Like, if you woke up in the morning and read that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown have rejoined the British empire, would you even be surprised?
Anyway, urban sprawl only exists because Dublin wants to be Galway’s neighbour so badly. Building railways and motorways and all sorts just to be able to get away from the capital and pretend they live in Galway, if only for a weekend… or, for the Races. Galway holds a special position as one of the few places that your average Dub is aware of that exists outside the M50. You have to feel a bit sorry for Dublin, really – two broadcasters based there and neither of them are TG4. The casts of Fair City and Red Rock combined wouldn’t stand a chance on Ros Na Rún…
Fact: Fermanagh GAA has never won a Senior Provincial or an All-Ireland title in either code. Hand in your county badge, lads.
“They should be made to play Hurling,” we joked once, seething at their accomplishments in Gaelic Football. But if you’ve been paying attention, Kerry aren’t too shabby at Hurling now, either. Self-appointed as The Kingdom, Kerry has areas of outstanding natural beauty which merit genuine admiration. God help us all, though, the accents… and the Healy-Raes… Though, it’s said that for every Daithí O’Sé that Kerry produces, Galway produces another two Seoige sisters. Don’t worry, Kerry, we’ll balance you all out yet.
Runner-up, All-Ireland SFC 1998.
A county synonymous with the great game of Hurling and within that, a tradition of excellence. Further to that, years of breaking Galway hearts. There’s respect there, though… At least, there was… until Kilkenny city started leeching stag and hen weekends away from the west. You can’t uncross that line, lads… There’s no All-Ireland you can win for forgiveness.
The runt of the province. I have a theory about Leitrim and why there’s a national blind spot for what goes on there. I feel like they want it that way, as though they’re hiding something from the rest of us. Sure, they’ll welcome everyone to Carrick-on-Shannon for a stag or hen party, but there’s something else going on in that county, like a hidden theme park or an alien crash site like Area 51 in New Mexico. It’s just that no one has ever investigated it because they can’t be arsed to go to Leitrim.
From the Shannon estuary to the Golden Vale, it must be said, Limerick is a lovely county. Not that they have much choice but to be sound when they’re bordered by Kerry Clare, Cork and Tipperary. That’s an unenviable situation. But look, they’ve got Willie O’Dea and Limerick city was Ireland’s inaugural National City of Culture in 2014. If it wasn’t for that rowdy lot in Clare, Galway and Limerick would be the best of neighbours.
Full disclosure: I live in Louth. And it’s a grand little county, the Wee County, so it is. Home of The Corrs, Harp Lager, The Kearney brothers, and the stunning Cooley Peninsula, Louth is a little treasure on the border. The people have a hatred for Meath like you wouldn’t believe and you can shake a stick at the Brits across Carlingford Lough and they’ll see you doing it, too. Some county, the Wee County, so it is, hai.
The Royal, they call themselves… Once upon a time, a great GAA county. They’re not where they’d like to be in football at the minute and you can forget about hurling altogether. The thing about hurling in Meath is they treat it like football with sticks – they’ll sooner kick a sliothar than strike it with the hurl. Why carry the hurl at all? Its only purpose must be to give your opposite number a sly dig when the ref isn’t looking. Anyway, if you live in Meath for long enough, you’ll end up scratching the walls to get out, in search of a place where fewer Dubs live. Somewhere like Dublin, for example.
As Galway’s neighbours and provincial rival, it’s easy to poke fun at Mayo. The border town is called Claregalway in spite of Clare being on the opposite border, most likely just to grate on the people of Mayo. And their own island is called Clare Island to boot, so it’s sort of stuck. Just to be sound, we called it the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, even though it is absolutely based in Galway. Probably has more to do with avoiding the acronym being GIT, to be fair… Arrah look, Mayo people are a grand bunch, all truth told, but it’s a human rights issue at this point that they haven’t won the football. The poor, suffering people…
Home of Patrick Kavanagh, Patrick McCabe, Eugene McCabe, and many great artists through the years. In particular, Tommy Bowe, who artfully stuck two tries on the board as Ireland beat Wales for the Grand Slam in 2009. Monaghan produces great people, but they all have the good sense to move on from Ulster’s smallest county.
Ireland’s kidney stone, Offaly used to be excruciatingly painful to pass through. Nowadays, thanks to the insistence of Dubs that they be able to get to Galway sooner, you don’t even need to stop in the county anymore. Offaly’s main point of interest is the peat bogs, anyway, and sure Galway has those too, so why would you bother?
Nothing against Roscommon, but you can’t just come along, re-draw a few constituencies and grab a chunk of East Galway. It’s wrong to take good, decent, Galway people and label them as Rossies.
Sligo has a few things going for it. The place has stunning scenery – Ben Bulben and the coastline for surfing – as well as a strong claim to the artistic spirit of W.B. Yeats. Unfortunately, Sligo also contributed the majority of Westlife and that’s something that undoes all other good work.
A powerhouse of the GAA with an All-Ireland title in every decade since the association was founded, Tipperary is home to Semple Stadium, venue for the greatest hurling underdog story of a generation: Kiltormer’s 92 team. Outside of GAA, Tipperary is also home to Templemore and the Garda Training College. That’s not looking so good lately, is it lads? Of course, it’s a lie that it’s a long way to Tipperary, a lot of places are further away, in fact. It’s just that, in the case of Tipperary, no one wants to go there.
Bit of history for you – the Donnelly name originates in Tyrone, so my ancestors would have come from there by way of the Battle of Kinsale and ended up living in Galway rather than travel back. Great decision from the lads, there, it has to be said.
The people of Waterford love their county. That’s something they have in common with Galwegians. That’s something that was beautiful about the All-Ireland Final match-up. Two proud counties. Waterford City is alright, it’s grand like… Well, it’s a bit of a kip, actually. But the rest of the county is sound and the Déise will be back again.
Your best example of another county’s desperation to be closer to Galway; it’s in the name. They even wear Galway’s colours, the dotes. Isn’t that cute? Anyway, it’s not all good stuff, they aren’t all Dessie Dolan… Westmeath is also responsible for the quagmire that is Mullingar, which is good for giving us Joe Dolan, alright for Niall Horan, and simply inexcusable for giving us Bressie.
We all know about their strawberries, but Wexford has tremendous scenery in the county, wildlife and culture and a standout tourist destination in Hook Head. Besides that, there’s a place in Wexford called Horetown. Galway has Galway Hookers which are boats or Galway Hooker which is a beer. 2-1 to the Tribesmen. Good luck next year, Yellow-Bellies.
Avoca, a chain of shops in which you’ve been overcharged. Bray, a place you’re worried about being in after dark. Greystones, that unfortunate place responsible for the Happy Pear. Wicklow is made up of places like these that you may have heard of without ever developing a desire to go there. That’s Wicklow. You’ve heard of it. And I’ve just reminded you of it again, but we can go back to our normal lives now.
In conclusion, there are lots of counties that have some things in common with Galway. But no place really has all of the same things in common with Galway. It’s a special place, a special county, and I can only say that now that I’ve moved far, far away. If I still lived in Galway, I’d be mortified to even think that way about it, let alone write it down. It’s a Galway tradition to maintain humility at all times. Won an All-Ireland, did we? Best not to lose the heads about it, though. Sure, we’ve won nothing since then…
Anyway, there’s my thoughts on the whole thing.
Galway is not the greatest county in Ireland.
Galway is the greatest county in the world.