10 things you should know before you go to a GAA match
Brought to you by Crunchie
Oh, those glorious sunny days of an endless Irish summer! When we're all living for the weekend... and it's nothing to do with Mass (SORRY MAMMY).
The GAA Championship comes to an end this Sunday with the All Ireland showdown between Kilkenny and Tipperary. It's going to be a massive day for GAA fans, and it doesn't matter if you're a fair-weather fan or a total fanatic: all that matters on the day is that your heart is in it and you know the rules.
Without further ado, here are the ten things you MUST know before a big GAA day out.
1. A good start is half the work
This applies to the game itself too, but we're actually referring to the breakfast. GAA fans are notoriously fond of getting a "good run at the day". This normally means a hearty breakfast at 6am or so, getting on the road in plenty of time. Dinner at 12pm and sure you'll have the sandwiches and flask of tea in the car in case of emergency. Along with a few purple Snacks.
2. Bring your voice
Make sure you know gach aon focal of Amhrán na bhFiann, and don't be making a show of yourself by mumbling along. This is not what our ancestors hurled for! Fair enough, you might be waiting to roar 'HON TIPP/KILKENNY at the top of your lungs, but woe betide if you're caught on camera not belting out every word of our national anthem first. There'll be hell to pay. Absolute and utter hell.
Here's a handy refresher to help you out:
3. Brush up on your ballads
Whether it's Dancing at the Crossroads, The Fields Of Athenry (hey baby, watch the free birds fly), or The Banner Roar, make sure you've got all the words of your county song at the tip of your tongue. Because you will be singing it. At the top of your lungs. And ideally completely SICKENING the rival supporter beside you. All in good jest of course. Ahem.
4. There is a dress code
You might think that when it comes to a Sunday stadium date, wardrobe isn't all that important. You'd be wrong. Dead wrong. The only thing to be seen in on match day is your county colours. That jersey was made to soak up blood, sweat and tears. It's as close to a feckin' magic cloak as you'll ever get.
5. Wallflowers need not apply
Your parents may have told you once or twice in your life to bite your tongue. They won't be telling you that a match. Shout, scream and roar for all your worth - that's what you're there for. On a related note - leave your sensitive side at home when listening to those around you.
"Pull hard - HE'S NO RELATION!"
6. Put on the sunscreen
Every GAA fan knows that the most wonderful sunny days are spent at Croker. Arrive ready to soak up the atmosphere, exchange banter and maybe get in a sneaky 99. Pack the sunblock or you'll be going home with a farmer's tan of epic proportions. If only there was someplace you could pick up some "HATS, SCARVES AND HEADBANDS!"
7. Beware the battle lines of yore
GAA rivalries run deeper than blood and the most hardcore fans have very, very long memories. It's not uncommon for a grievance between fans to be considered "payback for 1963/1975/1987". Some counties will have a friendly rivalry. For many others, there's nothing bloody friendly about it. This is war. Come with your armour.
8. For the love of the game
The sheer passion seen on a GAA pitch week in, week out on the big days and in the smallest training session is a joy to behold. So much so, that it's easy to forget these men and women get nothing for their time but the dream of a title and the pride in their jersey. Shout louder. You owe them.
9. Never jump the gun
When it comes to the GAA, the final whistle is the equivalent to the fat lady sings. It's not over 'til it's over and you bet your ass it can all change in a minute. Fight any and all temptation to steal a march on traffic, and think instead of how these players poured their hearts and souls into this for months on end when your were still sitting by the fire. Shouting louder yet? Good.
10. Stop in for The Sunday Game
What good is a match if you can't relive every puck of the ball when the sun has finally set? Wherever you are on the road, it's a GAA rule that you must stop in to the nearest public house for a strong pot of tea, a few sandwiches and a "whist" while the whole contingent watches The Sunday Game. Pro tip: Saving some of that colourful language you learned for Pat Spillane or Joe Brolly is optional, but enjoyable.
Brought to you by Crunchie - For the mouth that craves the Friday Feeling.