We never learn our lesson... as hope springs eternal for supporters

We never learn our lesson... as hope springs eternal for supporters
Disappointed Cork supporters leave early against Kerry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE first day of May; the first day that people really begin to dream of what their county can achieve in the months ahead.

Soccerites are still keeping half an eye on the Premier League title race. And the other half on the Champions League.

However, hurling and football folk are only starting to allow themselves to open their arms to the hope that, more often than not, inevitably breaks your balls and your heart.

Ah yes, the hope.

Every sporting supporting martyr experiences that feeling of hope.

That horrible, all-encompassing feeling that, ultimately, leaves you cold nine times out of 10.

Yet, we, as fans, crave that one occasion in which hope evolves into the glorious satisfaction of success.

As John Roycroft of this parish succinctly puts the torture of fandom: “It’s essentially an unhealthy relationship”.

He’s right.

And an unhealthy relationship that never ends, at that. But it’s also one we can’t do without.

Now you may ask: Where’s the logic there?

The reality is, when we really break it down, there is no logic whatsoever to the sacrifices we make to support our respective teams.

All over the country in the next few months, supporters will travel extremely long distances and spend a small fortune just to be there in case their county achieves something tangible they won’t want to miss out on.

And even though an awful lot of people will make those journeys aware that their chances of All-Ireland success are virtually nil, they will still load up their cars or arrive at train stations in order to get to a specific venue on a given Saturday or Sunday.

You know yourself, just in case.

Ah yes, ‘just in case’, a phraseological spin-off of hope.

The amount of times I travelled to Killarney since 1995 just in case Cork did, somehow lower Kerry’s mast is anybody’s guess.

Obviously, if I really thought about it, I could literally count the number of occasions I made my way to Fitzgerald Stadium.

John Miskella is tackled by Tommy Griffin and Aidan O'Mahony. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
John Miskella is tackled by Tommy Griffin and Aidan O'Mahony. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

However, due to that little git Hope leaving me down, time after time, I’d rather not recall such detailed low points.

And, in each code, we all experience a few of those.

Liverpool supporters, for instance, are praying that they do not experience another as the destination of the aforementioned Premier League title remains in Manchester City’s hands with two games remaining.

Of course, there are saner individuals that would often ask any of us nutcases why exactly we allow ourselves to get sucked into something that will, basically, leave you with a sense of unfulfillment.

But there is always that dude Hope. He’s like a much less sinister devil on your shoulder.

Yet, his urgings that you maintain your love affair with your teams despite the repeated heartache are just as menacing.

Nevertheless, we all stay the course just for those small wins or for the possibility of the biggest triumph of all, one that would sate your supporting appetite.

For example, it wouldn’t come as a shock if when the day comes, and Mayo win the All-Ireland SFC title that there is then a distinct drop-off in the number of people that follow them around the land.

You could almost envisage the collective sigh of relief that would pulse through the west were they to reach the Promised Land.

For the lesser counties’ supporters, it’ll be something like a first championship win in a gazillion years that has them touch their own kind of euphoria in a sporting supporting world gone mad.

As some will be aware, I am a Tottenham sympathiser.

Foolishly, I’ve allowed my mind to wander towards the possibility of Mauricio Pochettino leading the side to a Champions League final in Madrid.

A Champions League final!

The first leg, of course, was last night and so my hopes and dreams might be already dashed by the time you read this.

After all, Ajax have that fearlessness about them that can hurt most teams. Or so we were told.

Donny van de Beek of Ajax celebrates against Spurs. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Donny van de Beek of Ajax celebrates against Spurs. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Regardless, it didn’t stop me playing out scenarios in my head of how far this adventure might go this season, since last Sunday morning.

Okay, I lie. It was probably since the Sunday before.

But I have to at least pretend that my sanity remains intact.

Yet, would we be without this hope? Probably not. After all, it’s what keeps us going back, season after season, year after year.

We all know the risks attached. And, frankly, they normally outweigh the positives.

However, as we approach the beginning of the summer championships, would anybody swap that potential of Hope sustaining your fraught friendship for the idea that he wouldn’t be there at all?

Not a chance.

People in Dublin and, to a lesser extent at present, Kerry have it different.

Of course, they almost always expect. Hope, to them, is merely a distant cousin, one they so rarely see that they could pass him or her in the street without recognising them instantly.

Maybe, though, it is more fun to have hope most of the time.

Would it be half as exciting if we expected our teams to win the vast majority, if not all, of the time?

We’ll keep it between ourselves, but we both know there is a part of us that enjoys the chase of glory as much as the rare glories themselves.

Experiencing that one, far too elusive occasion out of 10 would probably surpass expecting to witness a similar achievement on the other nine occasions.

So as the provincial championship campaigns get underway, let us pray Hope remains a friendly sidekick on our pursuit of sporting happiness.

What? I’m expecting too much there?

Yeah, you’re probably right. Will I ever learn?

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