Watching a match in the pub can be a fraught experience...

The Irish have a reputation for being good supporters... but that's not the case everywhere, says Trevor Laffan
Watching a match in the pub can be a fraught experience...

People watching an Ireland rugby game in a pub in Cork - Trevor Laffan says the Irish have a reputation for being good supporters.

SUPPORTERS are the life blood of sports clubs, and we know all about that in this country. Just look at our national football team. They’re not the most successful outfit in the world, but our supporters are up there with the best. They’re generally well behaved and always receive favourable comments from the host countries they visit.

Our world ranking isn’t the most important factor. The main thing is to support the team, respect the opposition, and have some fun along the way.

The same can be said of our rugby fans. It’s a great attitude to have and we can be justifiably proud of our reputation.

Not everyone sees it that way though, and sometimes trying to watch a game can get a bit complicated.

I was in a large pub in Cyprus one evening watching Liverpool playing in the Champions League. The place was practically empty when a middle-aged guy, a lady and a young lad came in and sat next to me. There were plenty of available tables, but they sat right beside me.

They were watching the Tottenham Hotspur game, which was being shown on an adjacent screen, and they were obviously Spurs fans.

The dad was an opinionated guy with a strong London accent, and an expert on football - in his own mind anyway. The young lad was texting some friends trying to organise a kick-about at the weekend. He asked the dad if Sullivan had one ‘L’ or two. The dad was sure it was one. The son then asked him to spell ‘Aaron’ so he helped him out; “Aran’, are you fick or wot?”

Dad was passing the odd comment on the Liverpool game. He laughed when Mo Salah missed the target and shouted, “18 yards wide” and declared loudly that Liverpool would never win anything with the two ‘deadheads’ Henderson and Milner in the team. (He’s since been proven wrong on that score.)

I was getting a little hot under the collar and I got the impression he was trying to wind me up. It was easy to establish that I was a Liverpool supporter, but it didn’t bother him that his silly comments might be annoying.

I left as soon as the match was over, glad to be free of dad.

I went to that same pub on another occasion to watch Ireland playing England in the Six Nations. There were only seven other people in there besides me, but when I looked at the TV screens, I was beginning to panic. Skiing was one of them and a Chelsea football game was being shown on the other two.

I approached the guy behind the bar and asked him if they were going to show the rugby match. He told me it wouldn’t be a problem. He grabbed a handful of remote-control units and began a very complicated procedure of switching screens, swapping programmes and providers until he found what he was looking for.

The rugby appeared on one of the screens, the football was back on the other one and the skiing occupied the third.

I was still standing at the counter when, suddenly, this elderly guy piped up from behind me and started giving out to the barman. He also had a London accent and had been sitting with his wife watching the Chelsea game. He was annoyed that his viewing was interrupted.

The barman, a Greek Cypriot, explained that the match was almost over, but the old lad was having none of it. He was pointing at me and complaining that I had just walked in off the street and the regular customers were being ignored to facilitate me. He wasn’t a happy camper, and the wife was backing him up.

I got a drink and went over to them to explain that there was no intention on my part to disturb anyone, but they didn’t give me a chance. They just got up and left.

If I had known that changing the channels was going to be so disruptive, I wouldn’t have asked in the first place. I would have gone somewhere else.

Contrast that with an experience I had in Killarney recently. Kerry were playing Donegal so the streets were deserted. They take their football seriously down there and people were either gone to the match or were watching it on the telly.

Liverpool were playing at the same time and I was struggling to find a place that was showing anything but GAA.

I was running out of options when I came across a sports bar that was actually painted green and gold. I figured I was wasting my time, but it was my last hope.

There were five or six televisions showing the Kerry game. Kerry were only slightly ahead of the opposition, so the tension was mounting. There was a good crowd in there and I was afraid to ask about the soccer after my Cyprus episodes.

I was cold and wet from roaming the streets, so I decided to stay where I was and have a pint.

Suddenly, a guy called to the barman who immediately changed one of the tellies and Liverpool appeared on the screen. There wasn’t a single complaint.

It was difficult to get to the counter so when I called for a pint, it was passed back to me in relays. The money went forward in the same way and my change came back to me. One lad in the chain spilled a tiny drop and another guy told him he was banned from the relay team.

A Corkman, in the middle of a bunch of Kerrymen, watching a soccer match while their county was involved in a tight battle with Donegal, I was made feel very welcome. That doesn’t happen everywhere.

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