A tale of two cities: Why Cork is better than Dublin

A tale of two cities: Why Cork is better than Dublin

Pat Fitzpatrick is unashamedly proud of his birthplace, so much so he’s written a new book: 101 Reasons Why Cork Is Better Than Dublin

There is a bit of the northbound M7 near Baldonnell where the road sweeps around to the right and you can see Dublin in panorama, all the way out to the airport. I still remember how I used to feel driving along that stretch on a Sunday evening in the 1990s, after a weekend down in my native Cork — I felt delighted that I was nearly home again.

I’d grown to hate Cork since I went to live in the capital in 1989. I hated the never-changing bars, the shit coffee, the way it could be humid and 7 degrees celsius, the gloom of the railway station on a Sunday afternoon if I was going back by train, and more than anything else, the way people would say “are you up in Dublin now yourself all the time?” as if it was an accusation. (It was.)

Dublin was hopping by the mid 90s. Temple Bar had yet to become ‘Temple Bar’, what felt like the first espresso machine in Ireland had arrived at The Globe on South Great Georges St, there was new everything everywhere, including the first wave of eastern European women, exotic in stone-washed denim and a couldn’t-give-a-damn-about-you look in their amazing pale eyes. Best of all, there wasn’t much mist. So much to like here.

And still, back in Cork, you knew what was coming straight after you confirmed to someone that you were above in Dublin yourself now all the time — “I’d say it’s fierce busy.” Too right it was fierce busy, with people getting on and trying something new, like Mongolian food, espresso or chatting up someone from Gdansk. I loved it — every minute of it.

By the turn of the millennium I was sharing an apartment with my friend in Ringsend, with most of my other buddies in a one mile radius. I was 33 going on 17 with an address in party central and if I thought about Cork at all, it was to tell people I’m glad I don’t live there any more.

And then my friends betrayed me. They got married, moved to the suburbs, had kids, it was carnage there for a while. Saturday night would come and go and I’d have no one to play with. Dublin had changed as well. Traffic was murder, rent was worse and I thought the new minimalist restaurants were cool until my aunt pointed out that the surly service reminded her of Zurich. (She’s the exotic one in my mother’s family.) Worst of all, Temple Bar had become what we now know as ‘Temple Bar’.

It wasn’t a Saturday afternoon if I wasn’t telling a bunch of half-pissed lads from Sunderland where they could get their hands on a bit of local totty. (Their words, not mine.) By 2003, I was ready for something new. So I moved back to Cork where my girlfriend at the time was living. That didn’t work out, so I found another one. Only messing. (Hi honey.) Actually, I found THE ONE as they say in wedding speeches and we’re married now with two kids, living behind the Donie Forde Stand in Turners Cross.

Sixteen years later, I’m weak for Cork. I wouldn’t say my conversion was immediate. I went through a period of city grieving for a few years, where any image of Dublin would make be feel sorry for my loss. I’d nearly be in tears at the opening sequence of Fair City, and not just because it meant I was about to watch Fair City.

Now, I could take it or leave it. OK, Ikea is a nice day out if you want an impractical lamp, but it’s hard to see anything that would tempt me back to the capital. When I lived in Dublin, I’d tell people that it’s great to have all the culture right there on your door-step, even though I never actually went to the theatre, mainly because it was a choice between Disney on Ice or a play about a guy living with his controlling aunt on a fictitious Aran Island.

I don’t miss the historical sites and museums because here is the problem with tourist attractions — they attract tourists. And who wants their afternoon in town ruined by a coach-load of Japanese tourists who, on balance, reckon they would have been better off spending two more days in Rome. Because, let’s face it, the Guinness Storehouse can be a bit underwhelming unless you are the kind of person who likes an unobstructed view of Bargaintown.

I don’t miss Dublin’s neediness either. There is a certain kind of Dubliner who feels that if the capital only had a few gaffs selling spaghetti ice-cream, it would be the New York. (Spaghetti Ice Cream is a thing now in NYC apparently. The Golden Age is upon us.) The type of Dubliner who says these things tends to live near a southside Dart station and sounds like they are speaking out of their nose and into a megaphone.

A tale of two cities: Why Cork is better than Dublin

I miss these people the least. Particularly the way they say, “I’ve always meant to visit there for a weekend” when you tell them you’re from Cork, as if it was like the dark side of the moon, or even Limerick.

These people were overly excited about the Luas before the two lines intersected in the middle of town. Now, they’re out of control, telling us culchies that Dublin has arrived because it has a bare-bones light rail system. I’d advise them to go to Berlin for a weekend, where you can pretty much get a tram to the jacks.

I feel bad about bad-mouthing my ex. When Dublin was good, it was great, and the time I spent there during the 1990s were in a way, the best days of my life. (I’ve said this to my wife and kids countless times, it’s not like I’m going behind their back.) And I know there is a train-load of Cork guys living it large in Dublin who pity me for my settled, Beamish-drinking parochial view of the world. I was one of them back in the day.

I’m just no longer in the market for somewhere that’s fierce busy. I’m in the market for some place like Cork. Drive 90 minutes in any direction from Cork and you can be anywhere from the Comeraghs to Bantry Bay or even Kerry if you’re stuck. (Really stuck now like.) Drive 90 minutes from Dublin and you’ll probably still be on the M50, unless you leave at three in the morning.

I like that Cork has the English Market, unlike various copycat attempts in Dublin where it’s not unusual to find a trustifarian hipster called Oisín, who set up a stall selling responsibly sourced otter burgers because him old man gave them 50 grand to get out his sight.

A tale of two cities: Why Cork is better than Dublin

I like that you can go for a night out in Cork and not feel like someone held you upside down until all the money felt out of your pocket. (The reason it’s called a Weekend Break in Dublin is because after the weekend, you’re broke.) But mainly I like Cork because I’m from Cork.

The propaganda is relentless from day one, telling you that the snack of the Gods is in fact Donkey’s Gudge washed down by a glass of Tanora. If you don’t know what Donkey’s Gudge is, you can read all about it in my new book, 101 Reasons Why Cork is Better than Dublin.

I’d like to say to Dublin people that it’s meant as a joke. Unfortunately, we all know that isn’t true. Dublin is a livewire with a stunning setting and I love the way youse say yizzers as a second person plural possessive pronoun. (If you don’t know what that means, you might want to brush up on yizzers grammar.) But I’ve yet to meet anyone over 30 living in Cork who is angling for a move to the capital.

I don’t think this is just because Cork has all the things I need in life but without being fierce busy and expensive. It’s more than that — the author Kevin Barry maintains the defining characteristic of Cork City is that it’s head-over-heels in love with itself. He’s right – we can’t help it like.



A tale of two cities: Why Cork is better than Dublin

O’Connell Street, sure where would you be going? Anywhere else and in a hurry, says you. Our national main street could do with a re-branding, seeing as it’s about as popular with Irish people as cleaning up after yourself on the beach.

The first step in re-branding O’Connell Street would be to change the name. ‘Fight or ‘Flight Street’ would capture it nicely — or maybe go all-in on the reality front and just call it ‘Poundland’.

Patrick’s Street is different, and not just because it has a dopey nickname. (It’s known locally as ‘Pana’, a four letter word that takes ten seconds to say because Cork people like to stretch out their As.) Paaanaaa isn’t much better than O’Connell Street when it comes to shops, but it’s a clear winner as a main stage for the city, where people can promenade up and down, eye-balling each other.

It’s also where we gather to re-enact one of the great rituals of Cork life. That is where you shout, “You’re looking well, Gerry boy, did you lose a bit of weight?” at someone and then wait until they’re out of earshot before muttering, “I can’t go out the door without bumping into that fat langer.” That’s Cork for you now in a nutshell.


A tale of two cities: Why Cork is better than Dublin

The good news is that Dublin Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in Europe. The bad news is the last time this happened the economy tanked and the country ended up with €43.40 in the bank. So now might be a good time to sell your house.

If you feel like booking a flight with the money, then I’d suggest flying from Cork.

Unlike Dublin Airport, the long-term car park is not actually located in Kildare. The drive there doesn’t involve the M50, or a cab ride where the bleedin’ taxi driver makes you glad you’re leaving the country. True to the noble Cork tradition of spending a fortune on white elephants, our airport is about twice the size it needs to be, so it never feels packed. It’s not too big either, though.

Unlike Dublin, there won’t be an army of volunteers handing out energy drinks and foil blankets at your gate because you just completed a 10k run from security.

Likewise, when you arrive into Cork, it doesn’t feel like your plane landed 15km from the terminal and they forced you to walk the last bit, surrounded by ads for Bunratty Castle. Instead, a mere 15 minutes after you land, you’re in a taxi, listening to the driver tell you why he’d hate to live in Dublin.

101 Reasons Why Cork is Better than Dublin, available in bookshops and online now, RRP €6.99.

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