By now, he’s as reliable a presence at SW19 as Federer, Murray or the Williams sisters. TV audiences would worry if Wimbledon slipped by without a glimpse of the green, white and gold of Offaly, writes Fergus Jayes.
Pat Cornally from Clara, Co. Offaly has attended Wimbledon for 25 consecutive years, and in recent times always wearing the colours of The Faithful. However, Pat isn’t a huge GAA fan. His reasons for wearing the jersey are more sentimental.
“I first went in 1992 and watched John McEnroe play. It was pot luck I even got the chance, I got a standby ticket for court one. My best friend, Kieran Coyne, started going with me the year after, and it became our yearly thing.
“In 2001, Federer beat Sampras who had dominated Wimbledon for the last eight years. I’ll always remember Kieran turning to me and saying ‘The king is dead, long live the king’.
A few years ago, Kieran passed away. “The jersey belonged to Kieran and I now wear it to remember him,” Pat says. He is always happy to hear of its appearances on TV.
“It has become a symbol of Offaly at Wimbledon. I would get fierce grief from everyone back home if I didn’t wear it.
“Kieran played GAA a lot, before he switched to soccer. I’m sure he would have loved the fact that it’s getting spotted at Wimbledon nearly every year. Probably less happy with how we’re doing in the GAA!”
Not only is Pat getting noticed for his attire by people in Clara, but also at Wimbledon itself. He admitted he has been approached many times regarding the jersey.
“John (McEnroe) himself asked about the jersey itself a few years ago and Tomas Berdych came to visit the queue and asked about it in the more recent past.
“I’ve had people from nearly every county come up and talk to me about it."
It puts Pat in the same bracket as other Wimbledon legends such like the ’Strawberry Man’, Chris Fava, who turned up at Centre Court for many years dressed as a Wimbledon strawberry, at least until his outfit became an exhibit in the Wimbledon museum and he had to come up with something new.
“He showed up dressed as Rufus the Hawk this year, it was brilliant.”
Pat hopes to continue his July trips for many years to come and to draw on his wealth of knowhow to get the best seats in the house.
“I have an edge with my experience, I get a seat behind the server where the TV camera aim towards.
“As for me attending in the future, tennis is the one for me. I’m getting on in years too, If I stop going now, I won’t go again.
“I’m able to get such good tickets because Wimbledon reserve 500 courtside tickets to queue for every day.
“I’ve had to wait two overnights in the queue to ensure I get my spot at one stage, but that kinda thing wouldn’t deter me. Some people queue up to four days to see certain players.”
Pat’s latest appearance came on Centre Court last Friday week, at the match between Victoria Azarenka and Heather Watson.