'It would be lovely to have a win and shove a little back at them' jokes Tipp teacher in Kilkenny

Six members of the Irish Defence Forces will represent their counties in Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final

“Blessed art thou among Cats, and blessed be your smile should Tipp win on Sunday…”

Mairead Frisby is from Mullinahone, Co Tipperary, just like former stars Eoin Kelly, John Leahy, Paul Curran et al, but she works at Grennan College in Thomastown and has called Mullinavat, on the far side of Kilkenny, her home for 37 years now.

So her grin will be bigger than most on Monday if her native county’s hurlers do the business tomorrow.

“It would be lovely to have a win and shove a little back at them,” Mairead said on jersey day at Grennan College yesterday, when her blue and gold colours looked a bit forlorn in a river of black and amber.

In previous years, there was another Tipp supporter in Grennan to keep Mairead company, but since school principal Willie Norton from Ballingarry retired in 2011 she’s been a lone Premier warrior at the school.

Five unluckey Tipperary fans, including three teachers, Louise Kelly, Niamh Fitzpatrick, and Caroline Keating, find themselves the focus of Kilkenny attention at the Loreto Secondary School, Kilkenny city. Pic: Pat Moore
Five unluckey Tipperary fans, including three teachers, Louise Kelly, Niamh Fitzpatrick, and Caroline Keating, find themselves the focus of Kilkenny attention at the Loreto Secondary School, Kilkenny city. Pic: Pat Moore

“I’m keeping the flag flying,” she said.

“I’m the only Tipperary person here now. In the last couple of years we had some students with Tipp connections but they’re gone now, so I’m on my own.

“Over the years, you get used to it.

“For the last win in 2010, our daughter got married a week after, so we had a lot of colour and a great day.

“There’s no wedding this time, but a Tipp win would do nicely.”

Mairead’s husband Jack, a native of Mullinavat — “we’re a mixed marriage” — will be sporting the Kilkenny colours on Sunday, while their three children are also Cat fans, so it really can be a lonely place at times for such an exile.

Young Kilkenny fans from Ossory Park cheer on their hurling heroes. Pic: Pat Moore
Young Kilkenny fans from Ossory Park cheer on their hurling heroes. Pic: Pat Moore

“I must say, I’m a big Kilkenny supporter when they’re playing any other team but Tipp.

“I do admire them and I admire Brian Cody — he’s a fantastic manager,” she says diplomatically.

Diplomacy is often called for in such situations, as it is elsewhere along the Tipp/Kilkenny border, where fans mix during the run-up to the game and indeed while watching the action tomorrow.

With this being the teams’ sixth All-Ireland decider meeting since 2009 (including a replay), they’ve got all too used to each other at this time of year, staring across the county frontier from Mullinahone to Callan, from Graigue-Ballycallan to Ballingarry, from Urlingford to Gortnahoe, and other such neighbouring areas.

Carrick-on-Suir is another area lying close to the border, with Waterford just across the river, and while the blue and gold dominates this weekend in this neck of the woods, there’s a healthy smattering of black and amber.

Elizabeth Monger of Seán Treacy Park had just moved back to Ireland a couple of months ago, after spending 19 years in England, and is already getting caught up with the local rivalry and the excitement ahead of the big match.

“The kids are mad into hurling as well, they’d often be watching it on the telly,” she says.

April Lanigan with Maisie Smith Ralph, 6, and Teddy, supporting Kilkenny at Ossory Park. Pic: Pat Moore
April Lanigan with Maisie Smith Ralph, 6, and Teddy, supporting Kilkenny at Ossory Park. Pic: Pat Moore

“Sometimes they’d have it on Sky over there and they’d see it.”

Most of the colour in this estate is of the Tipp variety but, whoever the winner is, they’re planning a party tomorrow night.

“Moonlight Shadow are playing in The Avenue here and we’ll have a disco afterwards,” Yvonne Norris says.

“I’d say it will be a very close game but hopefully we can do it.”

Darren Norris adds: “Tipp are going to sweep Kilkenny all over the field.”

A born optimist.

Don't miss the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast. Daithi Regan, Tadhg O'Connor, Eddie Keher, Eamonn Murphy and PM O'Sullivan join Peter McNamara to discuss the Kilkenny v Tipperary All-Ireland hurling final.


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