MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Breaking a spirit from within, that’s the Kerry way

They’re already here. – Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, 1957.

THEY walk among us. They talk and eat and love as we do, and yet they are different.

Here and there they gather together and you know them, and you know their difference. I refer above not to creatures from another galaxy, but to the people of Kerry.

Following last Sunday, much amateur psychology has been spouted about the relationship between Cork and Kerry (and to be accurate, there was a fair amount of it spouted before the game as well).

Your columnist has been a Corkonian as far back as he can remember, feels as well qualified to spout as any of the other amateurs, and is happy to share his thoughts with you accordingly.

The odd relationship between the two counties is not determined by the fact that they share a border but because they share living space in such large numbers: namely, the presence of so many Kerry people in Cork, rather than vice versa.

The unscientific assessment is thousands of people from the Kingdom living in Cork, though there is a sharply defined and oddly limited range of occupations open to them. Roughly speaking, 74% of those Kerry people are gardaí, while 42% are teachers.

The overlap has never been explained but is generally put down to double-jobbing.

There were some Cork people who went to Kerry, but we lost touch with them some time ago and consequently fear the worst: that they opened B&Bs near Killarney and went native.

In a sporting context, this has immediate and obvious consequences: witness the Kerry person’s determination to bring each sporting discussion around to football within his county, for instance.

Let a Cork person refer to Roy Keane’s heroics for his country and a Kerry native will switch the conversation to some faction fight between two hamlets northeast of Tralee; as soon as a Leesider cites Ronan O’Gara’s kicking prowess, his neighbour from over the county bounds immediately cites a squabble between two representative bodies of leprechauns near Valentia.

If a Corkman should actually refer to a hurling match, then a Cork-based Kerryman reacts the same way Kingsley Amis did whenever he saw Ava Gardner in a movie: i.e. remove his shoes and stretch out on his back on the ground feigning unconsciousness.

They’re a focused people. You have to say that much.

Thus, last Sunday and the week that has followed.

The awful truth that Cork supporters have had to face in recent days was not that their team was second best on the day, but that they won’t even have the satisfaction of licking their wounds in peace.

When Tyrone beat Kerry in the All-Ireland final, then natives of Ardboe and Omagh don’t congregate on the streets of Listowel and Castleisland, after all.

When Kilkenny beat Waterford last year, the inhabitants of the Crystal City saw a lot of their neighbours, many of whom work in Waterford according to popular myth in the south-east – but that same popular myth holds that the Kilkenny natives stream back east across the bridge to their home county before nightfall.

To focus on tensions being confined to the border of Cork and Kerry, however, is wholly misleading; vast swathes of the southern capital are known to be colonised by immigrants from the far south-west.

These fifth columnists sally forth with their jerseys and their polo shirts to heap further pain on the heartbroken Rebel followers of their acquaintance; poor souls who cannot escape from their neighbours.

Triumphant. Judging. Smirking.

Writing traffic tickets. Assigning extra homework.

And some of them doing both, if the statistics are anything to go by.

- contact: michael.moynihan@examiner.ie; twitter: MikeMoynihanEx


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