Clicking into the burning heart of Déise connection

IF YOU’RE aware of the adventures of ‘mullanimal’ and the provenance of Waterford fans’ thundersticks, then chances are a part of your heart is forever white and blue.

The creature referred to above features on the upthedeise website, a corner of cyberspace reserved for all things Waterford. This week traffic on the site is pretty busy, as you’d imagine.

“There are two popular forums, the general Waterford board and the GAA one,” says Cian Foley, who runs the site. “Obviously this is the busy time for the GAA one.”

Given Waterford’s arrival in a first All-Ireland final since 1963, Foley and his moderators have been pretty busy monitoring comments — “When people ask us to take stuff down we generally do, we have six great volunteers who moderate the board,” — but they’ve also been proactive in supporting the county hurlers.

“We had the thundersticks recently and we gave out over 1,000 of them for the game against Wexford and people were going mental on the terraces with them. I got a great buzz out of it when John Mullane and Eoin McGrath threw their jerseys up to the lads with the thunder sticks on the terrace.

“The players are definitely aware of the board — I went to school with Roy McGrath, Ken’s brother, and I know a few of the lads to say hello to them. If there’s something nasty or unwarranted about any of them on the board, it comes down.

“You’d criticise lads who are playing unwell, but personal comments are always removed — these lads are providing free entertainment in their spare time, after all.”

That doesn’t mean there isn’t inter-county slagging on the board. Foley says the Kilkenny posters are “some of the nicest of the lot.”

“The Tipp fans were a little cocky over the last month but they were very good after losing, they were very gracious.

“You’d find your own are nearly the worst when it comes to arguing and so on.”

Foley set the site up in 2003, and it really took off in 2004 when Waterford beat Cork in the Munster final, but it’s not just about Waterford hurling, he says. It’s about having pride in Waterford. Having pride isn’t simply a matter of mailing in comments to a website. When TV3 omitted the city from its weather forecast map, the Déise rebelled.

“Basically we contacted TV3 to say they’d left out one of the five cities of Ireland,” says Foley. “We got a response saying basically, ‘what it is with Waterford, Derry aren’t on the map either’.

“We thought that was a bit in your face, so we proved Waterford was a city with reference to Local Government Acts and the census.

Eventually they said last Christmas they’d include Waterford and around last February they put it on the map.

“We felt if Waterford wasn’t on maps like that, it’d be forgotten by the general public in Ireland first, and then by tourists visiting the country or businesses looking to invest. It’s legitimate, it’s one of the five cities of Ireland.”

Down the line, Foley wants to promote Waterford even more. That was the reasoning behind the Deise Dictionary of Slang, which was a bestseller in the Crystal City.

“I was kayaking off the coast by Tramore recently and there are great caverns you can go into there. Not many people know about that and it needs to be highlighted.

“Waterford could get overrun, but it’s worth letting people know about it. It’d be great to produce a book ‘52 things to do in Waterford’, one for every weekend. We’ll be doing more of that kind of stuff.”

Giving people a focal point or image helps: Foley ran a competition to name the website viking: “We came up with Erik the Blaa-guard, defender of all things Waterford. A graphic designer came up with the image, which has Ardmore Tower, the river, the beaches, the football and hurley.”

The viking logo is somewhat at odds with Waterford’s Gentle

County nickname, something Foley feels should change.

“People here are slow to speak out and shout about things, we’re too laid-back about talking things up. There’s a story about a French chef who came to work in Waterford and on his first day he saw that a pot of lobsters had no lid; when he told someone to put the lid on they said ‘they’re Waterford lobsters, if one of them tries to climb out the others will pull him back down’.

Talking of nicknames and so on... . . . where did mullanimal come from?

“Well, we said that any resemblance to real people was accidental... . . . it was a bit of messing, a mascot to honour the man himself.”

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