VALERIE MULCAHY: Why I always shout for champions, not underdogs

On Saturday, Mayo ended Cork’s reign as All-Ireland champions and destroyed dreams of a seventh consecutive title.

VALERIE MULCAHY: Why I always shout for champions, not underdogs

The victory sets up a final with Dublin, a new pairing given the Rebels’ dominance of Ladies football over the past decade.

I’m sure many neutral fans will cherish the pairing and must set about deciding who they will support on September 24.

When Cork were at their all- conquering best, many from outside the county shouted for their opponents — the underdog — on All-Ireland final day. It is often either envy of the favourite or perceived pity for the underdog that causes so many to root for the latter on the big day.

As a young player — and before Cork’s period of dominance — I would have followed the crowd and shown my support to the team considered less likely to win. But over time I began to question that somewhat instinctive support.

Perhaps it was due to the fact that we were so often the team facing the underdog, the overwhelming favourites to succeed. In carrying that title for many years, I and the team, learned of the many characteristics needed to overcome the mass of oppositional support and the loss of the neutral fans’ encouragement and well wishes.

On some occasions, even from within our own county, people unknowingly insulted us by confessing that they would like to see a new champion. Their logic? “It would be good for the game.”

I disagree. It is up to other counties to bridge a gap if there is a difference in standard. It is up to them to become the best.

Those who believed the dominance of one team was bad for the sport failed to realise the standard of the game rose year on year because the same team won repeatedly. Crucially that dominance encouraged a higher and higher standard of play from every team in the country aspiring to reach the summit.

Given the lessons learned at the coalface of Cork football, I began to back champions in different sports for the very reason that players and teams probably weren’t accustomed to vocal support from neutral fans and had to fight an added element of begrudgery through their careers.

After all, it is an insult to the success of any dominant team or athlete to reason that their success is due, in part, to a lack of ability or competition from their opposition. This is also insulting to the opposition.

Now, these Cork players find themselves in uncharted and unpleasant territory. They will have to look at the All-Ireland final as spectators, a role unfamiliar to many of them.

It has been said that you have to lose an All-Ireland before you win one. I think this came about to comfort the losers and ensure that they appreciate the winning feeling — assuming they go on to win.

The reverse of this is the case for many young Cork players. Their time out of the record books now could prove to serve as a motivation to return with more hunger and desire to ensure they don’t miss out in the future.

The label of favourite is a heavy one to carry for such a long time but the Cork teams down through the years have worn it with determination.

Cork have come to embrace it and over time they won the respect of ladies football supporters through the county.

I hope the Cork team can now enjoy the freedom of playing that comes with being an underdog but do not lose the confidence and motivation to succeed that comes with being favourites.

It is an insult to the success of any dominant team or athlete to reason their success is due, in part, to a lack of ability or competition from their opposition

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