by Katie Barragry
County origin is a seminal part of Irish society. As an individual, which of the 32 counties do you represent? Were you born in Kilkenny and given a hurl and helmet before a name? Are a proud Cork rebel of “The Real Capital”? Or are you just charming everyone you meet with that gentle, sweet Donegal accent of yours?
Being county proud is often something you are born into. Many find this pride upon moving away from home. Your county is often something that defines you, especially when you make that transition to college life. Where you are from is often the first thing that someone asks you. College jersey night in Galway can go one of two ways; a constant night of abuse because you are from Dublin (deserved), or alternatively, love because you are a fellow Galwegian. In Ireland, you are going to be categorised according to where you’re from, whether you are passionate about your beloved county or not.
You can ask if it really matters which county you originate from and I would have to say it does. While your county doesn’t define who you are, it often has an impact on your upbringing. As a Dub, you were probably brought up with the idea that everyone outside the Pale is a culchie. As a Cavan man, you learned the art of being tight with money at a young age. As a Laois native, is Electric Picnic being on your doorstep your only claim to fame?
The bias that some counties are better than others dates back generations where such roots of hierarchy, hatred and everything in between were planted. When was Kerry first attributed the Kingdom? When did Dublin decide they were just better than the rest of the country in every aspect? When did Mayo start believing that they could win Sam someday?
You would have to feel sorry for counties that don’t have much going for them. Your heart would break for those poor souls having an existential crisis because they live on the Galway-Roscommon border and still claim to be from Galway. Or worse, can you imagine being on the Sligo-Leitrim border? Which is the best of a bad bunch?
Besides being the home of Maura Higgins, what has Longford got to offer? What happens in Carlow or Offaly after the Ploughing Championships have taken place? I am certain someone from these counties can vouch that they actually have more to offer than first meets the eye. They will defend their county’s honour until death. We find dignity and demand self-respect for our home counties. That’s just the way it is in Ireland. We are proud of our place of origin, be it up Malin Head in Donegal or down in Mizen Head in Cork.
There isn’t any real harm in the old established rivalry that comes crashing to the forefront on All-Ireland Sunday between the Cats and the Premier County. Why does it matter that everyone on the Galway border wants to claim county citizenship, and could you blame them? It makes life interesting that the people of Cork divide Ireland into Cork and “Not Cork”. Where would we be if the terrified Dubs didn’t venture into the countryside every now and again, compensating by posting photos in the depths of the Wicklow Mountains in Hunter wellies? Or dramatically posing outside their mobile home on the beach in Wexford? While some counties are undoubtedly more economically and socially progressive than others, they all have something to offer. We must give credit where credit is due and thank Sligo for providing us with Westlife, Derry for giving us Derry Girls and Meath for blessing us with Tayto Park. What state would Ireland be in if we didn’t have an entire theme park dedicated to our renowned pride and joy?
Likewise, when we refer to Limerick as Stab City, we must be aware that, contrary to popular belief, everyone from the county doesn’t actually carry knives. Not all Leitrim men are born and bred farmers. Westmeath might actually have something else to offer besides Niall Horan.
So, whether you’re from wee county Louth, the glorious Hills of Donegal or the outskirts of Dublin, you have a right to be proud of your county and what it means to you. There is evidently a hierarchy between counties and people are always going to think their county is better than yours. I don’t think we will ever end this bias but where’s the harm in a bit of friendly competition providing it doesn’t end in bloodshed on Hill 16?