Sing a Journey song for Ireland’s hurlers

Posted by on March 17, 2011 in Ireland, Irish culture

As you would expect, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is especially feverish in Ireland. Hurling fans even get their own treat as Ireland’s famous stadium, Croke Park, is hosting the All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship today.

HURLING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Martin Comerford, here in action against Mark McFadden of Loughgiel during their recent All-Ireland semi-final, has been crucial to O'Loughlin Gaels' march to today's Croke Park showdown with Clarinbridge. CLICK THE IMAGE TO VISIT THE IRISH INDEPENDENT PREVIEW ARTICLE.

This championship is between club teams — that is, the local-est of local amateur teams — from two of the four Irish provinces.  To explain this in more American terms, it would be like having the two best post-college age softball teams in America,  say — the Council Bluffs, Iowa, team vs. the York, Pa., team — play in a national title game, after they have already eliminated all the other post-college age softball teams in America.

Whoever wins today’s match (which, given the time zone difference, may have already been played) is sure to spark a few more raised drinks on this St. Patty’s Day.

Such celebrations often go hand-in-hand with a pub-wide singing of the unofficial song for each county division of the Gaelic Athletic Association, the governing body of hurling. For the Irish, these songs are source of community pride, often expounding on the greatness of their region, and although certain songs fade in and out of popularity, most are familiar enough to sing from memory.

If you’re looking for a few to sing at the pub tonight, try these:

Though sung here by Mary Duff, it’s not hard to image a rowdy group of drinkers clanking their glasses as each chorus of “Beautiful Meath” comes up:

Here’s one made popular for Wexford’s run in the 1990s:

But by far, the most curious pub song to gain national attention is Ireland is one by Journey, San Francisco’s mega-rockers. Inexplicably, the song became attached to Waterford’s County hurlers.

It even spawned a Waterford-specific spoof featuring a muppet:

With all this love of Journey washing through Ireland, I turned to my Irish friend, Paddy Sullivan, for an explanation. Here is what he said:

“I’m not sure if you’d be familiar with the popularity of that particular tune in Ireland. ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ went to No. 1 immediately after the final episode of ‘The Sopranos.’ Not only that, but it remained in the charts for the best part of a year. Always a handy tune for a nightclub DJ to finish up on if he doesn’t normally play the national anthem. By that stage in the evening, everyone is drunk enough to sing along loudly.

“Fast forward two or three years, Clare’s talisman goalkeeper Davy “The Sparrow” Fitzgerald retires. A hero in his county, he was a key part of a team that won Clare’s first All-Ireland in 80 years and scoring a penalty in either the semis or All-Ireland final as a goalkeeper. (He then) starts training the Waterford team practically the same year (with the) same passion and drive as he had as a player.

“The devoted Deise (a nickname for Waterford) crowd take him into their hearts. The last three years with Davy, Waterford have been as good as they’ve been in the last 10 or 15. Munster finals and hard fought All-Ireland Semis, even though they did lose by 20 points to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland of 2008. A virtual cricket score in hurling.

“Davy Fitzgerald’s mantra to the fans throughout his time has been to ‘Don’t stop believing’ and it can often be seen on banners in the crowd at games!”

Who would have thought that 80s rockers Journey, by way of “The Sopranos” could have such an effect on hurling?

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