Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: The rough guide to Cavan and Ulster final day

Fashion parade: Styles may have changed since 2001, but turn up in this natty number on Sunday to see a few heads turn
Fashion parade: Styles may have changed since 2001, but turn up in this natty number on Sunday to see a few heads turn
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

People of Cavan, do not panic - even if it is 18 years since your more flaky supporters were at a county match, the 2001 Ulster final loss to Tyrone.

No doubt they are absolutely deserving of a ticket for this Sunday's provincial decider against Donegal.

We suspect that you are salt of the earth types who hold the GAA together at a local level. Maybe you felt pushed out by ticket prices and the 'disconnect' with the big-wigs in Croke Park.

Either way, here you are back in your numbers to shout and bellow and roar for Cavan and, if things aren't going your way in the closing stages, make a big show of leaving early.

As reward for your ultimate sacrifice this Sunday, we present you with 'The rough guide to Ulster final day'.

Dress code

Cavan wear blue, okay? There should be something you could dig out to match your team. Given how Cavan is renowned for its chic gentlemen and glamorous ladies, there is little chance you might pull a little gold and green number out of the wardrobe and inadvertently end up lending your support to Donegal.

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DO: Try and source a 1991 edition jersey with the 'Cavan Co-Op Mart' sponsor. Achingly hipster.

DON'T: See that bootcut jeans and brown boots look? Aye, that? It's over, man. And it's not coming back unless Paul Galvin says so and Dunnes Stores start stocking it.

Decorum

When it comes to Donegal, this is their eighth Ulster final in nine years. These people know the drill. Just follow their lead.

They are also a peace-loving crew, calmed by their proximity to the coast. Not like you people, who are permanently jumpy through your proximity to, well, Monaghan.

Finally, there will be a man playing a selection of Donegal ditties on his bagpipes. He will finish them with a cheer of 'Up Donegal!' This is Christy Murray of Raphoe. He's harmless.

DO: Ingratiate yourself to Donegal people by sharing congratulatory tales of how you both left the dark days of defensive football behind.

DON'T: Tell Christy Murray where you would relocate his bagpipes.

Travel plans

Most of you will go by 'The Concession Road', also known as 'The Broad Road'. The cute ones - and who from Cavan doesn't like getting called 'sly' as a compliment? - will go by Scotshouse and mingle behind enemy lines in Connolly's pub.

You're at nothing if you are not vomiting out of a mini-bus or van at the bottom of Fermanagh Street with empty bottles rolling out onto the street heralding your arrival.

But if you insist on driving, then a number of freshly-ploughed fields on the outskirts of town will offer to berth your car (they may call it a 'yoke') for €5 or €10, depending on how dumb you look.

DO: Tell everyone within earshot that you parked just at the entrance of the Gerry Arthurs Stand to win adulation.

DON'T: Tell one of the lads at the gates of the field 'See you next week' as you walk past, wallet intact.

Things to see and do:

Local attractions

For a small market town, Clones is dripping with history and attractions.

Get up to Matt Fitzpatrick Square and learn all about the infamous affray there back in the day. Retrace all the familiar spots featured in Pat McCabe's literary masterpiece 'The Butcher Boy'. The Canal Stores are just out the road to Cavan, you have the burial crypt of the McMahon chieftains, and the Hilton Park Garden.

Those seeking more sporting scenes can recline in Barry McGuigan Park, which could be busy with a squad of lads from Letterkenny praising the merits of 'diffin' and back-wheel drive systems.

MUST SEE: As a study of sporting schadenfreude, local soccer team Clones Town play at 'John Delaney Park'.

ALTHOUGH: You're at an Ulster final like. Grab a Bulmers.

Cuisine

Of course, Clones is a renowned foodie heaven with street food concession carts aplenty. Thing is, that street food is specifically Clones street food and the variety comes in whether you want fried onions on your burger or not.

For those of you looking for refinement you can dig into the á la carte menu in The Cuil Darach just before you climb the hill to the famous old sports ground.

Not far from it, the Creighton Hotel has upped its game in the last few years, though it fights a constant battle trying to strike the right tone with a banner proclaiming 'Clones Town welcomes your old punts' on it's railings.

DO: Go for the onions. The heartburn will be murder, but it's totally worth it.

DON'T: Reduce yourself to eating sandwiches out of the boot along the ditch. Live a little.

Seating

Once upon a time, supporters could access a back field just above the hill in Clones. While the pitch was miles away, the price was for nothing - save the laundry bill if you stepped into a fresh cow pat. One wit renamed this field 'The Breffni Stand'.

Happy journeys to all!

Guesting for clubs goes against the foundation GAA is built on

So, that's that then. Jamie Clarke is heading off to play for Neasden Gaels as soon as Armagh's involvement in the All-Ireland series comes to an end.

Reports would hold that Down player Caolan Mooney is also London-bound, and that the Mournemen's Connaire Harrison will also be in the capital of Old Blighty having spent last summer there too.

Clarke, Harrison and Mooney are not the first footballers to have gone to different clubs, and will not be the last. But they do represent the start of a coming trend.

A respected club manager happened to mention to me after the first round of club league games that travel restrictions to America - 'The Donald' not being a fan of ground hurling or indeed any type of hurling - would make London the next desirable location for footballers seeking a summer away from it all.

Perhaps this was already signposted last summer when Eoin Bradley and Ger O'Kane - two former county footballers with Derry - actually lined out in the London Championship with Parnells despite not being based in the capital.

Matter of fact, Bradley turned out in a game of Irish League soccer for Coleraine two days after playing in the London Championship.

So, what could be the attraction of playing for a club that, realistically, you had never heard of up until an approach had been made?

Being critical of players who want to continue playing Gaelic games while not living in Ireland can display a meanness of spirit.

Seeking employment opportunities in a city as vibrant as London has to be tremendously exciting and your sporting ambitions should fit around that.

However, the trend of players jetting into London to guest for a club makes a mockery of the very foundation stone of the GAA; the value of place and your locality.

This leaves us to ask, is it worth it? And why?

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