Belfast Telegraph

World Cup: The Irish pub wild about Harry and Three Lions

By Ivan Little

The west was awake to a new battle cry in Connemara last night as residents of a staunchly nationalist village backed a "Brits IN" call - hoping that England wouldn't be knocked out of the World Cup.

The people of Letterfrack (population 250) have been spurning their old loyalties of late to roar on the Three Lions and last night they were at it again as England lost to Croatia in the World Cup semi- final after extra-time.

The villagers' conversion to the English cause hasn't been born out of love for their traditional enemy, but rather it's down to the fact that they're wild about Harry - Harry Kane, the England skipper, who has Connemara blood in him.

And tipplers in one pub in Letterfrack are Harry's biggest fans because they've had free drink every time their old boy has been able to find the net in Russia.

The deadly marksman's goalscoring exploits have already cost the owner of Molly's Bar a small fortune as she's rolled out the barrels for fans of Letterfrack's most illustrious sporting son, who once let Martin O'Neill know that he'd be interested in playing for the Republic before England beat them to the punch.

Molly's rather aptly named boss, Sally Lyons, whose pub has a giant tricolour flying outside, hasn't minded at all about the hefty bill for her generosity.

"Harry is one of our own," said Sally.

"His grandad Michael John was from Letterfrack. He went to live in London in the 50s. Harry still has relatives here and we are all proud of the connection." She and husband Gerry have given away seven rounds of free booze since the World Cup kicked off last month - one for every Kane goal and shootout penalty.

"To be honest, we didn't think England would have stayed so long in the World Cup. We could be out of business by the weekend," laughed the Lyons' son Damien.

Last night I tried to hop on the beer bandwagon as I joined the thirsty throngs in the cosy bar to see if Harry could score a pint or two for me too

It was an offer that no self-respecting freeloader like me could pass up, even if the words "Come on England" could never - and will never - pass this Northern Ireland fan's lips.

But a free pint most definitely could.

However, even so, sitting in a pub in Co Galway listening to stout-hearted Irishmen rooting for the old enemy was a most decidedly odd twist on the traditional patriot's game.

Eight years ago, during World Cup 2010, I trawled the bars of the Shankill Road in Belfast researching a story about support for England and couldn't find anyone who wanted them to win

On the Falls, too, it was anybody BUT England.

In Letterfrack last night, a photo of a stern-faced Michael Collins looked down from the wall at the unfolding of the sort of Anglo Irish treaty that he could never have envisaged.

Treason was maybe too strong a word for what was playing out in possibly the only bar in the Republic to cheer on Gareth Southgate's men, but it still felt like a mutiny against the norms, a Kane mutiny perhaps.

In Molly's, GAA usually rules the roost.

The county's shirts are all over the place beside English Premier League football tops, including a Tottenham Hotspur number 10 jersey donated by Kane, who is no stranger to Letterfrack in real life as well as on the telly.

His last visit, however, was a sad one five years ago when he travelled over to bury his grandfather in a local graveyard.

In Molly's last night a number of natural-born England fans, from England, were in the bar to watch the game on television.

Quentin Bryar, from Ealing, west London, who was wearing his England top, had driven from his holiday accommodation in Claremorris with wife Siobhan to find like-minded England fans in what people are now calling Kane country.

Harry's cousins Liz and Yvonne Kane are top Irish traditional musicians who have recorded albums.

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