The Loneliness of the Long Distance Connacht Fan – Part I


Resident BTL Weshtie Droptheclaw gives us the first of a three-part insight into his own patented brand of masochism

There’s an expression in Irish that goes: An bhfuil béal bocht agatsa? Literally, Have you got the poor mouth on you?

It’s a saying that is still commonly used in Ireland and particularly in Irish-speaking areas. It refers to someone who, as a means of getting extra sympathy (and possibly currying favour as a result), colourfully describes the direness of their situation.

The Béal Bocht has traditionally been the bread and butter of the average Connacht Rugby fan.

The average Connacht Rugby fan

The average Connacht Rugby fan

And this is not entirely without merit. Perched precipitously on the western fringe of Europe, An Chúige Connachta (literally the fifth, or province, of Connacht) provides in abundance all the classic ingredients for the downtrodden story, starting with a history of glorious failure on the battlefield.

From the circa 1st Century A.D. Táin Bó Cúailnge – Cattle Raid of Cooley – where Ulster’s Cú Chulainn put hundreds of Connacht warriors to the sword –

Cú Chulainn wouldn't have looked out of place playing Super 15 rugby alongside O'Beiber

With this hair, Cú Chulainn wouldn’t have looked out of place playing alongside O’Beiber

– to The Battle of Aughrim, where a cannonball to the head of French General Charles Chalmont turned the tide of the day and Irish Jacobite forces were routed from the field by Godert de Ginkell’s men.

French General Charles Chalmont's nemesis alongside a

French General Charles Chalmont’s nemesis alongside a 17th century Irish forerunner of today’s tape measure

The population of Connacht is smaller, much smaller than the other provinces – from a high of nearly 1.5 million in 1841, the former kingdom’s population dropped to a low of just under 400,000 in 1971, famine and waves of emigration taking a vast toll on the people.

And to cap off this cheery picture, it rains in Connacht. From Rosses Point to Kinvara and Westport to Carrigallen, the sepulchral clouds feel never more than twenty feet above the head, delivering the bad news in water, and by the bucket: 175 days a year you can expect to get soaked.

op·ti·mism ( p t -m z m). n. 1. A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation:

Dictionary definition: Op·ti·mism ( p t -m z m). n. 1. A Connacht picnic

So what does anyone in their right mind – in a land steeped in historic defeat, with – forget zero! – a minus population growth, where the regional costume is a mac and Wellies – what do they do?

For their sins, they scorn history, the scant personnel resources and the water up to their waists, and take out Connacht Rugby membership.

More of which next time.

Manuscript received from Droptheclaw, wrung out, and dried in front of a heater

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548 Responses to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Connacht Fan – Part I

  1. Shibui says:

    Given how much Lamont has been shunted around the backline, and the fact that his game extends to smashing people and not much more, I’d be surprised if he had become the kind of player who able to bring cohesion where there had only been confusion. As to motivation it’s harder to say.

    I’m with Chek that Scotland will take a season or two to fully realise their potential- young guys need to feel confident playing together and hit their best form, and cut out the inevitable mistakes, and the last of the makeweights need to be eased out.

    Dean Ryan has said he intends to leave at the end of the 6N, but perhaps like Andy Farrell he can be prevailed upon to stay. However, an incoming coach will probably want to make his own appointments. Whoever eventually emerges should hold on to the present defence coach, for sure!

  2. titimanionga says:

    Cro- I bet he’d be handy chasing a sliotar too with that background!

  3. Shibui says:

    Oh, and thank you to claw for a yet another piece of fine writing ATL. All the very best for the new/old new-old job, and never forget how much you have to give to the world and what you’re here for.

  4. titimanionga says:

    Thanks, Shib, much appreciate that. And I will indeed; it’s a good anchor to have. As is here, funnily enough. Night all.

  5. Realdon says:

    Long-time lurker here, first time poster. Followed the Guardian BTL for many years (back when the Chich was Alex1981 or some such). Thank you to Dermott, Sag, et al. for setting this place up. It is wonderful, but haven’t posted before, as I’m rarely able to get through all the comments, what with having a proper job and all that*

    *sniffs superiorly

    3 quick points

    – Claw: love the wistful ATL.
    – Thaum: “we have a team of ageing players…” would have earned a robust Aul Hanning not that long ago
    – Re. Dr. Roberts and house jobs. The new regulations from the GMC regarding doctors’ revalidation are quite involved (good reasoning, but poor execution IMHO) and I think it would be very difficult for JR to not work for more than a few months and sustain his license. I think he may face a stark choice. His options are probably to put medicine on hold, but accept that he will have to undergo a re-training period before he starts work as a doctor, or give up rugby and start medical practice straight away.

  6. avsfan says:

    Realdon – welcome mate. Alex1981 – that was way back in the day.

    It is wonderful, but haven’t posted before, as I’m rarely able to get through all the comments, what with having a proper job and all that

    Just do what everyone else does and leap in anyway. Informed and balanced opinion has no place here. Just ask killer. Or any of the Scottish lads – they’re all mad as hatters, always gabbering of blood and insurrection.

  7. avsfan says:

    Jimmy Gopperth to the Lady Boys next season.

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