The good, the bad and the ugly fans

Weird Wide World of Sport

Dave Devereux

Shelbourne supporters setting off flares at Ferrycarrig Park on Friday evening
Shelbourne supporters setting off flares at Ferrycarrig Park on Friday evening
Republic of Ireland fans have shown time and time again that they know how to behave and enjoy the big tournaments

What does it mean to be a supporter?

I'm talking about a real fan, not one of those barstool supporters of some English franchise that bleats on as if they're born and bred Mancunians, Liverpudlians or Londoners.

I've never truly been able to understand the 'us' and 'we' brigade that bow down to the altar of the Premier League and pledge undying allegiance to some club across the water, claiming to be dyed-in-the-wool pilgrims of a far-flung billionaire's plaything, and to be honest I'm not really interested in trying to fathom that mindset.

I'm more intrigued by what motivates somebody to trudge along to their local League of Ireland ground on a damp and cold Friday evening to watch a less glamorous style of football or makes a long and winding journey to some God-forsaken GAA pitch in a rarely-frequented backwater.

However, I've witnessed a couple of incidents recently that made me question the thinking of fans.

The word supporter would suggest that's exactly what they're there to do, to get behind their team through thick and thin, good times and bad.

Often that description couldn't be further from the truth.

Take a small section of Shelbourne 'supporters' that travelled from the capital to Ferrycarrig Park on Friday evening to watch their team take on Wexford F.C. for example.

They rambled into the ground shortly before half-time and proceeded to hurl disgraceful abuse at referee Paula Brady, then set off flares in the stand, before throwing some of them on to the side of the pitch.

A handful of these 'fans' weren't even bothered looking at the match, instead choosing to busy themselves by filming their comrades in arms as they got up to their playful shenanigans.

Then to top off their wonderful evening of entertainment, their final juvenile act before leaving the ground under a cloud, was to direct a vitriolic tirade of abuse at their own players.

These boys are the antithesis of what a supporter should be. Mercifully I was working and wasn't one of the parents in the crowd that brought the kids along to experience some live sporting action.

It's difficult enough to get bums on seats for League of Ireland games without neanderthals like that ruining it for everybody else.

The previous week Waterford F.C. supporters had rolled into town with the swagger and bravado of followers of a team on the rise, but with a sudden surge in support it's obvious that plenty are just jumping on the bandwagon.

It's not that being wowed by the promise of success is always a bad thing, it's just when those with a recently-discovered love for a club or county team talk and act like they were one of the founding members that it grates a little.

There's nothing wrong with seeing a swell in support when a team is enjoying good times, like the increased interest in Wicklow football when Micko was at the helm, or Wexford fans dusting off the purple and gold garments and getting back on the road now the Davy Fitz show is in town.

Having said that even if the Dublin hurlers somehow managed to win an All-Ireland they still couldn't garner the same sort of devotion from fans that is lavished upon their footballers, who have taken on an almost God-like status in the capital among followers of the Boys in Blue.

I started this article by asking, what does it mean to be a supporter?

I mightn't be much closer to answering that, but I certainly know what they shouldn't be.

Definitely don't bring shame on your club with thuggish behaviour and never insult the players that are trying their best for the team, and if you've recently found a new sporting shrine to attend or side to worship don't try to hide your fledgling status.

Now excuse me, I've to shoot off. I think I hear a shiny new bandwagon pulling up outside.

I'd better hop on quick-smart and I can always cower away and disembark under the cover of darkness when it shudders to a grinding halt.

Wexford People