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Saturday 20 July 2019

Clash of the ash: Cat mum and Yellow Belly son can't watch match together

Leinster Hurling Final countdown: It's two years since Wexford contested the provincial final, and 15 years since the county last tasted Leinster victory. The dramatic draw with the Cats at Innovate Wexford Park set up the mouthwatering prospect of this Sunday's Wexford v Kilkenny Leinster Final clash at Croke Park and anticipation is high as the purple and gold hordes get ready to descend on the capital. Our reporters have been soaking up the pre-match atmosphere...

Ciarán and Betty Moran of the Theatre Tavern in New Ross showing some friendly rivalry ahead of the big match
Ciarán and Betty Moran of the Theatre Tavern in New Ross showing some friendly rivalry ahead of the big match

David Looby

This Sunday Betty Moran and her son Ciarán will be shouting at the top of their voices at the telly - but for different teams.

The fact that they both work in the same pub, the Theatre Tavern in New Ross, means there will be no escaping the drama once the ball is thrown in at 4 p.m. in Croke Park.

Betty was one of 16 children born into a hurling mad Mullinavat home, less than 12km from the Co Wexford border.

Three of her brothers hurled for the local GAA club, Tommy having the distinction of going on to play with the Kilkenny minor hurlers.

Sitting in her pub on South Street, with a framed picture of the Kilkenny four in a row team behind her in amongst a neat assortment of strong spirits, she said being a Kilkenny woman in a pub filled with Wexford supporters always makes for a memorable match day.

'It'd be 90 per cent Wexford to 10 per cent Kilkenny which makes for great banter on match days, but it's all good fun.'

She was 40 years in Co Wexford on May 22 having moved here from Co Kilkenny with her husband John.

They took over the pub from John's brother Ger shortly after crossing the county dividing line and over the years Betty has enjoyed many memorable days watching her beloved Cats win thrilling encounters, many of which were against the men in Purple and Gold.

Like most girls growing up in the Sixties, Betty was never allowed near a hurl, but hurling ran through her veins and she has never missed a Kilkenny match.

Ciarán shares his mother's love of hurling, but has never been spotted cheering on her beloved Cats.

'He shouts for Tipperary whenever Kilkenny play them,' Betty says, ribbing him. 'I went to school in Rockwell,' Ciarán replies, before settling it once and for all that his only allegiance is to the Wexford hurlers.

Ciarán spent many years living in Dublin and attended Wexford matches every chance he got. 'I was there in 1996. I got a Guinness ticket and was up in the Cusack Stand.'

When asked if she was there, by his side, supporting her son's team in a Wexford jersey, Betty's face blanched, as she said: 'I'd never wear a Wexford jersey!'

Saying that she did concede that Wexford is her second favourite team and its county's native customers are always welcome through he doors. 'If it was the other way around Wexford fans wouldn't shot for Kilkenny, except for last year against Galway but that must've been a province thing. I have made a great life in Wexford and love it here.'

On match days the two can't be within shouting distance of one another.

'I go upstairs,' Ciarán says with a cheeky grin. 'And I come down to watch it here,' Betty shoots back with a smile.

She is always grateful of barwoman Louise Chapman who directs her to a chair to 'enjoy' Kilkenny playing, while she keeps the frothy pints flowing. After the ball is thrown in Betty remains on the edge of her seat until the final whistle is blown, with Ciarán in a similar state of excitement upstairs.

When the hot topic of who is going to win on Sunday is raised, (by me), Betty sits bolt upright on the high stool and, with the hand of history on her shoulder, declares: 'I think it's very hard to beat Kilkenny in Croke Park,' which Ciarán half-acknowledges with a respectful sigh as if he'd heard the phrase a thousand times before.

He remains optimistic, though, that Davy Fitz's men can triumph over an inconsistent Kilkenny side.

Over the years Betty has seen many finer Kilkenny teams take to the green of Croke Park in a Leinster final and has often been one of the lone voices cheering them on from the pub floor.

'I don't get to the matches because I'm here working. I find it hard to relax. I think this team is coming and Brian Cody is the man to get them to reach their potential.'

It has only been four years since Betty and all Kilkenny supporters tasted victory in an All Ireland final and she is hopeful, if not convinced, that they can do it again this year in a wide open climax to the championship.

Ciarán, on the other hand, is just hoping anyone but Kilkenny wins, but his heart says Wexford.

Betty said: 'When I wake up on an All Ireland morning I just so look forward to Kilkenny playing. It's always disappointing when they don't make a final, or win it!'

When asked to list her most memorable days in the pub, the first that springs to mind was the arrival of Kilkenny players with a cup.

'We had the Kilkenny Cup here,' she says, before going a deep shade of red.

'I mean the Liam McCarthy Cup!!'

Wexford People

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