Sundireland: hands across the sea

Alsmag
The new edition of A Love Supreme is not only packed with great reading for traditional Sunderland fans.

It comes, as the editorial proclaims, “drenched in Guinness” and is a must for all our Irish supporters, whether their allegiance is long established or has been inspired more recently by the Quinn/Keane/Drumaville transformation. As many will have seen from the t-shirts, ALS wordsmiths have come up with Sundireland to encapsulate that phenomenon.

My copy arrived here in France as fellow SAFC supporters were heading for Galway, where the Irish pre-season tour ended with the sort of result against limited opposition – 4-0 – that you would expect, even allowing for the unreal ambiance of friendlies that have more to do with the need to build up fitness than scorelines.

Good to see Michael Chopra grabbing a goal, though and even better to hear rumours this morning that his partner upfront could turn out to be none other than Mido, who passes the “proven Premiership” test and is an effective, defence-worrying attacker on his day.

In my own little contribution to ALS Issue 159, I return to the theme of that Irish support, looking at past as well as present displays of affection from Ireland, north and south, towards SAFC.

And I also deal with the less chummy offshoots of that relationship: the Irish ultras who resent fellow countrymen and women who have chosen to follow Sunderland or, indeed, any English club, and their equivalents on our side of the Irish Sea.

If the subject interests you, you will find a short extract from my article on the continuation page. And you will come across plenty of Irish views of all kinds in the lively chatroom of the eleven-a-side site. The site also devotes a lot of space to Sunderland coverage, reflecting the surge of interest in our club.

Read on for the extract from my ALS article and then buy the magazine………

Among the Irish fans themselves, opinion differs sharply. Some admit their support for us is due to Keane’s presence, a number resent Irish money being pumped into English football and others vow to keep the new-found faith come what may.
On the Irish football blog, http://www.eleven-a-side.com/blogs/, I came across one reply saying: ” As a Keano worshiper, my allegiance to Sunderland would end swifly enough if he moved on.”
Strangely enough, that didn’t bother me too much. One individual, however inspirational, who isn’t even a player any longer seems a sad reason for supporting a football club, no matter which one. But I know Ireland well enough to be aware of the culture of having two or more teams to follow.
The response that worried me more was this one, answering points made by a couple of our new friends: “Keep your barstools warm and don’t forget Manchester and Sunderland are in England . I’d love to see either of these ‘fans’ walk about in a Green shirt after dark in those towns where the so called fans are.”
There is an obvious reply, that for every drunken or psychopathic dimwit in Sunderland who would see an Irish top as justification for committing GBH on its wearer, there is probably another in Belfast or Derry, Dublin or Limerick who would want to hammer a Mackem for being too loud or too English. But in either case, we are talking about a tiny if vicious minority.
Most Irish supporters now coming to Sunderland seem to get a great deal from the experience, and from meeting our fans, just as English people are mostly welcomed in their country.

Anyone following the Irish tour via the excellent reports on Salut! Sunderland of Pete Sixsmith – another should appear soon from Galway – will know that the vast majority of our travelling supporters will return from Ireland with the happiest of memories. They’ll be only too keen to reciprocate the griendship shown to them when they bump into Irish fans attending our games in the season to come.

And now, roll on Juventus. That win at Galway must have ’em quaking in their boots.

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