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GAA fans flock to Irish bar in Portugal to follow championship highs and lows

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Action from the Cork vs. Dublin hurling match on Sunday.
Action from the Cork vs. Dublin hurling match on Sunday.

There's a Limerick man with the best Irish pub in the Portuguese resort of Alvor, a Limerick man cute enough to be from Kerry.

Not alone does Pat Hickey welcome his guests to his Algarve bar with a ready smile and a hearty welcome, he knows his audience.

The summer holidays mean a break from the routine – for my regular reader and for me – but there are just some things you can’t go without for a sun drenched fortnight in August. And live GAA is one of them.

Two Saturdays ago the brother-in-law -- he’s from Cork -- and myself popped into Hickey’s in Alvor to watch the live TV fare in the All-Ireland football quarterfinals.

After a few minutes of Kerry’s near collapse against Cavan, we were able to marvel at Dublin’s win over Cork. Or at least, I did.

The brother-in-law was a bit more subdued even if he did predict Conor Counihan’s resignation as Cork boss before the words were out of his mouth on the screen in front of us.

We were back in Hickey’s the following night in time for The Sunday Game and Dessie Cahill’s latest tie.

Aside from balking at motormouth Joe Brolly’s latest verbal attack on a Tyrone player, one that has caused much angst since, we were able to witness the highlights of Mayo’s incredible win over the All-Ireland champions Donegal.

And last Sunday, we decided familiarity breeds contentment and went to Hickey’s again to see a Cork result of an entirely different nature.

Once again, the bar was thronged with GAA fans happy to wear their hearts on their sleeves and their county colors on their backs as the outside temperate dared to hit the hundred.

Pat and his staff were as genial as ever – and as cute.

Notwithstanding the fact that he’s from Limerick, now favorites to win the hurling All-Ireland, Pat is respectful of the chances of all teams in action on the big screens in his bar.

For the past fortnight, he has offered a homely welcome to fans from Kerry and Cavan, Dublin and Cork, Tyrone and Monaghan, Donegal and Mayo and, last Sunday, Cork and Dublin again.

In the whole, they have been rewarded with fare worthy of the effort to leave the sunbed and the pool and make the trip to an Irish bar in a Portuguese haven.

Dublin’s footballers – and I say this as a blow-in Meath fan – still look the most likely All-Ireland winners for me, even from behind my sunglasses.

Jim Gavin’s team have a swagger about them that has blown Meath and Cork aside in recent weeks, and they also have the one quality that Mayo lack – Sam Maguire experience.

Good and all as Mayo were against Donegal – and they were very good – the suspicion remains that they have yet to be tested this season, as does the worry that Mayo, waiting so long for an All-Ireland title, will bottle it again when they get to the September decider and Croke Park.

I do believe they will play Dublin in the final. Kerry could have lost to Cavan and will lose to Dublin. Tyrone are so cynical these days that the Gods of fair play will surely see them fail against the Mayo machine in the semis.

As for the hurling, we will have one semi to go and it really is anyone’s title for the taking as Cork, Clare and Limerick remain in contention.

The happy Cork fans sang into the night in Hickey’s on Sunday and rightly so.

They were the underdogs, believe it or not, against Dublin that afternoon, and the decision to send Ryan O’Dwyer off did have an adverse effect on his team’s chances.

That his first yellow was unfair was apparent even hundreds of miles away and on a television screen, but Cork still deserved to win on the day.

They were cuter than their opponents, more streetwise when it really mattered and truth is, the Cork players won’t care who they play in the final.

They’ve already beaten Clare in the championship this season, and they didn’t lose badly enough to Limerick in the Munster final to live in fear of them second time around.

The Cork fans we met last Sunday will still be singing on the second Sunday in September -- win, lose or draw.

And I would love to be in Hickey’s this Sunday when Pat’s native Limerick take on their local rivals Clare for the right to play in the all-Munster All-Ireland final.

Pat was playing his hurling cards close to his chest again before we left Portugal on Tuesday.  He’s happy to talk up Clare and happy to talk up Limerick, like all good bar owners.

And he knows he’s onto a winner this weekend, either way. His pub will be packed with GAA fans all day Sunday.

We may leave Ireland for the guaranteed sunshine in foreign parts at this time of year, but it is very hard to leave the lure of the championship behind.

The hurlers of Dublin and Cork and the footballers of Dublin and Mayo proved that in the last two weeks, and I can only thank them for the entertainment they provided.

I also have to thank God for television – and Irish bars! We need both, even in the summer sunshine.

Limerick will win this Sunday by the way. And Pat Hickey will still talk both Limerick and Cork up ahead of their rematch on Jones Road next month, Such are the ways of the world.

(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)

Sideline Views
SOCCER: Glenn Whelan will win his 50th cap for Ireland in Wales this week, but even that doesn’t excuse his description of the game as highly important. It’s nothing of the sort. This is a Mickey Mouse game ignored by many of the quality players in both sides, Gareth Bale included. The highly important games are next month’s double header home to Sweden and away to Austria where the current inadequacies of the Trapattoni era will be exposed for all to see with a swift end to our World Cup dream. The Wales game is nothing more than a nice little earner for the FAI and a chance for Trapattoni to see his players in the flesh rather than on DVD.

GOLF: Nice to see Rory McIlroy back on form with a 70 at Oak Hill on Sunday, but it was better again to see him annoyed with himself despite a top 10 finish in his defense of the USPGA title. Rory has set himself very high standards in recent years, so his display of anger after what many would have accepted as a decent end result in a major can only be seen as a bonus. He may well satisfy even his own high standards in the forthcoming FedEx series.

SOCCER: James McClean has been rightly praised for having the foresight to accept a move to Championship side Wigan this week despite having to take a drop on his Premier League wages at Sunderland. Let’s hope this is a sign of some new found maturity from the Derry youngster who has been known to put his foot in it more than once in the recent past.

SOCCER: Celtic and Liverpool finally succeeded where the Irish team has failed and filled the new Aviva Stadium for a soccer match on Saturday when over 62,000 fans saw Neil Lennon’s team win the Dublin Decider 1-0. If anyone knows why this game was billed the Dublin Decider by the way, could they please let me know!

SOCCER: Nice line from my Sun colleague Neil O’Riordan on Twitter the other day after Gareth Bale withdrew from the friendly against Ireland. Neil cleverly linked the words Ireland, Bale and Out and suggested it’s not the first time we’ve read such a headline recently. Indeed it’s not.

HERO OF THE WEEK
PATRICK Horgan had to appeal his Munster final red card against Limerick in order to play against Dublin in last Sunday’s gripping All-Ireland semifinal, and it’s a good job he did. The Cork full-forward didn’t just score the decisive goal five minutes from time, he also lit up the stadium every time he got the ball in what was a pulsating match.

IDIOT OF THE WEEK
GIOVANNI Trapattoni decided this week that Paddy Madden of Yeovil Town is a better international prospect than Kevin Doyle, the same Kevin Doyle who rescued his ass from the bacon slicer in Kazakhstan last September. This is the same Trap who thinks Conor Sammon is an international striker. The sooner he’s gone the better – and I don’t think we have long to wait.

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