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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.

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