Why We Should All Go Mad for Ireland

Get Conversational
By Get Conversational February 22, 2015 17:08

Why We Should All Go Mad for Ireland

Leprechauns and rainbows, pots of gold, ancient saints and the black stuff – it appears that Ireland has something for everyone.

Here are a few things you can’t help but love about the Emerald Isle.

Music

The music of Ireland is celebrated around the world. Kick up your heels to the beat of the tribal Bodhan drummers at a ceili or stamp your feet in time to Christy Moore’s modern twist on traditional folk. And, of course, we can’t forget the global domination of Irish rockers U2.

But let’s face it. There’s only really one name that matters in the world of Irish music. Jedward.

Those identical twins, who first offended our ear drums when they appeared on X Factor in 2009, are massive in Ireland and a few other countries to boot.

They’ve just announced a bid to sing for Australia in the upcoming Eurovision Contest. Not as odd as it sounds: in 2011 their Eurovision offering for Ireland, Lipstick, topped an Aussie poll to find that year’s favourite entries.

The boys have released three albums, nine singles and represented their homeland twice at Eurovision. They are also successful television presenters and have, so far, amassed an estimated 6 million Euro fortune.

History

Every year on March 17 the world goes a bit barmy. Wherever you happen to be on the planet, if you’re Irish or simply Irish-at-heart you’ll be celebrating St Patrick’s Day.

It started off as a religious feast day for Ireland’s patron saint, but these days there’s precious little praying. There is, however, an abundance of dancing, a lot of drinking and far, far too much green as folk around the world celebrate all things Irish.

By Bluebells 2008

The biggest parades are in Dublin, of course, and New York. Montreal, Boston and London also host huge events but there are some unusual places around the globe to go for the craic.

Tokyo has held a parade since 1992 and in Buenos Aires some 50,000 people cram into one street and the few Irish pubs along it. They even celebrate on the International Space Station with traditional Celtic music.

For the record, the shortest St Patrick’s Day parade takes place in a place called Dripsey in Cork. It lasts a mere 100 yards – the distance between the two village pubs.

Sport

Ireland’s sporting prowess on the world stage is patchy at best.

But their shock triumph against the West Indies in the first stage of the 2015 Cricket World Cup had us all splurting out our morning cereal as we learned of their 4-wicket win on the other side of the world.

Ireland has World Cup form. They beat Pakistan in their first World Cup in 2007 and triumphed over in England in 2011.

But it’s on home turf that Irish sports truly come into play

You’ve never seen anything like a Gaelic football match. You’ll recognise the game in that there are two teams and it’s played on a pitch.

But the similarities end there. It’s a bit like rugby. Or volleyball. Or basketball.

And then there’s hurling. It’s been around for 3,000 years but is so fast and dangerous many people outside of Ireland use it as evidence that the nation is quite mad.

By Alan O’Rourke

It’s basically a ball and a stick game. But the stick is solid Ash and the players use it lob the concrete-hard leather ball at each other at speeds of up to 100 mph.

It’s got elements of lacrosse, field hockey and baseball and it’s a highly-skilled game played only by amateurs. That’s right. They do it for the love of the sport and the honour of representing their county in the All-Ireland championship.

Irish people are passionate about their Gaelic games – the 2014 season saw 1.5 million people through the turnstiles.

It’s the talk of the pubs and the betting shops and the rivalry between counties is akin to a mafia turf war. It’s unpatriotic not to support your county team.

Drink

Let’s doff our caps to the great Arthur Guinness and his invention of Ireland’s greatest export.

We’ve been downing the black stuff for more than 250 years and it feels like we’ve been enduring those incomprehensible adverts for just as long.

Guinness is now brewed in 60 countries and available in 120. That’s practically everywhere, then.

And 40 per cent of all Guinness is sold in Africa!

In Ireland, if you walk into a bar and ask for a pint of plain, the best, the good stuff or even just hold your forefinger in the air, the barman (if he’s any good) will know you fancy a Guinness.

But he won’t just serve up a draught Guinness any old how. It’s got to be in the right pint glass (tulip-shaped) and at the right temperature (6 degrees C).

At the start of the pour, the barman has to hold the glass under the tap at a 45 degree angle. It’s filled ¾ full through a special disc at the end of the tap that creates the all-important nitrogen bubbles which form the signature creamy head.

After allowing the first pour to settle, the barman can fill the rest of the glass to a slight dome at the top. This should take 119.5 seconds.

Now you know.

Dance

Ever had a few too many at some distant cousin’s wedding? That time when The Corrs came on the disco and you started flinging your legs around with your arms pinioned to your sides? That’s Irish dancing, that is.

Actually, it’s really, really not. Irish dancing is incredibly difficult and complex.

Irish dance champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley made it cool in 1994 when Riverdance performed at the Dublin-hosted Eurovision song contest.

It was just a seven-minute interval performance. Something to keep the audience entertained while the world cast their votes to ensure the most deserving country won and that the result was not skewed by petty political bias.

The performance was spectacular and was quickly developed into a full length theatrical stage show which became a world-wide phenomenon.

By the end of 1996, just over a year after the curtain was raised on the first show, 1.3 million people had seen it.

Riverdance began a farewell tour after 15 years of performing all over the world. And in 2014 it launched its 20th anniversary tour.

That was a long goodbye then.

Television

Channel 4 has come under fire recently for its commissioning of a new sit-com based around the Irish Famine.

To be called “Hungry”, the show is described as a kind of Shameless set in famine-struck Ireland when more than a million people died of starvation and another million fled the country.

Critics are wondering:  “What’s so funny about that?”

But Channel 4 doesn’t always get it wrong. Remember Father Ted?

It told the tale of three priests and one housekeeper living on a small, rain-swept island off the west coast of Ireland.

And it was really, really funny.

It ran for three series between 1995 and 1998 and it was a huge critical success earning several BAFTAs and topping a Channel 4 poll in 2012 of the top 30 best C4 comedy programmes.

Its star shone brightly but briefly. Just one day after shooting ended for the third series, Dermot Morgan, who starred in the title role, died of a heart attack aged just 45.

But the show lives on in the hearts of its legions of fans who still flock to “Craggy Island” (aka Inis Mor) for the annual Ted Fest.

Events are based around classic episodes so there are football matches, a lovely girl contest and crazy golf. There are various quiz nights and the Toilet Duck Awards.

If this means nothing to you, head to Channel 4 OnDemand and educate yourself. ENDS

Get Conversational
By Get Conversational February 22, 2015 17:08
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