Liverpool v Dunmanway, September 2009

March 22, 2010

Dunmanway savour their day in the limelight

OUR first sighting of a Liverpool jersey yesterday on the road to Dunmanway was somewhere
between Ballineen and Enniskeane, a few miles from our destination.

It was a brand-new number with TORRES writ large across the shoulders – an important point, because later on we saw an array of jerseys that covered every era in the long history of the Merseyside club. If you could have stood someone in a representative jersey from each year – never mind decade – shoulder to shoulder it would have been a stunning panoply of the changing fashions in modern sport.

Or an illustration of the ascent of man, a Manchester United fan might

(Apologies for the lack of precision with the location of the sighting itself, Ballineen and Enniskeane are conflated in this writer’s mind like Buda and Pest: where does one end and the other start?)

All of this by way of an introduction to the slightly surreal game in Dunmanway yesterday between the local soccer team and Liverpool.

What was the most unusual aspect of the day – the neat-as-a-pin little stadium constructed for the day in the grounds of Maria Immaculata Community College on the outskirts of the west Cork town, or the thousands of supporters trooping along happily to the said stadium, most of them in red?

Or was it simply the fact that Liverpool FC were in town to begin with?

Our only real quibble with yesterday’s game was that the famous red jerseys weren’t worn by the visiting side, but round about the 2 o’clock mark it happened nonetheless: a side representing one of the great names in world soccer – hell, world sport – took to the field to play Dunmanway Town FC.

It wasn’t the Liverpool first team, or maybe even the second team; Kriztian Nemeth was the biggest name on show, and Mr Nemeth would hardly consider himself a household name even in his own household.

Still, it was Liverpool. The game itself yielded only one goal, a superb free-kick tucked away by Daniel Pacheco of Liverpool, but Dunmanway didn’t cower before the liver bird. Michael Mulconroy bustled in midfield but it was bustle with an elegant edge, and twice in the first half Dunmanway put free headers wide.

Liverpool’s fitness, as befits a professional outfit, told towards the end, and Nemeth’s feline movement and purpose caused alarm at times, but they never
really overran Dunmanway.

Towards the very end, in fact, the home side threw everything into one last attack, and a late, late attack almost threw up the most dramatic corner in west Cork since Béal na Bláth back in 1922, but Liverpool held out.

AN OBVIOUS comparison was brought to mind by yesterday’s game, however, and that was with Cork City’s desperate struggle for life over the last couple of weeks. There was a scriptwriter’s neatness to the fact that the League of Ireland side secured their future almost 24 hours to the minute before Dunmanway’s hour-and-a-half of glory, but surely the following thought must have occurred in a few spectators’ minds.

If you can get 7,000 people to a midweek challenge in the heart of west Cork, why can’t a Premier League outfit sustain itself in the country’s second-largest city, an hour back the road?

In some ways the struggle of professional domestic soccer was illustrated neatly by the game in Dunmanway. The hordes of Liverpool fans, clad in a spectacular array of red and white tops were there to see their favourite club, and the personnel didn’t mean as much the jersey.

The fact that professional soccer is on offer within an hour’s drive of most of those present doesn’t seem to impinge on those seeking the autographs of Nicolaj Kohlhert or Alex Kacaniklic (the latter’s name provided the hardest tackle of the day, incidentally, when the PA announcer made a determined swipe at announcing his introduction as a substitute).

The proximity of the Premier League is a boon to travel agents in Ireland, no doubt, but as a point of comparison with the soccer on offer around the country it’s hardly a help.

Whether that can change or not is a matter for another day – and it isn’t a concern of Dunmanway Town in any case.

They had their own day in the sun yesterday, and if those thousands heading back out of the town were throwing a thought towards the future of professional soccer in Ireland, they were probably also struck by something else: how smoothly the day went overall, and in particular how easily traffic flowed out of the little market town as people made their way home.

Given their genius for imagination and organisation, in fact, it’s worth wondering why Dunmanway Town FC isn’t given charge of NAMA, and the HSE, and just about everything else in this country. Because if anyone could find a way to do things properly, they could.

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