Who Do You Support?

Originally published in Maroon View: Issue 12, July 18th 2015

I came to soccer supportage late in my childhood. Although born in Galway I spent the formative years of my youth across the pond in America, States like Kentucky and Texas where a whole different type of football took centre stage. Although I played soccer from a very young age and loved it dearly, I knew nothing of the professional leagues in America, Ireland and England. In small rural America, anything that wasn’t broadcast on local cable, might has well have not existed, such was our ignorance to the outside world.

Our stint in the States although long at ten years was always intended to be temporary. At the age of 11 my family and I returned home to the Emerald Isle, and it soon became clear It was going to be easier for my younger sisters to acclimatize than for me.

Sans uniform, I arrived on my first day of Primary school, (Brier Hill NS) wearing a bright yellow dress shirt and denim shorts. I never had a need to question my mother’s dress sense prior to that. It was a very rude awakening. On top of that my squeaky high-pitched pre- adolescent American twang left me an obvious target on the playground.

If I was to survive in my new environment I had to find a common interest, and I knew soccer would be it.

After a few days being shunned on the sideline I was eventually invited into the fold. The leader of the fifth and sixth-class boys asked if I played football. I admitted no, ‘but I played soccer’. My response was met with an immediate round of giggles. I wasn’t being funny. I didn’t know it was called something different in Ireland. I assumed they were asking did I play American football, which I never really had.

‘It’s called Football here Yank’ was the reply given. Followed by possibly the most important question I would ever be asked in my childhood. ‘Who do you support?’ I smiled to myself, I knew the answer to this. It was obviously a trick question. My interrogators were trying to ascertain my national allegiance. ‘Ireland’ I replied, beaming! There was silence, followed by a bellowing chorus of indignant chuckles. ‘In the Premiership you fool?!’ The leader injected.  ‘The Premiership? What’s the Premiership I thought to myself? ‘Uh...’ I started to stutter. ‘I haven’t made up my mind yet...’ At this stage break was over, and the motley crew of maroon and grey, fanta-fuelled militia had lost interest in me and I was released.

‘What IS the Premiership?’ I thought to myself walking slowly back to class. My cousin Keith, although younger than me and in a different year, filled me in that evening. He explained the teams, and proudly professed Liverpool as his club of choice. I decided to do some research before I committed to one team over another. I began gathering whatever scraps of information I could from Sky Sports television adverts and discarded newspapers. I must add at this stage my father was a GAA man, and had no team for me to adopt, given my current turmoil I would have happily inherited even a Football League 1 team had it been my destiny. After careful consideration and a detailed analysis of such important things as crest, sponsor and jersey design, I decided Liverpool was to be my club of choice. It was in the end the players that won me over. The 1995/96 Liverpool side had in their ranks fellow Irishmen Jason McAteer and Phil Babb. And the rest as they say is history.

I regret not knowing anything of the league of Ireland and Galway United at the time. As an 11-year-old, my world was small and limited to the interests of my family and friends. It wasn’t until my secondary school years that I found out about Galway United and Terryland Park and started attending matches. I often ask myself would I have bothered with the English Premier League at all, had I been born into an alternate universe in which I never moved to America, and the Friday nights of my youth were spent eating chips and watching football in the rickety shadow of the old Terryland stand.

As Dumbledore once wisely said  “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” All I can do now is look to the future. I have two young kids, a son and a daughter. They will both be brought by me to Deacy Park for as long as they possess an interest, which I hope they always will. Local community football is a passion I very much want to pass on. I am still a Liverpool fan, I genuinely love the club and the comradery associated with supporting it. If either of my kids decide to support Man United or Chelsea instead of Liverpool as their EPL team of choice, I will naturally withdraw to my room and shed a brief gut wrenching tear but at least I can remain confident in their prospective allegiances closer to home.

Supporting Galway United or any LOI Club for that matter is not a choice, it’s a calling and the O’Brien family will always answer its call.

- Morgan O'Brien