As it gurgles out from deep underground on the Cuilcagh Mountains, the Shannon River has no idea of the effect it has on life in Ireland. It is written of in song and story, it drains and floods in turn, it is the powerhouse for hundreds of boats and cruisers, it entertains many a hopeful angler, its route is mapped on countless brochures, it has attracted thousands of visitors to its banks and it has been photographed and painted for generations. Like the river itself, its story could go on and on.
But all of this pales into insignificance compared to the effect it has on what colour of jersey we will be wearing on our way to Páirc Seán on Sunday June 12th. Will we be decked out in green and gold or will we be sporting the primrose and blue?
It depends on which side of the Shannon we first saw light of day. Was it in Cootehall or Leitrim Village, Cortober or Bridge Street, MahanÓgh or Mount Allen, Bornacoola or across the bridge in Rooskey, Drumsna or Kilmore; you could throw a stone from one into the other, but there is a very distinct dotted line somewhere on a map that makes all the difference. Were either Leitrim or Roscommon and no one will ever change that.
The Shannon shouldnt have to take all the blame, for the border in places is just a laneway or a gripe. Sean and Charlie Flynn could run out their front door at Cartron Beg on the Drumkeerin road and jump into Roscommon, but two more committed Leitrim supporters you couldnt find. When the Connacht Champions of 1994 toured the county with the Nestor Cup, hadnt the Flynns the biggest bonfire in Leitrim burning especially brightly just to tease the Roscommon neighbours!
There will be lots of cross-border teasing in the run up to the big game in Carrick.
Wait till we get ye in Carrick – Look what we did to Sligo.
What did we do to Sligo last year? Ye havent a hope!
So the banter will go on at the mart, in the pubs, in the Observer, on Shannonside, everywhere. A sort of civil war will break out in families that inter-married across the great divide, in some gardens both flags will fly side by side.
There will be plenty of hype and great expectation. Roscommon will repeat and repeat how they always fear coming to Páirc Seán, but deep down they will presume they will win again, noting that records show they have always left with a victory; Leitrim will say its time to draw a line in the sand – no point in putting up a good show but being on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
Roscommon will be buoyed by the thoughts of the St. Brigids backbone in their team, but James Glancy will be reminding Leitrim that the Glencar Manorhamilton contingent provides one equally strong, as the Connacht Club Championship game showed last Autumn man for man the fifteen on each side have very little between them, so it all to play for.
Páirc Seán will be a mass of colour as Dessie Foley steers the Kiltubrid Pipe Band around the pitch in the pre-match parade, past the Lurganboys on Tour banner behind the lower goals, in those tense moments before Amhrán na bhFiann and the throw-in. We will even have colour television!
But whose cheeks will be the rosiest with pride at about half three on Sunday 12th, as they head home to gloat at their neighbours a few yards away on the other bank of the Shannon?
09-Jun-11 by Tommy Moran – Connacht PRO