by Ronan Jugde
HER accent is unmistakably Cork but Geraldine Moloney Ó Riada is Clare to her fingertips. She grew up in Glendree, Tulla on a diet of national hurling league matches involving her beloved Clare. That first exposure to the exploits of local hero Jim Power et al left a lasting impression. Geraldine has followed the Banner County through ups and downs ever since.
It’s a passion that has involved train journeys with moses baskets and draining days out in Thurles. 35 years, with more bad times than good. You mention dedication but Geraldine doesn’t view it like that.
“I never saw it like that. I never saw it as ‘Oh aren’t I great to be doing this’, she says, “I saw it as the opportunity the Clare team were giving me to be there on the big day. It was like a dream come true. I still feel the same even at this stage”.
Geradline moved to Dublin in 1978 and in the 11 years she called the capital home, not once did Clare grace Croke Park.
She finally got to see her heroes perform on GAA’s grandest stage in 1989 when Clare lost to Offally in the All-Ireland minor final.
“I was seven months pregnant with twins at the time,” she recalls, “I got the train up from Cork and went into the Hogan Stand on my own. Michael Torpey from Tulla got me the ticket. That was the first time. I had spent 11 years in Dublin and never once was there a Clare team in Croke Park until 1989. It was obviously very disappointing for Clare but they were beaten by a very good Offally team, they had the likes of Brian Whelehan on it. That was the first time I saw the likes of Jamesie O’Connor and Davy Fitz. There were a few fellas on that team that came to prominence in the nineties”.
The pain of days like the 1993 Munster final when Clare were obliterated by Tipperary are etched in Geraldine’s memory.
“I’ll never forget it. I don’t think any of us who were there will ever forget the trouncing, double scores. Myself and my sister are both married to Cork brothers. We went to the game. I never left a game before it was over but the Tipperary supporters really gave us plenty of it in the stand that day in Limerick”, she says.
The result hurt but Geradline remained steadfast in her belief that Clare would one day reach the promised land.
She says, “If you thought you’d only go when they’d win, you mightn’t go at all. Sure if the team thought that they wouldn’t go themselves. My attitude would be that we’re all in it together, the supporters and the team”.
Her faith was rewarded in 1995. She thinks back to her father who was 72 when Clare finally broke their Munster hoodoo.
“He was only nine years old in 1932 when they had won last won Munster and it was a whole lifetime before they won it again. He’s 90 now so I’m hoping now he’ll see another All-Ireland in a week’s time.”
With her then two-month-old daughter in tow, Geraldine made the pilgrimage to Croke Park for the All-Ireland semi-final.
“I brought her to train on a moses basket,” she explains with a laugh, “I’ve been told by people on the train that they never saw anything like it, bringing a two month old baby in a moses basket. Obviously I had a friend in Dublin who minded here for me. I was still feeding her so that was the only way I could get there”.
Cúil Aodha in the West Cork Gaeltacht is where Gearldine now calls home. She is married to Peadar Ó Riada, son of legendary Irish music composer Seán Ó Riada. The illustrious links don’t end there with the family also boasting connections to stars of the current Clare hurling team.
“My husband Peader is Darach Honan’s second cousin”, explains Geraldine, “Darach’s grandmother and Peadar’s grandfather were brother and sister, Reidys from Kilmihil. Peader and Darach are second cousins. And there’s another connection, Mike, my younger brother, his wife Maura is a first cousin of Patrick Donnellan.”
The years in Cork have not in any way diluted Geradline’s passion for Clare hurling. If anything, living in the Rebel County has fortified her faith.
She explains, “I think it’s about identity. If you’re in a place like Cork, and you know what they say about a Cork person, ‘A Cork person with an inferiority complex thinks he’s as good as everyone else’. They are lovely people but they do have this air of confidence about them and you can very easily get swamped by that when you’re living among them”.
“When the Clare hurling in the nineties were really mixing it with the big boys, it made you feel you could hold your head up. When you live outside the county you become more aware of your identity especially when you’re somewhere it could easily be swallowed up.” That pride will shine again at Croke Park on Saturday.