Brexit’s deadline of October 31st is inching ever closer but at the minute in Clare the main border of concern is the one between Cratloe and Sixmilebridge.
Before we move to the boundary lines, it’s time to get a sense of the rivalry between the two neighbours. He’s known to table quiz enthusiasts all over the county but Jim Enright also holds the position of President of Cratloe GAA.
He has witnessed the “disappointing days” between the sides such as their 1990 intermediate championship final loss to Sixmilebridge and remembers with fondness a Barry Gleeson’s infamous 2008 goal. “He first timed it as good a shot I ever saw rising into the roof of the net, you could hear the cheering in Poulawooly Bridge, it put Sixmilebridge out that year and was Cratloe’s first win over Sixmilbridge”.
Independent councillor PJ Ryan finds himself in “an awkward situation”. The Cratloe man runs a business in Sixmilebridge and has grandchildren lining out for The Bridge at underage level. “All my relations on both sides of my family would be coming from the Sixmilebridge area both on the Ryan and the O’Halloran, there is conflict there. “I’m going to be up at the match on Sunday surrounded by grandchildren who will be shouting for the Bridge and I’ll be the Cratloe man shouting for Cratloe so it’s going to be awkward”.
The Clare Echo has spotted colours from each camp appearing in both parishes. That brings into question, where exactly is the border with locals undecided on the matter. Technically speaking, Bridge Surgery, the offices of popular GP, Dr. Padraic Quinn though located in the square of Sixmilebridge is in the parish of Cratloe. The Clare hurling team doctor may have needed to see a medical professional himself had he decorated the surgery with Cratloe colours.
Sergeant Tracey Stanley has been based in Sixmilebridge for the last ten years. She confirmed that relations between the neighbours are still cordial. “There have been no incidents reported to us by neighbours leading up to the county final and no complaints have been made in respect of flags”.
“Some people don’t really know where the border is,” Enright explained. “Cratloe is surrounded by three rivers, the Garney River, the Shannon and the Sandy River, the fourth side of the boundary joins Sixmilebridge. There was never any issue with the Garney River nobody ever fell into it or strayed across it or the Shannon or the Sandy River. The upper part of the parish is also the difference between the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, a lot of those people’s children went to school in Sixmilebridge because it was nearer so naturally when they did their friends were from Sixmilebridge and they played with Sixmilebridge, that’s starting to change again now”.
Jim expected supporters of Alan Neville’s side particularly in the Ballyliddane part of Sixmilebridge would have their flags proudly on display. “The real boundary is Regan’s Corner that was the real boundary in the sense. Barron’s Dance Hall was in Cratloe and going up that road then up along the rivalry would be less. The border wouldn’t be clearly defined and there would be people landing in both parishes and they don’t seem to see any difference. Families know each other much better now, they are intermarried and I don’t see the rivalry as being decisive”.
Back to politics and the looming threat of Brexit. Northern Ireland being part of the UK has with it incoming risks of of borders both of the hard and soft variety, the back-stop, tariff requirements, trade deals and policies for the flow of EU migrants.
For peace and civility, would it best to establish a hard border between Cratloe and Sixmilebridge. Such is the question posed to Cllr PJ Ryan. “We want no borders, it’s only on the day, we may not be cordial on the day but we will always be cordial before and after. We all have to live together, maybe on the day there might be a transparent border but there will be no hard border,” he said with glee.
Bridge boss, Tim Crowe is hopeful normality between the neighbours will be restored after the game. “We’re primarily neighbours not rivals because we tend to unite in happy occasions like weddings and the tragedies like funerals, you don’t where your Sixmilebridge or Cratloe jersey to a wedding or a funeral, you go in as a neighbour. I hope that whoever wins on Sunday will be honourable winners and will appreciate the hurt of the loser, I hope the loser wishes the winner well because both sides will have to realise that in all probabilities the roles will be reversed the next time they meet. It’s something that I’d like to see, a competitive match on the field but when it’s over you have to put it into perspective, it’s only a game and is only important for that hour or two but in the context of friendship and neighbours it shouldn’t create any friction between the parishes”.
Predicting the mood in Northern Ireland is more difficult but Garneyside they want no border, not until after the match anyway.