Galway and Waterford fans will be in fine voice ahead of their hurling final showdown writes Pauline Murphy
The first Sunday in September this year will see the first ever All-Ireland Final meeting of the Deise and the Tribesmen. Waterford last won an All-Ireland hurling title in 1959 while Galway last brought Liam MacCarthy Corribside in 1988.
The 1980s was a fruitful decade for Galway hurling, it was a decade which kickstarted with a famous win in 1980 and a famous victory speech on the steps of the Hogan stand which was topped off with the tenor voice of Joe McDonagh belting out the Wests Awake across the hallowed turf of Croke park.
The song has now become synonymous with Galway GAA and no doubt it will be sung out once again if the tribesmen lift Liam MacCarthy again. The West’s Awake was written by Thomas Davis in 1843 who is also the author of A Nation Once Again. Davis was born in Mallow Co. Cork, the son of a Welsh surgeon in the Royal artillery. Davis would go on to study at Trinity from where he would become the voice of Irish nationalism in the 1840s. Davis and his fellow Young Irelanders were a romantic set of poets and artists and their work reflected the aspirations of the Fenian movement, such as The West’s Awake.
Thomas Davis would die at the age of just 30 due to scarlet fever but his works, such as The Wests Awake, live on. The stirring ballad describes the victories and defeats of Irish Ireland. The Battle of Aughrim in 1691 is one such defeat mentioned in the rousing ballad which was set to tune of the ancient Irish air The Brink of the White Rock. Davis’s ballad sought to re-awaken pride in the west of Ireland and now today the battlefield is Croke Park and the warriors are the hurlers of Galway who will seek to re-awaken the west from its hurling slumber.
The Waterford Boys is a song not as well known as The West Awake but it is one which is sure to be heard in the deise county on All Ireland day. This song was first recorded by Paddy Tunney in 1965 while the Dubliners included it in many of their live performances. The Waterford Boys first appeared in broadsheet format in the 19th century and it’s authorship has been credited to the London music hall performer Harry Clifton.
Often titled ‘Wrestling with Rats’ the song is considered stage Irish. The Waterford Boys is sung from the view of a deise lad who travels far from his native land and ends up staying at an inn which serves stale bread, bad cheese and is infested with rats that keep him up all night! The landlord had the audacity to charge the Waterford lad five shillings but he refused to pay, instead he offered the landlord advice on how to get rid of the rats: serve them stale bread and charge them five shillings for lodgings!
The song did not become popular until it was re-discovered by folk collectors in the late 1950s and then performed by balladeers during the ballad boom of the 60s. It may not contain the same stirring sentiment of The West’s Awake but The Waterford Boys has a good punchy chorus for those to sing out on All Ireland Day.