How is your knowledge of Irish geography? If you have never visited the island of Ireland it may be rather hazy. This earlier piece, prompted by the All-Ireland Hurling Final between Limerick and Waterford, reflects on how I got to know my way around the place, on childhood holidays and then as an adult. I have spent time in 23 of the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland, even if it was just passing through. I have never spent time in any of the six counties that form the Northern Ireland part of “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
The three counties in the Republic that I have yet to visit are Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal. Along with Galway they are the places mentioned in the old Irish drinking song “The Rare Old Mountain Dew”, which I wrote about here last year. As you may know, the northernmost part of the Irish mainland is in Donegal, not in any of the six counties of Northern Ireland.
This information, along with the knowledge that Tipperary is in Munster, the southernmost province of Ireland, would have been useful for a contestant on a new quiz show on BBC1 last Saturday evening. The show, “Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel”, has, as its name suggests, a wheel at the heart of it. There are seven spokes reaching from its centre to seats containing celebrities. These celebrities have been selected, at least in part, for their knowledge about specific subjects. Tony Blackburn could help with questions about the 1960s. Frankie Dettori can offer advice about horse racing. At the centre of the wheel sits a contestant (a member of the public, not a celebrity), answering questions with the help of the people sat around them. The wheel spins to select a category. The wheel spins to select the celebrity who will help with the next question. If you suffer from motion sickness, these sections of the show might make you feel a bit queasy.
Last Saturday the person nominated to help with a question about Ireland was Maura Higgins, whose work I was unfamiliar with. Her fame derives from the ITV series “Love Island”, which I have never seen. She is from Ireland (County Longford, if her Wikipedia page is accurate), so she should have been well-placed to answer the following question:
Geographically speaking, from which of these Irish counties would it be most accurate to say, “It’s a long way to Tipperary”?
Limerick / Donegal / Cork / Dublin
Initially she thought it was Donegal. Then she changed her mind and suggested Cork. The contestant (Barry) went for Cork, got the question wrong and lost his place in the hot seat.
The answer is Donegal, in the far north-west of the country. Tipperary is one of the southernmost counties, bordered by Limerick and Cork and five others. Dublin is about halfway up, on the east coast. Compared to the equivalent journeys in the United States, Russia or even France, the distances involved in heading from the north-west to the south of Ireland are not great. But in terms of Irish geography, if you’re starting out in Donegal then it’s a long way to Tipperary.