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Irish Rugby’s curious relationship with nationalism

The Old Firm Derby – Celtic versus Rangers – has a place in sporting folklore as one of the most hostile sporting events on the planet. It is marked by genuine loathing and, in less recent times, sporadic outbreaks of violence between supporters. It is one of a handful of such club games in the world, with others of note being the Rome derby between Lazio and Roma, and down in Argentina, Boca Juniors versus River Plate in the Buenos Aires derby. The Sicilian derby, when Palermo play Catania, is no picnic either.

All of football, though, can only aspire to the sheer hate that occasionally erupts when the Indian Cricket team play their Pakistani neighbours, a match which is as close as you’ll get to a proxy war between the two nations. It might be argued with only mild exaggeration that, in that one example, the game of cricket is all that stands between us and a nuclear war on the Subcontinent.

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