As expected the crowd at Dublin’s 02 Arena was in fine voice on Saturday night. The arena was packed to the rafters, with 9,500 fans crammed in to witness several of their countrymen do battle.
Conor McGregor was the headline act, facing Brazil’s Diego Brandao in the main event, and he got the biggest cheers of the evening.
But from start to finish the Irish got behind their fighters, underlining their status as the “pound for pound loudest crowd in MMA” (per UFC president Dana White).
There are several songs and chants which you will hear at Irish sporting events from soccer to hurling; these were also in effect at UFC FIGHT NIGHT DUBLIN.
Irish fans will be familiar with them but many international fans won’t be, so here’s Bloody Elbow’s Guide to the UFC Dublin Sing-Along, which you can refer to in order to be fully prepared for the UFC’s next visit to the Emerald Isle.
1. Olé, Olé, Olé
This chant is actually quite well known around the world, including the US, and you will hear it at everything from European soccer games to Montreal hockey games and even some NFL fixtures.
It has its roots in Spain and is thought to have first become popular with bullfighting audiences. But there are disputes as to its etymological origin.
One school of thought has it that ‘Olé!’ is a corruption of the word ‘Hobé!’, which means ‘champion’ in the Basque language of north-eastern Spain.
Another has it that ‘Olé!’ is actually a corruption of “Allah!”, which was cried out by the Islamic Moorish warriors who invaded and controlled much of the Spanish mainland in the medieval period.
2. The Fields of Athenry
“The Fields of Athenry” is an Irish folk ballad set during the Great Irish Famine (1845-1850).
The lyrical narrators are Michael, from the town of Athenry, Galway, and his wife. Michael has been sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Australia, for stealing food to feed his starving family.
His wife and children can only watch as Michael is shipped off to Australia for his ‘crime’. He in turn exhorts her to raise their children “with dignity”, though for a family in those times which lost its only breadwinner, times could be very, very hard. Starvation was a distinct possibility.
While the song and its protagonists are fictional, they are based on real events. The events of the Great Famine loom large in Irish culture, which explains why this song, which was only written in the 1970s, became so quickly and irremovably embedded in the national consciousness.
“You stole Trevelyan’s corn/so your young might see the morn”, Michael’s wife relates in the lyrics. This is a reference to Charles Edward Trevelyan, a senior British civil servant in the administration of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
A notorious figure in Irish history, his indifference to the suffering of the people (“It is an effective means of population control”) and his insistence that they eat maize imported from America – a grain that they had no knowledge of or experience in preparing – made the famine’s effects even more deadly.
Nowadays the song is a staple at Irish sporting events. Anywhere the Irish are gathered in large numbers to watch an international sporting contest, you can guarantee you will hear The Fields of Athenry at least twice. It is the unofficial national anthem of the Republic of Ireland.
3. “You’ll never beat the Irish” (chant)
This vocal snippet of defiance is rather self-explanatory and was heard several times throughout the night as the Irish fighters made a clean sweep of it.
It was most fully in effect when Cathal Pendred turned the tables on Mike King, coming back from a first-round beating to choke him out by way of RNC in the second round in what must surely be a Comeback of the Year contender.
Ironically, this chant simply isn’t true, as anyone who follows the national soccer team in particular will know. Having failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, the five friendly games played this year have resulted in a not very impressive 0-3-2 run.
Still, the way things are going, Conor McGregor and his countrymen are probably going to make Dana White’s oft-repeated nonsense about the UFC being “bigger than soccer” actually come true in the Republic of Ireland.
4. Sinead O’Connor and The Chieftans: ‘The Foggy Dew’
There are several Irish songs by this name, but this is perhaps the most widely known of the modern era thanks to being covered by the likes of Sinead O’Connor.
The song was written by an Irish priest during the First World War. At that time the whole of Ireland was still subject to British rule and nationalist groups such as the IRA were involved in armed resistance to that.
At the same time, the economic necessities of the day meant that many young Irishmen joined the British army to fight against the Germans in France and elsewhere.
This meant mixed feelings at home; on the one hand the poor Irish families needed every penny they could lay their hands on. On the other, having their sons fight and die for ‘the auld enemy’ was a paradox that didn’t sit easy with many, especially as Britain had entered the war to “defend the freedom of small nations” such as Belgium, yet was determined to maintain control of Ireland.
In the Easter of 1916 a group of Irish nationalists took advantage of Britain being focused on World War 1 by staging the now-infamous Easter Rising in Dublin. It was quickly put down and its leaders were shot by firing squad.
Canon O’Neill wrote ‘The Foggy Dew’ to tell the story of the Easter Rising and outline his belief – shared by many nationalists – that the young Irishmen who fought for the British army during the war should have diverted their military efforts into fighting against British rule of Ireland instead.
In the line ‘Twas far better to die/beneath an Irish sky/than at Suvla or Sud el Bar’, the writer says that the Irish soldiers killed in Suvla and Sud-el-Bar should have stayed at home and spent their lives in search of Irish independence.
Suvla and Sud-el-Bar are both in the coastal Gallipoli region of Turkey. Both were scenes of heavy losses for the British army as they attempted to storm positions held by Turkish Ottoman troops. Irish soldiers and battalions were decimated in these engagements, particularly at Sud-el-Bar.
5. An Absolutely Deafening Roar
The crowd at UFC FIGHT NIGHT DUBLIN was one of the loudest in UFC history and, given that the attendance was a sold-out 9,500, surely the pound-for-pound best in the sport.
When Conor McGregor made his entrance, the noise reached such a crescendo that the ring announcer might as well have been trying to use a newspaper as a trumpet. He couldn’t have been less audible had he been locked in a box which was then dropped into the Atlantic.
The roar of the crowd washed over him and made his introductions a needless irrelevance. We all knew who was coming into the arena: only Conor McGregor could have provoked a roar of such volume and perseverance.
McGregor’s entrance was surpassed in volume only by the moment of his victory. A decibel-counter placed ringside by the UFC record a peak of 111 decibels at the moment he dispatched Diego Brandao. The average rock concert comes in at 110.
About the author