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Invasion of the Rebel capital

THEY claim to be Dublin's arch rivals, but so far the Rebels have got nothing on the Blue Brigade ahead of this weekend's hotly awaited semi-final clash.

Our invasion into enemy territory revealed that the "red hot favourites" fail to compete with Boys in Blue fans in the support stakes.

While Sunday's clash against the Leesiders is the talk of the capital, it isn't generating quite the same level of buzz in the People's Republic, where we had to search far beyond St Patrick's Street for a few red-clad fans.

Shopkeeper Julie Moreland was not surprised to see so few red jerseys around.

"We've sold a load of jerseys, there's always great support for GAA. It always gets a bit crazy before big games but people don't really wear jerseys around the streets.

"They know the footballers will always come through in this kind of event so it's popular but definitely not as popular as hurling. Three or four years ago, you would have sold all jerseys, now people prefer more casual T-shirts like polo or rugby shirts for men."

Plenty of cocky Cork natives happily talked the talk for their team but most admitted they won't be walking the walk to Croke Park. Brian Barrett, assistant manager of popular sports bar The Rob Roy, felt: "I don't think there will be many Cork fans going up but at the end of the day Dublin will have it booked out regardless. It's definitely going to be a full house.

"Cork are going to win of course; they're the favourites and they're the best football team within the last two years.

"When Dublin start losing, they lose the plot because they can't handle the pressure.

"Cork's second team would probably put it up against Dublin's first team because they have such a good bench; every player they bring on is young.

"Cork is probably the best sports county in Ireland," said Brian, from Castlemartyr.

Taximan Frank Barrett, from Blarney, agreed: "I think Cork will win by about six points. Dublin are up and coming all right but I think Cork are too experienced. They have a better squad and they'll be too strong.

"I thought Tyrone would beat Dublin so Cork won't underestimate them, their full forward O'Gara will take a bit of watching. We'd prefer to be the underdogs but we've been strong enough for the last three years so I suppose we deserve the term 'red hot favourites'," he added.

Cork city native Maura McCarthy confirmed that football gets less attention: "I think hurling and rugby would be bigger than football so I suppose that's why there are no flags around."

But the GAA enthusiast has fears about the game. "It's a good sign that Cork is the favourite but it's hard to know what will happen. Dublin haven't won it in ages and they'll have a lot of support so who knows?"

hnews@herald.ie