Cork – a Partner City of Cologne

Cork City at sunset from Patrick's Hill // Foto: Martin Duggan Design/Flickr

Cork is the second biggest city in the Republic of Ireland, according to population, but it is “the Real Capital” of Ireland. Cork is my home city and one of Cologne’s many partner cities. The cities have been partners since 1988. Other partner cities of Cologne include Barcelona, Tunis, Liverpool, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Bethlehem and Beijing. In fairness, as lists of cities go this is not too bad a group to be listed among. Although, as famous a city as Istanbul or Barcelona may be, none of them are Cork. In this piece, I will take you through the city of Cork and what it has to offer.


Cork – the Basics

The city of Cork has a population of around 210,000 people, but when the whole county of Cork is taken into account, the population grows to around 520,000. Cork is named after the Gaelic “corcach” (a marsh), and the settlement that became Cork City dates from the 6th century. Our city charter was granted in the late 12th century. It is a vibrant city on the south coast of Ireland in the province of Munster. The people living here are called Leesiders or Corkonians, and within Cork itself, divisions arise between those in the north-side (the Norries) and the south-side (who the “Norries” describe as the “Sorries”).

Cork is home to two cathedrals – St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Cathedral (also known as the North Cathedral or the “North Chapel”) – so although neither can quite match the majesty and size of the Kölner Dom, in terms of the number of cathedrals it stands at Cork 2 Cologne 1. When judging a city by its cathedrals, it is obviously the number of them that one should consider as most important.

West Cork

Cork is home to thousands of students as there are two large third level institutions based in Cork, University College Cork (UCC) and Munster Technological University (MTU) – formerly Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). As a graduate of UCC, I can state with full confidence that UCC is better in all metrics.

Cork is also home to companies in the pharmaceutical industry – the most famous product of Cork’s pharmaceutical industry is very likely to be Viagra – and is the European Headquarters of Apple.  The educational institutions and number of companies based in Cork mean that the city has become more international in recent years. It is not difficult to find people from all over Europe who have made Cork their home.

Outside of the city itself, there are numerous picturesque locations in West Cork, countless beaches dotted along the coastline and many small towns and villages worth visiting. For a trip to the countryside, I can recommend Kinsale, Courtmacsherry, Ballydehob, Schull and the Beara Peninsula to visit as well as the islands of Sherkin and Cape Clear. In East Cork (if you can’t make it west…)… hmmm… Youghal is fine… maybe… wait, Cobh is worth a visit!


Cork – the GAA and Sport scene

Although we have been going through a dry spell in terms of All Irelands in recent years, Cork remains one of the most successful counties when it comes to All Ireland success. Over the years, Cork has accumulated 30 hurling All-Irelands and 7 Gaelic Football All-Irelands. Hurling is the more popular sport in the city of Cork as it is home to the three most successful clubs in Cork – Blackrock National Hurling Club, Glen Rovers GAA and St Finbarrs GAA – as well as other clubs such as Douglas GAA, Na Piarsaigh and St Vincents. In Gaelic Football, Nemo Rangers is Cork’s most successful club as they have won 21 Cork County Championships since 1972. Gaelic Football is more popular in West Cork.

Although Cork has not won the hurling All-Ireland since 2005 or the Gaelic Football All-Ireland since 2010, Cork is one of only two counties to have won the “Double” twice (hurling and Gaelic Football All-Irelands in the same year) – with the first coming in 1890 and the second coming in 1990. Tipperary is the only other county to have won the Double twice, having done so in 1895 and 1900.

Legends of Cork GAA include Christy Ring, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Tom Cashman, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Jimmy Brohan, Billy Morgan, Ray Cummins, Larry Tompkins and Brian Corcoran. This list could go on a lot longer… Patrick Horgan, Joe Deane, Wayne Sherlock, Teddy McCarthy, Seánie Leary, Graham Canty, Anthony Lynch, Dave Barry… I’ll stop now…

However, in camogie and Ladies’ Football, it has been a different story as Cork has been very successful in these codes in the last few years. In camogie, Cork is the most successful county at senior level in Ireland with 28 All Irelands, including nine titles since the year 2000 and six-times runners-up in that period.

Cork City FC League title win 2017 // Foto: Oisín O’Mahony.

In Ladies’ Football, Cork has won 11 All-Ireland titles, all of which were won between 2005 and 2016. We hear of the “Invincibles” in different sports, but these ladies really demonstrated their strength, determination and skill with 11 wins in twelve years. Juliet Murphy, Ashling Thompson, Bríd Stack and Anna Geary are some well-known Irish female GAA stars. At the same time, Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley have won a ridiculous 18 All-Ireland medals each.

Cork is truly a GAA county, but it is not the only show in town, as Cork is also the home to Cork City FC, who play their home matches at Turner’s Cross Stadium, Cork Constitution FC (the rugby club), Cork County Cricket Club, Cork Admirals American Football Club, basketball clubs: Neptune and Blue Demons, Harlequins Hockey Club and many more.

It is the home city and county of Irish sporting legends Roy Keane, Denis Irwin, Sonia O’Sullivan, Rob Heffernan, the O’Donovan brothers (Paul and Gary) and rower/Olympic gold medallist Fintan McCarthy.

The O’Donovan brothers at Rio 2016


Cork – the Pubs, the Craic and the Nightlife

Cork city is a great place for a night out with something available for every kind of night out. Regardless of whether you are looking for live music, a traditional pub to chat with your friends and the locals, a pub to try new brews, a cocktail bar, a gastropub, a pub/club for dancing, an old pub, a new pub – you will find everything within walking distance from the centre of Cork City.

For live music, “An Spailpín Fánach” and “Sin É” deliver regular traditional music sessions. In contrast, more alternative and heavier music can be expected at “Fred Zeppelin´s”, for sports “Reardon’s” is probably the most well-known pub in Cork when it comes to watching GAA.

The Mardyke Entertainment Complex, near UCC, hosts several bars under one roof with the “Woolshed”, a sports bar with multiple TV screens and an impressive bar-food menu, “Barcadia” which is an arcade/boardgame arena combined with a bar and the upstairs Mardyke bar where you can play bowling, pool and snooker.

For those looking to taste some new beers, I can recommend “The Franciscan Well” where you can have a Rebel Red (red ale) or a Chieftain IPA as well as some of their other brews, as well as “The Rising Sons” with their “Midaza Stout”, “Handsum IPA”, “Redemption Red”, “Changeling Pale Ale” and many more. Of course, when in Cork, it is a requirement to have your Beamish and/or Murphy Stouts while there. Personally, I am a Beamish man, but I will let you decide.

Going through the different bars and pubs and nightspots in Cork is making me thirsty. That is without even mentioning the pubs on Barrack’s Street, “Henchy’s” in the city’s northside, the many watering holes on Oliver Plunkett Street, and so many more. As a location for a night out, Cork has a huge amount to offer.


Cork Slang

If you do go to Cork and if you want to impress the locals, you should bring some Cork slang terms with you. This list will only give you very few of the many wonderful phrases in use on Leeside, however, if you are interested in finding out more I can recommend the book “Dowtcha Boy – An Anthology of Cork Slang” – they also have their own website.


dowtcha boy a term of approvalessentially: “I wouldn’t doubt you”  
a langertwo meanings: a penis / an obnoxious, annoying person 
allergicwhen you have a strong dislike of a person, thing or an event  “I don’t want to go to that – I’d be allergic to it”
bazzera haircut   
chalk it downabsolutely right / set in stone“Are you going to the match on Sunday?” “Chalk it down”  
dolled-updressed very well “Dressed to the nines”“Where are you going all dolled-up?”  
a head-the-ballan idiotThat lad over there with the blue t-shirt is some “head-the-ball”  
meas /massrespectFrom the Irish word “meas” for respect.   I have meas/mass for him
sconce or “have a sconce”to take a look“Can I have a sconce of your phone”  
DaycentbrilliantThat lad Patrick  Horgan (Cork hurling legend) is “pure daycent”.  
a lashera beautiful womanShe’s some lasher – why not go for her?
Hauntedvery luckyIreland was haunted to win that match on the weekend!

How to find out more about Cork in Cologne

Our partners at the Cologne-Cork City Twinning Association / Städteverein Köln-Cork hold regular events relating to the twinning between Cork and Cologne. This group has close links to the city of Cork and regularly arranges trips to Cork. Find out more about them by visiting their website or by becoming a member of the association. Alternatively, the German – Irish Community/Deutsch-Irische Gesellschaft e.V. in Bonn is another means by which one can learn more about Irish culture, Irish history and links between Ireland and Germany.

The Cologne Celtics GAA also has a growing Cork or Cork-linked contingent amongst its members. If you have any questions about Cork, where to go, what to do when there and why it is the greatest place in the world, you can also ask us about our personal recommendations. Nothing in the world makes a Cork person happier than having the chance to talk about Cork.

Corcaigh Abú!

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