Archive for the ‘Croke Park’ Category

It should have been a feeling of satisfaction. I’ve completed an inter-county season as a supporter starting way back in January on a cold winter’s night in an eerie Enniskillen. I’ve learned a lot (about Ireland) and lost a little (marriage probably). Donegal took home the cup to the province I used as my base. Yet the feeling is quite empty now. I know the hurling replay has yet to come, and I’ll be there, but there’s a fear surrounding me about the abyss after that. I have decided on a new non-sporting mission and, like Crocodile Dundee, it’ll take a bit of getting used to. But more about that anon.

Last weekend saw Donegal take the big one as expected. So confident was I of a victory, I emptied my credit card, savings and Confirmation money and lumped it all on Jimmy’s men to take it home. It’s rude to talk about money but let’s just say that my winnings has enabled me to stay another 12 months in Ireland working on my new project. I’m also sitting on my new Ferrari computer desk seat and I’m wearing a crown. Throwing money away you say but I’m not stupid to wear it around Belfast. I’d be destroyed. No, people buy iPhones etc – I buy a crown. That’s how I roll.

Me, 10 mins ago.

The day itself was a magical experience. In order to avoid the toll lady, I took a plane from Derry to Cork. I asked to go into the cockpit as usual and was quite amazed that I was successful. Luckily, I managed to talk the grumpy pilot into landing in a field near Croke Park to drop me off. It was a fantastic gesture and although I bored him senseless by my tales of what’s been happening in the XFactor and the ingredients to make a sensational Yorkshire Pudding, the surly 50-year old navigator still did me a good turn and threw me off. Threw me off isn’t an exaggeration as the plane never touched the ground but it was close enough. On reaching Dublin, I was swallowed up by genuinely 100% country folk from Mayo and Donegal. Not a streetwise person amongst them. I copped on to this early enough and it did cross my mind to do a bit of pick pocketing as I’d be wise to things like that but it soon dawned on me that these people were tight. They kept their hands in their pockets, jingling and jangling their money. A canny breed afterall.

Arriving in Dublin

The match was a bit disappointing. Donegal scored 5 goals in the first 5 minutes and the rest of the game was just a bit of a farce with Mayo shooting for points just to make the time go by a bit faster before they headed home to batten down the hatches in the windiest county in Ireland. I can understand their rush. I’m sure the players’ heads were wrecked thinking about gates being blown about and maybe even cattle. Talking about cattle and there was a man beside me at the game from Mayo. He seemed a bit unusual with his eyes going in different directions but he told me the following story at half time:

He was at the pub one night last week and decided to walk home as it was a clammy night. It was a good 2 mile walk. After a mile he couldn’t hold on any longer and went to the toilet in a field. It was the number two he had to do. It was fairly dark so he just grabbed a pile of grass and leaves to clean himself and made on his way happily enough. When he got home he went to close the door behind him but it wouldn’t shut. It was still pitch black so he groped behind him to see what was keeping the door open. It happened to be what felt like a rope. He turned around and groped is way to the end of the rope – it was a cow!! Unbelievably, when he cleaned himself in the dark he lifted the end of a rope that was around a cow’s neck and had mistakenly put it up his backside.  Unbelievable series of events.

Midnight walk

Anyway, the celebrations were great to watch although I felt bad about the Mayo people. They seem to lose finals a lot. One boy just said “same oul shite” and they all nodded in agreement. So that’s that. Sam Maguire is in Ulster and my journey is almost at an end.

As I intimated earlier, I’ve decided on a new adventure beginning the first week in October. I am to visit all 32 counties in 32 weeks, taking in the delights and culture of each one over a seven day period, starting in the southernmost corner. I’ll find out what that is when I look at the map. I’m a bit nervous about it with my accent and looks but sure, the abyss is to be embraced sometimes. Hurling next weekend first.

My home for 32 weeks

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I haven’t got to grips with the hurling game yet so it was a quiet week for me. It offered me mountains of time to reflect on my year so far in Ireland and attempt to collate words of wisdom for gaelic football officials in the coming years. A decade ago I ran into the Spanish Soccer Association beside a pool in Benidorm. After two pints of sangria, I told them to forget about lumping the ball on top of some mountainous forward from Bilbao and play it along the ground, always. Two European Championships and a World Cup later and I’m a bit miffed that Ángel María Villar Llona has yet to acknowledge my part in their recent success.

Yer man knows the truth

I sat through the Olympic Closing Ceremony and two things struck me. Firstly, I’m glad my LSD years are finally at and end. That flashback of a ceremony reminded me of escapades long forgotten and best remaining there. Secondly, the GAA are missing a trick in terms of getting bums permanently on seats. Times have changed. Growing up in Durham and attending lower league soccer games, we’d be ecstatic when a ukulele-playing elderly man would appear on the field at half time and play greats such as ‘Banana Pancakes’ and ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’. The hushed tones would develop into rapturous applause as he neared the end of his 15-minute gig. Nowadays, people have more refined tastes and expect to see something new. My last soccer game saw a half-time show consisting of nine Lithuanian strippers juggling live fish to the strains of Jessie J’s ‘Who Are You?’ And it was OK just. I was sort of hoping they were poisonous fish.

Half Times Were Great

I attended the Antrim Championship last weekend between St Gall’s and Lamh Dhearg. It was an exciting game with the cream of Antrim footballing cutting lumps out of each other. At half time, I was looking forward to a bit of entertainment to keep the blood boiling at a decent temperature before the gladiators returned. What I got was the following:

  • A draw to raise funds for the prisoners
  • A telling off by the announcer for not buying crisps and mineral from ‘the man’
  • An announcement of a result in Ahoghill
  • Last orders for the bar

Definitely not Superbowl material and I saw young children pleading with their parents to go home and watch a rerun of Harry Hill’s TV Burp from 2008. Why couldn’t the Antrim County Board round up even two acts from the county to perform on a crate at half time? Liam Neeson could act out a scene from Michael Collins. Tony McCoy could ride in on Kauto Star and jump a few hurdles. That’s all it needs. Imagine the advertising. “St Gall’s v Lamh Dhearg, featuring Kevin McGourty, Paul Buchanan, Chris Kerr, Paddy Cunningham, Liam Neeson and Tony McCoy”. You’d have all shapes and sizes there for all reasons. The takings would go through the roof.

The Big Man

This can be done at all levels in all codes. Even the smallest of townlands have thespians, sportsmen or musicians just waiting to be acknowledged to the local masses. I have forwarded this post onto the HQ at Croke Park. Like my Spanish friends, lets hope they act on it. This time, give me a bit of credit.