Ahh now, it has happened.
Just this winter’s evening, as the full moon prepared for lift off, a highly speculative venture dating back more than a decade has borne fruit.
Back in 2002, a couple of lifetimes ago, I has the immense privilege of visiting a friend shacked up with her Irish housemates in Dublin. Among other things, the housemates cooked up some black pudding for my breakfast, drank me under the tables of the Temple bar district and heroically found me a ticket and took me with them to the All Ireland Hurling Final at Croke Park.
County Clare (gold & blue) were taking on County Galway (maroon & white). I was strongly encouraged to pick a side. And not Galway.
As a sport, hurling is, of course, almost complete madness.
But Croke Park was a sellout and there was plenty of singing and revelry and from the moment we set off for the ground, I knew that the whole occasion would be one of those grand days in life. County Clare won that day. Later that week I drove a hire car to Galway and on to Clare and was impressed by the fervour with which local colours were displayed on front lawns.
Back in Melbourne Town several years later, I felt an urge to get myself a jersey as was worn by County Clare that day. It would make a nice running/ cycling top. Something with a story.
I visited the Gaelic Athletic Association website to purchase one. However, stumbled at the last hurdle when the postal address field to which the jersey was to be sent contained just one country to choose from: Ireland (Eire).
Not to be dissuaded, I contacted the same mate, by this time living in the UK with her Irish husband, who volunteered her in-laws’ address. Several postal exchanges & carbon footprints later, and I was proudly wearing the hurling shirt of County Clare on my daily running/ riding commute in Melbourne Town.
It’s been a couple of years of doing that now. Until tonight, as I ran past a building site emptying of fluorescent-appareled workers, a fella called to me:
Luckily he called just in that slightest of lulls between Godless and Mohammed on the Dandy Warhols’ Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia album, so I heard him.
I stopped running. Walked over to him.
- Hey. You a Clare man?
An accent tinged with rolling green and Guinness and Jamieson’s and James Joyce.
- Ahh, yep. From here though.
His shoulders sagged a bit.
- Saw them win the All Ireland hurling final in ’02.
- Ahh, did yeh? You know they’re in the final again?
- No. When?
- Yes, they beat Limerick just now. Oh, the 8th or the 9th of something like that. First time in the final since that time, I’d say.
- Oh thanks. I hadn’t heard of that..
- Not at all. They play County Cork.
And then he dropped his head a fraction. Quickly, his eyes flicked up, looking at me out of the corner of his downturned head. With a heavy gravity he declared:
- It will be one hell of a final.
It’s on 3pm Sunday 8th September, Dublin time (Midnight Sunday/Monday here). Keep an eye out. And for lovers of sports reporting, this is how the Irish Times reported Clare’s semi-final win over Limerick (click here).