11 Aug 2022

‘Groundhog Day’

First half

I did an awful thing after this year’s wonderful All Ireland final victory over Galway. I did something I never did in my entire life – I went to the theatre! From the theatre of dreams I went to the theatre of acting. Not something I would normally do. And not something I would recommend. BUT. The tickets were booked (and paid for) and it was a play that interested me greatly.

Little did I know that when a good friend of the missus & myself booked us into a few plays at this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival that an even greater drama would be played out that same weekend – not in the Abbey, the Gate or the Gaeity but in Croke Park where standing to attention and singing Amhrán na bhFiann is a drama that can raise goose-pimples the size of sliothars on the back of your neck.

Anyway I never felt so uncomfortable, so claustrophobic in a theatre in my entire life. I was fidgety, I was edgy, I was restless. Damn it I wanted to be out there, on the street, in the pub, wherever, recounting every puck and block, every save and score of our magnificent win over Galway. Plus I had to be quiet, very quiet when all I wanted to do was roar, in my best Kilkenny accent, and at the top of my voice: “We won, we’ve just won our 34th Hurling All Ireland Hurling Final and Henry has just won a historic 9th All Ireland medal”. But I don’t think they’d have listened and, furthermore, I don’t think they’ve had understood.

And never in my entire life have I so wanted the protagonist of a play to kick the bucket, bite the dust, croak, die. Quick. Real quick’ “Die” I kept repeating, like a mantra. “Die, die, die and let me out of here”. Every time she took a drink I hoped it would poison her, every time she lay down I hoped she wouldn’t get up. But she did. In fact she lived on for two hours – two of the longest hours in my life. But for all of that I enjoyed the play! But not as much as the match. This match I enjoyed. The first match I endured, suffered through. And what a difference 21 days makes.

Better half

Anyway because my son, who lives abroad, could not make the pilgrimage to Croke Park for the replay a sub was brought on. His mother. My wife. Now my wife is not as accustomed to being in the ‘stadium of dreams’ i.e. Croke Park as myself (in fact she’s not accustomed to it at all) and so was possessed of a certain wide-eyed wonder when it came to the spectacle of the occasion.

Also, because I have no wish to divorce I shall relate two, and only two, remarks my good missus made regarding the Hurling All Ireland final of 2012. Firstly, as the players ran on to the hallowed pitch of Croker and as that deafening roar resounded around that cauldron of passion and excitement my wife exclaimed: ‘My God, this is like gladiators, this is like the Coliseum”. And how right she was. It WAS like the Coliseum but today the ‘cats’ were like ‘lions’, mercilessly and methodically mauling and tearing the Tribesmen to shreds.

Second half

And I’m a little hoarse today as I write – from shouting for our team, of course, but also from shouting down the 12 year old Galway kid beside me who, for all of his young years, could roar like a lion. But I was having none of it. So what if I was behaving like a big child competing with this small child, hey, all’s fair in love and war - and sport. And besides, remember that old axiom: cometh the hour, cometh the man, well there’s a less well known one that goes: cometh the hour, cometh the child (i.e. moi) And fair dues to the crowd in the corner of the Cusack Stand who out-roared Galway with KIL-KENN-E, KIL-KENN-E and HEN-REE, HEN-REE.

And as Eoin Larkin raised the ‘holy grail’ of hurling high above his head and welcomed Liam back (not that he was gone long, that’s if he was gone at all) into the bosom of the black & amber faithful, my wife remarked “Groundhog Day”. And how right she was. Again. And over in Nowlan Park Monday evening it was ‘Groundhog Night’ as we once again welcomed home our All Ireland hurling champions, our legends who, for over a decade now, have given us, the people of Kilkenny, over and over again, the time of our lives.

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