Archive for May, 2012

It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train(ing session) to cry.



For the times that are in it, and the hope of what is to come in June, a man’s thoughts turn to international tournaments specifically Euro 2012. Yes, dear readers, the Republic of Ireland are off to Poland and Ukraine and highs will be had, disappointing doldrums will be traversed and crushing defeat will be faced stoically and with jaw set in stone. Ah, yes what promise June holds in her arms and what dreams may come. The future spreads before us , the tabula rasa, waiting for us to arrive.

However, this being Ireland (and indeed football) the past lingers on the air like stale cigarette smoke clinging on no matter how you try to ignore it. By now a number of my readership (small as it is) can hear, nay can see, the name of a small island looming,Godzilla like, over the horizon :Saipan.

Saipan. How many Irish people would have known that the Irish Civil War would reignite in Asia? How could we have possibly foreseen that the euphoria of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup would rip the fabric of Irish society apart and reveal, once again, the dark underbelly of the monster that is Hibernia? In their wildest dreams FSL Lyons, T.W Moody, FX Martin et. al. could not have imagined that a rebel leader from Cork would again divide the people of the nation. Yeats knew, deep down in his Gaelic soul, he prophesied that the wearing of the green could only lead to terrible beauty.

I, not being Yeats, could not see that terrible beauty skulking about the periphery. Right enough I knew that Keano (our captain)  and Mick (our manager) were not the best of friends. We could see that. What I don’t think any of us could see was the shit storm that happened on that small island. Look, there has been miles written on it and even a play about it and it is my belief that, in the fullness of time,  when someone has to explain the meaning of mock-heroic they will no longer use The Rape of the Lock but instead refer to Saipan. 

However, for those not in the know, Ireland’s captain disgruntled with the training facilities buggered off/ was told to bugger off on the eve of one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Apoplexy followed in the Emerald Isle, battle lines were drawn and it seemed like everyone had an opinion on the major players in this tragedy we even had a ‘won’t someone think of the children’ moment courtesy of Tommie O’ Gorman in his interview with Keane on  the national news. 

No doubt there were those among us who cared not one screed for the happenings that Summer. There are those that see football as nothing more than grown men running around after a ball until one side wins. For me, it has always meant a bit more. You see I watched Cancer take my mother away from this mortal coil and a month later World Cup 1998 started. It kept me sane, it gave me something to look forward to and it provided a set of rules just when I had to come to terms with the fact that life had no rules. I will never forget that World Cup even though Ireland had failed to qualify. A year later I would watch Keane and others bring Manchester Utd a historic treble. After the drama  in Barcelona on that night in May a man cried in the pub and said ‘you don’t know what this means to me.’  He was so wrong because I did. My mother and father had left Ireland to live in Manchester in the 1960s and I thought of the girl she was then and all we had lost the year she died. I never thought I would ever feel happy again but nearly a year after we had lost her, a game of football restored me. I cried the day Utd brought the European Cup back to Manchester. I was crying for everything I had lost, I was crying for her and crying because she wasn’t there and the fact she never would be again. 

I want to end on a hopeful note. After Saipan many of us were spent. That oft lauded sense of Irish unity had dissipated on that island half way around the world. Irish football fans were at each others throats and before a ball was kicked all seemed to be doom and gloom. Our hearts were down and in the opening game, when Cameroon took the lead the fissures between the Keane camp and the McCarthy camp looked like they might rip the heart out of the campaign. Then Mattie Holland equalised. I think that it was then that many of us finally realised that we were in a World Cup and that even after everything that had happened that we were, as we had been before and would be again in the future, honoured and privileged to follow the Boys in Green. 

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