February 15, 2016 Eddie Shanahan


Sports Ireland


It is Sunday. It is one of those winter mornings when sleet scratches our faces and rasping air tears the lining of our throats. There is little shelter and no comfort on the high bank overlooking the GAA pitch in north County Dublin. A mixture of hope and expectation, a sense of family and community, a pride in our football club brings us out in bone chilling temperatures.
We are supporting the indomitable will of teenagers to tog out and compete against the elements as much as against the opposing team. They do it for themselves, for each other, for the pride of parents and friends. It is a day when mothers worry about colds, fathers worry about losing.

 ”It is a day when mothers worry about colds, fathers worry about losing… happy to be there…whatever the weather.


The team races from the dressing room with grimacing faces and shoulders dropped against the wind. Mud squelches, grass turns muddy brown in the steely rain. The ball is drenched and heavy, the thud of contact is a cold unmerciful sound .Passes are called, shots skewed, injuries suffered, wills hardened. Supporters cheer and moan. They summon a passion in the players hiding momentary despair with varying degrees of success, betraying it with the odd expletive. The game proceeds. The scores ebb and flow. When success looks like a long shot, the heroes stand to be counted. Never mind the prize, pride is at stake here, it’s not over until it’s over.

A long pass is caught and held up. The roar of the wind muffles the roar of the crowd. Defenders pull and drag, desperation draws a foul and a free kick in the final minute. A desolate stage is set for one final act..

A player steps forward and places the ball with quiet calm. Time barely ticks, breathing ceases, silence falls. Luck covers its hand as pressure mounts and mounts. We wait. The free taker shakes his shoulders, steadies and glides over the sea of mud. Thud !, the ball rises like a slow torpedo against the howling wind. The slow seconds pitch hope against reason in the gale. Are we dreaming ?. As the ball drifts towards the crossbar incredulity steals many heartbeats, breathing ceases in the dizzying wait.

Yeeessssss they’ve done it !. In the ensuing stampede sweet tears wash away the drops of bitter rain on grown men’s faces. Families jump in joy and celebration, happy to be there on days like these whatever the weather.

We will remember this day as surely we remember where we were when Kennedy was shot or Elvis died. To our small community this is sporting history.