Yesterday afternoon I had the once in a lifetime chance to meet the Irish national team. I was in a cauldron of emotion: my hands were rattling like the goal nets, my mind was a whitewash of wants and wishes, and with each passing moment things were becoming more real.
Right here before us were our own Avengers, our own heroes: Shane Long, the man who dethroned the German Goliath, Johnny Walters, the beast, and leading the line was our own Roy Keane. Gaunt figures of fear and friendliness, right here in my own back yard.
As a Turners Cross local, born and raised under the gospel of the Shed End and nurtured in Colaíste Chríost Rí, these lanes run as deep in myself as my veins; I’ve cried here, hid here, laughed here, kissed here, hugged here, and now I’ll see my country play here.
Yesterday though it wasn’t just myself, a young reporter, but people of all calibers and sizes: grandfathers hugging their children, mothers and fathers, school children and in the middle of the sea of Corkonians: a 20 year old reporter desperate for a chance.
In truth football brings us together. Our community of Turners Cross, which barely stirs when Cork City hit the back of the net, will be the ‘jewel of the isle’ tonight. Ireland’s eyes will watch Turners Cross, and out of St. Anne’s Park and the Curragh Road the road to France is lit.
7000 people will sound like 70,000. While we all may not have tickets, we will still make our mark. 4 million people screaming and willing, from the passages of D4, to the lanes of ‘the Cross, we are one. Whether you’re 7 years old after school, 20 years old trying to make your way in the world or sitting back at 65, we all are under the green banner. Football isn’t the sport of the working class, middle class, consumer or casual acquaintance, but the game of the people.
Epilogue: I was called to work before the team arrived. On my weary-eyed return home, I discovered my father had waited for two hours and got my jersey signed. If anyone knows something better than a way to express my gratitude besides simply saying “thank you” please let me know, I’m a bit lost for words.