SERVES me right! I should be on cloud nine this week following that famous victory in Croke Park on Sunday – sorry Limerick over the minor conquest – but actually I’m in Limbo instead.
Having been born without a silver hurley in my hand and having failed to work up a pre-match frenzy or hang a flag on the chimney like all the faithful around me, I’m feeling a bit alienated, to be honest. It’s a bit late to be pulling on the jersey now, isn’t it?
The thing is that intense county loyalties have always left me cold because of ancient tribal connotations which, I believe, cost my own clan the high kingship of Ireland. Anyway I was never a great fan of Cuchulain, who by all accounts was a bit of a womaniser. But the fever is raging all around me now and everyone is delirious with delight.
I’m even lost for words because I don’t know enough about the game of hurling to take part in the only topic of conversation in these parts this week. Okay, not knowing what I’m talking about has never stopped me from talking up to now, but this is different. I’m not even feeling the passion. I must be lacking the essential hurling gene in my make-up.
“Can’t you even pretend to be excited?” says himself, who has grown several inches since Sunday, but who had to be resuscitated several times during the first half, when it was tit for tat as far as I could see. That said, I couldn’t see a lot, because of the pace. Maybe RTE should present the match in slow motion for people like me. I also needed the aid of Hawkeye for every score. I couldn’t even see the ball because of this cataract in my right eye, which is currently my own favourite topic of conversation, but nobody is listening to me now. Everyone is talking about the hurling. You’d think we had never won an all-Ireland before. But this was the sweetest ever, I was told. I wish I could taste it.
Deep down, of course, although I’d much prefer to have won the lotto, I’m really chuffed at the win. As they say about Tipperary in the song, my heart lies there, although I spent most of my life working in Limerick and paying massive parking fines to the city council. I’m delighted for the players – a couple of whom live down the road from me in Ballina – and the management, who gave everything they had, to achieve the victory. I’m even delighted for all my friends, neighbours and relations who have ascended to what one newspaper described as “27th Heaven”. This is a strange feeling for me because I’m usually green with envy and begrudgery when others are over the moon and I’m still firmly anchored to the ground. But it’s kind of liberating too to find that happiness and sheer exhilaration are contagious, and even an alien can catch them if they haven’t been immunised.
I don’t know why I didn’t catch the hurling fever long before this, having grown up in Tipperary’s glory years in the late 50s and early 60s, and having been born beside the hurling field in Dolla. Maybe that’s it. They wouldn’t let me hurl with the boys in the field in the evenings, except on the odd occasion when they were stuck for a goalie. I got so frustrated once that I ran away with the sliothar, pursued by a crowd of angry ten year olds whose only ambition in life at the time was to play for Tipperary some day in Croke Park. I must have thwarted their dreams, because none of them ever did make it to Croke Park – as far as I know anyway.
Certainly, most of my ancestors would have been more into faction fighting on fair days and would have been loath to have to abandon the shillelagh for the camán. Others, who were more genteel, played cricket with no small amount of skill, I’m told. Maybe they should have stuck with it, but tenacity was never a family virtue. But I’ve also discovered, courtesy of the Silvermines Historical Society, that one of my forbears was a hurler and played on the winning team in the first game under GAA rules in Tipperary, in 1885. That was a game apparently, in which a supporter of the losing side ran away with a goalpost in order to give his side time to regroup in the middle of a hammering. So my genes are more interesting than I had imagined and maybe if I had known about my kinsman in time, I might have become a GAA fanatic and I’d be in 27th Heaven right now.
As it is, the only vague connection I can claim to this valiant hurling team is that I went to school, a long time ago, with Jason Forde’s father – or was it his grandfather?
But it’s a religion, they all tell me solemnly. You don’t have to be a hurler to be part of this. You don’t even need a hurling pedigree to genuflect before the colours. Good, I say to myself, because when I went to Mass in Killaloe on Sunday morning, the visiting priest gave a thought provoking sermon about taking risks, and who did he pick, as an example of a great risk taker, but Brian Cody.
“I have no doubt,” he said, “but that he’ll spring a surprise today that will be a match changer.”
For the first time in my life, I found that my blood was boiling over a hurling match. Obviously, I’ve caught the bug, even if it’s still only at incubation stage.