Monday 23 September 2019

'I'll smile when he violently shakes my leg to let me know they've scored' - how couples differ when it comes to bumper fixture weekend

With a bumper fixture list on the cards, this weekend will be heaven or hell, depending on how much of a sports fan you are. Gavin Caffrey and his wife Lynne choose sides

Sporting rivals: Gavin and Lynne Caffrey have opposing views on a fixture-heavy day like tomorrow Photo: Arthur Carron
Sporting rivals: Gavin and Lynne Caffrey have opposing views on a fixture-heavy day like tomorrow Photo: Arthur Carron

There's a massive weekend of sport ahead, but spare a thought for those of us facing into a period of marital strife and epic division.

The fun kicks off when the Ireland rugby team take on South Africa at the Aviva at 5.30pm tomorrow. Straight after, the football team face Denmark in Copenhagen at 7.45pm in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier play-off. As if that wasn't enough excitement, Ireland take on Australia in the first test of the International Rules Series in Adelaide at 5.10am on Sunday morning.

Tony Cascarino Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Tony Cascarino Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

They're all big clashes but none quite like the conflict that will take place in households around the country as couples fight for control of the remote.

The battle lines have been drawn in one such home as Gavin and Lynne Caffrey prepare for a marital derby of epic proportions. Here's how their weekend will pan out...


I'm that person… the one who arrives home chittering away about how I flew round the supermarket in record time, completely oblivious to the fact there's a matter of life or death taking place on the telly.

Pause for concern: Rob Kearney Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Pause for concern: Rob Kearney Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It's usually only when my husband glares at me that I twig: "Aha, that's why Aldi's like the Mary Celeste - there's an Ireland match on…"

"Ssssshhh," is his only reply. At which point I retreat to the bedroom with a book, or off out again.

With the nation holding its breath (and Guinness) once again this weekend, I'm toying with the idea of a Saturday afternoon trip to Penneys.

Just imagine it - shelves of neatly folded clothes, empty changing rooms and no queue at the tills. Result! The only downside is I'll have our two kids in tow, making the likelihood of me refereeing a public boxing match high.

Instead, I'll probably take them for a walk to the Hellfire Club or Tibradden, then for hot chocolates at the Country Store and Café in Killakee.

Gavin - my big match - thinks walking is pointless, so we'll leave him sitting on the edge of the sofa, eyes glued to the TV, slack-jawed and dying for a toilet break.

This weekend's schedule is excessive, but that seems to be the trend. Ever since they added Friday night matches to the Premier League timetable I've suspected a cabal of divorce lawyers have some secret vested interest in the fixtures.

How Gavin will manage to stir up such strong emotions for every different scoreline is a mystery to me. I do appreciate sport, I just don't get 'into' it the way he does. There's nothing worse than someone feigning interest, so I don't. I'm happy to sit on the sofa, read a book and smile when he violently shakes my leg to let me know they've scored.

On weekends like this, I envy sports' fans knack for planning ahead. If I'd the foresight, I'd have found a childminder and bought tickets to see Tribes at The Gate or meandered into town on the bus to browse the print fair Halftone at The Library Project. Afterwards, I'd meet up with friends for a few glasses of wine.

As it is, once again I've been caught unawares, and so will be marching two kids up the hills of south Dublin.

When we've gone for walks before on big match days it's been an eerie experience… there's a stillness and tension in the air akin to the opening scenes of zombie horror film 28 Days Later.

"Why are there screams coming from that house Mummy?" my youngest once asked as we walked past a semi-detached bedecked in flags. "The match," I replied, unable to verbally encapsulate the potent emotional brew of national fervour, a day off work, ice-cool cans and crisps in a bowl. I don't feel that I'm denying them a rite of passage or stunting their nationalism by pulling them away. When the time is right I'll bone up on the rules of GAA/football/rugby/International Rules and join their dad on the sofa. For now, they're too young, constantly losing track of who's who and cheering when the opposition score. When they do manage to become emotionally invested, they weep uncontrollably at the sight of the losers' tears.

Forgive me, but trying to manage their emotions, along with their dad's post-match despair (he's a Liverpool fan), is a weekend fixture I don't have the stamina for just yet.


There hasn't been this much excitement around a sports day since I pulled Alan Barkley back by the boxers to win the 1988 running of the egg and spoon race on Laytown Beach.

Times like these come along maybe twice a year, when the sport planets align to provide fans with a day of unrivalled bliss or heartache… or generally both. Whatever the outcome, the pub is undoubtedly the best place to be, whether drowning your sorrows or celebrating.

The plan of attack is pretty straightforward for single people. Add an uninterested party - in my case, my wife Lynne - and things get complicated. As she says herself, there are plenty of women who follow rugby or soccer… or both, but International Rules? And all three together in less than 24 hours?

Throw kids into the mix and only a tactical genius will prevail in managing to watch all three events live.

But I've been planning for days like this since I first met Lynne nine years ago, luring her to the pub at the weekend for carvery and hairs of the dog while the Liverpool match or Six Nations played out in the background.

The subliminal coercion continued when our daughters were born - Lois (6) could rattle off 'You'll Never Walk Alone' aged two; her two favourite teddies are named Luis (Suarez) and Kenny (Dalglish). Holly (4) didn't escape either - her toy rabbit is called Stevie (Gerrard). I even encouraged Lois to pull out her wobbly two front teeth so she'd look like Tony Cascarino.

Yet despite countless Ireland and Liverpool jerseys, all three ladies' attention spans never manage to surpass the 20-minute mark of most games. In some ways, it's quite refreshing. Lynne's lack of knowledge makes me feel like Jamie Carragher and I can escape to the Aviva on special occasions. In others, I'm resigned to blubbering on mates' rock-hard shoulders after defeat and chaffed lips from kissing their stubble post-victory.

I haven't given up hope on the family… it's only half-time. Still, I'm better off going this one alone. I've been planting the seeds all week for my spexit negotiations.

The missus rarely gets time to herself (so I'm told) so I offer a few suggestions for Saturday:

"You should get your hair done."

"Why, what's wrong with my hair?"

"Eh, nothing… relax and have a long bath then."

"I am relaxed - you relax."

Shite. Poor start. I've a first touch like Bernie Slaven. Besides, she's got bigger plans for us:

"We should go for a walk."

"To the pub?" I ask hopefully.


I begin to daydream of the perfect scenario... the grandparents duly oblige with a last-minute Robbie Keane-esque rescue mission and say they'll take the kids for the night.

Then Lynne announces the girls are coming over for wine and the chats - how Robert Plant has followed her on Twitter; why Bake Off lost its allure after Liam was booted off - and to pause the rugby every time the camera pans to Rob Kearney. The risk of a Kearney-shaped silhouette burnt into my precious plasma is immense but cities have fallen for lesser freedoms.

By 3pm in my dream scenario, I'm meeting the lads in town. Some show scars of the family jailbreak - cuts and bruises etched in their skin, shrubbery and stalks sticking out of their hair from scaling back garden walls. Others just stand there legs apart, arms and face raised skyward like Andy Dufresne after bolting from Shawshank. The great escape's complete.

We hit the pub (preferably beside a bookies) and the first round is giddily ordered: "Jägies all round!" There goes the International Rules game.

The reality, however, will probably be more like this… I prise the remote out of the kids' hands and manage to get through most of the first half of the South Africa game with a combination of bribery and tablets (the electronic kind) before bedtime plays havoc with the second. I drag the youngest back to her bunk Super Nanny-style and Lynne's good enough to pause the TV at important moments in the game. Strangely it coincides with every time Kearney's on camera.

By 9pm, they're finally asleep…. I'm half an hour behind live TV and knackered, but at least I can have a drink. I have an early night and for once I'm up before Lynne and the kids the next morning - it's eerily quiet and the thoughts of actually getting to watch Ireland v Australia uninterrupted makes me giggle like a little girl... until I turn on the TV.

Rob feckin Kearney!

Irish Independent

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