David McWilliams: Relegation is on the cards as our best players leave
LAST Saturday night in Split, on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, the local team, Hajduk, hosted the brilliant Barcelona. The omens weren't good. Earlier that day, storm clouds had swept across the Adriatic from Italy and more rain fell more heavily than any of our seasoned Irish company had ever seen.
Not only torrential rain, but what the locals call "krupa" -- giant hailstones -- clattered out of the black sky. Imagine: the temperature is 25 degrees, yet ice is slamming down on to the roof, floods of water are cascading down previously parched hills, turning the terraces into overflowing estuaries and kitchens into gurgling eddies, flooding all the houses as these ferocious rain-bloated tributaries crash their way into the sea.
The McWilliams family is, at this stage, up on chairs with mops, brooms, towels and other makeshift implements, which, for a brief moment, we are convinced will arm us against the power of nature. The locals, on the other hand, are unfazed; they have seen it all before. As one of them said to me with a shrug: "Hey, Irish, water travels downhill -- get used to it."