It's the early alarm and the September dew polishing your wellies. It's the not even caring that there's a cow missing because you've no time to find her. It's the frantic search for your vintage county jersey at the bottom of the wardrobe.
It's the bacon-butty and the sugar-loaded mug of tea before mass. It's the wife telling you to wipe the ketchup from your chin as the priest says the Our Father. It's the kids, each wearing their brand new jersey; two sizes too big, but sure they'll grow into them. It's the quick word with God after communion, "I promise I'll come every week if they win . . ." It's the expert pundits in the church carpark "Well, he shouldn't be playing at all . . ."
It's the full Irish after mass with the paper, "Did you see what he wrote? Hasn't a clue that lad. Have you any more pudding?" It's that time already, "Jesus, in the car, quick!" It's a new record for the drive to Dublin. It's the tense atmosphere in the car as the traffic worsens "We're missing the bloody minors." It's the relief when you find a place to abandon ship. It's a gateway but where would they be going on a Sunday?
It's the power-walk towards HQ, "Slow down Dad, my legs are tired." It's the quick pint with the boys before the game. "I'm going into Quinn's for one, but I'll see you in there. Here's the . . . ah shite." It's the sprint back to the car for the missing tickets and the wink and nod towards the heavens when you find them. It's the pulling and dragging to get back into Quinn's, "Pint and a bag of bacon fries please". It's a long time since the full Irish.
It's time to hit the road lads. It's the ducking and diving to get out of the pub. It's the banter on Clonliffe Road "Come on you boys in . . ." It's the local craftsmen displaying their wares,"Hats, Scarves or Headbands . . ." It's how much for a programme? You're joking! It's the unholy queue at the back of the Cusack. It's too early to open these ham sandwiches is it? It's the old friends reacquainted, "Would you look who it is, haven't seen you in years." It's the crack at the urinals as you strain the spuds. "I hope the forwards have better aim than you lad, will you watch me shoes!"
It's your round. It's time to go and find the wife and kids. It's the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention as you walk out into the stand. It's the waves from the kids as you catch their eye. It's the apologies as a whole row rises to let you past. It's the less-than-impressed look from the wife, "How many have you had?" It's an awkward situation avoided as the teams take the field that very second.
It's the worried glances towards the sky, "Was that a raindrop?" It's the pangs of hunger, "Did you eat all the eclairs?" It's the digging through your wallet to find your battered betting slip from months back, "And they said I was crazy." It's gonna be some night if they pull it off. It's the chorus of seats snapping shut as the band begins the anthem. It's times like this you long to still be out there. It's the fist-pumping and shouting as it comes to a close. It's the handshake and well-wishes to opposing fans behind you.
It's the careful examination of each team as they parade by, "Jesus, they look big." It's the sweaty palms as the ref makes his way out towards the centre of the pitch. It's beginning to get very noisy. It's the booing as the man in black has a quick word with two eager midfielders, "Calm it down lads, watch those shoulders."
It's game on. It's the trimming of the fingernails as they get the first three, "Come on lads, get into it." It's time for a ham sandwich. It's like trying to get into Fort Knox with all this tinfoil. It's sent flying as we grab a goal, "Go on the lads! Sorry about that . . ." It's a good oul' game isn't it? It's a joke ref, he never touched him.
It's nearly time for another pint. It's the rush for refreshments as the half-time whistle sounds. It's ten deep at the bar. It's slipping away from us, isn't it? It's a wonder he's still on the pitch. It's more expert analysis. It's gonna be a miracle if we see any more of the game at the speed this queue is moving. It's two Guinness please. It's great timing as the second half starts.
It's nip and tuck. It's controversial, "We may watch the Sunday Game tonight; that looked over." It's all square going into injury time. It's a free in the last minute. It's head-in-hands time. It's deathly silent. It's bad for the heart, but how must he feel? It's the last kick. It's 40,000 prayers at once. It's a deep breath and a run-up. It's airborne. It's curling. It's fucking over lads! It's elation. It's a quick kick-out. "It's time up ref, will you blow the whistle". It's a sudden opinion-change on blanket defence "Get back lads!" It's won back. It must be over. It's raised to his lips. It's kicked into the stand.
It's absolute pandemonium. It's jumping around like madmen. It's tears streaming down the side of your face. It's hugging loved ones as tight as you can. It's the best feeling in the world.
It's grabbing the kids and heading for the barrier. It's Plan B. It's floodgates open. It's running towards midfield with your arms in the air. It's a rolled-up programme sent flying. It's embracing your club players. It's the raw emotion. It's the kids pulling out grass to put in their pockets. It's the flags and banners. It's the aching shoulders, "I can't hold you, get down."
It's the muffled cúpla focail. It's the three cheers for the losing team. It's the anticipation as he teases the crowd with the cup. It's thrust into the air. "It's finally ours boy!" It's the phone call to the boss, "Yea, about the morning . . ." It's telling herself you might be home tomorrow. It's going for a quick chipper to replenish energy levels. It's heading to the pub before the trip to Coppers. It's hazy after that.
It's the All-Ireland football final.
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