Friday 19 January 2018

Ecstatic schools rugby fans remind me of my high school glory days

Sean Kilgallon of Roscrea celebrates victory over Blackrock
Sean Kilgallon of Roscrea celebrates victory over Blackrock

Donny Mahoney

It was hard to watch the hordes of ecstatic students of Belvedere or Roscrea in the stands of the RDS celebrating tries as their teams romped to victory in the Senior Cup last week without feeling heavy pangs of nostalgia for my own days as a teenage sports fan.

The guy with the megaphone, the guy with the terrible face-paint. I've been there.

For me it was the St Joe's High School basketball team and our New Jersey state title run in the 1997-98 season.

We had never been a basketball powerhouse, but for some reason or another, Jason Williams, one of the best young point guards in the state, had chosen Joe's. By the time his penultimate year in high school came around - my final one - Joe's were a force and J-Will had interested NBA scouts.

We made a run at the state title that year and my friend Roberto, myself and our buddy Bob Hugelmeyer, a 'Dead-head' who drove a beat-up VW Beetle, followed the team all around New Jersey.

It was my first time attending sporting events with people my own age and it was sensational. Amongst the mob of fellow teenagers, you could scream anything you wanted at the ref or opposing teams.

Special merit was given to those who could come up with the funniest epithets to hurl at the enemy. Comparing an opponent to a 'Saved by the Bell' character was pay-dirt.

On tour with the team, the bogus power hierarchies of high school were suspended; we were all united for a common cause.

Desolation

We made it to the state championship game that spring. Down one point with a few seconds left in the big game, J-Will settled for a tricky jump shot that rattled off the rim. Desolation.

J-Will went to Duke and become one of the best college basketball players ever. The Chicago Bulls selected him second in the NBA draft.

After his first season, he shattered his leg in an off-season motorbike accident, and his career was over. Proper desolation. He's now a pundit. Such is sport and life.

Irish Independent

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