Séimí must have known that this was knockout.
He must have understood that Kilkenny had been forced through the back door for the first time in 8 years, and that losing a game mid-August wasn’t an option. He seemed to appreciate that Mammy couldn’t be at his beck and call while the sliotar was in play. His past history didn’t instill confidence though.
I brought my little man to his first hurling match last month, and in hindsight, I started him too late. My Dad said afterwards that I’d have been better off bringing him good and early, when he’d simply get used to the cacophony of sound around him in the stands, and he was right. Instead, myself and my men, big and small, headed to Croke Park on the 8th of July, when the latter was just over 3 months old. It was the day of the Leinster hurling Final, and Kilkenny were playing what I’ve come to refer to over the last decade, as their “bogey team” – Galway.
The tribesmen had a new manager – a man they seemed finally to have realised their potential under. They had insatiable hunger for success, starvation almost, and they had Joe Canning. All I had was a nappy bag. And unfortunately, no permutation of its’ contents, though varied and substantial, would remedy the damage that the man from Portumna would do.
Joe rattled the onion bag behind David Herity not 3 minutes into the game, and thus ended my little man’s first and only visit to GAA Head Quarters. We were sitting high up in the Davin Stand, almost directly above the goal, and behind what I can only imagine was the entire population of east Co. Galway. The place went wild, and so did the baby. A baby, I might add, who is placid and playful most of the time. Séimí got a fright, and playing the “hurler of the household” card, I sent the big man home with the pram and screaming child. An hour later, Kilkenny were hammered, and I walked home alone.
Two days ago, not surprisingly, Kilkenny supporters were nervous about the All Ireland Semi Final. Their neighbours and rivals, Tipperary, owed them a beating, and stood between them and another crack at Galway. I absolutely HAD to watch that match in its’ entirety. A meltdown by the wee man was not an option. I kept him far away from Croke Park for the quarter final against Limerick, (my friends deduced that he had been the bad luck charm at the Leinster Final). Now though, we were in Spain, in the searing heat. The only way to catch the game was to head for the air-conditioned pub, with Séimí sitting in the same position in his buggy for 2 hours. Dodgy.
The staff at Paddy’s Point, a place we’ve come to know over the years as our ‘local’ over here, were great. Séimí made friends with anyone who’d throw a smile in his direction. He didn’t flinch at his mother’s yelps and expletives, and he even met one of Ireland’s great GAA Journalists, Colm Keys. (I’m hoping all this will rub off on him). He wasn’t wearing his Kilkenny jersey last Sunday because the heat would probably have melted that material right into his skin, but I know that deep down he was rooting for the Cats. He knew he had to be good. He knew he had to last the duration of the match, needing little or no entertainment from Mammy and Daddy.
And, the little boy done good. His angelic humour for the evening served only to add to the joy at what was an emphatic dismissal of Tipperary. Like I said, Séimí understood that unlike the Leinster Final, we could ill afford mishaps. I haven’t quite decided yet whether to bring him to the All Ireland Final. My friends might be right, and Kilkenny play Galway yet again in that decider, so I might leave well enough alone. He’ll have grown out of the black and amber jersey he has by then, so either way, I’ll have to buy another. My only other dilemma, though I’m no rush to address it, is whether or not I need to break it to the child that he is in fact, a Dub!