Monday, June 29, 2009


Meitheamh 29th 09


Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!! What joy! What sheer unadulterated totally wonderful bloody joy! What a game! What a team! What a victory. I saw it in the Fiddlers Green Pub in San Francisco just before our big Unite Ireland Forum. Me and Mairtín óg and Benny and Richard. At 11 0 clock in the morning. We were joined by Paul and Seamus from Tir Éoghan. They comported themselves with the grace of princely Gaels. All Ireland champions. And they didn’t mind who knew it.

Seamus is a good hearted young man from Coalisland. Paul a much older dude from the same parish. Paul told us maybe we would be better going some where else for coffee instead of wasting our time thinking we could beat Cavan. I told him we had our sights on Croke Park in September. Seamus laughed.

I told him the old joke about Peter Canavan. You know the one? From the era before Tyrone were the Champions? When they were like Antrim.

‘What’s the difference between Peter Canavan and a Falls Road black taxi?’

‘A black taxi can only carry six passengers’.

Seamus stopped laughing.

‘I see your point.’ Said Paul.

‘You’ll see lots more points in the next seventy minutes’ I shot back at him.

We can win, I told myself. This time we can win. Other times in the football we drew the big hitters in Ulster but Cavan was doable. All winners need a wee bit of luck sometimes. Our luck was the luck of the draw. A game against Cavan. A winnable game. I could hardly dare to believe it. But I did. Win. We could win. Antrim could get through to the Ulster Final.

There were two Cavan people at the table behind us. A man and his young son. A couple from Kerry and some Galway folk on high stools at the bar. Me and the Cavan duo wished each other luck. Then the game started.

I can’t remember the detail of it. I need to see it again. A hundred times over. We started slowly as I recall. Cavan were more assertive. They had more possession. But their first effort at a score was a wide. That looked promising. Then another few wides and I felt that things could turn out ok. My confidence grew. Even though we were on the defensive.

Then we started to exert ourselves. The rest is a blur. I remember screaming a lot. And shouting advice. To Terry O Neill. And Tomás McCann. And Niall McKeever. James Loughrey and Justin Crozier. And Kevin Brady.

At half time Maírtín óg ordered a fry. Bacon, sausages, black and white pudding, soda and potato bread. I ate half of it on him as Paddy Cunningham stroked over a point or two. Seamus ordered a fry as well. I ate most of that on him also as Cavan came back at us in the second half. He didn’t seem to mind. I could see he was impressed by the Antrim backs. I was lucky we weren’t drinking. A Coalisland man and his drink would not be so easily parted.

‘We need to watch out for the soft goal. A sneaky goal wud have us in trouble’ I announced to no one in particular but in the hope that the Aontroim defenders were listening.

Paul agreed.

‘Five points is nothing in football’.

I could have done without that observation, true and all as it might be.

How many times were we here before? Ahead. Playing like demons. Then our focus goes, our coherency disappears, we stutter and stop playing as a team. We get overwhelmed. We lose.

‘Up Antrim’ I screamed. ‘C’mon lads. Aontroim abú. Youse can f***ing do it’.

Seamus looked at me disapprovingly. Then Cavan scored the goal.

The Cavan duo behind us applauded like men gone mad.

I never flinched. I was back in the Falls Park playing for Saint Finian’s against Saint Galls. I was nine. Saint Galls had just scored a goal. I was left half back. Seán Loughran’s quick kick out found me. I went off on a long penetrating solo run before sending a perfect soaring ball forward. Failey Magee fielded it perfectly. He got a point. The winning point. The next day in the back row of Brother Christopher’s class me and Seán Loughran discussed how we would win two All Irelands for Antrim. For hurling as well as football.

So Cavan’s goal didn’t rattle me. But I had fifty one years of almost being an All Star to re assure me. Minnie Mo who texted me every five minutes from Clones broke. She couldn’t watch the rest. And all the while Saint Finians Under Tens were alive and well and running at the Cavan defenders like deer. And then Paddy Cunningham gave us another point.

Two minutes into injury time and all Cavan needed was another goal. But I never gave up hope. My heart stopped a few times but the sight of our team playing like dervishes revived me. At least seven times. And then the ref blew it up.


I phoned our Gearóid at Clones. On the mobile. He was jubilant. I was crying.

‘Youse have no chance against us’ Seamus declared as we left the Fiddlers Green.

But I could see he was shook.

‘See you in Clones Seamus’ I said.

‘Once every thirty nine years isn’t bad’ he retorted.

‘There was a war in between’ I reminded him.

‘You can’t fight a war and play football’ Richard cut in.

And he should know.

‘Remember the black taxi’ I said ‘ I love Tír Éoghan but…….’

‘I know’ said Paul. ‘It’s all on the day.’

Paul is right. Which is strange in itself. But I have to agree.

As David told Goliath, anything can happen on the day.

Aontroim - Ulster Hurling Champions.

Aontroim - Ulster Football Champions.

See you in Clones.


Linda Coleman said...

Gerry, I'm so glad you got the chance to enjoy your game before the conference. What a nice way to start the day!

Though I'm not a sports enthusiast, I truly enjoy reading your accounts of the games you've watched. Your love for the game comes through in every sentence, much more so than in the writing of professional sports writers.

Micheal said...

Well done to county Antrim. I think it's becoming my favorite county because Belfast is the most republican city in Ireland. I think only the cleverest, physically fitter teams can win.

Had a good time in Dublin recently. I had no idea that Irish history was so fractious.

We were'nt taught Irish history when I was a boy because of "the troubles". We were effectively dispossessed of our identity by free-statism and its inherent fear, a phenomena which amplified the destructiveness of british imperialism on the Irish nation and one for which we cannot blame the british.

I bought some good books in the Sinn fein shop to be getting on with and the rebel tour of Dublin was excellent.

So I'm getting some compensation now through Sinn Fein for the deprivation of my youth.

I think the Unite Ireland project should be opened up to the greatest number of people possible. The problem is, that people have their own desires that they want to fullfill and those desires take precedence over community based projects.

Ed.Feighan said...

Hi Gerry, Never knew you were a big sports fan. Sometimes that long wait between championships is well worth it when it happens. Last weekend I was in South Bend for a Notre Dame wedding and happened to walk into a bar with all cub fans, they wanted to throw me out when I asked on purpose what the Phillies score was. Poor cubs haven"t won in over 50 years. Enjoy it while it lasts. E.F.

Timothy Dougherty said...

Wonderful Gerry, maybe it me but I like the Analogy is both the cognitive process of transferring information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target), and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process.As with new social media communications,that can navigate the digital tapestry.Analogy has been studied and discussed since classical antiquity by philosophers and lawyers.Perception is necessary for analogy, but analogy is necessary for perception.Than I could read or perceive more into your writing.

Anonymous said...

Gerry did you see this article today?

Loyalists ask for US visas


Kate said...

you sound as enthusiastic about your team as I do mine.
I watch every Celtic game at McVeighs in Toronto, with Jimmy McVeigh (Befast man) telling me "Settle down missus."

Bit of trivia ...when I came to Canada 1967, Celtic had won the Euroean Cup and the Toropnto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
Neither have won these great events since. So maybe my coming home to Belfast will bring great things to Antrim. Let's hope.

Glad it made your day ...made mine reading it. Well done Antrim and now "Settle down Mister"

Ta ar la anois


Micheal said...

I'm feeling optimistic about this unite Ireland project that Sinn Fein is engaged with and particularly pleased that the Irish diaspora is engaging with this also.

Ireland has changed a lot since the peace process started and I can imagine that the prejudices and fears of people will eventually fall away.

I got to experience this first hand when I was there recently as people who once would not even discuss politics or religion showed an unusually strong interest in conversing with me about Sinn Fein's vision for Ireland and the current health of the peace process. I think there's a yearning there, for justice and for a role to play, for a part.

How wonderful it would be to have a real spirit of unity come to life amongst all of the people in Ireland. Then the beautiful vision of Wolfe Tone would come into being and I think it would also be a great tonic for the terrible kinds of suffering that people have to endure through incongruence. I hope so anyway.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Antrim will become the first county to will the first united Ireland All Ireland, after Monaghan that is, well done Antrim all of ulster will be for yeas against tyrone in clones.

West-of--the-Bann said...

What is the purpose in having a "united Ireland" when the native language is being destroyed?
Why is Colaiste Speirin in Cookstown being denied funding?