To be honest I’d watch the games on TV and with a tinge of jealousy want to be there but only if they did well, I think I was too afraid to see them lose, Like watching Ireland get hammered by Switzerland I’d tend to hide behind the couch and cover my eyes. I couldn’t stand it. Then like the Dublin team itself things changed and grew over the years, they got better, faster and coincidentally when I began to miss my dad more and more, the older I got, and the more I remembered the days he would bring me to the canal end of the old stadium and prop me on the bar, the more I wanted to go back and pay respect. Still in my memory are sundays in 83 when my teacher John Caffrey [Who handed me the trophy in school and said ‘Can you mind that for me’] and Barney Rock hit hard at the Meath and Galway midfield that season. And what about all those Ciaran Duff jokes? The dirty Meathmen and how I can’t have a Mars bar, an apple and a can of Fanta one after the other without physically welling up.
Those days are gone like the vast majority of memories of dad and his swagger about the place, so only recently and with immense thanks to my cousin Glen Kelly we started talking online about going to the matches for this years season. I thought it would be a great chance to meet up again with my dads brother his sons, have a drink and at least see some games. I didn’t bank on high emotions, I didn’t think I’d experience near levitation and loss of voice, I didn’t think I’d care as much as I did, lose my mind and be very lucky to see a world again I’d forgotten was there. The blinding language, the singing at the height of it, flares, flags, tattoos saying ‘Made in Dublin’ Poor Pascal the Tyrone ginger keeper, the sun slashing through the clouds after the rain over the Cusack bringing much needed light to possibly a dark situation. The return of a great Dublin team we still now celebrate long after a handsome victory. The crowds welled up onto the small street after the tears wiped away, Little did I know that apathy would disappear as the crowd rose up again and again and I wouldn’t move an inch. Earlier as they scored and won I was possibly the only man not moving, struck dumb in the middle of Dineen Hill 16 soaking it all up, holding back the years and trying to stay calm. I couldn’t have imagined it before, but this was pure savage in the state of unreason.
Immense the shift from frustration to pure elation when a breaking ball went down the side and across the grass, McManamon firing straight ball terror into the right corner, I thought of Paddy Cullen watching somewhere punching fresh air. It was like an earthquake. it went on and on till another point and then the silence came, Cluxton ran up for the win, the final ball, I seen the clock – 72.05. There’s one man standing on the shoulders of his brother his arms wide and welcome, he seems very still and quiet, I manage in the crazy mill to focus my camera on his shirt and I know it says “The city that conquered and Empire” its my shot that sums all this madness up. in a silence on the way home after the men and women stop singing Championes I remember a dent on the handle of that cup John Caffery gave me in St Declans, I wonder is it still there, still shining, still lovely.
As they leave the stadium they sign their champion song