A Happy Sad Game in Old Alfama


I’m missing the Cork Waterford game down the Páirc. We’re abroad on holiday, in old Alfama, Lisboa. Bad planning I know – my social secretary has been sacked.

Being away from games brings on that familiar vaguely guilty feeling one gets when missing an important appointment or not going to the doctor when you’ve found a lump somewhere it shouldn’t be. As if my presence among 26,500 people in PUC matters an iota to anyone (let alone Cork hurling) but myself. As if I’m letting my own down, as I have often done before. Strange and silly feelings, but there they are. I know, I know.

In the time pre-mobile phones, when I was away (yes children, such a horrible time did exist – we call it The Dark Ages and it was a period of degradation and want) I’d have to wait until I made it back home to find out a result, or I’d phone someone, and phone calls cost £200 per minute those days. ‘£’ is a Pound symbol, children, it’s a currency we used before Euro – I know, hard to believe, isn’t it?

Yes, children, history IS a long time.

Then there was that time in September 1990 (all hail that glorious year) when we were on holidays in Brittany and I’d been at the hurling to see Tomás Mul lift the cup but was set to miss the football. So we drove to the lighthouse near Roscoff and I pointed the Mini Metro to Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and there he was on the medium wave in all his glory (never mind what ‘medium wave’ is, children, it has to do with radio, an old technology like the loom). So, Ciara went for a long walk and I shouted and roared at the radio in the car as French people walked past muttering ‘fou’- and of course they were perfectly right, such a silly carry on.

Or was it? What a historic moment, and the great Michéal rendered it glorious and immemorial.

I remember getting news of games on two lakes via mobile phone.

Texts on Lake Constance between Austria and Germany in 2006 from sad family and friends that we’d lost to Kilkenny. Poor Ciara had to console me that day, too, and not for the first or last time. As we took the ferry back from Bregenz to Friedrichshafen with our bikes and me with my head hanging having let my team down again. I know, I know.

That social secretary got sacked, too, by the way.

Then more strangely but happily on Lake Titikaka when Padraig texted me with the great news that Padraig Harrington had won the USPGA – a back-to-back win that put him up with the immortals. So that must have been August 2008.

We were on our way back from Taquille Island where the men knitted as they walked around and the women braided their hair into the woven belts of their husbands. We stopped at some floating islands where the families sold jewelry to gullible tourists and they had pet herons and me grinning at them like an eejit, happy as a puppy at play.

Then there was Medinah when I was the one texting tales of a sporting tsunami, watching the mighty arrogant USA USA USA silenced and shocked into an ill fitting coat of humility. Bliss it was that day … and I was thinking of my mother Kitty Coakley, how she would have loved it.

Now in the days of WiFi and GAAGo everything has changed.

In May 2018 I watched Cork versus Clare (the first game) on my mobile phone at the back of an interpretative centre of The Cherokee Nation in Cherokee, North Carolina. It was a family day and local children and town elders put on dances and told fables from a stage beside the centre. I was there for the WiFi but the dancing and drumming and piping were impressive as I watched game on the balcony overlooking the Oconaluftee River.

There was a fishing competition and a hopeful 12 year-old-looking grandson with his very hopeful grandfather presented a fine trout for measurement to the woman on duty. They were disappointed with the result as were The Banner people in Cork that day.

Yes, children, it IS good to live in an age of constant connectivity and instant gratification and being always in the know… What the price of that will be, including others knowing all about us, we have not yet figured out. I hope it’s worth it. You think the internet and its behemoths are the products and you the consumers – don’t be so sure, children…

And so, the game, watched on the iPad on GAAGo, in the little Rua Da Oliveirinha flat.

The sense of a subdued atmosphere in PUC with a small Waterford gathering.

The Pat Horgan goal on 5 showing The Cork team what they can do.

Samba music drifting through the apartment window in Alfama – it’s Lisboa é Festa season. Going to be another long night.

Ciara planning out tomorrow’s travels, we’re heading up to Colares, by taxi train & bus.

That truly amazing point by Jamie Barron on 14.

The long shadows in PUC, the sun shining off the grass.

The smell of barbecue rising up from next door.

Some Cork fans singing Allez Allez Allez, incongruously – we were watching English football fans ‘singing’ that ‘song’, yesterday up in Praça Dom Pedro.

São Vincent’s bells ringing out 8 o clock.

Shane Kingston coming on – what a great sub as defenders’ legs get weary and space grows large.

The energy of Jamie Barron could power a city.

The pain of Waterford as the ending becomes inevitable in its sad demise.

Stephen Bennet giving it all – WHAT a man.

Not even a cheer as Austin Gleeson and the great Brick Walsh come on. A crime that a town in Waterford isn’t named after Walsh; what a servant to his county, it’s humbling to think of it.

The disquiet of the Cork fans on 50 when Harnedy hits a wide and the game hasn’t been put away.

The Bennett brothers trying to carry their county on their willing shoulders. But it’s too heavy a load.

Mark Coleman with a sublime pass to Harnedy who clings it.

Mark Coleman with a sublime pass to Harnedy who wastes it.

The Bennett brothers trying to carry their county on their willing shoulders. But it’s too heavy a load. Such men, though.

Children singing ‘Let’s go Co-ork, let’s go’.

Austin Gleeson’s sideline cut to which Austin Clarke could barely do justice.

Shane Kingston putting his name into the pot for the Clare game.

Patrick Horgan trotting back to Ballyphehane for a free but it wanders wide from 1.2 kilometers out.

The result drifting inevitable as a river drifts to the sea.

I took little pleasure in it. Forget ’17 and the needless mistakes by Cork and the referee in Croke Park that gifted the game away and the baseless hope founded in the foundries of Waterford optimism that day. It was an uneasy affair all around tonight, and you don’t kick a proud county when they are down. Waterford’s lessening lessens us all.

So be it. I tell Ciara the result, and respond to some texts and WhatsApps. We ready ourselves for a stroll down the hill for some Fado and Baccalao. Some copas of Tinto. Down our little windy street on to other little windy streets with the coloured tinsel of Festa and the balloons of São Vincent overhead. The sea view beyond darkened in the dusk.

Then a stroll around the Festa above in Graça and the shocking awful ‘pop’ music the Portuguese seem to adore. Mad for it, they are, swaying and dancing away happily. There are three VERY loud stages within a Pat Horgan puck from our little pad and the music is Junior B Eurovision bad and fair loud. Like I said, a long night.

No matter. I’m happy and sad in this beautiful city walking over cobbles, up and down hills. Happy for Cork. We move on. Sad for The Deise. But sport abides and its tides flow and ebb. Fado music ( that incredible musical gift from Portugal to the world), one singer said in the Museo de Fado the other day, gives one a sense of discomfort and satisfaction at the same time.

Turns out hurling does the same.

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