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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.

The Hawthorn and The Swift: You Have to Smile

It’s a summer Sunday morning and you’re on the road in South-East Limerick. From your passenger seat you watch the blossoming hawthorn ribbon the countryside. There’s a cycling charity event on the road and the going is slow, so you have time to enjoy the undulating view. Hawthorn enfolding fields all shapes and sizes – good land, middling land, fallow and scrub. Draping the livestock in the promise of a summer of plenty, a promise older even than the old promise of hurling’s plenty.

All The Old Feelings

I’m sitting in a Costa in Douglas on Sunday morning waiting for Cummins Sports to open and it hits me. The match approaches with all its baggage: anxiety, stress, the need to win, to be validated again by sport. All the old feelings. I can hardly drink my Cortado, my knee starts hopping. Fuck’s sake, calm down, it’s only the bloody first-round. The sunshine is harsh and bitter when I step outside, I forgot my sunglasses.

Hurt – extract from a sports essay

I’m writing a series of sports essays at the moment, hopefully to become a book. This is a work in progress piece about the physical/the body in sport. This bit is about injuries – my own, mostly –  one of which was serious. Working title: Hurt.  Suggestions/comments welcome.    When I settled into the renal ward (my kidney still inside me) I enjoyed my time there. My mother and father and my family and friends visited and I relished the wounded hero role I had constructed for myself. I wasn’t in much pain but my stomach had gone into shutdown so I could not eat or drink and I was on a drip for ten days.

Remembering an Old Team Mate and Friend

It’s been a great few weeks for UCC and for sport in the college. It’s wonderful to see photos of young people with smiles on their faces and silverware in their hands. As someone who was once lucky enough to have my hands on such silverware (The Fitzgibbon Cup, many moons ago), it’s bringing back a lot of memories. I know I’m not the only one thinking back, and I know I’m not the only one remembering old team mates and friends. I know too that I’m not the only one remembering one special person in particular these days – that special person being Paul O’Connor, whom we lost in 2012.

The Dingle Diaries. 5: Siúlóid an tSáis

There was a moment on the walk when I turned around and looked at the valley I was emerging out from. It was brown with dead ferns and black where gorse bushes had burned. Green in places with heather. And I was completely alone. I couldn’t see any sign of human life, I was surrounded on all sides by hills and only hills. The wind blew through the valley. A stream surged at its base, towards the sea. But I couldn’t see the sea, I couldn’t see any houses, either, or any sign of human life. The mountains, the sky, the dead ferns and gorse, heather, a stream and me.

The Dingle Diaries. 4: Rain

We rose early, in the dark. I was bringing Padraig to the train in Tralee. He had a meeting in Dublin. It had rained all night, a westerly lashing against the exposed windows of our house above the town. It rained still as we drove east along the road past Lispole and Annascaul and Camp and into Tralee. It rained when I dropped Pad at the station and turned the car around. It rained when I parked in Tralee to get a good coffee.

The Dingle Diaries. 3: Pogba Abú, Herrera Abú

Feeling good after our walk, we strolled into town and had fish and chips in Harrington’s on Strand Street. Hard to beat it and that’s the truth. I was feeling especially good because I got two affirming messages on the way back from The Magherees. One from a sports writer about my book, I don’t even know him, what a kind thing to do; and the other inviting me to read at an event next month. Both welcome, both keeping the old imposter syndrome at bay for another bit. Writers and their egos, eh?

The Dingle Diaries. 2: The Magharees

Monday is walking day. Originally we’d hoped to be walking Friday, Saturday and Sunday too, but the best laid plans etc. We decided on a loop around The Magharees (Na Macharaí, ‘the plains’) as described in Adrian Hendroff’s The Dingle Peninsula: a Walking Guide. It’s an excellent book, really well laid out and clear. The version we chose (he offers two) is about 16km, a three and a half hour walk.

The Dingle Diaries. 1: Arrival, Feeling Raw

I’m in Dingle. I nDaingean Uí Chúis. It’s no hardship to say those particular words. Whether it’s February or August, wet or dry, cold or warm. I’m trying to write. And walk, between bouts of rain. After the few days I’ve had, with the funeral and everything, heading off on Sunday morning had a surreality about it. Any journey has a leaving behind, but this one – well, death is final, it’s the last ending so it’s hard to look forward at all, but we must. Mostly, we can.