Work is a bit hectic at the minute but I took some time out yesterday to make my way down the road to HQ where, or so it seemed, half the schoolchildren of Dublin and a fair few of their parents were gathered to see a whole load of Dublin school county finals. In amongst these was a team that included within its ranks The Brother’s youngest lad – who, to boot, is also my godson – who were contesting their U11 county final against what appeared to be an alarmingly large team from Tallaght.
They lost by a few points (it was only today it struck me that I’m just not the kind of lucky mascot any aspiring team of champions would want to see turning up at Croke Park with a large welcome for himself) and, in truth, the lads from Tallaght had them on the ropes for most of the game, even though another goal for the losers would have made for an interesting end to proceedings. But it wasn’t to be and you could see from the small, pinched faces after the final whistle sounded that defeat in Croke Park at U11 hurt like hell, just like it does at senior level.
Despite the result, however, the brief interlude I had at Croke Park yesterday was still an uplifting one. HQ may well be the preserve of soccer and rugby (and what rugby it was too last weekend) at this time of year and the marvellous sporting cathedral that Croke Park has become has had the effect of making what goes on there seem as if it belongs to a very different world to the one where the kind of grassroots activity that is still the Association’s wellspring takes place.
But yesterday’s jamboree at HQ provided proof that the gulf between the two worlds isn’t perhaps as wide as we can often make it out to be. Hundreds (literally) of boys and girls got the chance to shoot for the stars at Croke Park yesterday and half of them got to experience that special feeling of being part of a team that claimed silverware on the sacred turf. Hundreds more of their classmates, as well as a fair sprinkling of parents and assorted hangers-on such as myself, were in the lower deck of the Cusack roaring their team on. Sadly, The Brother’s young lad didn’t get see what victory at HQ tastes like but simply being there must have counted as a special experience in itself. And, of course, there’ll be other days : as we know so well, there’s always a next time to look forward to.