Longford Leader columnist, Mattie Fox
Getting off the train, approaching Croke Park, it was interesting and highly absorbing to watch the hurling men and women walking alongside. The noise was a babble of voices indistinguishable from reality, yet being the one commanding reality on which to focus.
All parties looking as though they were headed in a particular direction, not travelling too quickly, yet purposeful.
A panoply of imported colour, maroon, black & amber prejudiced the entire area as though it wasn’t really Dublin we were in at all.
The day was extremely hot, and didn’t encourage rushing around.
Yet, nobody seemed carelessly leisurely in their walking.
All seemed slightly reaching forwards, slightly hurrying, slightly rushing.
Most passed me by, as I took my time, it was only about fifteen minutes to the park anyway, and in any case Croke Park wouldn’t break a seal on a gate one second before the appointed time.
So, no hurry then.
I strolled along, the first time I’d undertaken the walk this year of 2018, and I thought about the games I’d missed earlier in the year, without regret.
Longford against Dublin was one I couldn’t go to, though I would have, had I been around.
Anyway, today was different.
Galway v Kilkenny.
A meeting of giants promised.
Half way down Clonliffe Road, an old Dublin lady sat in her chair behind the open door in the hallway of one of the terraced houses.
She looked interested, and observant.
I spoke to her, and she seemed surprised, but smiled as though the sunlight had lit her face momentarily.
We exchanged the Great Irish Conversation about the weather.
Both agreeing that it looked like another very warm day.
Indeed we also added that it looked like lasting another while.
No argument there.
Small talk indeed, but nonetheless we were communicating.
One from Dublin, one from Longford.
She looked like maybe seventy five years old or thereabouts, and was relaxed, unperturbed and easy; without tension or anxiety.
Good to see someone who lives in the area behaving as though she had no fear. Fear causes too many of our elderly people to become afraid of the stranger.
Maybe she knew we were all match goers. Culchies.
Thinking about her as I walked on down Clonliffe road, I found myself in no time arriving at Jones’ Road, and the huge edifice that is Croke Park.
I headed on up to Jury’s hotel, where as always the place was crammed full of everyone who is anyone, and they were just the minority. The majority were Galway and Kilkenny people milling around, wanting to savour the atmosphere.
Plenty of colours, coloured jerseys, flags, hats, and even shoes.
All emblazoned with the respective team's colours.
I knew it was time for Croke Park to open the gate so strolled across. Went up to the restaurant and it felt eerie, it was so empty. A couple of Longford people were in the tiny queue for food, and I joined them, and we chatted easily.
It’s nice to meet someone from home, sometimes.
Eventually I peeled away to look into the stadium, and indeed it looked resplendent.
Somehow, though, the attraction of my being there grows less as time passes. Much to do with the quality of the football particularly. Too many games are predictable before they start.
Galway and Kilkenny promised to be a cracker of a game and, as often happens, it wasn’t really. Kilkenny looked efficient and methodical, but I don’t think one could judge by Galway, who had arrived in Croke Park on foot of Division 1B.
Playing Antrim, Laois, Offaly, is hardly a way to set a team up for Kilkenny. It didn’t, and they weren’t at the races, in reality of Galway’s real ability. Joe Canning looked injured. Scored a few times, but missed a few too which is not like Joe.
The game finished 18 points apiece, with both teams lucky, Galway especially so. The replay is in Thurles next Sunday.
I expect a different Galway, otherwise they’ll exit the championship.