The first worrying thing was when some official walked out onto the pitch and welcomed everyone to Lansdown- sorry – Croke Park!
Then the Artane Band came out, and with my razor-sharp observational skills, I noticed that they aren’t the Artane Boys’ Band any more. Now, they have girls and other people with pony tails. God be with the days when the Artane Boys’ Band used to hobble out and play Faith of Our Fathers – or at least the ones who were still able to hobble after some big, fat, hairy-eared, red-faced, bulging-eyed Christian Brother had been hammering away at them all week.
The combined Army and Garda Number One bands struck up la Marseillaise, AmhrÃƒ¡n na bhFiann and Ireland’s Call, and the crowd sang along with all three as best they could. In fact, they created something of a precedent for the venue by managing to complete the entire national anthem without breaking into a howl half-way through the last verse. It was a proud moment for everybody, spoiled only a little for me by the presence of the filthy garlic-chewing foreigners right beside us. I mean, in the next seat. Beside us. Like. One thing, though, that you have to admire the French for, is the bloodthirsty nature of their anthem. I used to think ours was a trifle belligerent until I read the words of la Marseillaise, and you know, for a filthy crowd of garlic-stinking cheese-noshing surrender-monkeys, they sure know how to talk tough.
The game started out poorly enough for us, but by now, I feel sure you’ll know what happened and I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of it. Here’s what happened.
First Half: They went ahead. They went ahead again. We nearly caught up.
Second Half: We went ahead. The filthy stinking garlic-chewing New Zealander referee robbed us of a perfectly good try. We went ahead a bit more but not enough. The filthy cheating French scored a jammy try and cheated us doubly by scoring it with only two minutes left on the clock which was not enough time for us to come back, and that’s a thing that only a filthy garlic-stinking crowd of unsporting foreigners would do. (Or Munster when playing Gloucester or Sale, ha ha ha ha that’s different fuck off).
It wouldn’t have happened in Peter Clohessy’s day. That’s all I’ll say. Or in Willie John’s day either. Moss Keane wouldn’t have stood for it. Neither would Woody. Willie Duggan would never have tolerated it. Any of the above sportsmen would have gladly endured a lifetime ban to salvage yesterday’s game by simply giving away a penalty, possibly accompanied by atrocious violence. It would have given the French three points, maybe, but it would have used up the remaining two fucking minutes, wouldn’t it? Ha? Ha? Wouldn’t it?
[FÃƒ³gra Speisialta: the correct answer is YES]
What did I have to do then? What? That’s right: I had to turn to the filthy snail-gobbling, frog chewing garlic-oozing mob beside me and shake their fucking hands. Bon chance my fucking arse. And if you say Beau match one more time, I’ll phone Clohessy right now to come and walk on your face. A stunned and dejected crowd of eighty-odd thousand made the painful trudge back south, through the miserable wastelands of De Naart-Soide.
Paddy, I said. Why are those people staring out their windows?
Simple, said Paddy. They’re looking at the French supporters sitting on their wall. They’ve never seen anyone eating cheese while drinking wine.
That’s different, Paddy replied. It’s a cultural thing, y’know?