Right. The hour is almost at hand.
All my superstitious little rituals are complete.
The hip-flask is full of brandy. The dog has been soundly beaten. I’m wearing my Peter Griffin t-shirt that says Buy me another drink – you’re still ugly. I have my lucky Pope-on-a-rope tied to my left ankle. I’ve had a pre-match dinner of cabbage and ice cream.
What more can I do?
It’s time to wake the Bullet and head for town. Come on, Bullet, you lazy teenaged dirtbag. It’s nearly six o’clock. Get up!
And so we begin the trudge we have made many, many times before. The long walk, in hope, expectation, and a faint whiff of brandy. We have met, and made peace, with the visiting supporters. We have shared a bonding pint, and a song or even two, but now it’s time for us to divide, separate and go our own ways, if not in body, then at least in spirit.
Oh Jesus, here we go again. The nerves won’t take it.
I’ll let you know later who won.
Munster 12 – Northampton 9
You’d have to wonder about people who follow any sport. It isn’t entertainment and it isn’t fun, at least not when a game goes the way that one did. Down to the wire. Last-minute possession rugby to retain a slender lead. A grim battle, fought largely between the two sets of forwards. Hard, grinding struggle, decided by penalties, and by the unnerving, silent respect of Thomond Park for the kicker.
The crowd are insane. If there was a lens capable of focussing venom, the referee would been dissolved in a pool of French terror long ago. The crowd have gone completely crazy, and when Paulie is binned, the crowd step into the breach, supplying the extra man for ten long, dug-in, back-to-the-wall minutes.
Paulie, trapped on the sideline, is like a madman.
I’m like a madman. My son is like a madman. The old guy next to him is like a madman.
A man of my age should not have to put up with that sort of anxiety, and the elements signal agreement by gliding a mist, a Carpenterian fog, over the stadium. It moves. We watch it flow over the wall and onto the pitch. It lives. You half expect a pack of howling werewolves to leap from the vapour but you know this insane crowd would rise up and tear those rash lycanthropes to twitching shreds.
What does all this mean? I don’t know, but it seems Northampton might be back in Limerick for the quarter final, having secured a losing bonus point to qualify as leading runners up. It depends what happens in Pool 3 today.
So we face yet another nerve-tearing, blood-pounding, eye-popping, spit-flecked screamfest, but hey. Isn’t that why we follow it?