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Wales

I was hoping to bring some kind of semi-coherent report of the Wales trip, but to be completely honest with you, I’m still shattered from it, emotionally and physically.

I’m exhausted.

Why?

I don’t know why.

Yes, we did have to get up at half past three in the morning, which is a bit of a conundrum in itself. What’s the best thing to do: get up or stay up? And yes, we did have a three-hour drive to Rosslare. Six of us in Paulie’s big fuck-off new jeep-thing with a talking GPS thing called Mary that speaks to you in American. Take a left! And yes, the boat journey did involve gallons of beer, bad burgers, mescaline, Bourbon whiskey and the holy game of poker. Yes indeed, and also forays out on deck to machine-gun seagulls, which was tiring. Then of course, there was more drinkahol and brown acid, but you’d expect that.

It isn’t as if I went out on the town after the game like the other drunken swine we travelled with. How could I? What kind of monster would send the poor little Bullet back to a silent hotel room alone in a taxi? No, not I. While my fellow travellers wandered the mean streets in search of new ways to sate their jaded old desires, I was back in the Hotel Bland, watching shite on Sky TV and drinking watery beer in the Bland Bar.

Come on, Bullet, I said. Now that we’ve come back here to this ridiculous hotel where the staff speak only Russian, let’s have a real good father-and-son time, especially since I’ve given up a rockin’ night on the town because of you. Son.

Ah, I think I’ll just go to bed, replied Bullet, who wandered off to the room to practise cool blues licks and generally lounge around being a lot cooler than me.

Excellent. Well then, I’ll just sit here in this horrible anonymous hotel bar with these sad old businessmen and their nineteen-year-old hooker girlfriends. What a great idea!

So, I reckon the exhaustion is probably due to emotional stress and extreme envy at the drunken fuckers being out on the town while I share a warm beer with pathetic old red-nosed businessmen and extremely stupid young hookers.

Did I mention we got stuffed? Yes. Hammered. Llanelli had their homework done. Do you know something really rotten? Will I tell you? What’s really rotten is walking through some town in your team colours after they’ve beaten the shit out of you, and it’s really hard to do that bloodied-but-unbowed thing like in the movies. Spartacus I ain’t. The Llanelli people, being what they are, like Munster people, come over and shake your hand and they say Hard luck, you’ll be back next year and you know they mean it. You know it’s intended with respect, and you want to take it like that, so you reach out and shake their hand and say Well done. Great performance. But what you really want to say is Fuck off! Don’t tell me hard luck!! Can’t you see I have enough problems?

I have no idea what kind of town Llanelli is, because I didn’t see much of it, apart from a pub called the Sandpiper, where we went before the match. I do know, however, from past experience, what decent and friendly folk the Llanelli people are. They have often visited us here in Limerick for Heineken Cup and Celtic League matches, and I’ve always found them great company.

It would have been nice, after the game, to visit one or two of the local hostelries, but it wasn’t ever going to happen. For one thing, some of our people were so disgusted by the result that they just wanted out of the place. Besides that, Dickler in his infinite wisdom, had booked a hotel in Swansea. Which is not Llanelli. The Hotel Bland, in an industrial estate in Swansea. I hope he isn’t reading this. (Ssshh! Next year, if we play them, I’m going to stay in Llanelli in a bed-and-breakfast and find out what it’s like. I’ll even drink beer in their pubs and talk to the locals, and I bet they don’t have two heads or anything).

Did I mention Cardiff?

No.

Well, the last time I was in Cardiff, it was also in the company of the Bullet, and it was in May 2006. On that occasion, however, we were at the Millennium Stadium to win the European Rugby Cup. Jesus, how the mighty are fallen. This time, it was to watch Cardiff play Sunderland, Roy Keane’s team. Now, I have to tell you a little bit about the gang I was with. To a man, they are dyed-in-the-wool, muck-savage country-boys who never played anything but hurling and rugby. None of them had ever been at a soccer match in their lives, and therefore it was a little embarrassing to note the police paddy-wagons lined up beside the stadium. They’re all looking at me because they’ve decided I’m the soccer expert.

Me? I say. Do you really believe that supporting Scunthorpe makes me an expert?

No, they say, but at least you’ve been to a game. And then they gesture towards the paddy-wagons. What’s the story, Boss?

I can understand their perplexity. Last night, we were mixed in with the Llanelli people, shaking hands and laughing. (Well, maybe not exactly laughing, but you know – that sort of thing). Today, we have a phalanx of riot police separating the supporters. This aspect of soccer I will never understand.

I shrug. Keep the heads down and the mouths shut.

They all frown and nod.

We enter the ground two hours early and get stuck into their beer, their hot-dogs, their chips, their pie-things and more of their beer. We enter the ground and we sit down (being seated). The match kicks off and it is truly shite, as many games often are, but then, without warning, a commanding figure emerges from his dug-out. A man among men. A mighty human being, a true king of sporting kings. Who is that man in black? That’s Montgomery Clift Roy Keane, Honey!

Bestriding the world like a Colossus.

Great, says Dickler, and swings his camera into position, a very nice Canon EOS and tripod. Quick as a flash, a squat lady with a specially-coloured steward’s jacket approaches. This is an important jacket. Better than the other stewards. They only have yellow, but this jacket has blue patches on the shoulders and a bit that says Team Leader. Oh dear Jesus, spare us from Team Leaders.

You can’t use that camera.

Why not?

It’s a professional camera. You can’t use it.

It’s an ordinary camera.

No. It’s professional.

What’s professional about it?

It just is.

This woman’s experience of cameras clearly involves buying a disposable for a week in Marbella. In this Team Leader’s world, any other kind of camera must be professional. In this Team Leader’s experience, there’s nothing like a bit of power. This Team Leader is not to be denied. Fuck it, we all think, what a life. You’re such a sad individual that this is your world: you get to direct people at a football match and then you go home to your four obese children and your Dutch-Gold-addicted husband. Why wouldn’t you enjoy a few minutes power? Suddenly, we’re all consumed by righteous anger. Jesus, Dickler, let the poor woman alone, for fucksake!

Dickler cringes and and puts away the camera.

And that’s why we didn’t get a shot of Roy.

We go on to experience the most painful 105 minutes I have ever known. A display of pure boredom such as I have never experienced at the worst soccer match I have seen since the age of five. Karma. The four muck-savage rugby players declare to a man Never again, Boss.

And we all fuck off, back to the Hotel Bland, for more mescaline, Bourbon Whiskey and brown acid.

Til next year, then. Did I mention we got stuffed?

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