Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Georgia on My Mind

Down in Schull last Saturday grinding the coffee and preparing for a leisurely breakfast: Irish Times, croissants, and some savoury delights – you get the picture. The wife in benign attendance. The phone rings. It’s the brother with tickets for the Ireland versus England match later in the day – 300 kilometers away. A Grand Slam confrontation with the old enemy is not to be missed so without much hesitation I take on the logistical challenge. First I have to jump the domestic hurdle. Our weekend idyll compromised an initially pissed off partner gracefully concedes. Breakfast is cancelled and our hastily showered hero hurtles off towards Cork.

Rendezvous with the brother at the Travel Lodge near the Kinsale Road and we’re on our way via the South Ring and the Jack Lynch Tunnel. Two hours later we negotiate the slight hiatus of the canal, pass Paddy Kavanagh’s statue, and reach our destination in Ballsbridge. There a transaction with a distinguished ex-international outside Paddy Cullen’s (involving a discreet envelope) yields two tickets. I brazenly ask the Garda at Shelboune Road to move his barrier so that I can access my work place (well I used to work there) and we find a plum spot outside IONA Technologies – just around the corner from the stadium. As it’s our first visit to the Aviva Stadium we decide to go in early and savour the atmosphere. Two pints of plain (excellent quality – albeit in plastic glasses) and a hot dog later we settle into our seats.

The English find the red carpet this time and after the endless anthems and much gratuitous hoopla the match begins. It’s clear immediately that the Irish are up for it more than the English. It’s evident in the early collisions and particularly the first scrum. They are double tackling the English and stifling any loose ball. A few penalties and a few creative moments and the job is done. Sexton and David Wallace are our heroes. The last 20 minutes are spent sitting tight – with O’Gara giving a master class in tactical kicking. The hooray henrys behind us are rendered mute. One dud note at the Aviva is the horrible hectoring music that erupts each time we score, accompanied by some shameless brash prick announcing the score that we can see perfectly well on the giant score boards. They want crowd participation yet they drown it out when it’s at its peak.

After the match we take the car into town and find a perfect pitch directly outside the Ely Restaurant in Ely Place. The restaurant is booked out I’d been told over the phone earlier but I drop in anyway and my old buddies on the staff promise to look after me. We adjourn to the Shelbourne Bar to have our aperitifs (ok, two more pints actually) and soak up the atmosphere. There’s a large contingent of Brits in evidence, many of them wearing their English jerseys – poignantly. Two seats become available beside us in the packed bar and we sit back and observe the carnival.

On then to the warm welcoming womb that is the Ely. We are fed and watered well. Our waitress is Georgia from Sardinia – full of lip (in both senses) and generous of bosom. It would be ungallant not to linger over a few ports.

And so to bed.