It’s a Sunday afternoon in August, in Ireland. The summer heat has dissipated as it nears the beginning of a new school term. The rain is getting ready to settle in, and the All-Ireland Semi-Finals have begun. Today it’s Mayo and Kerry. Kick off at 3.30. I’m at home in Galway for the weekend, booked on a Citylink back to Dublin at 6.15, and with a couple of things to buy in town, I’ll only catch the first half hour. Dad is settled in the sitting-room and is my only source of commentary as I rush about, packing clothes, and everything else I left until the last minute. I crane my head in every now and again as I hear the roars from the crowd. Especially when Lee Keegan is sent off with a red card, in the first controversial moment of the game. Half time arrives, and as I leave the house I call back to Dad to keep me updated on the score.
Later, as I’m making my through the Galway Shopping Center, I notice a crowd. I curiously gaze over, and realise that they’re all glued to a tv screen. An employee from a Sky on Demand stall had switched on the game. I rush over to catch up on the action.
Mayo are now in the lead with a goal and a point, and roughly four minutes to go. They’re defending with all that they have, and then suddenly, a goal for Kerry. The reaction from the crowd begins to attract the attention of others passing by, and our group increases, as people abandon their shopping, all wanting to catch the last few minutes.
Back at Croke Park, Mayo are trying everything to hold onto the ball. Kerry’s Eamonn Fitz is pacing up and down the sideline as the camera pans over the anxious faces, young and old, sitting in the crowd. Only one point separates the two teams as the game enters injury time, and then Kieran O’Leary puts one over the bar. It’s level once again. Voices rise around me as the clock ticks on. And then, following a mistake from Mayo, James O’Donoghue stands up to take the winning shot for Kerry. This is it. And as we stand there, watching and waiting to see if it’ll be the men from Munster making the trip back to Dublin in September, it doesn’t matter which county you’re from. It’s Sunday, in August, in Ireland, and the All-Ireland Semi-Finals are on. You can spare the last few minutes to see it out. And the other 70 odd minutes when they do it all over again next Saturday.