I had a really nice time last night. When I was a boy my Dad took me to so many football games, which are many of the fondest memories from my childhood. So when I get to take him to a game these days I jump at the opportunity.
Last night was a tight four-point win by Leinster over The Ospreys at the RDS. Jamie Heaslip was again a warrior: tireless and bullet-proof in the tackle exemplified by an astonishing double-tackle in the dying seconds.
I remember seeing football games at the RDS when I was a wee boy. The RDS is a different place now. The transformation that Leinster rugby has managed is a credit to their organisation. The RDS is now a wonderful place to attend a game. Good facilities, easy access and a wonderful approach to making the spectacle child and family-friendly.
One of the mysteries of the big Croke Park games of my childhood was the turnstile. Inexplicably, my Dad could arrange for me to be lifted over the turnstile to attend the game for free. This was never explained to me. I was at one stage on one side of the barrier, then being lifted high and finally placed for a safe landing. We know now that every child was the recipient of such generosity from the GAA but at the time it was novel and magical.
Half-time was another moment of great excitement. Having watched the game with real emotion for thirty-five minutes you had a big decision to make. Which packet of sweets or chocolate bar would you choose today….. It was understood that this was not a time for gluttony. This was a wonderful treat for a Sunday. One to be pondered deeply. One to be respected. My Dad was straight as an arrow consistent in his choice of a single chocolate bar, much in contrast with the whims of my choices in sweets. One bag or one bar, what a treat!
Back to the game we went! There was genuine emotion now as it crept into the last quarter. Dublin football was our usual love. I knew not only every player on our team but most of the opposition. Meath were a particular nemesis at the time. Hayes, O’Rourke, Flynn, Coyle, Stafford, Dowd and so on. The rivalry and emotion was unparalleled in my tiny collection of experiences at the time.
About ten minutes into the second half last night and Leinster were on the attack. My Dad and I were stunned into a stare by the sight of a Leinster-supporting ten/twelve year old boy returning to his Dad, whose hand was outstretched for his change. A wonderful memory from my childhood, the change from the sweets money returned as part of the deal. This kid hands back a platinum credit card……My Dad and I looked at each other in astonishment. Had the kid popped across the road to pick up a new toy from the Volkswagen or Mercedes showrooms that adorn one of the main arteries to the stadium? The child sits down, gets comfortable and reaches for the platinum purchase….My Dad and I are on the edge of our seats. Would Charlie Redmond score the penalty or would Mick Lyons put him off…..We held our breath a second…..The treasure emerged and glistened in the setting sun…..A small bottle of Pepsi…..Different world