By Gerry Moran
As soon as the final whistle blew and Kilkenny had defeated Clare in the All Ireland Hurling semi-final, I lifted the phone. “How are you, Jimmy?”
“Good now. How are you, Gerry.”
“Not a bother and you know, of course, Jimmy, what this is about?”
“Tickets, I assume.”
“Spot on. And how are we fixed?”
“We’re fixed as we always are, Gerry, I’ll talk to my people and I’ll be in touch.”
Jimmy, a great friend of mine, and I have been going to All Ireland Hurling Finals together for many years now, many of which we’ve lost and many of which we’ve won – won more than lost I’m pleased to say. Now I cannot explain why but there’s almost always an incident of some kind or other when I travel with Jimmy to the All Ireland.
First off, there’s the case of the missing ticket. Jimmy, Judy his wife, and myself are almost at the turnstiles of the Hogan Stand. Jimmy puts his hand in his pocket to retrieve the ticket – but no luck. He proceeds to do the usual, searches frantically here, there and everywhere for the ticket, but still no luck.
Which is when he turns to his good wife, Judy. “Judy, have you my ticket?”
“I handed you your ticket about an hour ago,” says Judy.
That’s when the panic sets in. And that’s when my thinking kicks in. Jimmy being a singer, not least at the famous Monday night session in Cleere’s Bar, likes to stop off with the buskers en route to the Hogan Stand. He also likes to join in – after which he’ll throw them a five euro note. Which is when I sprinted back to the buskers and was more than delighted, and relieved, to find Jimmy’s ticket, alongside the five euro note he’d tossed to the boys, in their guitar case.
Then there was the parking incident. Now Jimmy and I have a system whereby we park, away from the hustle and bustle near Croke Park; we park in an almost empty car park on the south side, outside of which there’s a Luas stop. Having parked up we duly hop on the Luas which brings us close to Croke Park. This particular All Ireland Sunday, however, although the car park, which holds maybe 800 or 900 cars, is almost empty, Jimmy parks right beside another car. We get out of Jimmy’s car, gather our match paraphernalia (and lamb sandwiches, compliments of Judy) and are walking away when the door of the other car opens and an agitated gentleman announces that Jimmy has scraped his car! The car in question I have to say was, not old, but ancient. Be that as it may the incident almost led to fisticuffs but for the diplomatic intervention of Jimmy’s son who was with us on the day, who calmed the waters and we all went our separate ways.
Finally, there was the year we lost to Tipperary. As if being beaten by Tipp wasn’t bad enough, to add to our woes, for love or money, we could not flag down a taxi. And then, out of sheer frustration, and exhaustion, Jimmy flagged down a youngster pedalling along on his ‘rickshaw’, our thinking being that ‘half a loaf is better than no bread’ or rather a ‘rickshaw is better than no taxi’. And in we hopped. Hopped! In we laboriously clambered what with Jimmy’s bad knee and my dodgy hip. And away we went. Like the hammers of hell. This youngster (and God be good to his youth and strength) pedalled past cars, busses, taxis and pedestrians.
And when he could pass no more, he veered off the street on to the canal bank which was chock-a-block with pedestrians and careered in and out of those, frightening the livers out of Jimmy and myself who now looked like two cats who definitely hadn’t got the cream but who were fit to scream as we felt sure we’d keel over into the canal. We didn’t. And we arrived at our car park, safe and sound.
This All Ireland Hurling Final Sunday, I’m driving, I’m parking (well away from any car in the empty car park) and I’m also minding the tickets.