That’s what you get for singing God Save The Queen at Croke Park. You get the tar beat out of you.
Saturday dawned overcast and quite hungover. I did the only thing a girl who had too much to drink on an empty stomach the night before could do; I took some Advil, drank a pint of water and went back to bed. It was 7:30am for goodness sake. Can’t say that I like this alcohol induced insomnia as I age thing. By the time I’m 50, it’ll be nothing but all night parties by virtue of not being able to pass out when I drag myself home and into bed. I rue that day…
The second time I woke on Saturday was much better. I lounged around and did nothing in particular. Flatmate Suzie and I went for breakfast and I recounted the night before, at the costume party. (story and photos forthcoming) It was cute kid day in Browne’s. I absolutely fell in love with the little girl next to us, having brunch with her dad. There is something so cute about Daddy Daughter dates, even if the daughter in question is 2 years old. There wasn’t much for conversation between them but it was quite the power struggle to get her to eat the sausage and eggs he ordered for her. She was quite content to poach the sausage and eggs off his plate. Ah, they start early, these distinctly female habits. “I won’t order dessert; I’ll just eat yours” So FS and I watched as he tried in vain to feed her with utensils and finished our coffees. As is the custom after brunch at Browne’s, we headed over to Mira Mira for a bit of pointless shopping. It’s a wonderful little gift shop filled with things you want but never seem to need. I buy too often in this shop. But this time I managed to pick up two gifts for others. A gift for my cousin Megan’s new son, Luca and a birthday present for FS, who celebrates in Portugal on Saturday. I even had them wrap it so she has to wait until Monday when we celebrate.
I left FS in the village and went home to get ready to meet Joe, Mark, Rob and Finnula for the Ireland/England match. It’s the 6 Nations Rugby Tournament again and this is the biggest grudge match of the tournament. We agreed to meet at Smith’s, very near my house and then wander into town after the match. As I was getting ready, I had the foresight to text Joe and ask the crucial question: What colour is England again? Red as it turns out, which constituted a change of clothing. I need to buy more green clothing. One quick taxi ride later and I was at the pub, without my phone wondering how on earth I’d find Joe in what looked to be a crowded pub. I needn’t have worried. He was standing in the door. Literally, standing in the door frame, because that’s all the further he could get into the pub. We must have been 3 times over the fire limit, 5 times in the back of the pub by the smoker’s patio. But we could see the TV and the bar was close, which made it ideal.
This was a very historic match. This is the first year they’ve played at Croke Park; rugby has always been held in Lansdowne, near my house. It’s slated for demolition and rebuild soon (well, not too soon, it’s overdue for updating by at least 20 years) so the entire sporting association has been moved to Croke Park. Croke Park is also home to the GAA, which is the Gaelic Athletic Association, the body responsible for all games Irish. It’s a very proud institution. So when the English team came to play, it was quickly realized that their national anthem would be played for the first time in the headquarters of the GAA. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the year 1920. If I may quote Wikipedia:
On November 21, 1920 Croke Park was the scene of a massacre by the Auxiliary Division. British police auxiliaries entered the ground, shooting indiscriminately into the crowd killing 14 during a Dublin-Tipperary gaelic football match. The dead included 13 spectators and one player, Michael Hogan. The latter, Tipperary's captain, gave his name posthumously to the Hogan stand built four years later in 1924. These shootings, on the day which became known as Bloody Sunday, were possibly a reprisal for the assassination of 14 British Intelligence officers, known as the Cairo Gang, by Michael Collins' squad earlier that day.
In 1913 Croke Park had two stands on what is now known as the Hogan stand side and grassy banks all round. In 1917 the rubble from the Easter Rising in 1916 was used to construct a grassy hill on the railway end of Croke Park to afford patrons a better view of the pitch which by now hosted all major football and hurling matches. Immortalised as Hill 16 it is perhaps one of the most famous terraces in the world.
So you can see how the Brits aren’t exactly welcome in Ireland’s beloved Croker. And you can further see why the government decided to surround the stadium with over 1000 police in addition to the 2000 on duty roaming the nearby streets.
The teams took to the pitch, lined on either side of centre field and awaited the President of Ireland, Mary McAllesse. Massive cheering in the pub, by the way, when Ireland took to the pitch. It’s a great atmosphere in the pubs for rugby. Ms President greeted England first, shaking each of the players’ hand and then stepped over the line to greet Ireland. First player in line was the Irish captain, Brian O’Driscall. They had a quick chat and then he escorted her down the line, introducing each and every player. While shaking their hands she looked each one in the eye and said ‘make your country proud’. They did.
The anthems were next (which you can apparently watch HERE if you have 5 minutes to kill and don’t mind the crappy resolution) and this was the sticky part of the day. God Save The Queen, as the visitors anthem, went first. It was a very quiet pub and I’m happy to report there were no boos or hissing reported in the stadium. Everyone listened in polite silence, pubs and stadium, as the British sang loud and proud. They even applauded when it finished. Half-heartedly, but who among us has ever cheered enthusiastically for another countries anthem? Hell, until 9-11 most Americans only cheered half-heartedly for their own anthem. The day Fat Boy Slim starts writing national anthems is the day I’ll start cheering like a rock groupie.
Then the Irish anthems started. Plural. Since the national team is comprised of both Republic of Ireland players and Northern Irish players, they do both anthems. As the Irish Military band played, big cheer in the pub, the camera panned the players, singing loudly. Then they showed one of the players singing with tears streaming down his face. What? Then another player, singing and crying. That’s when people in the pub started to make fun of them. It was the oddest thing to see. These guys are huge, tough athletes and they look it so to see them actually crying at the anthem, knowing they don’t’ cry when they get tackled by 20 guys, was a little disturbing to say the least. Lots of making fun of was done. To their faces, never, but safely tucked into a pint at the local, have at it!
The match started and within 3 minutes, England scored. Not a good sign. They have on their team a guy named Jonny Wilkinson, which is rugby’s answer to Hank Aaron or Muhmmad Ali. He scored, he’s ranked number 4 in career scores and is set, evidently, to shatter number one before he finishes his career. The mood in the pub changed. After the defeat to France, it was generally acknowledged that Ireland needed to get on the scoreboard first and stay ahead of the England or they’d lose, which is what happened with France. They didn’t have enough of a lead and France snuck one in at the last minute. We watched for a bit longer, cheering mildly, and then it happened. Ireland scored to tie. And then it happened again. Ireland made a try (equal to a touchdown, as opposed to a field goal) and the whole mood shifted. Cheering, shouting, celebrating thru the entire game. And, this is my favourite part, and should give you an idea of how badly Ireland wants to beat England just as a general rule, when they lined up for a field goal, the entire pub would hush. Because hushed pubs all across Ireland would make the difference in the televised game. I found it both hysterical and endearing. I also found myself jumping and doing little happy dances as well as shouting “Bring him down!” and cheering loudly. I just absolutely got swept up in the fervour. And I rather like rugby I've decided. Sure, the soccer boys are prettier, but I like polite violence in my sports and rugby satisfies that for me.
So Ireland pounded on England until the final few minutes when England scored. Fine but the second Irish string still went in since they were 20-some odd points ahead. And just at the last minute, one last try was made by Ireland and the look on the guys face was jubiliant. He’d just gotten on the pitch, the first time he’d touched the ball and he ran it in, one final ‘take that!’ to the Brits. It was sublime. The pub erupted and didn’t quiet down again until the Irish coach was being interviewed.
It was a great night to be out in town, I have to say. People all over the place, happy, talking about what an amazing match it was. Hell, even the Brits in town for the match were in good spirits. It was a great match, no one could deny that. But the best part of all it for me? When I left the pub in the wee hours, people were lined up and down the streets trying to hail a cab home. But they, unlike me, were all drunk from the celebrating. So when that cab pulled up across the street and let people out, I was the only one to realize it was empty. I slid in and was home within 15 minutes. And that’s what I get for drinking water.