To Win Just Once
(The Saw Doctors)
I like to think of myself as a reasonably easy-going kind of bloke, but I'm often proved horribly wrong. Over the years, women, money, ignorance, war, intolerance, misuse of the apostrophe and badly-poured Guinness have disturbed my sang-froid, but little rarely have I taken a sporting result to heart so much that I was still fretting about it days later.
So it comes as a surprise to find myself still festering and inwardly fuming over the outcome of 80 minutes of rugby.
My major sporting passion - since cash washed away what little integrity soccer ever had - is the Ireland rugby team. As the son of Irish immigrants and a proud Plastic Paddy, I have followed their fortunes since I was small. My prize for winning the school essay competition was Willie John McBride's autobiography. Sadly my own progress towards a green jersey was hampered somewhat by the fact that I am an incompetant coward on the rugby field.
Now I am too old even to dream of pulling on a pair of boots - it's a long way to reach - I content myself with the hope that I will live to see the lads win the Grand Slam.
My old man used to bang on about the famous 1948 side that won Ireland's only Grand Slam, led, as he was proud to announce to anyone within hearing, by an Ulsterman, the great Jackie Kyle.
Since I was old enough to sit up and take notice, I have wanted to have my little piece of history to witter on about into my old age. No way, Pedro. I have seen the coming and passing of the great Welsh teams, the Gallic flair and nonchalance of the French, England's big white machine has ground out three or four Slams that I can remember, while even the Scots have had a clean sweep.
I honestly thought 2007 was going to be it. This was surely our best chance since... well, ever. Do we not have the most powerful second row combination in the business, the finest back row, a half-back pairing who have developed a telepathic understanding, a top-class back three and the two greatest centres in the game in Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll.
So confident was I that I withdrew my previous offer to said Mr O'Driscoll that he could sleep with my wife if the Slam was won - an offer I never heard Sally complaining about, funnily enough. Incidentally, in a drunken moment I said he could sleep with me if Ireland won the World Cup, but I'm having second thoughts about that one.
Wales were edged aside in a classic game in Cardiff, setting up a thriller at Croke Park and O'Driscoll was injured, but, hey, we're at home and there are enough good players to see to the French. The first half was awful and Ireland lucky to turn round 13-11 down, but a second half rally brought put them in front and, with seconds left, we led 17-13, only to forget how to tackle, let the French in for a try and muck it up for the 59th year in a row.
Normally I get over a defeat in about ten minutes, or half a pint, which ever comes sooner, but this one has got to me. I'm not stomping around, kicking the cat, but I am upset deep down.
Sal is firmly in the 'it's only a game' branch of the sisterhood and she's right - I suppose. It's just that in a life where several of my dreams have come true, it seems that one of the most simple is destined never to do so and that makes me very sad.