Man Mark the Beast From the East

That was a strange weekend. Stuck in the house. No game to go to. O’Neills jacket hanging by the door.

Longing for the smell of onions and burgers. Halftime homemade soup. The road trip to away games. The allure of Topaz, Applegreen, coffee scalding hot and sweet in cardboard cups, muffins, panini, the 7pc fry ups. Or maybe you prefer the squished taste of sandwiches in tinfoil, accompanied by Tayto and a drink of Club Orange. Saturday night lights and Super Sundays on the road.

The Beast from the east. Have jersey, will travel but there’s nothing on and nowhere to go. Cabin fever. No football or hurling on the television either. Felt like a poor terrestrial viewer when all the games are only satellite. Except they weren’t even on satellite. They weren’t anywhere. They say you only truly miss something when you can’t have it. It was like a death in the family.

You think of the things you miss at matches. The national league. It’s cold, its wet, it can be icy. There's sometimes a watery sun, but as likely hail and rain. The road there is short with expectation and hope, the road home much longer if your team has lost. The miles eaten up with conversation, craic, sleep and silence.

Miles to go before I sleep in the passenger seat, so the programme gets the cover to cover treatment. The team line out pages. Marked in a red hieroglyphic. Who came on, who went off. Scorers, wides, dead balls. An exasperated circle scrawled around a non starter.

Crossing the border. Where’s the fuel cheaper. North or south. What of Brexit and the GAA? What of the blanket defence. Who invented it? Can anyone beat the Dubs? Can Galway beat the Dubs? Will they win five in a row? Arriving at the match, the outdoor gear set in the boot. County bobble hat or beanie or both? The layers, the coats. The snood, whatever that is. Staying warm. Staying dry. Watching the game.

That’s the GAA folks. When it’s on, you can’t live with it, warts and all, debates, heated and at times over heated arguments. Passion, pain, pressure. When it’s not on, you can’t live without it.

Would you have it any other way?

PS: What would you do about the beast from the east? Man mark him (or her)?