Twenty-eight years ago this month, my parents drove to France for the first time, with four of us rattling around in the back-seat. We got lost (how did anyone not get lost before sat nav) and by the time we arrived at our campsite in St Jean de Monts, the gates were locked and the reception desk was closed. But Ireland had beaten England in Stuttgart that day – we’d caught bits of it on the radio on the way down – so the Irish-half of the campsite were still up celebrating. Determined to help a fellow countryman, they got us into the campsite, found a courier, got a key, and got us safely into our mobile home. Ray Houghton was the Irish legend who went down in history that day, and inspired a small side-note in our family folklore too.
Two years later, I watched the Italia ’90 Ireland-Romania match in The Stillorgan House – we were too young to be served or to care about asking to be served, but the staff let everyone in, and we watched standing on seats. Afterwards, we ran outside to join cheering crowds and beeping cars and a whole country celebrated the most magical moment in Irish football ever (to see a gorgeous description of nuns praying for a win, see this post by My Thoughts on a Page).
For the 1994 World Cup, I was in the US on my J1 summer – though memories are hazy, and in 2002, we shook our heads over Saipan and watched matches over pints in various bars around Dublin city centre.
And today, my husband will do something similar – he’s going to watch the match in a place that has grown-ups, atmosphere, and pints. For a fleeting second, I thought I’d do the same – memories of games past flooding back, atmosphere ingrained forever regardless of outcome.
Then I remembered that we have three children. And that as the fairweather-football-fan of the family, I’d be understandably holding the babies. Three very disinterested babies as it happens, who will probably spend the match saying “But what are we doing today mum?”
The atmosphere will be minimal and the pints will be non-existent. And it does feel a little weird to be having a parenting “first” this far into parenting – it’s like when you realise your first holiday isn’t really a holiday or you can’t go out New Year’s Eve – except I’m much, much further down the road and didn’t see this one coming.
So unless someone has invented a fan zone with a play centre, at 2 o’clock this afternoon I’ll bribe them with popcorn and put them in green, and settle down to watch the match in the company of the one thing that didn’t exist for all the other historic games – social media. Hurrah for the internet, and if you’re also spectating in the company of online friends, see you at 2 for some #COYBIG 🙂