The Dingle Diaries. 3: Pogba Abú, Herrera Abú

Feeling good after our walk, we strolled into town and had fish and chips in Harrington’s on Strand Street. Hard to beat it and that’s the truth.

I was feeling especially good because I got two affirming messages on the way back from The Magherees. One from a sports writer about my book, I don’t even know him, what a kind thing to do; and the other inviting me to read at an event next month. Both welcome, both keeping the old imposter syndrome at bay for another bit. Writers and their egos, eh?

Where to watch the United Chelsea game, though? A big call, ask anyone.

We wrote off a few places we knew, we wandered into a couple more we didn’t and wandered back out. We bit the bullet with a big place on Main Street. A Man United pub, would you believe, full of Best and Busby and Keane memorabilia. The owner is a season ticket man. Was at the Champions League finals in Barcelona and Rome and Moscow, for God’s sake.

There’s something about watching a game with others of your ilk, it’s called being safe in the collective. A trouble shared is a trouble halved but a win shared is a win doubled. A great man involved in sport all his life told me once that the teams that win have a great bond forever but the teams that lose tend to drift apart. And I’ve always felt that we win as a team but lose alone. As supporters too.

Pints, a good game, a win – hard to beat really. United took control of the match at big moments, created two great chances and took them, and got the goals (goals are big news in football, a team under the cosh all game can sneak a goal and win, that’s just how the game works). Herrera is a born leader and Pogba has so much talent it’s not true.

All going well with 20 minutes to go and who walks in only a childhood friend of ours, Fra, whom we haven’t seen in ages. I think it was at his Mam’s funeral, maybe 8 years ago, and she was a lovely woman too, God rest her.

So we reminisced with him and caught up on his family and ours. Local news and Mallow news and off he went and we had one more for the journey. The bar owner told us stories of his United travels and his plans to go to the Liverpool game next Sunday.

I’m always intrigued by men like him. Men who have devoted so much time, so much money and invested so much of their emotional wealth to sport. What drives them? What possesses them? Something has taken hold of their imaginations as children and directed them: this is how you will spend your life, in this you will invest so much, for this you will forego so much.

When we were walking into town earlier, we passed a boy, maybe 10, who was pucking a sliotar against a little wall, repeatedly. Honing an old craft, one I happened to be intimate with for many years. What sent him out into the damp wind to do this, alone? He could be doing a host of things. Something has fired a though, the image of a possible scene in his mind and now he’s working towards making it happen. Whether it will happen, I don’t know – this place is like Fiji and Fermanagh, none of them are hurling strongholds. But still … I saw him two days later still at it, so you never know.

The pub owner told us his four brothers were all Liverpool supporters and his story was revealed. I have you now, I thought. Duly noted for my book on the meaning of sport.

We bid him all the best and strolled off up the hill home. Padraig went to bed and I had a cup of tea and read for a while.

What a day. Den céad scoth, as they say down here. And God, I needed it.

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