The Clash of the Ash

The ash clashes, hurlers pump their hurls in the air, another point. Proud parents cheer. Supporters of the club. It’s through tradition, their fathers and grandfathers hurled for the club, and now their sons.

A yellow card.

‘Ref, for feck’s sake, what was that for? Are ye blind?’

The game plays on.

The crowd mutters, ‘Jasus lads, that was a close one, he should have got a red card!’

The whistle blows. Halftime. The game analysed, who played well, who should be taken off. The goalkeeper praised.

‘And did ye see that 65, great talent, he’ll go along way.’

A hush descends on the crowd. The team are back on the field taking their position. We watch, one eye of the scoreboard, the other on the game. One team inch ahead, only for the opposing team to even the score. The ref checks his watch. We look at the scoreboard, one minute left. The score even.

We mutter, ‘We need a point.’

Thundering heart, palpitations, slow shallow breaths.

I squeeze my eyes tight. Please God, just one more point and I’ll go to mass every Sunday and if it’s a goal, I promise I’ll do communion as well.

The crowd cheers. It’s a goal. We score. I hold my breath, ‘Christ ref,  just blow the bloody whistle.’

Finally, the whistle. We clap each other on the back in congratulations, ‘A great game,’ we say.

Shh, the manager speaks.

‘Well done lads, ye played out of your skins.’ He chokes up, ‘God you don’t know how proud I am of ye.’ With one hand on his chest, he takes a deep breath to compose himself, everyone silent.

‘This time next year,’ he pauses, ‘ we’ll win the Under 8’s Championship.’

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