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The Clash of the Ash





The ash clashes, hurlers pump their hurls into the air after scoring another point. Proud parents and ardent supporters cheer; they're the club's legacy, following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers.

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've got a red card!'

The whistle blows for halftime. Analysis and praise fill the air: who played well, who didn't, and the goalkeeper earns particular commendation.

'And did ye see that 65? Great talent, he'll go a long way.'

A hush descends as the team retakes the field. We watch, one eye on the scoreboard, the other on the game. The lead changes hands, the score line tightens. The ref checks his watch. We look at the scoreboard — one minute left, scores level.

'We need a point.'

Our hearts thunder, our breathing shallow and rapid.

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 take communion as well.'

The crowd erupts — it's a goal. We score. I breathe, 'Christ, ref, just blow the bloody whistle.'

Finally, the whistle sounds. We clap each other on the back in congratulations. ' It was a great game,' we say.

Silence falls as 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 is silent.

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

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