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Gaelic football « An American in Ireland

Gaelic football


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If you would have told my parents a year ago that they’d spend their next vacation visiting me in Ireland, they’d have laughed it off as an amusing but silly joke. To be honest, I probably would have as well. Funny how quickly life can change.

Last week my parents came over and got some insight into my new life here and what it all means. They partook in some of my now-daily routines, like breakfast of sliced McCloskey’s Cottage Brown Bread with a medium-boiled egg served in an egg cup (something not at all popular in the U.S.). They did their laundry in my tiny washing machine/dryer combo, and managed to hang everything properly on my indoor clothes horse and realized it would take approximately 24 hours for those clothes to dry. And after a few searches in the dark, they grasped that the bathroom light switch in Ireland is always, always outside the bathroom! And they experienced all little things that used to drive me crazy, like the nonsensical pricing scheme of Irish Rail tickets (Dad: “How is it 12 euro for one way to Dundalk when it’s 14 euro to go all the way to Dublin and back!?”). It was fun to watch them adjust to all the oddities I struggled with upon my arrival here. It reminded me of just how settled I feel now.

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When I was visiting my friends in Collon last September (this was the trip that basically got the wheels turning about moving to Ireland), I noticed red and black checkered flags all over the village. Pubs, houses, telephone poles – they were everywhere. I soon found out that these flags bore the colors of the Mattock Rangers, the local Gaelic football club, and that the team was close to securing a spot in the 2009 finals. The anticipation and anxiety of the village was evident in the bits and pieces of conversation I overheard during my visit. It was as if the entire population of Collon was holding its collective breath, careful not to jinx a victory by too much talk while at the same time silently agonizing over the thought of a loss.

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I went back to America before the final match but heard from friends that the Mattock Rangers clinched the championship the following month. I saw video and photos of the three-day celebration around Collon village, and it looked absolutely mad. The guys were jumping on tables, the team paraded through the streets on the back of a huge flat-bed truck and it seemed the entire village was out partying for those three days and nights – kids, moms, dads, grandparents, the whole lot. I didn’t quite understand the passion and, most importantly, the significance of the team and what they meant to the community until I saw that evidence. For the village of Collon, the Mattock Rangers represent its hopes and dreams; it’s not just a football team, it’s a way of life for many in the community.

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