John Fist’s first trip to Ireland had an unexpected Hollywood feel to it. Bear with me. During my evening at Dalymount Park I couldn’t shake the thought of it all resembling an early scene in a Kevin Costner baseball film. You know, there’s a night game under the lights, everyone knows everyone else, the stadium is falling apart, and the majority of the crowd are more tuned into their conversation than the action on the field. But still, there’s a magic, a hope, in those hazy, golden floodlight beams.
Things didn’t start in such glamorous surroundings, however. After sampling the flat white delights of both Shoe Lane and Network in the city centre, both of which were delectable and highly recommended, I was, quite frankly, buzzing off my tits. I knew I was reaching tipping point. I either had to try and dig out some ground Arabica to snort, or sit out the come down. Fearing the gear on the streets for a tourist would be, at best, an arabica/robusta blend, I opted for the latter, curling up in a ball under a bridge as the Liffey flowed by.
After hauling myself up to Dalymount Park, I was craving any kind of sustenance. There was a McDonald’s, and a bench laden with old chewing gum outside the McDonald’s. As I made my way toward the obvious choice, some youths slid slovenly onto the bench, so I skulked inside the golden arches and ordered some nuggets.
I gorged on my mess sat in one of those spacious, comfortable spinning chairs by a large window. Out on the path immediately before me the youths who had usurped my bench sprang up and started confronting two addled looking men. Words had evidently been exchanged, and one particular lad was apoplectic at the two stained gentlemen.
Whuh?, he screamed. Whuh? Whuh?
He ruddied his own cheeks with rage. I looked on, anticipating a duel of wits.
The young lad was being held back by a friend. The two addled men had such slow reactions that they were always two insults behind, and the contest was over before it had even got going.
The branch manager came over and peered disapprovingly out of the window.
I’d keep my kids locked up and away from society, she began, if I had any.
I’m not sure if she winked at me, but I presumed not. Last week Dad told me that not everything was about me after I asked him to turn down the Bon Jovi Greatest Hits he was blaring out at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. His face glistened in the low lamp light. I booked this trip to Dublin the morning after.
The stadium itself is a glorious, dilapidated relic, regardless of whether Kevin Costner is there. The only open stand on the night, the Jodi Stand, is a modern, basic all-seater affair, but the other three sides of the ground are throwbacks to a sepia coloured heyday that health and safety has since shut down. Of particular note is the Phibsborough Road Terrace, now sold off and sitting entirely empty bar the towering weeds strewn across it. The Connaught Street Side is similarly closed, riddled with weeds, and only extends half the length of the pitch before giving way to a car park.
This place, due for redevelopment in the near future, is like a tangible footballing museum, the like of which is always a wrench to see go. But, like the middle-aged man a few rows down from me contentedly inhaling on his vape like a bounty-hunter from the year 2099, sometime’s it’s time to embrace the future.
Little did I know, however, this bounty-hunter from the future was part of a congregation flowing into the ground that seemed to consist of every youth football team from across Dublin. As the seats around me were taken by children in full kits and boots, I thought perhaps this was a second attempt by the manager at McDonald’s to try and woo me.
But no. No. It’s not all about me.
The bounty-hunter from the future continued vaping unabashed, seemingly intent on creating an old foggy London Town postcard all around us.
Relax kids, his smile seemed to say, vaping is healthier than smoking. Just like eating a stick of low fat butter is healthier than eating a stick of lard.
As the teams were being read out by a man in front of the tunnel, the Drogheda team appeared from around the side of the Jodi Stand to zero fanfare, congregating awkwardly beside the retractable white canopy. Finally, the Bohemians team appeared from within and both teams could walk out onto the pitch together to the sound of Gold by Spandau Ballet. Well, I did say it was a museum.
Sadly, the semi-pro tag finally caught up with the romance and nostalgia. The game played out in a dreary 0-0 draw that was akin to watching two butter knives try to strike fatal blows against each other.