Monday, December 04, 2006


One of the more optimistic banners at Sunday's FAI Cup Final between St. Patrick's Athletic and Derry City at Lansdowne Road carried the above message: St. Pat's normally play in red and white, but since there was a clash of strips for the final, Pat's donned their new Barcelona-style blue and red striped kit. There, any resemblance to Catalunya ended (hopefully! We'll see tonight). For one thing, the weather conditions at Lansdowne Road were an utter joke. Why the FAI chooses to play its cup final at this time of the year beats me: What ought to be a showcase for the best of Irish football ended up as a lottery, and for all the goals that were scored, the match itself was laughable, as you can see by the accompanying video.

I normally play 7-a-side soccer with a bunch of mates on a Sunday night down at Loughlinstown Leisure Centre. I've been playing there more or less since I moved over here, so 10 years at least, and even though it now involves an 80-mile round trip for an hour of footie, rarely will I surrender the chance of a kickabout. This weekend was slightly different, however, because the weather was appalling and also because the fellas I play with had arranged to go to Lansdowne Road for the cup final prior to our game, principally because one of our number was playing on the St. Pat's team, and we felt we should go and lend him some support (his brother also plays regularly with us). Were St. Pat's to win, it would mean a place in Europe for them next year, and I suspect that all of us envisioned basking in some reflected glory; for my part, at 44, in the knowledge that I could still hack it playing with a lad half my age who'd competed against the best in Europe . . . okay, second-best. And also, I think, we all felt it appropriate to pay our respects, this being the last ever soccer match at Lansdowne Road in its current form.

The rest is history. And irony. You can watch the video here. See if you can guess which St. Pat's player we were supporting. I shall say nothing about positioning at set pieces, only that the player in question has now written himself into the history books as the last player to score a goal at Lansdowne Road, and in such a fashion as to guarantee that his name will appear on a regular basis in pub quizzes around the country for decades to come.

Just think how his mother must feel.

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