That’s that then. The GAA is over for another year, or at least, the All-Ireland is. There’s the National League starting up after the Australia games of course, and at county level some championships and leagues and shields are still being played out, but the main event is over for another year.
Despite watching Donegal live several times this year, I still saw most of the games this year on television. It still feels familiar and alien, sitting in a pub watching the game at half four in the evening, and my thoughts tend to go to all those watching the game at different times of the day worldwide.
The All-Ireland matches are available worldwide now. Live through the wonders of satellite telecommunications, provided you’re willing to crawl out of your bed early enough on a Sunday morning.
Not such a bad idea actually. Early Sunday morning is one of the few times when it is a pleasure to drive in the city. Traffic is sparse, and the temperature isn’t unbearable yet. If you’re really lucky, then there was a rainfall overnight, and it helped clear the air. That doesn’t happen too often though.
I usually planned on arriving at the pub 30 to 60 minutes before the game starts. That gave me enough time to get settled, see who else is about, and order a breakfast before the game started. Since the game starts around 9am and the bar can’t start serving alcohol until 11am, most people follow this game plan, although a few souls who had too much the night before can be seen nursing ice-cold cokes.
The match itself is watched in relative silence, apart from the odd shout of “Square Ball” or “Take Your Point”, and unless the commentator is Jimmy Magee. Magee, with his long unexplained silences and uncorrected errors, has the ability to unite Irishmen of all shapes and colours against him.
Half time means a chance to order a fresh cup of coffee to wash down the rashers, sausages, and black & white pudding. Full time means match analysis, and bar opening. A chance to celebrate. Or drown your sorrows. Depending on the schedule, there may then be a second match, recorded earlier, though the GAA has become much more media aware in recent years, and there are fewer clashes.
The atmosphere by then is just one big gabfest, a chance to catch up on old friends, catch up on news from home, exchange news & views, and meet the new arrivals. Discussion will inevitably turn to the chances of attracting promising players from the losing teams to play in the American leagues for the rest of the season.
Most people will hang around until about 2pm, at which point the married men will make noises about having to take the kids someplace, and the rest decide whether to go for a meal somewhere, or just head to another pub.
That was the experience where I lived anyway. Lord only knows what hoops they have to go through to see the games in Australia, where the throw-in is around eleven at night.