Like many of you, I lived through the birth and death of the Celtic Tiger. I remember being a boy in 1980’s Ireland and there wouldn’t have been much spare cash in our household. Don’t get me wrong, we never went hungry or anything like that but if we wanted a bike or a Nintendo we had to wait till Christmas. This all changed around the turn of the millennium when all of a sudden there was money everywhere. Not alone did the parents have well paid jobs, myself and all my friends had as much weekend and summer work as we wanted.
We had more pocket money than we knew what to do with. Lads went from owning one pair of Wranglers to having five pairs of Levis almost overnight. We would spend weekends in nightclubs throwing away our money on vodka red bull and fat frogs. Along with this new found wealth, all of a sudden there were college places for everyone. Contemporary technology performance, international recreation management, equestrian reverse psychology, viticulture and oenology. Nobody knew what they meant but we would all head off and do these courses anyway, sure they were free, and college girls are hot. We would subsequently realise ethical data management was not for us and drop out to do a trade. You were out in the fresh air and earning serious bucks. Two foreign holidays a year with the lads, souped up Volkswagen Golf shining in the driveway, on the lash three nights a week. Summertime and the living is easy. But then 2008 came along.
Within 6 months it all went to shit. Lads were losing their jobs and moving home with their parents. We all stayed in on Thursday nights and began to shop in Penny’s. One of the boys even ended up working in Penny’s. It was time to get the truck out of Ireland. Most of the lads were heading to America, London or Australia. I decided on Australia, seemed like more of an adventure. Now, it’s stating the obvious, but Australia is a big place and everyone that goes there will have a different experience depending on what part they go to, what stage of their life they are at and what it is they went for in the first place. I experienced quite a lot in my seven years in Oz, but I will tell ye all about that another day.
Anyway, after seven years of living down under it was time to return home. The wife was pregnant, there was work at home and my parents were getting old and could do with me around. Don’t tell my wife or parents, but the main reason I came home was to have one more crack at the county title. I arrived home in early December and enjoyed a good Christmas. Then it was back into training in early February.
I walked into our dressing room for the first time in seven years. I had pictured this moment many times in my head as I toiled under the antipodean sun. A big cheer would erupt from the lads, girls would scream and faint, grown men would cry. A statue would be unveiled and I would be interviewed by Jimmy Magee. Unfortunately the reality was somewhat different. As I walked in the door an awkward silence descended on the room. I didn’t recognise any of these boys, and they sure as f*ck didn’t know who I was.
As I sat down and started to tog out I became even more self conscious. All these dickheads had six packs and full heads of hair. Had I walked into a boy band audition by mistake? I sucked in my belly and poured myself into Man United jersey, Keane 16 on the back. My Puma Kings had seen better days. Seven years in the hot press had turned them into a pair of rock hard, black bananas. The togs were like beige hot pants on me. Eventually a face I recognised walked in to save me from the exclusion. The trainer. He had been my teammate seven years ago, only a year older than me. Well lad, jaysus I heard you were back. Are you going to do a bit of training? Ah yeah well I was hoping to maybe do a bit of hurling again this year. Jaysus fair play to ya! Well sure see how ya get on anyway.
I pulled my hamstring in the warm up. I must have looked a sorry sight to all the young lads, heading back into the dressing room after all of five minutes. As I drove home in the dark that night with the wipers struggling to keep the windscreen clear of sleet my dream of a county title had never seemed so far away. If I couldn’t win one when I was young, what hope had I now. As I lay on the couch holding a bag of frozen peas to the back of my leg the wife dropped me in a cup of tea and a few chocolate digestives. Training went well I see! Then she burst out laughing. I’ll show you I thought to myself as I pushed away the plate of biscuits, I’ll show all you b*stards. I’m not finished yet.