Standing tall in the terraces where some kids are marked return to sender
Wexford’s journey through the summer has been an enjoyable one to follow amid growing levels of excitement
Conor McDonald in action for Wexford in an Under-21 match against Dublin. He’s a player that gets supporters excited. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
Con Houlihan had some habits that lesser writers couldn’t get away with over the course of the most glittering sports-writing career this country has ever seen... chief among them, for me, being watching games from the terraces.
I had the pleasure of a spot behind the goal in Nowlan Park on Saturday evening for Waterford against Wexford, and it was the first time in quite a while I’d watched a really big game from an upright position.
Of course, you spend the vast majority of your life watching gaelic games standing up – whether that’s club games or juvenile games, or even a good number of games I played in myself, some uncharitable people might tell you. But it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll meet a far more colourful breed of person when you’re on the terrace.
For instance, there was the man standing in front of me, holding a three year old with a mobile phone number scrawled on his little arm. At first I thought – surely this guy isn’t trying to meet single women, using his kid as both a conversation starter and as a post-it note?
It’s a tactic beloved of many young men with dogs, but using the fruits of one’s own loins as a seduction technique is surely another matter entirely.
A moment’s contemplation and I came to the conclusion that the mobile phone number must be the father’s own, for use if (or when) the child wandered away out of sight.
Instead of having to hear one’s own name being read out over the tannoy to come and collect your child, a simple phone call would suffice, and parent and child would be reunited without the whole stadium bearing witness to your embarrassment.
It was an ingenious plan, I decided, and one which could be adopted by more parents... if they could get their child to stay still for long enough. And why not stop there?
They could write their home address across the child’s forehead, with a few stamps in his pocket, and when the child wandered off, you could relax and enjoy the rest of the game in peace, safe in the knowledge that your offspring would be delivered safe and sound to your front door, two to three working days after the final whistle.
As I’ve said it had been a while since my last spell on a terrace, so I had forgotten just how deeply unpopular my arrival, all six foot five of me, is.