Festival Fit


Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMdoes the Congress from Croker

WOULD YOU believe me if I told you that I was at the Eucharistic Congress? Well I kinda was. Got a message from a friend on Saturday telling me she was on the new Skywalk in Croke Park witnessing a rehearsal for the big mass on Sunday. Too good an opportunity to miss.

I was up on the roof of the Hogan Stand faster than Paul Galvin loses the head. As The Three Priests warbled away on a soundcheck, a message came up on the big screens detailing how those who were gluten intolerant could get a sup of the “Precious Blood” instead of taking the “Sacred Host”. The message also asked other worshippers not to dip the “Sacred Host” in the “Precious Blood” lest it should make it unsuitable for bread dodgers. Does this warning debunk the principle of transubstantiation? I hope it doesn’t. I want to believe that the miraculous can take place at GAA headquarters. Next to transubstantiation, Waterford lifting Liam McCarthy should be a minor (technically senior) miracle.

I enjoyed the Skywalk; Dublin hasn’t got the most impressive skyline in the world, but the Croke Park experience compensates. Giant hurleys and hanging out in the All-Ireland dressing rooms? I nearly soiled my pants! Plans are underway to install a zip-wire from the top of the stand down onto the pitch. I am so excited about this prospect that my head might explode. I just hope they’ll let me do it wielding a hurley.

The festival trail proper kicked off last Friday when I lined out for a charity match at the PLAY Tag Rugby Festival in Carlow. I think the charity part was the fact that they gave me a place on one of the teams. Mick Galwey and Brent Pope were among the other players, but what worried me was the presence of Leinster and South African prop Heinke van der Merwe. A few years ago a basking shark slunk into our local swimming hole for a browse while I was out for a dip. These sharks eat plankton and don’t have teeth, but the sight of that fin breaking water was enough to put the fear in me. Heinke taking to the pitch has a somewhat similar effect.

I’d never played Tag Rugby before and I found it hugely enjoyable; the mixed teams added to the experience. At the heart of the Festival was a competition involving teams from all over the country, but the lasting impression was of the massively social and fun side of the thing. Once the sun went down this crowd partied harder than an All Black prop tackles after a feed of steroids and cabbage. If you have even the slightest inclination, you should give Tag a shot. Get a team together for this shindig next year. Unfortunately I didn’t score. (I didn’t manage to clock up any points during the game either.)

Dalkey last Saturday morning was a picture of prettiness and prosperity for the village’s Book Festival. First time I’ve ever felt like I had too much mud on my boots whilst outdoors.

Joe O’Connor soon put me at ease with his excellent interpretation of the often uncouth Buck Mulligan. Joe was reading from Ulysses specially for Bloomsday.

From an impressive programme, the hottest ticket seemed to be the Edgar Allen Poe event at midnight in a local graveyard. If I’d stuck around for Seamus Heaney’s reading that afternoon, I’d have been rubbing shoulders with Bono and David McWilliams instead of being on top of the Hogan Stand listening to a trio of priests soundchecking. Narrow escape.

Just to offset my brush with the Eucharistic Congress, I went to a solstice sunrise ceremony at Grange Stone Circle by the banks of Lough Gur on Wednesday (an early solstice this leap year). No intolerant hosts here.

Safe travels, don’t die.

* ayearoffestivalsinireland.com

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