‘I’ve two tickets to the game on Sunday, will you go?” The text arrived on Thursday, and I said to myself - this will be an occasion to remember, a Connacht semi-final in Dr Hyde Park during Covid. Yes, I will go.
Sunday starts in glorious sunshine in Dublin 8. I mean, sure, the weather app says there’s a 90 per cent chance of rain in Roscommon later on, but it’s sunny right now, where I am - it just doesn’t compute with me that I could, in just three short hours be sitting in a biblical deluge in Roscommon.
And anyway, that apple weather app is a laughing stock. I throw my (light, summery, entirely-ineffectual-in-a-freak-weather-event) jacket in the back seat, but I better pack the sun-cream as well, cover all bases.
While I’m on the road, my brother picks up the tickets from his GAA club. Hmmm, the ticket says uncovered seating, that’s unfortunate. It sounds like we’ll be on the terrace on the opposite side of the pitch, facing the main stand, but that’s OK. There’s a roof along the back of that terrace, we’ll be grand if (if) this rain lands in for a few minutes.
I arrive in Roscommon, and the rain has come a couple of hours early. It feels like we’re in a car-wash. It clears a little about 20 minutes before kick-off, and we breathe a sigh of relief . . . thank Christ we didn’t get caught in that.
I check the boot for the umbrella I’ve kept in there for the last two years and realise that it’s not there. In fact that umbrella may never have been in my boot. That may just have been a trick of the mind. I feel like I’m the sort of outdoors-man who would always have an umbrella in the boot. But this is a minor setback. The deluge is already over, we’ve dodged a bullet.
We walk into the ground, and it turns out uncovered really means uncovered. We’re sitting on the wide open terraced seating in front of the main stand. That’s OK though, the sun’s out. Bloody hell, I left my sunglasses in the car . . . silly, silly man. I’m squinting furiously here.
That first moment when you realise that water is now running playfully between your butt-cheeks is a sobering moment
Two minutes before the game starts, the rains come. After 15 minutes I was wet through. That’s OK, “once you’re wet, you’re wet”, as my dad used to say. There aren’t degrees of wetness. Your jeans are wet, your jacket is wet, what more can water do to you, realistically?
As the ball is thrown in for the second half, someone somewhere turns the rain up a notch. To quote Kevin Barry, it was by now a hysterical downpour.
I realise that my father (happily ensconced in the stand behind me, bone dry) was an idiot, and that you can always get wetter. That first moment when you realise that water is now running playfully between your butt-cheeks is a sobering moment. Rain starts to gather in my crotch, in my armpits . . . my armpits get wet! I don’t even know how.
We stare intently from our uncovered seats in front of the stand across to the entirely empty terrace on the opposite side, the terrace with a (small, but no doubt extremely effective) roof running along the back. I devote seconds, minutes to staring at that corrugated iron roof. I calculate how many people could be huddled underneath that roof while maintaining social distancing. I luxuriate in the maths, I bathe myself in the numbers.
The game happens in front of me, but it is hard to focus on anything other than the constant threat of pneumonia. Someone mentions extra-time. Dark thoughts cloud my mind.
I think of poor Michael Furey, in "The Dead" by James Joyce, who caught his death outside Anjelica Huston's window. That'll be me now, dying of consumption over a football game.
Wait, wasn't he from Oughterard? Galway's second goal-scorer Matthew Tierney is from Oughterard - and in many ways his last act in this . . . oh shut up, I'm going delirious.
The game finishes. Galway, my team, have at least won the game. This comforts me, even as it becomes clear from the incessant beeping of my phone that I have been caught on television celebrating the afore-mentioned Tierney goal wearing a look of bewilderment and simplicity that accurately sums up my extremely scattered mental state.
I trudge back to the car, and anxiously scan my boot to see if there are any scraps of clothes I can put on me. Surely there’s some football gear, another rain jacket, a pair of socks even. My eyes alight on my wife’s Dryrobe.
I take off my jacket. Then I take off my t-shirt. I pop on the Dryrobe. The legends are true - this truly is a miracle of science. I can dry myself with it, as I’m wearing it? What could the good burghers of South Dublin possibly have against such a garment?
I sit into the driver’s seat. Hmmm . . . my jeans are still pretty wet. This Dryrobe goes well past my waist. Maybe I could just . . . yes, the jeans will come off. Must come off, in fact.
I drive home entirely naked save for a Dryrobe, and my shoes and socks. I am reminded, as my car’s air conditioning blasts heat unfettered by cloth or stitch directly to my under-carriage, that nothing beats being there.