More than just a game

No way – it was a hot and sunny Saturday. Since when did we get good weather on a match day. Usually you’d wake up, curtains closed, still dark. Listen. Is that rain? Freezing cold. Lovely. No blood circulation required.

This was Cup Final day though. U10. Big game. Butterflies. What a season we’d had. Bellevue Boys, the best team on the planet. They’d stuck us in the Second Division and we won the league pretty comfortably. Then came the cup run for the ages. Sweeping all opponents aside including a host of Division 1 sides. Now it all came down to the big Cup Final against the Division 1 Champions – Tallaght Dabs. The Argentina of South Dublin football and not just because they wore identical kits to Diego and the boys.

These lads modelled their entire game on the South Americans. Tough as nails, arrogant, gum chewers, decent footballers throughout the team and their captain and main man was #10.

Me and the lads still had memories of the fan walk out away to Lusk United when we were 4-0 down at half time earlier that season. The Mums who drove us that day disappeared to pick blackberries in a far field for the second half. Fair enough. We were awful and Lusk is halfway to Belfast. Hopefully our supporters would stick with us today.

Cigarette smoke. Big crowd. Three or four deep on both sidelines. Throw ins would be a nightmare. Maybe a couple of Tallaght handbags in the head depending on how the game goes.

We were all set. Our coach Mr Mc would go with our familiar 3-2-5. Nice and cagey as usual for the big decider against Argentina. Just the 5 up front with 2 attacking midfielders. Clear instructions to me and big Al at the back in a big thick Limerick accent ‘Get back past the halfway line!”

U10 Cup Final Squad – Bellevue Boys FC

Thank God we played on a full size pitch U10. Not blessed with pace at the back. By the time any nippy winger or centre forward ran past us towards goal, they were always knackered when they got into the box. Keepers ball – all day. We were encouraged to always play one touch football. Get rid.

Loads of tension. Screaming, shouting and angst from the sidelines. But then an eruption when little Diego picked up the ball in the middle of the box and slotted with five minutes to go. Kitchen sinks were thrown at the Dabs to no avail and the final whistle really stung. Bill Shankly was spot on. Life and death and we were only 9 years old.

We were eventually led over to the boot of Mr Mc’s car. Was there a plan for the referee who should have given us that pen? The boot opening revealed vintage TK white and red lemonade and enough Tayto to feed an army. Maybe everything would be ok after all. We lost and look at the post match feast we’re treated to.

An hour later, we were back in the park at the end of our road practicing some crosses and finishing. A group of older kids arrived and challenged us to a 5-a-side. Game on. Two Cup Finals in one day.