- 26 Feb 07, 02:22 PM
White City, London – In the end, my dilemma of who to support in the Ireland-England clash at Croke Park was solved, but not quite in the manner I intended.
Scores of you replied when I outlined my divided loyalties – born, schooled and living in England to Irish parents, and from a long Irish family line.
Many shared my dilemma, some scoffed at my neutrality, while others were simply dismissive.
I was called a weiner. Whether that was with English or French mustard had not been made clear...
I should start at the evening before Saturday's showdown because that is where my problems really began.
Having not very manfully tried to ward off manflu all week, combined with a heavy workload and the Ukrainian kitchen fitting saga, it had been a testing few days, and I deserved a beer.
Croke Park admission was not forthcoming, at least not at a reasonable price, but a late ticket emerged to see my beloved West Ham in a relegation 18-pointer against Charlton at The Valley.
A victory for the Hammers, then stoked up for Croker, I thought. And then it all went wrong.
Suffice to say, I was very unwell on Saturday. Bed-ridden. And not comforted by the kitchen drilling and Ukrainian sighs at a tiling mismeasurement.
Let’s face it, who needs a fright on the tiles after a night on the tiles?
I came round to text messages from south east London and made the mistake of hearing the latest football scores.
The unhappy Hammers were doomed, but there was a bigger match to look forward to.
Sure enough, as the TV tension built ahead of the historic anthems in Dublin, I felt a lump in my throat. Oleg and Alex had put the bill in front of me.
We shared an Australian lager, watched the anthems, and my new eastern European friends half-understood my Croke Park history lesson. “There must be a lot of police there,” said Oleg, with a worrying smile.
What surprised me was how proud I felt when God Save The Queen was belted out at this bastion of Gaelic sport.
Proud of the English players and fans, proud of the Irish players and fans, and proud of the GAA visionaries who had paved the way for this day.
And then I cheered every point, from Wilko’s opening penalty through the four Irish tries.
I revelled in the Irish win, but felt for England’s inadequacies. I went with the flow, and realised it was OK to do that.
It felt good to be associated with two proud sides.
The Irish and English will do sporting battle again in a fortnight – at horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival.
When wonder horse Kauto Star comes to the last leading in the Gold Cup, I will have no divided loyalties.
The horse was bred in France, has an English trainer and will be ridden by an Irishman. And I have a 14-1 voucher from the autumn.
Merci, Good Health, Dyakooyu and Slainte!