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An Alternative Summer

We’ve done it again. How, I do not know.

Boom. There’s your hangover. The creaking sunlight of the afternoon sun pierced the blinds of the spinning room I occupied. I glanced at the floor – the jersey I gave a first wear had all the signs of Guinness and taco chips from the six or seven hours prior. Shite - will that come out? 75 pound that was but Jesus, I had to pay it. It was probably the last Ireland jersey in the land having gone so far in the competition, and my enthusiasm to throw money at all things Ireland just did not waiver.

Right. Grand, I obviously got home sound.

I opened my phone for a glance at the time – miraculously still going at 1%. Notifications of the madness down the town the night before softened the fear’s cold embrace. Twitter and social media was a good place to be these days - an immediate mood enhancer. Iconic images of the Irish both on and off the pitch, knowing they’re living a nations lifelong dream. Forget Reeling In The Years, there will be no need to reel this back – this isn’t leaving RTÉ prime time slot for decades. Dream stuff. It only took a split second to get carried away with it all. The beautiful memories of Jack’s Ireland in the late 80’s and 90’s were still warmly celebrated and finally, alongside 2002 - and certain moments of the O’Neill era - we have something to follow up on those great tales.

What day is it even?

It feels a bit like that Christmas period with how busy the town is every night. Although, every tournament did feel a bit like that anyway. It’s just that we’ve gone so far it amplified every aspect of that. The town was alive. The country was alive - and somehow, we’re still going. It was a much cheerier town than it was in months prior. That might sound as if I live in a depressing hole, I don’t. There’s just that embrace of a nation when your national team does well in a tournament that changes the general humour of every interaction - except maybe the bus drivers, of course. Everyone has a spring in their step. Even the birds sounded happier that morning. Things like receiving phone calls off your auntie, who isn’t into football or even sport at all for that matter, asking if you watched the match – as if you’d thought of anything else all week. It’s class, man. I decide to leave my slumber, there’s a breakfast roll on the agenda and hopefully a familiar face or two along the way to break down the events of the day prior.

Tuesday. It’s definitely Tuesday.

I turn for the main road down to the garage, not even two minutes walking and my headache got its first test. Someone slamming down on the horn going by in what looked like a Polo? Could have been a Golf – I’m shite with cars. I raised the hand for the wave, although I had no idea who it was. Is that just an Irish thing? They seemed happy enough to see me so I’ll go with the wave. They’ll remind me at some stage they seen me, and I’ll give them the ‘Jaysus man I had no idea, I just waved anyway’ and we’ll both laugh. It humoured me thinking the events from the day prior was officially a Monday. Does anyone work? The soundest of places were semi-lenient on taking days off for the miracles that lay behind us and the dreamers were well and truly benefitting from the days they’d booked off. Those that didn’t book them off; well, there’ll be more jobs. They’ll understand.

Oh god, where’s my wallet?

False alarm, it’s in my pocket. Jackpot – a winning docket. Tenner on the first goalscorer from the first match yesterday. That’ll do - how in the name of god did I not cash that? I thought I did. Must have been the nerves of what was up next. Two cars drive by with the tricolour hanging out the boot acting as a cape for their Skoda Octavia’s. If you tried for a second to allow your mind to wander to normal life these little things just brought you back. The staff in the garage were given the option of Ireland gear or their uniform, which of course they went with the former. Just remembered I went out of the work sweepstakes yesterday to a poxy free kick. Anyway, Ireland are still there, who cares. A familiar smile of someone in the shop gives me a flashback - I was on the mic last night. Jesus. Joxer goes to Stuttgart.

Ah well.

There’s a 5 day break now until we’re out again, but I still don’t feel safe walking past a pub. There’ll 100% be a familiar face trying to pull me in after yesterday, and with another almighty day out on the way I’ll do everything in my power to avoid that. Finally, Ireland were winning in a major tournament. The awards we got in times gone by for ‘best fans’ and whatever, it was great – but honestly, who cares. Why even show up on the pitch if that’s the prize we sought? It’s great being the soundest bunch abroad and it means a lot to make a good account of ourselves as a nation - but that should be the side story at these tournaments, not the main one. It was our team that was taking the glory this time and that meant everything.

Ah, there’s one of the boys in the door of the local. He’s still wearing his jersey. Sure I have to discuss yesterday with someone?

“I beeped at you earlier man!” he said.

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