Memories can be unearthed on next visit to the Páirc
By Michael Moynihan
Changed times chez Moynihan.
The recent leap of faith with UPC means that digital recording has now opened up new vistas of television viewing at ungodly hours in the household (which means past 10pm in an establishment ruled with small but iron fists by two toddlers).
For instance, Emily Van Camp of Revenge is now a familiar sight, while the episodes of Breaking Bad which are piling up will make a fine treat some rainy day: for all of this much thanks.
Don’t take that as a sign of overtly Luddite tendencies, though there’s other evidence to support that view. Yours truly does have a large selection of C90 tapes stacked haphazardly in one corner of the house, untold numbers of interviews on them which will probably never be listened to again. A Betty Blue poster tacked on just above them would bring us all back to the student days of 1989.
One of the best captures on the digital recorder was a documentary about Ray Bradbury, the great sci-fi writer who died recently. Bradbury ruminated at length about memory and recollection in the programme, recalling an incident from his childhood when he hid from a dog up a tree; perched in the branches, the youngster scribbled some notes on a sheet of paper to kill the time, then folded it into a hole in the tree.
Bradbury spun the story out like a master storyteller — remembering that many years later, as a middle-aged man, he went back to revisit his childhood haunts, including the tree, but we’ll return to that.
We spent Saturday evening in a trigger zone for plenty of our own memories, Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Dank county championship days, stern February outings in the league, the odd scorching-hot day in the summer: the old stadium gets a bad rap, and deservedly so in a lot of ways, but we couldn’t help thinking that it’s furnished a lot of people with happy memories of their own.
Waterford ended their long drought with the Munster title in the Páirc 10 years ago.
When Clare were in their Nineties pomp they inaugurated their regime in Semple Stadium, but Páirc Uí Chaoimh was the venue where they held Tipperary in check in front of full houses for several years; when Tipp eventually managed to turn the tables on their oppressors,liberation came against the Banner on the same field.
Limerick have had good days in the stadium in hurling and football alike, while the Kerry footballers lost one championship game there in its first 10 years of service.
My own highlight reel with Páirc Uí Chaoimh goes back to the middle of the Seventies, when Kerry had a couple of feet on Cork’s throat football-wise: my father took a vagary at lunchtime to go to the Munster final and we ended up on the Blackrock End.
The take-home memory wasn’t Billy Morgan making acrobatic saves or Mikey Sheehy’s impressive footwork in the corner of the pitch, but the rock-hard ground, which conveyed itself somehow to a child on the terrace.
It reinforced the sense that this was the realm of serious business, with nothing superfluous to detract from the experience: not an extra blade of grass, not a thimbleful of loose dust.
Clearly if this were America I’d be inserting a mawkish recollection of bringing my own kids to their first game, with many a wet-eyed invocation of the sacred turf, and the continuity of the experience, but to date my three-year-old has been to Páirc Uí Chaoimh just twice.
One: an unremarkable intermediate game enlivened only by her insistence on everyone in our vicinity clapping and shouting ‘well done’ at random intervals.
Two: the Cork footballers’ open evening before the 2010 final, at which she fell asleep (Note to Messrs Counihan, Nolan, O’Sullivan, Healy and O’Neill: the inclusion of some Peppa Pig-oriented drills at training would help a lot).
Still, some day before the new and improved Páirc Uí Chaoimh comes on stream I’ll have to take a stroll up to that spot on the Blackrock End, where I spent that hour almost 40 years ago. If I were Ray Bradbury, I’d have something to look for.
In giving an account of his return to the blue remembered hills of boyhood, Bradbury found the tree where he’d hidden from the dog.
He climbed up, laboriously, and identified the branch which had supported him all those years before.
He worked his fingers into the old knot-hole: could the paper still be there?
Eventually his fingertips scraped something, and he pulled out that old note, now yellowed with age. What had he written on it, decades before?
I remember you.
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