I settle into the sofa — it’s very comfy. On three sides I’m surrounded by rows of locally brewed craft beers, perfectly chilled, attractively backlit inside tall refrigerated units. They give a calming, fluid glow. In front me is a large top-of-the-range TV screen, about the size of one of the goals in Wembley Stadium.
Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite writers, places a bottle of my favourite beer beside my favourite glass on the table beside my sofa and quietly withdraws. Because this is a dream, I say thanks in fluent Japanese and think no more of it.
I switch on the TV and it’s the 1979 FA Cup Final. United v Arsenal. The score it 2-2 and it’s the 89th minute. High drama, United have just come back from 2-0 down. Liam Brady has the ball and he takes it forward. He passes to his left and I know what’s coming next. My 18-year-old heart is about to be broken and I shake my head, and I’m about to change channel, not wanting to witness Alan Sunderland’s winning goal. But, instead, Gary Bailey cuts out the cross, throws the ball 80 yards to Steve Coppell who passes to Lou Macari, who chips to Joe Jordan who buries it. United 3, Arsenal 2! I still haven’t closed my mouth when the ref blows full-time.
This is good.
I change channel. The All-Ireland Hurling Final of 1983. Oh dear. I check the time and score. Nine minutes left, Cork 5-22, Kilkenny 2-12. What? Seanie O’Leary scores another goal and the Cork fans (including me) are going berserk in the stands. I leave it on until the final whistle and watch the Cork players hug each other in ecstasy.
Emily Dickinson brings me another beer.
"Would you like a sonnet with that?" she says, quietly.
"No thanks, Emily, some peanuts would be nice, though." I change the channel. It’s some kind of play-off game. Michael O’Hehir is commentating.
"Here we are today at the 2020 Premier League Playoff Final between Liverpool and Manchester United. Whoever wins today wins the Premier League in this strange year," Michael says.
It is strange, I think.
Liverpool go into a quick three-goal lead but I’m not worried. Because it’s a dream I know United will come back second half. But I’m not enjoying the singing of the Liverpool fans, so I change channel again.
The 1980 Wimbledon Final: Borg v McEnroe. About time that was fixed, I think. I’m loving the final set, which McEnroe is winning 5-0, the Brits all booing him and him laughing at them. I change back to the football.
Now it’s a best-ever Man United 11 versus a best-ever Liverpool 11. Good. Roy Keane clatters into Kevin Keegan and wins the ball for Ronaldo to take it forward. I see United have already brought it back to 3-3. Ronaldo chips it to Law who nods it to Best who buries it. 4-3, Manchester United are Premier League champions once more.
Now you’re talking! I shout.
Final whistle and back to the studio. Roy Keane is being interviewed by Gary Lineker.
"Call that a tackle!" Roy fumes. "That wasn’t a tackle, he should have cleaned out Keegan at the same time and the pass to Ronaldo was behind him. BEHIND HIM! They should make him walk back to Cork. Swim there, even." Gary tries to calm Roy down by waving his two hands in front of him.
"What about Roy Keane’s family, they might be watching," Gary says. "He did win the ball."
"His family?" Roy says. "HIS FAMILY?" And he’s off.
I change the channel. Golf. Good, that might calm me down.
Sally Rooney brings me another beer, along with some nuts.
"I’ve a crow to pluck with you about that book," I tell her, but in a joking kind of way. "When this putt goes in." And I know it will. Jose Maria Olazabal in Brookline, 1999. The Americans have just gone crazy when Justin Leonard sank a 45-footer on the 17th. Ollie slots the 22-footer and the shocked gasp from the Yanks is sweet. Then the TV shot flicks to Bernhard Langer at Kiawah Island, 1991, ‘The War on the Shore’. Langer taps in his famous putt for Europe to win that one, also. Two for the price of one, I think. Nice touch.
I switch channel to see what’s next.
The same blank screen with the text: "What you have just been witnessing is not true."
"None of it happened." Another channel.
"There is no sport." Another.
"There is no sport." Another.
"There is no sport."
Noooo! I scream and the beer disappears, Sally Rooney disappears, the TV disappears. The seat disappears and I land on my arse.
"Tadhg! Tadhg!" It’s my wife, waking me, pulling at my T shirt. "You were having a nightmare," she says, and turns to go back to sleep.
I shake my head and look at the ceiling.
Too bloody right, I was.