A few years ago I wrote here about my father’s passing, outlining how he had formed my sporting tastes and beliefs by his own example.
He wasn't the only influence, of course.
“You’d better give me some credit when I go,” my mother would say to me the odd time. “I was the only one who noticed your finger was broken that time you were a minor.”
This usually led to a brief disagreement about her diagnostic skills, with the time my brother broke his hand and didn’t go to hospital for four days one of the mainstays of my case, but she never yielded easily and usually fought those encounters to an honourable draw.
After last Saturday, however, there’ll be no more disagreements.
She didn’t yield easily, but a draw wasn’t a runner this time.
I better give her some credit.
She had plenty of interests and sport was one of them. Soccer was an acquired taste, for instance. When Jack’s Army ruled the continent her favourite was Andy Townsend, whose moods she could predict. “His tongue is out, he’ll get booked shortly, just watch him.”
She was right more often than not: Jack and Maurice Setters could have used her on the bench. When her old schoolmate’s son was turfed out of Saipan in 2002 it sparked a long disgust with the FAI on her part; she took great pleasure in John Delaney’s fall as somehow validating her enmity.
Rugby wasn’t as appealing to her, though Ireland’s greatest out-half won a lifetime fan with his classiness in Dunnes Stores Bishopscourt one afternoon. She was behind a slim chap in the queue for the cash register and puzzling out who he was when inspiration suddenly struck.
“How are you doing?” said our columnist colleague, putting out his hand. He could do no wrong from then on and was one of the few people of whom she said “the good rearing” without rolling her eyes.
Gaelic games were her guiding light, however. Though her own sporting past encompassed a brief flirtation with hockey, a longer engagement with camogie and Glen Rovers set her attitudes towards sport in stone.
Athletes from south of the river were automatically suspect to someone reared on the three Buckleys and Cooper Moylan, and anyone from further afield ran the risk of one of the ultimate insults in her armoury: “no class”.
Like everyone from Blackpool she didn’t entertain criticism of her native shore. Once at a book launch I introduced her to a Kerry footballer who hopped a ball with her about the Glen’s recent success in the county championship: “Ye were down for long enough, after all.”
“Listen you, we were winning counties when ye were herding goats,” was her reply, which delighted him no end, in fairness.
A lifetime spent on the sidelines of GAA fields meant a few odd diversions along the way. She and one of her pals were at an underage hurling game years ago which descended into a short-lived but uncommonly nasty brawl involving both teams.
When the dust cleared the referee walked past both sets of management to get an objective view of the proceedings from the two middle-aged ladies present. When asked, he told the managers “the two of them have seen more violence at GAA games than the rest of ye put together”.
Delighted with their new roles in arbitration, herself and her pal enjoyed identifying the miscreants and urging lengthier and lengthier suspensions.
The years since my father passed away weren’t easy for her but she learned to drive in her sixties and sometimes came along with me for the spin to league games, a partnership that survived the evening up in Dr Morris Park in Thurles she drained the battery in the car listening to Lyric FM.
What she really missed and wanted back were the Sunday afternoon spins with my father when we had all left home, the sense of anticipation when the Ford Focus would nose out onto Dublin Hill and all the possibilities were ahead of them.
A National League game up in Wexford, maybe? Or a spin down to Bantry for fresh fish and chips in the Square?
Whatever they decide, I hope it always stays fine for them.