The first Déise strike of the day is from 12-year-old Iarla Hennessy who sends a fast ball hurtling skywards. It’s not as fast as his opponent though, as Ollie dives forward, catching the sliotar between his teeth before tumbling into the water.
Boy and dog are up early this morning. Around the busy pair, adults and older children prepare to depart to lakeside Kerry where they’ve been holidaying.
Ollie dives again. “Go on Setanta!” calls Iarla’s brother Doire. As a ripple extends around the newly-renamed dog, Doire wonders is this the day fate and magic collide?
Iarla, Doire, and most of his family are wishing they were in one of two locations right now: Thurles or Waterford. With the exceptions of Dad, Ben, and eldest boy, Rubin (already en route to Tipperary) the rest are still in Kerry. Last night’s talk was of the whole family going to Thurles. Distance and tickets are surmountable issues in the haze of a late night campfire, but by day they concede it’s a long way to Tipperary. Add to that the Thurles grounds doing double sittings today, with tickets rumoured to be rare as lizards, and all concur they’re Déise-bound.
When they finally depart, it’s amidst predictable banter.
“It’s five times me, since Waterford beat Kilkenny in a cup match,” Iarla explains.
What? says 15-year-old Molly, looking sideways at her cousin Stella.
“What he means is,” explains Doire, who, at 17, is all-knowing. “The last time Waterford beat Kilkenny in a championship match, was in 1959. 58 years ago. Five times Iarla’s age.”
“The year before your dad was born,” says Noeleen.
The kids look at each other.
“Wow,” says Molly. “A really long time ago.”
The match is throwing in as they approach Dungarvan. They’ve been on the road almost four hours. “What about the picnic Mam?” says Iarla.
“We already had a picnic. The match picnic!”
As the radio commentary kicks off, Noeleen stays on the main road rather than cutting cross-country towards home.
Save the odd encouraging cheer, the usually vocal passengers are quiet. Too often these fans have known the sting of disappointment in a game that can see points racked up in moments.
As they drive through the village of Dunmore East, the streets are abandoned. They roll down the windows and hear a cheer erupt from Powers Bar as Jamie Barron goals.
They top the hill past the turn to Portally cove. Brownstown head is in the distance, the view opening to a vista of ocean bathed in misty blanket, undercut with rich and potent low evening light.
Their hearts are in their mouths as they pass Ballymacaw cove. Maurice Shanahan scores another goal, but the Hennessys still dread the possibility of one of Kilkenny’s show-stopping resurrection specials.
They travel down the long narrow hill that leads to the Saleens side of Tramore Bay. Here, parked overlooking the expanse of golden sand with Tramore sandhills across the channel and the sound of gulls crying, that the Déise branch of the Hennessys whoop and roar and holler a long overdue miracle into being.
As the evening progresses, the Thurles branch of the family are on the road, managing to hold a steady course through the byways of euphoria. They are almost home when Rubin switches the car radio to WLR, who are playing a repeat of the match. As they pull up outside the front door the play is 10 minutes into the second half. The house is in darkness. It is almost midnight. Father and son look at each other. They roll back the car seats, turn the radio up a bit, sit back and listen to the rest of the match. Again.
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