‘When you’re abroad, Cork City’s an anchor as comforting as family’

Ex-Examiner staffman John Riordan suffered more than most Cork City fans for not being there. But more important that homesickness is the club at the heart of his football passion is alive and thriving again. 

‘When you’re abroad, Cork City’s an anchor as comforting as family’

“Tree and wall down into court 1 from neighbour’s garden,” read my mother’s text to the family Whatsapp group early Tuesday morning. “The wall is on the walkway, tree is hanging over fencing onto court 1, club closed.”

Irene Riordan is a stalwart of the St Michael’s Tennis Club on Church Road. We all respect her work for that committee and it’s sad to hear about the storm damage both there and across the country. But I felt it was a little more important to check in on the water supply at our real home. Her response was efficient, to say the least.

“Great we have no shortage thank God — match is on at Turner’s Cross.”

That sudden shift to the true Tuesday priority gave me a jolt as 7am approached. There have been ups and downs in the seven years since I left for New York and, similarly, the journey of my hometown football club has been as interesting as a supporter could ever hope or fear.

I managed to get back for that unforgettable night in Tolka Park in late 2011 when we won the First Division in the best way imaginable. I have missed most of the rest of it, unless you count the brilliant City social media presence that runs my phone battery down Friday afternoons.

There are advantages when you’re away from it. Aside from a former New York Shamrocks team-mate with a left foot as strong as his Louth accent, I have been able to bury my head in the sand during Dundalk’s dominance.

Like everyone else, 2014 was angst at its peak. At a New Orleans microbrewery that October, I regaled a Cleveland Indians fan with our miraculous recovery story just as a win over UCD made an unlikely league title possible. As if he didn’t have enough misery in his life, I dragged him a couple of weeks later to Togher native Donal Dennehy’s bar in the West Village to watch the dream die at Oriel Park.

There have been lost Cup finals watched on phones on the sidelines of Sunday morning games of my own. There has been the envy of missing out on away trips to Dublin and beyond.

So following from afar has been, mostly, frustrating which is, of course, an entirely selfish reaction. After all, I left at a time when hope was still a little bit of a daring prospect. Now look at us — stumbling over the line to a league title that was allegedly wrapped up months ago. But it’s a first league since 2005, a title that could also arguably be seen as arriving at the tail end of an enjoyable renaissance. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad or to simply find a different hobby. That’s impossible though.

Above all else, the misery of supporting the team down the road is offset by the good people that orbit it. When you’re abroad, it’s an anchor as comforting as family.

On Whatsapp, we have the ‘RoyalsRiviera’ group which is a small gathering of City and Reading fans brought together by the move of Kevin Doyle to the Madejski Stadium. That was the year we last made it this far. Reading have yo-yoed dramatically during that time too. The message group is often a treasure trove of tragi-comedy and it has got me through some of life’s low points.

At 4.14pm, a video came through from the Shed End as celebrations seemed to start. London asked if the deed was done. New York typed in ‘Champions’, not knowing what else to say.

All that mayhem and Neil Casey still managed to pull through for me. His consideration for far-flung me cast all my misgivings away. It matters more than homesickness that the club is alive and thriving. So what if I never saw Seanie Maguire play in the flesh or that I wasn’t there Tuesday night to soak it all in?

The community created by years of supporting City through thick and a lot of thin has provided an unique connection to home. All I need now is for the Tennis Club wall to be repaired and for the Rockies to win the County on Sunday.

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