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Grains of rice - Veins of ice

Stephen Bambrick
June 15, 2023

"I was wondering about getting a bus to Croke Park for the lads for the final," - minutes after the sealing of Carlow's ticket to the Joe McDonagh Cup final Tom Dunne with the above question that answers itself.

Names are coming in and it's a bit like a general election, the tallies are telling us we could have an overall majority ( a full bus! ) - But what if we've too many ? Is there anything to be said for another bus ? A small one even ? A coalition of buses it is!

Pat Ahern & Kevin Regan on holidays (not together I might add!), Pat Coady unavailable for selection too , Dr Tom Foley's daughter getting married that day also , there's communions and christenings as well, so we'll just have to shout that bit louder to make up for it .

Shiny gets the last seat on the bus , we're good to go , landing in the capital where the clatter of Carlow colours hits straight away , Joachim's bus from Leighlinbridge beside us , our pageboy Keith from our wedding in 2005 in the same 1984 u21 Leinster Football final retro jersey as myself, there's Paulstown lads in Carlow gear, don't lose a child, this is mad Ted.

Hand out the juvenile tickets, I've 3 left , how's that? Outside the Hogan and they're eventually allocated, (don't ask!).

The 45 on the Nally Stand side is where we'll call home for the next while , Liam Doyle rings to say that Carlow camogie up in Antrim came from 5 down to claim a great point ,down Breege Nolan , our physio on duty in Croker and a few more missing too, a point gained .

County finals = parades, All Ireland finals = parades , the Artane Band , stand up hairs on the back of your neck , Amhran na bhFiann , throw it in to f**k!

Mike Tyson said everyone had a plan till they get a punch in the face , the u20 captain Mitchell done just that when he seemed to break the offside trap on 38 seconds , no clean sheet for you today Brian Tracey ( who's uncle John ( Johnny )the legendary ploughman was sadly laid to rest earlier in the week.)

We'll need to settle and quick, the scoreboard starts ticking over and it's game on now Ger.

Points, wides, hooks and  blocks, usual terms and conditions in a Joe McDonagh final. Oh and goals.

Paddy Boland or Goaland as I call him thinks he's Tony Doran on the edge of the square. I hope Big Des is looking on.

A goal, penalty, sending of , Mouse steps up, his last one here wasn't great. That was then, this is now - GOAL.

15 v 14 now , but Offaly don't have a towel to throw in , take your pick from 82 , 94 , 98 for starters , Danny Quirke rings , we're halfway there Danny , timewise anyway.

The re-energised Offaly reeling off the points on the restart, it's like pop up pirates between the two 45s, the only swag here is bartering of points.

The quality is built in, David Nally aptly in to the Nally goal from a sideline , Kevin Mc from 100 m as Palu said back in the day 'Drive it out over the Cannery Herc ', while Skippy Bolger in front of me says "Jack's always good for one or 2" - Jack obliges naturally.

Cleary, Kiely, James Doyle, will you slow down with the scores lads, I'm doing the Twitter scores and something has to give.

Day 2 of David English's wedding is on in the Community Centre in Ballinkillen, reports they're running out of Coors, there's lads here on both sides hurling like something rhymes with Coors!

There will be at least 4 mins additional time, it was once a good time to run a mile in , we're dealing in millimetres here now though.

Bang , bang , Offaly's bench are in town , we're level , sideline cut to win it, Nally now unfortunately for Offaly on the other sideline having been truly brave in blocking a Jack McCullagh  clearance.

It's on its way, but it's wide! Extra time to come , 10 or 15 mins a side? Not sure but it's 15 v 15 definitely and momentum with Offaly as they leave the field.

Offaly bound out for the restart, 10 minutes each way. Have we the answers? What are the questions anyway?

Not marking the scores in the programme for extra time I've decided , a hill I perished on shortly with scoreboard confusion. "Are we not 2 up?", "yeah we are, aren't we?"

Lactic acid has now become an enemy along with the tricolour jersey that opposed you ,the floor is lava ,legs on fire  scores at a premium, lead changing hands, Breege and Dr Chris Coffey's fitness levels being tested too .

Half time comes, every ball is contested like its life and death, no change there then says you , a point down and we're on halfway.

Richie Coady, Jack Treacy and Sledge are looking for an opening , Sledge is in the pocket but it's 80 odd metres out. It's on its way, wouldn't have troubled the headstones in Borris graveyard behind the Mount Leinster Rangers pitch but it's there and we're level. Is there a winner in it?

20 seconds later the ball is back in Sledge's hand again, this time in his own D. He lorries it down towards Chris Nolan, he's rehearsed this many times in the back garden me thinks. Injury time, Croke Park, game on the line.

Brendan Hennessy has morphed in to Del Boy on KCLR  "go on Chris my son" ,  Chris dissects the posts, Dermot O ' Brien has it on camera, hang it up in Joyce's!

Offaly will get one chance to level surely, it's going wide. Brian Tracey has this, I hugged his mother after the relegation playoff win in Tullamore that day, as Páidi O Sé said a grain of rice to tip the scales. Combine that with veins of ice to win the day, get up them steps Paul Doyle fairly lively!

I meet Ger Doyle, Mike Whelan, Pat Mosey, Sean Keogh, Com Corcoran , Fergal Keogh, Tommy Murphy, Tom and Ciara Doyle, Robbie Foley (a match winner here in the Christy Ring) , the Oli half of Danoli - Olivia Jordan , Leo McGough , Dean Grennan , young Skippy.

We've had worse Saturday's!