From August 2001 to May 2002 I attended thirty-four Liverpool matches, including every game played at Anfield that season. I’m quite proud of that, which is why it gets mentioned so prominently in a Waterford United post. The reason it came to mind was that tonight I’m going to see the Blues play Mervue United. It’s only the fifth game I’ve been to the RSC this season and having seen them lose badly last weekend to Wexford Youths it feels like a bit of a chore to be going again in such quick succession. It’s odd how much easier it is to regularly attend matches where there are 40,000 people than to attend matches with 400 people. Who would have thought?
Thankfully it’s the FAI Cup tonight so there really is something at stake – the right to be in the quarter-final draw and hope you draw the winners of the Malahide United-Dundalk game before getting inevitably hockeyed in the semi-final by one of the big guns. The excitement is killing me!
With the League placings looking pretty much cast in stone – Limerick as champions, Longford and Waterford in the play-off – there is only pride at stake in the remaining home fixtures. Just to make things even more meaningless, a Blue worthy was overhead last Friday expressing a desire for playing Longford away from home, and you could see his point. When Waterford last appeared in the dreaded play-off, they got there by beating Shelbourne in a thrilling comeback win in front of a delirious travelling crowd. A few days later they flopped spectacularly in front of a stunned home crowd against Monaghan United – remember them? So maybe reversing the scenario might help. If it were on a Saturday night, I might even make the trip to sunny Longford myself.
Don’t hold me to that.
A passing thought about ‘playing for pride’. Eamon Dunphy was once asked on his radio show why he didn’t give out racing tips, preferring to concentrate on soccer accumulators. His answer was blunt – “footballers always try.” And you could see what he meant last Friday. With nothing at stake, not even pride of the parish, Wexford went at Waterford with all guns blazing and got their reward. Perhaps each player still secretly yearns to be picked up by Real Madrid or Barcelona if only they can be seen on the right day, but it’s laudable in itself that soccer players want to win every game, every time, just because they want to win. If you want to see how it could be, read The Economist’s take on corruption in Chinese soccer and be grateful for the honesty of the League of Ireland.
Update: and there was me, determined to go come what may . . .
Hope the Mervue lads got stuck in Newmarket-on-Fergus.