In my first job in Dublin, I met a guy called Patrick, who was a keen cricketer, he played for a Dun Laoghaire pub team. I mentioned I had played a bit, and was keen for a game.
I got the call up one Friday evening – Patrick’s team was a bunch of keen sportsmen, probably Rugby or Hurling players who were more enthusiastic than skilled Cricketers. At 28, I was the youngest there by at least five years. They had a great time playing, though, and the Craic, as they say over there, was excellent.
I eventually got my couple of overs, and took a couple of wickets. My military medium out swingers were a lot faster than anyone else in the team – I was basically Malcolm Marshall at this point. Second innings, they threw me up the order, assuming I could bat, too, but I was run out on my wildly over ambitious call, after swinging far too hard at my first couple.
Still, they told me in the pub that the next weekend they were off to Wexford for the end of season tour match – did I fancy coming along? Fuck yeah I fancied it.
Next Saturday morning the weather dawned grim, but as Patrick and I took the train to Booterstown to meet our ride, I was assured it didn’t matter. We were picked up by a guy whose nickname was Elton, as he was the dead spit of Mr Reginald Dwight. He didn’t seem to mind.
We pitched up at the Rugby and Cricket club to find it was pretty wet – but we shambled out anyway, and had a few overs, as we were there. I got to bowl, but couldn’t repeat any wicket taking.
Still, from there it was into the clubrooms, for pints and speeches. No-one seemed too bothered about the game. The hospitality was fantastic and soon we were all having a great time. After three or four, I found myself on the pool table, playing the local pool shark. Someone mentioned he hadn’t been beat in a couple of years, I could see why, he soon had me pretty much fucked. Somehow, though, I managed to reach that rare, fluid state of zen concentration only experienced by very stoned playstation players, or pissed pool players, and started potting. My team mates were hugely encouraged – if we couldn’t win at Cricket, pool would do.
I could hear whispers of “Look at the Kiwi”, “G’wan” etc. Eventually, I had only one and the black left – I potted the color and sauntered down the other end with a big, premature, shit-eating grin for my shot at the black, which was hovering nicely next to a pocket. Being a cocky shit, I went for the heroic off the side shot, instead of the straight down the middle, make sure of it one – and missed. The chaps were crestfallen, and I felt like a big dick.
Next, it was back to the hotel for a steak and more pints. I’d only been in Dublin four months or so, and was still drinking Guinness exclusively. I mean, the Guinness in Ireland is very, very nice, but it doesn’t half fill you up. We all put cash into a kitty for drinks, and our Captain had sorted out a steady flow of rounds to the table – most convivial. I spent most of the meal talking, and when we got the ‘leaving in ten’ call, I turned around:
“Whose are those four untouched pints of Guinness there?”
Not the answer I was looking for, to be honest.
Pints downed, it was into the taxi and straight to the nightclub. Did I mention I was the youngest one there? My team had some serious capacity for drink and staying power in a night club situation. I was pretty hammered by now, and spent the rest of the night flailing around the dance floor in what I hoped was an interesting way. The chaps bought a succession of women over to chat – touchingly,they’d made it their personal mission to find love for me with the ladies of Wexford.
One was delighted I was from New Zealand, and told me she watched NZ’s own Shortland Street, the greatest soap in the world*, everyday.
“What’s the name of that doctor, that dark haired, handsome one?”
Her voice dropped an octave.
“Say it again“.
The Kiwi accent strikes again.
I woke up the next morning, alone, except for room mate Willie. Willie and me eventually made it to the breakfast, a fry up (surprise, surprise). Willie was an old pro at this kind of thing, and told me he would wolf this down, have a quick “Tom Kite” (I had to ask what this was; cockney rhyming slang for a Shite) and go back to bed until the Grand Prix came on. Check out times are a bit different over there.
That’s about it really. These guys were welcoming, hospitable and a real hoot. I went on to play Cricket at Rathmine’s Leinster Cricket Club the next season, but we stayed in touch and I was lucky enough to meet up with them again for a France v Ireland match at Lansdowne Road, after which I got about as drunk as I’ve ever been, full stop. Later still, I went with Willie and ‘Rasher’ to Rome to see Ireland play Italy in the Six Nations. I have now seen every Irish pub in the eternal city. It all worked out pretty well.
*Just kidding, it’s shit.