I always feel a tug on my heart every time I leave Turner’s Cross for the last time at the end of each season. Last Friday night was no different, though it was that little extra special to watch the game with my brother (a rare enough occasion these days, as he’s exiled).
Our Dad grew up on Derrynane Road, and it was his Dad that first encouraged us down to the Cross to watch City. We waited three entire games for our first CCFC goal (a Kelvin Flanagan penalty), and we whole heartedly agreed with Grandad’s theory that if you stood in, in front of, or near the Shed, you would at least get a few laughs from the crowd if the game wasn’t great.
The last time I spoke to him before he died, City had secured the result they needed to take their League challenge down to the wire (2004) and I rang in to update him after the full-time whistle blew. On the night he died, after a brief illness, the squad was being presented with their runners up medals. He was never a fan of Pat Dolan (too much talk!), but did believe that the same squad had real potential, and would be proved right the following season.
As we move into November, he’s nine years gone and yet the banter, the craic and the memories still seem like yesterday.
My Grandmother passed on a couple of years later, and while I was helping my own Dad clear out their house, we came across a number of keepsakes: an old edition of a Stanley Matthews’ biography, a history of Cork soccer book and a huge stack of old programmes and news clippings.
We also came across some of my early attempts at being a football journalist and some hand written notes underlining the importance of having an opinion – though an opinion backed up with logic and reason.
He was a trade unionist, a keen follower of politics, a lover of all things Cork, a story teller and a family man. He would sneak me the odd €20 ‘for a couple of pints’ whenever I was setting off down to hill to the Curragh Road, and more than anything – as a man who believed in people power – I believe he would be fully behind and proud of what we’re trying to achieve with Cork City FC, through FORAS, today.
That’s what football is and should always be about – family, and following in their footsteps…