Our garden becomes overgrown in places each summer … the soil is fertile and plants (weed and non-weed alike) grow like wildfire. Lost, mislaid or discarded items are soon forgotten, until exposed by the autumn leaf-fall and winter wilt.
Today it is pleasant, sunny and spring-like in this part of rural Ireland – just the sort of day when Sean would have insisted, through the years, that I come out and kick a football on the lawn with him. The two of us would have stood in goals at opposite ends and taken shots at each other, sportingly offering encouragement and praising our opponent’s efforts. Sean was much better in goals than me, so he generally scored more, although we were roughly equal in the shooting department.
I walked round the garden this morning and picked up several old footballs in varying stages of decrepitude, as well as a couple of basketballs, a furless tennis ball and a down-at-heel Frisbee. Relics of good times …
Long summer nights and weekend afternoons when a motley crew possibly drawn from men and women, neighbourhood children and/or visiting cousins would play hard-fought matches, and the shouting and laughter could be heard up and down our road.
Sean always took them seriously (too seriously at times), always wanted to win, and never wanted to stop – he would have played all night if he could. After one team reached the agreed winning total of 10 goals, say, he wanted to play on to 15, then 20, even if it was getting too dark to see. He was also the persuasive organizer, calling to neighbours’ houses to enlist recruits.
Sean and I had many good physical battles, as we were almost always on opposing sides. And then there was the one-on-one patio football – also highly competitive – which could be played even on cold winter nights.
The footballs don’t look like much now, but each has its own story of glorious comebacks, spectacular goals, last-ditch tackles, amazing saves, disappointment and elation …
Those were the days. We won’t see them again.