It was at a misty Phoenix Park in late 2008 that our young Crusaders made their debut, in the Dublin Cross Country League. There were raised eyebrows at the appearance of this ‘new’ club – indeed Crusaders had only operated meaningfully at senior level since their formation in 1942. Twelve months later here we were again this morning, with a few of the original athletes and some newer faces. Again it was no surprise that the specialist running clubs (DSD, Rathfarnham, MSB, Celtics etc) led the way. Our best placing was Kevin Woods – 5th in the U14s, but it was enough for me to see our kids out there doing their best for the white and red singlet. The youngest of the Ferry girls, Laura, just seven years old, insisted on running in the U10 race and we were all proud of her.

So on they’ll go to Newbridge House for the next match next Sunday, though without me I think. On probably my last Sunday in the capital I set off on foot up the Royal Canal to the Ashtown entrance of Phoenix Park. It turned out to be a bad run but, with no targets or races in mind, I deternined to enjoy my walk/jog in the late summer sun. It is All-Ireland footy final day and, even at just gone nine in the morning there are plenty of Cork and Kerry fans about and the street vendors of flags and favours are open for business at Drumcondra. The canal runs under Croke Park which, during its reconstruction, had to buy the ‘air rights’ above the canal and railway to extend the stadium outwards beyond the footprint of the ground itself. Past the Brendan Behan sculpture and on to Phibsboro and beyond, Mountjoy Gaol over to the left. Through the pretty grim suburb of Cabra and on to the yuppier Ashtown. Though many pretensions to yuppiedom have been dashed over the last couple of years or so. The oft-repeated expression here is that ‘we lost the run of ourselves’. There is an admittance that even the ordinary man and woman in the street bought into the improbable Celtic Tiger and they accept their share of the blame, together with the bankers and politicians who built the house of cards.

So after the last of the races over by the Magazine Fort I headed for the shortest way back to town via the Parkgate Street entrance. Had the Heuston Luas stop been quiet I’d have jumped on the tram back to Connolly. But, as I had somehow expected, it was mad with football supporters off the trains looking to get to Croker. So, with kick-off still a couple of hours away I sighed and shuffled off townwards. Grabbing a Coke on the way I watched out for the townbound Luas with interest. Now the Luas (from the Irish word for ‘speed’) is a tram on which you can board without formality. And without a ticket, as many do. Ticket inspections are infrequent and easily avoided so there are plenty of the population that treat it as a free service. Here it came, and what a sight! Packed, rammed to the limit with the green and gold of Kerry and the red and white of Cork. Contorted limbs, faces. People sitting on each others laps, squeezed into every inch of available space. The faces of a few bewildered Sunday shoppers in there wondering what new Hell this was. And still more people would somehow squash on at the various stops! Truly the Luas makes the Black Hole of Calcutta look like a luxury hospitality lounge.

Tracking the groaning Luas I arrived in town and Abbey Street where the bars were overflowing with Cork supporters having a scoop or two before making their way over to Croker. And as always with GAA (as with rugby) supporters of opposing sides bear no ill will to each other and the banter flows between them without the slightest animosity. Today however the Kerry lads and lasses must have been drinking elsewhere.

But sadly Kerry still hold the Indian sign over Cork at Croker – they’ll be dancing in the streets of Killarney tonight.

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