This has been a week to be Irish, there’s little doubt about that. Tuesday saw the affirmation of a nation’s worth, when the Simpsons visited Ireland. It was of course, St Patrick’s day and the worldwide descendants of the eighteenth centurys’ promiscuous back-packers celebrated whatever fraction of their heritage remained true to the motherland.
On top of all this was the slow burning excitement that will explode tomorrow in the Millennium stadium Cardiff as Declan Kidney’s men strive to be the first Irish Grand Slam team since 1948. Oh, its a week to be Irish.
So this is also the week that Team Ireland has finally come together in preperation for the upcoming WBC. Lining in behind me will be Karl Purdy of Coffee Angel fame, Dave Walsh of otherblackstuff notoriety and Steve Leighton of frogs and box analogies. Whenever I doubt myself I just think how well those guys can do and hope somehow that rubs off on me. The list of travellers accompanying me along the way grows ever larger too.
Another feather to my cap comes in the guise of a newly installed Nuova Simonelli Aurelia that will give me an undoutededge in Atlanta. Being, as most of you know, the official supplier of the competition. There are many problems, foreseen and otherwise, with using a strange machine so having this time to gain some familiarity will be invaluable.
So as team Ireland is solidified and the numbers of supporters grows ever larger I’ve started to become more accutely aware of what its going to mean to me. When I was younger I had many daft ambitions and the WBC seems to be fulfilling some of them in a roundabout kind of way.
I wanted to be a chef, I wanted to be on stage, I wanted to be a lecturer and I wanted to be on TV. This competition has ticked these boxes, but not in the same way I had envisaged but I’m pretty happy to have ticked them off at my age.
Another ambition I had wasn’t quite as attainable, but it stuck with me anyway. Ever since I was a nine years old I wanted to be Paul McGrath.
Despite suffering an horrific childhood and battling alcoholism and depression for his entire adult life, McGrath scaled the heights of world football. He won a PFA player of the year award in 1993, an honour seldom bestowed on defenders and became known amongst the terraces of Lansdowne road, Villa Park, Brammal Lane and Pride Park as “God”.
Perhaps his greatest ever moment was a summers day in 1994 when he plucked the greatest player in the world at the time, Roberto Baggio, straight out of the spot light and into his back pocket with the same effortless nonchalance for which he was renowned and led Ireland to and unlikely victory in the Giants Stadium.
This feat was revealed as all the more poignant in his recent auto biography “Back from the Brink” when he recounted the horrific truth about the sweat bands he wore on his wrists that day. They were not inspired by the blistering New York sun that burned high in the midday sky, but required in a more functional sense to hide the slashes and tears from a botched suicide attempt only weeks before that famous game.
I’m well aware that the Barista Championships may seem a trivial event in comparison to the World Cup and that the hardships I’ll whinge about in the coming weeks are ridiculous in comparison to those faced by Big Paul in his darkest moments but perhaps you’ll forgive me the indulgence of being “just like Paul” for the next few weeks.
I never got to wear the emerald green jersey or walk out into swirling winds of Lansdowne Road but to represent my country in any way, shape or form is a dream come true for me and something that I’m very proud to do. I never got to be Paul McGrath but this is as close as I’ll get and I’ll definitely take it.