If you happened to see a few middle-aged men wandering around aimlessly last Thursday – as though worn down by the stresses of the world – their sad demeanour may have had nothing to do with Brexit or bills; quite possibly they were ‘just’ deeply distraught Leeds United fans.
I got home from work that fateful and now forever damned Wednesday evening, having succeeded in avoiding social media and any update on how THAT match was going. (Leeds were at home to Derby County in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final, and leading 1-0 from the first game).
In the normal world, that would be a good thing.
Anyways, I closed the curtains and opened my heart to the possibilities, sitting down to watch this monumentally big match which I had recorded, and the result of which I had avoided.
They say it is the hope that kills you, but when it comes to Leeds United in Championship play-offs – this supposed route back into the Premier League – I never allow actual hope to get in the way of the inevitable sense of foreboding. To be honest, it’s the qualifying for the play-offs, rather than gaining automatic promotion, that ‘kills’ Leeds fans.
Because Leeds, irrespective of how brilliant they’ve been all season, invariably flounder in these wretched play-offs.
Some things in life are inevitable, they just keep happening. Our dog, it seems, will always act surprised and bark when the postman’s van arrives in the morning, as it does every weekday morning. Ryan Tubridy will always try to be cool and funny when he’s interviewing a comedian (why does he do this? It’s not as if he produces a lavish meal that he ‘prepared earlier’ whenever he’s interviewing a celebrity chef). I digress…
Anyways, Leeds, it seems, will always blow it when they get to the Championship play-offs.
It’s not enough to lose; they have to torture us in the process. In that second leg mayhem the other night, Leeds went 1-0 up against Derby, making it 2-0 on aggregate. An incredible atmosphere at Elland Road…thousands of fans chanting, singing and waving scarves. The Sky commentator musing about it being all over, Leeds marching on. It was, of course, madness. Drama had to reveal itself. And it did. Leeds imploded, Derby won 4-2 on the night, 4-3 overall. At least we were spared getting to the play-off final, and the delusion of escape.
There is only one way for Leeds to return to the Premier League, and that’s by finishing first or second in the Championship, thus gaining automatic promotion, avoiding this play-off tightrope.
Next season, I’m hoping Leeds can go straight up, that they can imperiously soar above this play-off torture. It is the only way, the only chance of escape. There is too much at stake…too much at stake for Leeds United, for their huge fan base, indeed for haunted middle-aged men throughout Roscommon…(to be continued, no doubt).
Musings on First Holy Communion Day…
It was such a happy day, a joyful occasion…as it always is.
Our son Matthew was one of a large number of children receiving their First Holy Communion in Roscommon Town last Saturday. The sun shone brightly, and a little unexpectedly.
This is always a happy, inspirational ceremony. It’s one that many local families throughout the region have already experienced this year.
It’s an occasion that glows…the children at the centre of it…sharing their day with siblings, parents, grandparents, further relations, a community’s embrace.
In these busy times, there aren’t that many communal events that can create such a calmness, such positivity. Maybe it’s because innocence is at the heart of it. And also, of course, because it’s sacred.
Sacred. The First Holy Communion ceremony is after all a religious ceremony, and a powerful one too.
By 10.40 am last Saturday, there were hundreds of people outside the Sacred Heart Church. The excited children…in their beautiful dresses and their dashing suits. There was a little giddiness, and lots of nervous energy…not just on the part of the kids, for the parents too. Pockets of people here and there, everyone dressed to the nines. Mostly they exchanged compliments about the kids, savoured the occasion, but, being honest, some drifted into other important snippets of small talk.
Musings on First Holy Communion Day…
But always it drifted – quickly – back to the children. The children were in their element. Their big day. When the local teachers (also stars of the day) called the children to order, they quickly formed a queue, clasping their hands in prayer, preparing for this milestone step in their young lives.
The ceremony was very special. It was much more inclusive than it used to be (many years ago). There was a lovely touch when three of the First Holy Communicants stood behind the altar and sang. Others read from the altar – superbly. The children received the Eucharist with reverence and were a credit to their parents and their schools.
Walking up the aisle, they had been paired off, a boy and a girl at a time. As their parents beamed with pride, they completed this opening part of the ceremony with great formality, some of the boys careful not to make too much eye contact with their ‘partner’, as if unsure about this close encounter. (Thinking: Did we really agree to this?).
Fr. John Cullen celebrated a lovely Mass, which featured beautiful music from the Choir. A sense of happiness prevailed. And of sacredness. A fast-moving world slowed, for now at least. When the ceremony ended, the cameras and phones came out. The sun was still shining. The children had been great. It was, and is, one of the special days.