About Chiara Murgana
Viva gli amici
for Na Piarsaigh on their fiftieth anniversary
Tom Knott comes bulling out, his shoulder down
bringing weight to bear on the sliothar dropping
from his hand. The crack of ash on leather echoes
the length of the Park.
Like a new evening star, the ball
climbs the November air, a clean
white flash in the cold and cloud.
All of the faces around me turn
like plates to the sky, tracking the rising arc.
Over the halfway line now, and dropping into
a clash of hurleys, forward shouldering back.
Our jerseys are brighter than theirs
in this eerie light, the black and amber
fanning out into a line, a berserk charge.
My face is jammed through the flat bars
of the gate, the goalposts make me dizzy
leaning back to look up. The goalie is jittery,
the chocolate melts in my fist, I hear myself
howling from a great distance
Come on Piarsaigh, come on, face up, face up . . .
Sound stops in a smell of mud and oranges.
I can feel the weight of them bearing down on goal,
I can't see, Mr Connery is roaring and Johnny Parker,
I bet even my Dad is roaring, back there in the crowd
but I can't leave the gate to go see, I can't -
a high ball, a real high one, oh God
higher than the moon over the fence towards Blackrock,
it's dropping in, they're up for it, Pat Kelleher's fist
closes on leather, knuckles suddenly badged with blood
in the overhead clash; he steadies, digs in his heel,
he turns, shoots from the 21 -
the whole field explodes in my face.
A goal! A goal! Their keeper stretched across the line,
his mouth filled with mud, the sliothar feet from my face,
a white bullet bulging the net.
A ship comes gliding on the high tide, her hull
floating through the elms over the rust-red stand.
A man on the flying-bridge looks down to us.
I race back to my father, threading the crowd,
watching for heavy boots, neck twisting back
to the net still bulging, the ship still coming on,
the green flag stabbed aloft, the final whistle.
Sixpence today for the bikeminder under his elm.
Men in dark overcoats greeting my Dad
Well done Bert, ye deserved it. And
A great game, haw? Ah dear God what a goal!
I'm introduced as the eldest fella. Great man yourself.
Men anxious to be home, plucking at bikes, pushing away.
The slope to the river, the freighter drawing upstream.
And then the long, slow pedal home,
weaving between the cars on Centre Park Road,
leaning back into the cradle of his arms.
That was some goal, wasn't it Dad?
It was indeed, it was. His breath warm on my neck;
a wave for the man on Dunlop's gate,
we'll pass the ship tied up near City Hall.
He's a knacky hurler, Pat Kelleher.
He is Dad, ah jay he is.
By God, that was the way to win.
It was, Dad, it was.