Rory Fitzgerald worries his son is changing his county allegiance
Only a happily deranged surrealist could have imagined the scene as I glided through St Anneís Park on my bicycle. Suddenly, on rounding a bend, the blue Mediterranean stretched out before me. Ireland, it seemed, had drifted a couple of thousand miles south overnight. The bizarre illusion persisted as I freewheeled through the sultry, calm air towards Dollymount Strand, with my three-year-old son Sean perched happily on the crossbar. On arrival at Dollymount, it was like a Cork v Down All Ireland final day, such was the profusion of red and white human forms.
The holiday atmosphere and Mediterranean ambience continued into the gentlemenís bathing shelter on the North Wall when – to cheers from assorted tattooed gentlemen – I leapt into the brine with my lifejacketed toddler on my shoulders. It was, as they had warned, ìfresh enoughî, but this was not the ice water to which we Irish are accustomed. It merely provoked a mild cardiac event, before the heart resumed an elevated rhythm.
Those weeks of balmy weather eased the stress of moving house, and helped the kids settle beautifully in to life in Raheny-sur-mer, which is, after all, a big change from West Cork. Day after day, we awoke to blue skies that endured all day, yielding only to a balmy golden dusk, at which point we went to bed, fully confident that tomorrow would bring more of the same. Which it did.
As a nation, we deserved last summer, having stoically endured five years of winter, economic and climatic. It was a long and eventful summer for us, moving to Dublin from Cork last June, renovating our old house, renting it out, lugging baggage, starting new jobs, finding childminders, and settling in to dear old Dublin once again, having been away for almost 10 years.
The city seems more comfortable in its own skin now than it was then. The frantic overcrowded days of the Celtic Tiger are over, when you could not rent a flat, nor book a restaurant table. Pubs were standing room only and the price of everything rose by the minute. It was, back then, a city utterly in thrall to Mammon. Now, the pace has slowed and perspectives have broadened; people are friendlier and the city breathes more easily. Best of all, from the kidsí perspective, Dublin has loads of double decker buses, which are more amazing even than space ships.
The one thing Dublin lacks, however, is blackberries. For our kids, autumn is "when the blackberries come and the leaves fall off the trees". On telling them that it was the first day of autumn on September 1, blackberry picking was demanded. We had to drive almost to Wicklow before we found any, but there we stumbled upon ditches full of them and a purple-faced Sean turned to me and said, "I like Dublin, dad".
The comment seemed innocent enough at the time. But, to my horror, on the morning of the Dublin v Cork All Ireland hurling semi-final, he announced confidently, "We live in Dublin now and I like Dublin and I will shout for Dublin today." I pleaded with him to abandon this treasonous talk, but to no avail. However, I could – and did – dress him in red and white.
And so it came to pass that this September there was one small figure in Croke Park, Cork-born and dressed in red and white from head to toe, but shouting for Dublin – perhaps the first time this strange event had happened in the stadium's 130-year history.
When the match was over, though sad Cork had won, Sean told me, in his nascent Dublin accent, that hurling was "kewel". To which I replied, "Ah, janey".