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Image by david clarke


with the martello journal


by gráinne daly

Imagine a football field. Not one hugging the rugged West of Ireland coastline, but one
surrounded by several tall tiers that stretch high into the heavens. A latticework of iron
lengths crowns its perimeter in great cylinders cross-stitched from the Hogan Stand to the
Cusack. Imagine a train passing by the railway end. There is a girl on the train. She is looking
out at the pitch, recalling her brother playing there in his last match.

Suppose an empty Coke can rolls across the floor of the train and lodges under the seat
opposite the girl. She is glad it is trapped by the thick metal buckle attaching the seat to the
floor. Glad of the respite from the tinny sound of an empty can rolling backwards and
forwards throughout the carriage. She checks to make sure there is nothing leaking from it,
although she knows from the sound of it it has truly given up its contents. Her white runners
intact, she looks out towards the blue slant of the Cusack Stand.

Let’s say a bird drops a feather. It falls into the box at the Hill 16 end; just on the goal-line. It
lies on the grass, lilywhite against the green. It looks out of place. The girl sees the two tall
sticks that rise from the ground in perfect symmetry. Two identical white poles, black tipped,
prefabricated, the crossbar with its short moustache of black; a perfect trigonometry of angles
and lines. She remembers when the club used old P&T polls. Every summer the chairman
would nominate a few players to paint them. One year her brother had been one of the
chosen. It was the year that they went on to win their first county final. And from there, they
won five in a row. Then, with the jingle of medals in his pocket, he got the call up to the
county panel. The relatives called and they stayed for a week; the drinks cabinet in the house
was opened and cleared several times over. They were back again six months later for his
wake. Once again, the cabinet was drank dry.

Imagine a breeze swirling around centre-field where giants of men have stretched and
contorted to catch leather balls. The breeze would set the fabric of a jersey in ripples across a
body. It might upset the kick of a ball, seducing the need for more boot than usual. This
breeze would carry the shouts of a player up above the tackle and over to the vigilant ears of
a teammate. It would ferry cheers of fans into the din of action. This breeze would lift off the
sod of a football field and ribbon towards the iron crown above. To where seagulls rest. And
past players.

Imagine a set of eyes watching down on a girl on the train. She’s looking at that very spot
where the winning goal was taken. She remembers. Who could forget? That was the day, the
last day. The day she reimagines.

Gráinne writes poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. Her work has been published widely and was longlisted for the An Post Irish Book Awards Short Story of the Year Award 2021. Her previous honours include awards from the Arts Council of Ireland and the UCD Maeve Binchy Travel Award. Sport in creative literature is her research interest. 

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