New territory for the Bombers, in our long and illustrious career this is the first time we are scheduled to play at St Patrick’s College in Kilbirnie. Cue muttering from the good Doctor; despite being east of the tunnel, for him this is hostile ground.
It’s an 8pm kickoff too, our regular Saturday fixture being played mid week. Nineteen Bombers decline to 13, including Jackel’s young man. Genome has better things to do in the Islands, while the OAP cries off with talk of an early start the following morning. “My fans will notice if I’m not on form”, he opines. Even the injured don’t show. Raggster straps his ribs to don the shirt of shame.
The team sorts itself out. Apparently it’s our home game, which sees us down to 12. Stent takes the whistle while the recently orphaned Marky Mark manfully assumes the role of impact sub.
The SPC field is large, turf, not well lit and slick with dew or the scend of Evans Bay – the soothsayers among the team did not need to examine entrails to divine that the evening was unlikely to end well. Imagine their surprise when within 5 minutes Zeus swings over a corner that is met by Jackel’s well positioned skull. The ball pings off a defender, wrong footing the tennis-ball shaped & coloured goalie and hits the back of the net. 1-0 to the Bombers. The Ides of May have come, Soothsayer! Aye Caesar, but not yet gone.
Off we go again. The Irish attack down the wings with flair and speed. The ball skips rapidly across the turf, embarrassing more than one Bomber. Successive cross field diagonals sees Nickname running Swedishly through the gloom of the far corner but the balls are too skeats for him to catch up with. For minutes the game hangs in the balance before the first Irish shot on target slips under Raggy & into the net. 1-1. Five minutes later, the same sequence of events ended in the same outcome. 1-2 You’d have got good odds at this point on our goalie being named man of the match.
Five minutes later still, an Irish attack sees their centre forward bundle the ball goalward before Raggster clears. “It was over the line”, claims said centre forward. Along with the rest of us, Stent is too far from the action to see, but up steps Raggster to confirm. A coin-operated salesman by trade, that’s his honesty quota ticked off for the year. 1-3.
We’re battling away in the middle of the park. It’s a quick game, ball pinging around all over. Marky Mark is on the field, his usual deft control enabling him to play around the Irish. Jackel’s Young Man looks up at him, sees the playing class and silver streaks as an innovative pony-style and plays a pass for Marky to run on to, and thus are his limitations exposed. Jackel is monstering all over the pitch; Iggy is the untouchable target man and the rest of us are running around; but they attack through the middle with an Irishman going left, right and left again before slotting past a helpless Raggster. 1-4. “Bloody hell, where is the midfield?” storms the King of the Gods, thereby proving his lack of omnipotence.
Half time. This time we’ll have the wind! Stent assumes a consultant’s demeanor and persuades the mob-handed Irish to take the whistle for the second half. It’s Hobson’s choice, but we need the extra legs.
Stent, Dave & JYM are weaving pictures through the midfield, crosses are coming in. One incident sees us attempting to walk the ball in. “Shoot, for Christ’s sake” booms one blasphemer. We’re pressing forward, they’re reveling in the space afforded. The defence holds the line, blocking off access until one shot from well outside the box goes over the Raggster and would be going out until it dies and dips under the bar. 1-5. They’ve got the wind.
The second half is interminable. Sparky Mark is late-charged by a chubby Irishman; the Doctor lectures the ref on the offside law and is offered the whistle in return. Argy-bargy breaks out. Their next attack sees Zeus turned inside out once more before the ball is dispatched home; only to be called back for a clearly (not) offside.
The attacks continue. Son of God plays like he can’t see the ball, which is only half as bad as it sounds. Mingus calmly plays everything on its merits, which is a great tune. There are a couple of goalmouth scrambles that should have seen them score, but a combination of Raggster calmness and Alamo-scale heroics all round leaves the Irish with three leaf clovers. Finally a cross from the right is nodded home by one of the younger, fitter, taller Irish. 1-6.
The gloom is getting gloomier, the ball is getting zippier and the crowd have gone home. Space opens up as both sides tire. They peg another, the details lost to memory. 1-7. We’re playing like Brasil.
At 9.30pm on the dot, half the floodlights expire. “But it’s our corner” some wag shouts. Zeus sends it over, it’s cleared by the Irish, Son of God connects cleanly for the only time that evening and wellies the ball into the Stygian murk. The three cheers are as muted as one would expect. Raggster receives the cap; no one collects against the marvelous odds. The Bombers slip away, denied their post game cheer by the cheerless hour. The Ides of May have been and gone.
Next match: just a couple of days away. This is cruelty to old men. Has singularity reached the fixtures computer?