Once more with feeling…

It’s county final weekend in Sligo. First-time finalists Drumcliffe-Rosses Point have decorated their parish brilliantly and you can feel the excitement from everyone you meet. Perennial finalists and current 4-in-a-row champions Tourlestrane have seen it all before. Including in the final in 2011 when they beat us well.

A friend and teammate that day gave us all a big retirement speech and went on to play a few more seasons! I said nothing but knew deep down I probably wouldn’t return.

And I didn’t. For 9 years. Until tonight. Two of us were asked back to give the Junior B team a bit of experience in tonight’s semi-final. We weren’t sure – we had a funny phone call last week where each of us was waiting for the other to say they’d do it first, but eventually we said we’d go for it.

And it was fitting to play tonight with John – I first played with him back when I was 9 and he was 11. He looked out for me when I first joined the Sligo panel, and we shared plenty of disappointments but lots of wonderful days too along the way.

And if this is the last time I play, it was the way to bow out.

A sunny evening. Perfect for football. Playing with the son of another friend. Meeting the man who kept coming back to me again and again at underage level to ask me to play even when I was away for long periods of time. Playing against former county teammates.

And while we lost and I ran out of steam badly, I will forget all that and remember the good things I did and pretend to myself that if I gave it a proper go next year I could still make a contribution at a decent level.

I have written before about elegant endings, and about how finishing things well can make it easier to move on. Very few sportsmen or women get to bow out at the top. This is the next best thing.