Three weeks before heading to Ireland I attended the wedding of a special friend. During the reception I started talking to the sax player who had a strong Irish accent.
When I told him we were going to Ireland in a few weeks, he pulled up a chair and informed me that Ireland should be on everyone’s top twenty places to see in the world. For the next hour, he taught me “Irish 101.” He spoke about the Irish culture and Irish people. I was sold. Ireland was never a destination on my radar but boy, was I wrong.
Ireland is beautiful.
It has incredible sites, historic museums and more. But what I really fell in love with was the people.
A place is just a destination; a piece of land with with a name on it.
It’s the people that make the destination perfect and I loved their attitude and spirit.
We were in Dublin for less than 24 hours when I caught wind of the fact that an important hurling match was taking place in the city. Hurling is one of the Gaelic sports. It’s hard to describe but it’s like an incredibly athletic cross of field hockey, lacrosse and football. The Irish take it very seriously. Imagine thousands of Toronto Maple Leaf fans and then multiply that fever by a gazillion. Hurlers can only play for the county where they were born and aren’t paid to play. Players have regular day jobs and train at night and on the weekend. They say it’s an incredible honour.
When were were in town there was a rematch of a final game. The city was filled with fans in the team colours of yellow or red depending on who they were rooting for. Irish people take their sports seriously. It’s like a religion. Yet, after the game it was amazing to see fans of both teams out having meals together.
Heather and I were passing a restaurant when I saw a boy sitting having a dinner with his mother and sister. He was holding his hurling stick and had his face painted with his team colours. His team had lost but he didn’t care. I knew I could not let this moment pass. I thought of my two boys waiting for me at home and how much they would’ve loved to be a part of this event. I seized the moment.
This picture represents so much to me.
It’s about a fan who refused to be defeated even when his team was. It’s about a country that is much the same way – upbeat despite hard times.
It was a moment I won’t forget and it was only the beginning of an incredible visit to an incredible country.
Next time my boys come too and we’ll be looking for hurling sticks.