Saturday was a great day for Ulster Rugby and Yer Man was lucky enough to be part of it.
When the final whistle went at the Aviva stadium, fans from north of the border, myself included, began partying like it was 1999 - the last time Ulster reached the European Cup final.
There were two buses making the 12-hour round trip from Lurgan Rugby Club and strains of ‘Stand Up For The Ulster Men’ could be heard as early as 10am at Pollock Park. (For the uninitiated, ‘Stand Up For The Ulster Men’ is the unofficial anthem of Ulster Rugby. Recently, the handy abbreviation ‘SUFTUM’ has been adopted by Ulster fans when posting on Facebook, Twitter or sending texts. Any sports fan knows that behind every successful team is a catchy acronym).
On Saturday, Johnny Johns, who was acting as club cheerleader, ensured no one forgot the words by providing everyone getting on the buses at Lurgan with a ‘SUFTUM’ sticker. By the way, when I refer to Johnny as a cheerleader, I only mean that he leads the cheers. Anyone who is familiar with Johnny will know he is not the sort of man who could carry off pom poms and a pencil pleat skirt.
The Ulster fans were in great tune throughout the day and come full time the celebrations were turned up a notch. The champagne was flowing, in some cases Lurgan’s finest, as the fans toasted the victory and looked forward to the final.
It was ironic that by 10pm on Saturday evening many of the people who had been chanting ‘Stand Up For The Ulster Men’ earlier in the day, were no longer very steady on their feet.
And when the hangovers kicked in the next day, standing up was the last thing on their ‘to do’ list. It was more a case of ‘Lie Down In A Darkened Room And Suffer For The Ulster Men’ or ‘LDIADRASFTUM’ for those of you that way inclined.
Don’t worry, be happy
Last Thursday at lunchtime I phoned Karen for a chat. I phone her most lunchtimes even when I have nothing much to tell her. It’s a force of habit.
Anyway, this particular lunchtime was no different. I’d nothing much to tell her but was just phoning to hear the tone of her sweet voice or something like that.
So it came as a surprise when her dad answered. It came as even more of a surprise when he began by saying, “There’s no need to worry but...”
When someone starts a sentence in that fashion the only thing you can do is worry.
The thing that I wasn’t supposed to worry about was the fact that Karen and her dad were taking Lucy to the Royal to see a specialist.
I should give you some background. At the beginning of last week we noticed a tiny foreign object had found its way into Lucy’s eye. It was bright pink in colour and we’ve no idea what it was or how it got there. Knowing that eyes, especially children’s eyes, are something that you shouldn’t go poking about in, we left it alone in the hope that it would work its own way out. Unfortunately over the course of the next couple of days it didn’t budge. The longer it stayed there, the more concerned myself and Karen got. Although it didn’t move or grow in size, by the time Thursday came round the amount of thought we’d given it had enlarged it to the size of the Ailsa Craig.
Which is why Karen decided to take Lucy to the doctor on Thursday morning. The doctor tried to get it out with a cotton bud, but had no joy and referred her to the eye specialist at the Royal to see if they had any better luck.
This was around about the time I called for my lunchtime chinwag and ended up getting more than I bargained for. Despite the warning not to worry, I was up to high doe all afternoon and grew even more concerned when I learned the specialist couldn’t get it out either. We were given eye drops to give Lucy in the hope that it would loosen the unwanted visitor.
If it didn’t come out we were told she would have to get knocked out under general anaesthetic and have it removed with a sharp implement. Not a procedure any of us relished, though in fairness to Lucy she was the most laid back about the whole thing. At no point did the tiny pink fleck appear to bother her.
And then on Saturday morning it was gone. Just like that. A weight had been lifted.
Kids grow up fast. There’s no getting past it. Although she’s only five months old there’s already a lot of cute baggage she’s left by the wayside. I miss her wee zebra sleep suit she wore when she was just born. I miss her tiny toes. I miss her little mohawk that has gone flat because of the weight of her hair. And just this week I began to question my sanity when I told Karen I missed the little pink thing in Lucy’s eye.