The Irish Homecoming: the honeymoon period of enjoying home continues...despite the soccer


There was fierce excitement across Ireland on Sunday afternoon. The European Championship were upon us. The Republic of Ireland soccer team had finally qualified after many years.  

As we drove home from Co. Galway on Sunday cars zipped by us on the new Galway/Limerick motorway with Irish flags poking out passenger windows. The country had Euro soccer fever.

Every second person we passed on the street wore an Irish jersey, and the impending game against Croatia at 7:45 p.m. that evening dominated all conversations.

“Will you watch the big game tonight?” asked a man getting gas beside me in a little place called Kilcolgan outside Galway city.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I replied.

“We should take the Croatians,” he said confidently.  Boy was he wrong!

The buzz on Sunday afternoon was quickly replaced with upset and disgust.

People emptied out of the bars even before the match was over. Croatia hammered us 3-1 and we didn’t take it too well.

“That f***ing Italian fella hasn’t a clue how to play the game,” cursed one of my husband John’s friends over the phone on Sunday evening.   He never was a big fan of the Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

“He made stupid calls with the players and has messed up our chances of any kind of win now.”

On Monday morning people were full of gloom. The Irish team’s participation in the Euros had given the country something to look forward to.

Talk of the recession was put on the back burner. People whose mortgages are in arrears forgot about it for the few days leading up to the first game in Poland.

Some friends of ours had booked Monday off work in the hope they would be fighting off a celebratory hangover. The lads said Croatia was our easiest game in this group, so Ireland’s loss on Sunday was a huge blow to our chances of qualifying out of the group at all.

They have two games left, against Spain and Italy. The soccer experts on the television are saying forget it, the Irish team will be back home in a matter of days.

We have some friends who have gone over to Poland, rented camper vans and are enjoying the buzz of the Euros. They too were gutted when Ireland lost on Sunday.

It’s a pity really. It was a nice feeling to see everyone so happy, to see the comradeship between all.

Kerry lost to Cork in the Munster Senior Football Championship earlier in the day.  There was great rivalry, as there always is, at the stadium in Cork, but minutes after it came to an end fans from both counties joined forces in a local bar to all cheer on Ireland.

We definitely moved back on Ireland at the right time – for those of you who aren’t a regular reader of this column, my husband, John, and I along with our two kids, Colum (18-months) and Sadie (3-months) left New York three weeks ago after nine years in the U.S. 

We arrived home to wonderful weather, fantastic friends and a country full to giddiness for the Euros.

Despite Ireland (and Kerry) losing on Sunday it didn’t dampen our spirits. The previous Friday John’s first cousin and best friend Eoin Markham married the beautiful Louise Greensmith (both from Limerick) at 1:30 p.m. in a quaint church in Barna, Co. Galway.  John was Eoin’s best man.

Irish weddings are fantastic, aren’t they? We had a ball from the minute the day began.

It’s customary for the ladies in Ireland to get extremely dolled up for an Irish wedding. My American friends think we go way overboard (and we probably do) but it’s all a bit of fun.

The day started off with a wash and blow-dry for some of the girls and I. Then off to Brown Thomas department store for a make-up session.

Back to the Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill for a check on the fake tan (that was applied the night before), on with the glamorous dress, a quick touch up on the makeup, a final look in the mirror and off to the church we went.

I had the pleasure of driving John and the groom, Eoin, to the church. Both men were very nervous, John about his speech and Eoin about the excitement of the day ahead.

Father Tom, a local Limerick priest and friend of the Markham family, came up to officiate the wedding, and what a beautiful bilingual (Irish-English) ceremony it was. It rained heavy earlier in the morning but by the time the bride arrived at the church the rain subsided and it stayed away for the rest of the day.

Several pictures later we began the celebrations at the cocktail reception back at the hotel. An ice-cream stand and champagne bar went down a treat. It got everyone in the party mood.

A sweets table, an amazing band, flip flops and hula hoops and amazing food sealed the deal.

verything was top notch, but it was the sing song that started after the disco at 2 a.m. that made the night a truly memorable one.

I made my excuses sometime between 3-3:30 a.m., and the singers were in full swing.

Eoin and Louise had their first dance on the helipad of the hotel a little after 10 p.m. Although it was bright outside, it was very romantic and a moment in their lives they will remember forever.