Fixed intensity - sipping coffee and watching the All-Ireland (Photo: Jim Lowney)
It’s still halfway to St. Patrick’s Day. I suppose it truly never ends. We are always having some sort of Irish celebration in these parts which is a good thing. Imagine how sad it would be if there were none.
The latest gathering of the Celtic clans had Honey Badger and I sitting in a pub at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. This might almost be corrupt if not for the GAA football finals.

Sipping a waking cup of coffee at the bar, I was thinking someone has to do something about this time difference business.

Cups of tea and coffee covered the bar, with the odd bottle of beer and a Bloody Mary here and there for those in want of a hair of the dog. It was mostly harmless hot drinks as the crowd grew with plenty of Mayo jerseys around the place. The Donegal supporters were well represented, too. The best is seeing the little ones in their county colors without a clue of why they are there. But they’ll fondly recall it in later years.

Soon plates full of rashers, black pudding and eggs were flying out the kitchen door to those assembled at the bar as the minor match was under way.

The proprietor, Gene Gillespie from Ballina in the County Mayo, wasn’t about the place slagging the lot of us around the televisions. He was at the match in Croke Park in Dublin.

Up Mayo - Watching the All Ireland in Jersey Shore (Photo: Jim Lowry)
Rumor was he was meeting up with the character Tulip from Kiltimagh and they were driving a green and red car all the way to Dublin for the final. We’ll have to wait for the evidence.

Nestled in a prime corner spot for the morning, friends Eamonn and Maura Haverty from Galway settled in on our left. A few stools to the right was Joe Roughneen from Mayo. Next to him were the Hopkins lads, father and sons. The last empty chair was next to Honey Badger as they kept pouring in the door.

For whatever reason, Ali the Albanian manager and we had the same kind idea: save the seat for Rattigan. Ali put a coffee cup half full of cola there to mark the place as taken.

Like clockwork, the Galway man arrived with his own coffee and settles in, pushing the cola coffee cup aside. A great amount of talking is happening and I hear Roughneen say something like “John, you don’t want to be wasting that” as he pulled the cup in front of himself while deep in three conversations.

Trying not to burst out with our eyes giggling while looking back and forth at each other, Honey Badger and I watched Roughneen add sugar and cream to the cup of dark brown soda. So busy talking, he didn’t notice the concoction foaming up to the brim.

The only thing now was to wait for the first sip. It was priceless as hoped as poor Joe said nothing with a sour face and pushed the mess away as our laughter blasted out.

Then I asked Haverty about the Dublin shirt he was wearing.

“I don’t have a Donegal jersey,” the wise arse answered. He was rooting for whoever offered the best slagging since Galway was out of it, mostly trying to wind up Joe despite the cola incident.

Like Eamonn, I had lived in the capitol for years, so I was with him supporting Dublin in the minor match against Meath. And the young Dubs did it.

The opening ceremonies began. Michael D., the president, marched out onto the pitch. The national anthem played lightly. We all rose to our feet and were backing sitting before we knew it.

“Must have been the short version,” I said to Eamonn.

Closer to game time, the band at Croke Park played the Ireland’s national tune for real, and the near 300 of us in Blackthorn stood at attention until we hear the roar of the crowd at song’s end.

The game was on and what a heartbreaking start. Donegal scored two brilliant goals early on before Mayo decided to wake up and play football.

Tea cups turned into pint glasses in front of the Mayo supporters around us by the second half.

Mayo didn’t give it up easy but that didn’t help any of us watching. We were only a wreck of nerves. They keep us hopeful and on the edge of our seats. Then it was done. We were out of our misery.

Well played, Donegal, well played. You earned the Sam.

Most importantly, Kerry didn’t win Sunday.

Entertainment post-match (Photo: Jim Lowney)
And Mayo, it has been over six decades since you took home the Sam Maguire. What’s another year, really? Get ready for next season.

But the day wasn’t over yet. After a good rest at home it was back to Blackthorn for their halfway to St. Patrick’s Day party with the New York Show Band on the deck outside.

Honey Badger was slotted to play the pipes during the band’s first break. Yes, she’s a bagpiper!

The wife and I were meeting her parents for the occasion. Honey Badger and the in-laws! Wouldn’t that be a brilliant name for a band?

As if there wasn’t enough fun flying about, a special guest entered the fray. The Polish piper, Don Kozlowski, arrived.

He’s the pipe major of our band, Union County Police and Fire Pipes and Drums. He’s also the pipe sergeant in the Leathernecks, the Marine Corps pipe band.

Looking sharp in his Marine uniform after piping at the John Basilone Memorial Parade in Raritan, he joined Honey Badger for a stirring version of Highland Cathedral.

Soon after, Tommy Flynn and the Show Band were singing again as we headed for home.

It should be a quiet week, thankfully, until Galway meets Kilkenny in the hurling final next Sunday morning. I have to go watch. I told Rattigan I’d be there supporting Galway since he was out for Mayo.