The engine revs, car reversing out of the driveway. It's hot, the sun daring to peek out behind the clouds as morning comes to an end, replaced by an afternoon of anticipation.
You are only a young boy, but are entering a man's world. The talk in the car is of injury scares, rumours of discontent within the panel, and the faint whiff of excitement, bubbling beneath the surface.
You settle into your seat, beside your father. It's match day, the championship, and you are on your way to see your county play.
The drive to the match is accompanied by various flags and banners hanging from houses, wishing your county luck on this big day. An old woman on the side of the road is holding a teddy bear that is in danger of unbalancing her. Her smile and wave as you pass by gives you a warm feeling inside – today is going to be a good day.
With the car parked you and your father make your way down towards the stadium, soaking up the atmosphere. The closer you get, the louder the conversation grows among the crowd. “Hats, flags and headbands” goes the cry from a seller with a Dublin accent, county colours hanging off him as he seeks to make a profit from the day. Surely he'll be hoarse by afternoon's end.
The smell of cigarettes and tobacco wafts through the air, and empty bottles of coke and orange collapse like skittles as you flow with the throng towards the pitch. And then you stop, having reached the turnstile. You have no ticket, but the hope is that the turnstile operator will prove amenable to your plan of sitting on your father's knee for the match. He acquiesces, and your heart skips a beat as the rusty old stile turns, ever so slowly, allowing you to enter the bowels of the stadium. You have entered Utopia.
Your father buys his match programme, and then heads for the food shop. In this instance the term 'shop' is a misnomer, as it's really only a small table with a few cardboard boxes packed with chocolate bars and Tayto crisps, plus some coke and orange that is growing warmer by the minute. But you don't care, the novelty of the whole thing makes it taste just fine.
Heading to your seats, you are aware that there is another game on already. The crowd is roaring appreciably, with the odd expletive catching your young mind by surprise.
You find your seats, and settle in. The senior match begins shortly, and your heart is already racing. The terraces behind either goal are already packed, with an array of banners and flags catching the cool summer breeze. The scene is glorious, a Technicolor moment that will stay with you forever.
The opposition come out first, a crescendo of noise exploding from behind one of the goals. Their team seems massive, and quick as lightning. They leap around the pith like lambs in spring, and you fear that your own county will be annihilated by such giants. But then you see it, the first glimpse of the jersey coming from the tunnel, then the roar. This is your county, your team. Everyone around you is on their feet, whooping and whistling, waving whatever they have to hand. And it's glorious.
Right now there is absolutely no other place in this world where you would rather be. As the parade of the teams goes by, it seems that the whole world is focused on this venue, for surely there is nowhere else in the entire universe where any sane person would rather be?
The national anthem begins, and you proudly belt out the words that you learned in boy scouts. The last two lines are drowned out by a deafening roar as the crowd grows impatient, emitting a thunderous cry that threatens to shake the stadium to its very foundations.
The referee has the ball in his hands, ready to start the contest. For a moment you actually feel as if you are going to vomit, such are the nerves that are doing cartwheels in your stomach.
The whistle goes, and the game is on. Thank you God, thank you...