What have Tony Cascarino and I got in common?
We both have ‘pretend’ Irish grandparents, so that means we can pull on an Ireland shirt.
Sometimes in life you get the chance to fulfil a dream. Last week I was able to do just that as I won one of those like and sharing competitions on social media (yes real people actually win them!), meaning that I was going to play on the Aviva stadium pitch, home of the Republic of Ireland national football team. Less than 24 hours previously, despite an inspired performance by Wes Hoolahan, The Boys in Green had lost there to Serbia.
Christmas had come early, especially when Richard Dunne and ex-Royal Stephen Hunt were to be playing alongside us. Coming out of my five year long retirement for just a few hours, I actually took preparation seriously.
I ate weird stuff like fruit, cereal bars and drank energy drinks like it was last orders at the bar. I was primed!
Seeing my Ireland shirt hung in my locker would have bought a tear to the eye of my Irish grandparents.
In walked Richard Dunne who was to be our skipper and my heart sank....I was on the wrong bloody team .
After an inspiring team talk about how he wanted to kick the other Huntys’ ass we were ready.
The wait in the tunnel. The walk out then on the pitch. I felt my spine tingling or I had arthritis, not sure which.
I have never seen a ground so big...then the national anthems began. I just stood in silence, as I didn't think it was the right time to crack out God Save The Queen. Then came the handshakes and a hug from the other Hunty.
As I took my place in goal, I realised either I have shrunk or goalposts have gotten bigger.....Gulp! First half.... save after save, we score 1-0.
This is easy I thought. Captain Dunne called me a legend, but I warned him not to get carried away.
I was right, half way through the second half they get free kick from half way line. Quickly taken, it's flying over my head and I'm staggering back like a punch drunk boxer...
It flies in top corner. The scorer... Stephen Bloody Hunt!!
What’s worse is that it was being filmed for a promotion for a phone company!
I just wanted the ground just swallow me up. ‘The perils of being a goalkeeper!’ I thought.
It finished 1-1 so went to penalties. They have a kick to win and who scores past me? Stephen Bloody Hunt again!! What a way for one of your heroes to treat you. Free beer and food did ease the pain of the loss though.
A week later I'm almost starting to walk properly and can nearly feel my hands again. Hunty & Dunne were lovely and my mate Brian and I got to be big kids for a few hours.
Even at 45 years old dreams can come true, so never stop believing.