I woke up on Sunday morning feeling great.
It was my second father’s day and its quickly becoming my favourite day of the year.
The day before my team Swan United had a great win. We were missing several regular first teamers and playing Shamrock Rovers.
Traditionally Shamrock are a tough and uncompromisingly physical side. Swan United had not defeated them in two years and we were going through a transitional stage. Our coach had been replaced because of our recent poor run of results and the team had been taken over by Mick, the reserves coach. The reserves had been having a fantastic year sitting second on the ladder and now several of those players had earned their chance to play in the first team.
Before the game I spoke up to the lads. I said that the club had never been in such a lowly position before, we were a proud club and we needed a win. We needed a big effort.
The game didn’t start well. Shamrock pressured early and within ten minutes we were 1-0 down. There was a loose ball at the back which both myself and our captain, Monty, attempted to clear. I got there first, kicked it into Monty and the ball fell perfectly into the wake of their striker who rubbed his hands together, licked his lips and calmly slotted home from 10 yards. Not exactly the best example after my ‘inspiring speech’.
To our credit we fought back and created several chances before half time. Although we didn’t convert them, our work rate was excellent and I could sense a sort of angry stubbornness emanating from our lads.
In the second half we came out all guns blazing. We were all over Shamrock, creating chance after chance. But we were also squandering chance after chance. After one particularly horrible miss, a loud groan went up, it seemed that it was going to be one of the seasons familiar days where our efforts would amount to nothing.
But we kept pushing and eventually we got our breakthrough. Atko, our striker won a ball and swung a dangerous cross in from the right. It was met by one of our longest standing Swan players Brendan Knox. Knoxy made no mistake heading in ruthlessly from 3 yards and the crowd went berserk. It was seriously the loudest roar id heard all year.
We knew that we were coming home with a wet sail and we pressed again. We were mesmerising. Tackling, battling, passing, fighting, winning contests and plunging forward for the win.
We found our reward at the 25 minute mark. Azza our dominant force in the middle was absolutely tearing the opposition to pieces. He dispossessed one of the Shamrock midfielders of the ball with trademark aggression and found Mick down the right wing. His cross was too long and went over the back where Mark latched onto it.
The world seem to stand still as collectively our team saw captain marvel Monty in support and unmarked. No one had any idea what the hell he was doing up there. He’s a right sided defender and had absolutely no reason to be where he was, top of the box, left hand side of the pitch, screaming for the ball.
Mark took an age, understandably considering all other options available, before passing the ball to Monty as a last resort. We all held our breath, this could go anywhere…
Monty’s finish was dreamlike. He caressed the ball with exquisite timing and it took flight through a sea of opposition defenders, under the goal keeper and into its rightful home, the back of the net!
Monty turned around arms outstretched wearing the brightest and cheesiest smile of self satisfaction that I had seen just once previously, the only other time in 5 years I had ever seen him score. We engulfed him. I could hear my own cry of triumph obliterating all other sounds. We were a mess of laughing and cheering bodies.
By this time we were flying, Knoxy got through again and hit the post but Atko was there to calmly slot home the rebound. Then 3 minutes later Atko was on the score sheet again. His tame right foot shot was on target and the keeper got it horribly wrong, fumbling into his own net.
The game ended 4-1 and at the end we all sang the team song . These was a real gusto in our voices and the joy of a hard earned victory in our hearts.
So the following morning the memory was still fresh in my mind. I was already happy and it was compounded as my girls came in to see me. Amanda brought Nikita into our room. I heard them coming and pretended I was asleep. Amanda plonked Nikita on the bed and I saw her cheeky smile through the tiniest of slots in my fake closed and eyelash blurred eyes.
“Daddy’s sleeping Nik’, you’ll have to wake him up” Amanda said with a tone of laughter in her voice as she saw through my ruse.
Niki turned her eyes on me. “Wake up!”.
I ignored her.
“Wake up!” Whack!
She hit me with an open palm right in the eye. It hurt and the pretending was over.
Once I was over the initial pain I tickled her and listened to her infectious giggle. Amanda gave me a kiss and gave me my father’s day present. A necklace with two puzzle pieces on it, each one engraved with my daughters names and birthdates on them. It was a precious gift and I knew at once I would never lose it.
Amanda woke Siena and brought her in. She sat her next to me and gurgled her baby’s good morning to me accompanied by a twinkle in her eye and a possibly wind induced smile. I held my girls close for a few moments before we all went out and Amanda cooked up a big breakfast.
Later that morning I took Nikita to swimming lessons and afterwards we went to the Turkish Kitchen in Victoria Park.
Nikita was tired and sooky, she hadn’t had a good session in the pool and was generally a little surly having been sick for the last week. We waited ten minutes for the shop to officially open and ordered some Turkish bread, Lahmajun and a Coke.
She perked up a bit as we took up one of the sets of table and chairs in the street. We ate together as she sat on my lap.
It was so, so very quiet sitting on the street that morning. Every now and then a rare car would cruise past lazily through the cosmopolitan feel of the street. The day was over cast and a cool wind blew, twisting and curling small leaves down the path, the last remnants of winter. It blew Nikita’s hair. Her lovely thick hair, wavy, beautiful, caught on its soft tides. The slight chill painted her cheeks in rose and highlighted her big brown eyes.
I gave her a sip of coke, she curled her lip slightly and examined the can as the unfamiliar bite of the soft drink surprised and delighted her at the same time. She looked at me and beamed her radiant smile.
And at that point, I knew perfection. I knew true peace and contentment.
I sat and held her there soaking it all in and thought about Amanda and Siena at home. About the love of a family that knows no bounds and about the bond of friendships, new and old, that got my team over the line the previous day.
A lot of time in life we are running, working, struggling, barely catching our breath, searching. I believe that these are the moments we are looking for.
I collect these moments. I Hold them, feel them and stow them away, safe and secure in the deepest cavern of my soul. And they shine there, a limitless light, forever.