It was Easter Sunday in 2000 and a spot in the Intertoto Cup was on the line. UCD were enjoying their best season in 15 years but making it to Europe was still a long shot. We were away to Drogheda while St Pats, who were a point above us and four goals better on goal difference, were away to Galway.
A perfect excuse for four of us to tear into some Tesco French lager and get a bus up. The game wasn’t until 3.15pm so in the three hours between arrival and kick-off we kept the session going.
Sure enough, we were tanked by the start and one lad, John, was way ahead of the rest of us. Mixing up UCD’s Alan Mahon with Drogheda’s Alan Murphy, he roared out “Alan Mahon you’re s***.” It was a sign of things to come.
By half-time, UCD were 3-0 up but there were frustratingly few radio updates from Galway. As the game wore on no more goals seemed to be coming so with 10 minutes to go our drunken rabble started cheering for a final surge.
The fourth goal came and then MICK O’DONNELL! That was the fifth, that was Europe, that was … my head being sent into the concrete by John during the celebrations.
Full-time, I’ve recovered, job done. Oh yes that game in Galway. Ciaran had the walkman: “There’s been a goal in Galway,” he said. Literally the entire team and support stood stunned. “Galway have won.” Party time.
We got a lift from the team back and John, who was getting worse, bravely battled to give one of the players a can. By the time we got back to the Montrose Hotel in Dublin, he was done.
All sorts of demons were expelled onto that urinal and I had to walk him home. It’s normally 10 minutes but he kept stopping – on one occasion saying “I’m going over here but not to get sick.”
I didn’t want to be the one to look after him. I rang a nearby friend, Aoife and left her in charge. She, however, got equally bored and ploughed through nine cans of cider. By the end of the night, it was John tending to her.
And that was the main story in my best-man speech at their wedding in June.