Richie Baker took the ball neatly on his instep, and cut in sharply from the right wing. Stephen Geoghegan glanced at his watch and timed his run to perfection, ghosting between the two defenders, as Richie flicked the ball through. The goalkeeper came out, but Geogo swivelled and shot low and hard into the back of the net.
As the net rippled, the crowd erupted with a roar. Geogo whipped off his shirt and, twirling it around his head, ran delightedly to his adoring fans in Section E. Standing there, one arm raised, armpit hairs glistening in the floodlights, he took the acclaim.
Pandemonium ensued. Arms punched the air in glee, klaxons blared, somebody lit a flare. In the midst of the tumult, Kevin felt a body tumbling over the seats behind him and into his back. He only just managed to save himself from a similar fate, which was a shame, as it might have created a really interesting domino effect.
He turned and helped the figure to its feet. It was a woman. Kevin recognised the lumps immediately. He had known a woman once, many years ago……
The woman brushed herself down and turned to face him. She had long, dark hair, which, as Kevin idly noticed, was coming out of her ears. Other than that, she was completely bald. Yet there was something familiar about that glass eye, that moustache….
“Kevin?” whispered the woman breathlessly. “Is it really you, Kevin?” And she stood there staring at him, not bothering to re-attach her artificial leg.
“Aoife?” whispered Kevin, not daring to believe.
“Paula,” she corrected him. They gazed into each other’s eyes. Then they gazed into each other’s ears. Finally they inspected each other’s nasal hairs. Geogo trotted back to the centre circle and the crowd resumed their seats. Kevin and Paula stood facing each other until an apple core hit him just below the eye.
“Siddown ya bollix!”
The pair sat down. He took her hand in his. Then her ankle. He could smell the familiar odour of smokey bacon on her breath, and the memories came flooding back.
“Whatever happened, Kevin?” she whispered, a pained expression on her face.
“Richie flicked the ball inside and Geogo……..”
She raised a gnarled finger and put it against his lips. It smelt of squirrels’ droppings.
“To us, Kevin?” she sighed, her breasts heaving like, well, like two breasts. “What happened to us?”
“Come out! Come out! What the Jaysus are staying on your line for?” bellowed a voice behind them, as the ball whistled menacingly across the Shelbourne goal.
“Dalymount Park, 1996. Cup Final Replay. Penalty to Pats. I couldn’t bear to look. When I opened my eyes you were gone.” Tears swam in his eyes, then got tired and began wading instead. “Where did you go to, my lovely?”
“Oh, Kev,” she cried. “I went down to the railings. And Goughy saved it. And from the corner….” Her voice trailed off, and she blew her nose forcefully.
“Keep it on the floor, Creepy!”
“I know darling,” smiled Kev, stroking her bald head with affection. “Geogo’s goal. The excitement, the delirium. It was too much. Like having a bath with Felicity Kendal.”
“After that, “ Paula continued, “everything was an anti-climax. You know how it was. Nothing could compare to that. The cross, Geogho sliding in, the ball hitting the back of the net, the Pats fans inconsolable…..”
“That’s the third time ref!”
Kevin picked his nose, rolled it in a ball and flicked it absent-mindedly towards the pitch. “Paula,” he said, awkwardly, examining his fingernails with sudden interest. “Do you think it possible….I mean…..can you envisage……us…..”
She stopped him by poking her programme into his eye. Her hand found his. It was at the end of his arm. She squeezed it gently, like she used to, many years before, until he yelled with pain. And, as Jim Crawford came thundering in to whip the Longford winger’s legs away from him, their tongues entwined.