Originally published in Maroon View: Issue 13, July 24th 2015

We danced like fools. I’m not afraid to admit it. 

It was a very special moment, one I will always cherish. The point in which Padraic Cunningham scored that decisive goal last week, my daughter and I happened to be walking towards the clubhouse net. She is only pint-sized and had been getting restless sitting in the old stand. I could tell she was eager to explore so the two of us set off to do a round of the pitch. 

I walked hand in hand with her, one eye to the field, always aware of the threat of a renegade ball. As Podge deftly pulled away from that first defender just past the halfway line, time began to slow. I watched as our lone striker - with the clinical precision of a surgeon side - stepped a second defender like a knife through butter. Staring down the path of the Headford native’s gaze the Liverpool keeper was defeated long before the ball left the safety of Cunningham’s right foot. 

Padraic may have celebrated that goal with a solitary jovial leap, and a fleeting embrace with his fellow team-mates, but I was not so graceful and subdued. I scooped my little princess up in my arms as the crowd whirled into a goal thirsty frenzy. I threw her up into the air and she screamed with giddy glee. As the booming stand rattled and bellowed in celebration. I held my daughter aloft and we danced as the crowd cheered for her. 

This was as perfect a moment as any father could share with their child. A defining moment for not only me but possibly her also. It’s impossible to predict if and when football will hook someone in, but more often than not it happens as a direct result of a family member introducing a loved one to the sport. 

At the recent International friendly between Ireland and England in the Aviva Stadium I had the honour of attending with my father. It was only the second occasion we had watched the Republic of Ireland play live with one another. We travelled by car and all along the route encountered hundreds of parents, predominately fathers with young kids in tow. Boisterous little side-cars skittish with the excitement of the occasion, many possibly on their first trip to see an International game.
Occasions like these change lives. Whether it be the gift of a first pair of boots or a hand me down football shirt. Fans and footballers grow from such chance instances in time. 

The game of football is beautiful and frustrating because of these pinnacle junctures. A sloppy tackle can irreversibly alter the career of a player. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, a goal scored or a particularly inspired performance logged can easily transform a young player’s course.

I believe Padraic’s goal last Saturday will prove to be one of those defining moments.

Galway United at its core is a community venture established with the goal of offering local athletics a professional platform to hone their craft and display their skills. Deacy Park creates the perfect atmosphere for young players to flourish and every so often such as last Saturday, fans are gifted moments of sheer brilliance. Moments that inspire. Moments that change the course of people’s lives.

- Morgan O'Brien