Dada Did We Win The Match?

The following article featured in this weeks Galway United vs Longford Town Match Programme

Saturday morning bright and early I felt a delicate tap on my shoulder. 

​“​Dada did we win the match?​” a soft voice whispered. It took me a few moments for my brain to catch up with my ears. ​“​What baba?​”​ I replied with a sluggish moan. ​“​Did we win the match?​”​ my daughter Robin countered more firmly this time.

Awake now​,​ I sat up in bed and pulled her knobbly body under the covers. She was talking about Galway United’s most recent away match against Wexford Youths. I had been following the excellent live radio coverage from Ferrycarrig Park the prior evening while getting her and her brother ready for bed.

​“N​o we lost the match, I’m sorry.​” ​I wasn’t aware she had even been paying attention to the broadcast; ​it felt strange having to break the bad news.

Robin,​ just three, naturally only understands the most basic fundamentals of the game but I try where possible to be honest with her and not water things down too much. ​

“​Aww why did they lose?​” ​she whimpered.

​“​Well​,​ we didn’t play very well in the first half​ ​and the other team scored lots of goals​: one, two, three, four, five goals!​ ​​Our players tried very hard and scored four​​​​​ goals in the second half but it wasn’t enough so we lost.”  

Robin paused for a moment while her brain attempted the complex calculations.

​“​We’ll win next time though​,​ right?​” She eventually replied. ​“Y​es we’ll win next time​,”​ I countered​.​

A smile returned to her face.“C​an we have some breakfas​t​?​”

That’s the beauty of this game​: t​he pain of loss is short-lived and​,​ in her case at least, easily cured by food.

I obviously don’t enjoy watching my team lose. But​,​ to be honest, the worst part by far is watching young kids, heads held low​,​ walking away from the grounds disheartened.

It’s always the ones with scribbly match programmes that get to me the most. Passionate. Committed. Full of facts and stats. These little tykes are the most invested and in defeat the most forlorn. I always get a pang of fear that maybe, just maybe​, t​his defeat will be the last they are willing to injure.

But luckily the real fans always return. Bright-​eyed and optimistic. A skip in their step as they walk through the turnstiles that seems to announce: ​“​90 minutes is a very long time and anything can happen.​”

It’s a hard pill to swallow but as a father of two young kids I will have to teach them that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. In the case of the latter you just have to dust yourself off and keep going. 

Robin is already a competitive little sprite. Her younger brother Obi was unwittingly born into the role of her main rival and these days ascending the stairs is their primary field of battle.

A year older​,​ Robin always wins the nightly race. Obi is strong and fast but his stocky legs are at the moment no match for her gazelle​-​like nimbleness. He will one day win, I have no doubt about that. And based on recent results that day is coming sooner rather than later​, ​but I have to wonder how will she react to that first loss?

How a child reacts to defeat tells a lot about what kind of competitor and by extension spectator they will turn out to be. Will Robin be gracious in defeat, will there be tears? 

If I were to hazard a guess, tears do seem likely. But most importantly when she does lose that first race will she give up? Or will she return to the base of the stairs the following night with fire in her eyes determined to return to winning form.​