We leave today. It's always difficult; days like yesterday make it especially so this year.
Our neighbor Ian and his daughter took us to our first Gaelic football match, the All-Connacht finals between Mayo and Galway at McHale field in Castlebar. Nearly 32,000 fans attended, mostly male. (Although the mix was more even among young people.) Gaelic football is a field sport that can be conveniently -- if not totally accurately -- thought of as a cross between soccer and rugby. It's fast moving, high scoring, and the most popular spectator sport in Ireland. It's an amateur sport that at the county level demands a major time commitment, so the players are generally in their early- to mid-twenties. The principles are easy to pick by the new fan, who can watch without bewilderment while the experienced fan appreciates the subtleties and nuances. Galway jumped out to a big early lead. ("Mayo are playin' for shite," said a fan behind me.) Mayo chipped away in the second half, caught up and went ahead briefly, but two late scores by Galway sealed the deal for them. It was the 74th time the two counties have played for the provincial championship, going back to 1901. That's two years before the first World Series!
We went to Ian and Meena's for dinner, where we were joined by their college friend Tom and his two sons, who had driven down from Belfast. Another neighbor, Ann, joined us for dessert. Wine and conversation and laughter flowed freely. Book recommendations were made and movies discussed. (A digression about the Irish sense of humor: They always pick up on the witticism, no matter what age they are or how dry the comment. I'm talking eight-year olds. It's wonderful.) We finally pulled ourselves away and would have walked home except that the owners of the holiday home next door (Declan and Mary) were outside and invited us in for tea and a chat. We don't know them that well, which didn't stop us from spending another hour there and having to pull ourselves away yet again, with more book, travel, and movie recommendations.
So, today -- in a few hours -- we pack up the car and head south to Shannon. We'll spend the night near the airport and fly out tomorrow. We change planes at JFK, so it's possible that we'll never be heard from again. Optimist that I am, though, we should be back in Seattle late Tuesday night. Just like that.