While essentially this game of ours is all about results, for many matchgoers there is a little bit more to it than the football.
Calling it ‘the experience’ is a bit hyperbolic, I guess, but it’s the smaller things brought together that makes Friday nights special for everybody who goes.
By this, I mean a collection of things from strange rituals to the people you go to games with. It’s all part of the make-up of a Friday night.
Specifically, I’m talking about father and son/daughter relationships though. How many League of Ireland fans started going to games with their Dads?
It’s one of the great things about football – not only does it transcend cultures but it also brings people together.
For so many, there is a magic associated with passing down matchday rituals through generations.
Books have been written about the very topic and a quick scan around any ground on a Friday night would show you dozens of examples.
From the countless celebratory embraces after goals to head in hands moments when everything on the pitch went wrong, some of my fondest childhood memories are of being at games with my Dad.
In every corner of Turner’s Cross, I can recall an incident.
Away games, though, were probably the most special of the lot. We still often talk about the first big trip I was brought to. It was the FAI Cup final of 1998, I was still only seven (yeah, I know!) and can to this day vividly recall the entire outing.
The walk from Heuston to Dalymount seemed to take forever but I’ll never forget the march out of the station singing songs that, for someone in first class of primary school, sounded like the most explicit thing on earth.
Sitting in the pub before the game with a bag of crisps and a coke, taking in the whole thing before going on to watch the game from the crumbling terrace, it’s all still fresh in my mind.
Those memories will never be beaten. Though the game was 0-0 and I couldn’t get to the replay, that afternoon is a day I’m unlikely to forget.
Sunday afternoons became a ritual – off to the Cross at lunch time, shaking with the cold in the middle of January before heading home for dinner and the end of whatever game was on the TV.
The football wasn’t great a lot of the time but there was a certain kind of romance. Standing near the front of the Shed because I was too short to stand up higher on the terrace and therefore wouldn’t be able to see, there was little comfort at Turner’s Cross but plenty of characters.
Giddy with excitement since waking up that morning, Fridays became a strict routine once the switch to summer football was made.
I can fondly recall those drives home after a 1-0 loss, debating that crucial misplaced pass, the back four being rubbish and, most important of all, trying to figure out why the guy who sat behind us in the Derrynane Stand was flicking orange peel at those around him.
Would I have become so fanatical about Cork City if it wasn’t for my Dad bringing me to Bishopstown as a toddler? Probably not.
I was reminded of all this when we both went to UCD a couple of weeks back.
It was my Dad’s first away game in quite a long time and for it to end up in the most embarrassing of defeats was such a pity. But it still rekindled an awful lot of memories.
The drive home was silent apart from sporadic outbursts at how bad the performance was. Then again, is that not part of it? The giving out, releasing frustrations.
How many father and son/daughter relationships have become so much closer through going to matches? Worldwide there must be 100,000s.
He might not go every week these days, like some of the characters I mentioned earlier, disillusioned after what had gone before or more important priorities in life, but bringing me in the past has ensured that I will always have a love affair with my local team.
So thanks Dad, I’d never have experienced these memories if it wasn’t for you.
Alan Smith has been writing for ExtraTime since 2008. He works as a full-time journalist based in Cork, working as a sub-editor for TCM and freelancing for a range of national titles. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.