Derry women made more than shirts they made communities, says a mural two minutes from my uncles house in the Brandywell district. During my last visit I saw and focused on other murals. But this time, everything was about contrast. For a start, the sun shone. It was shining when I landed and my cousin Sean picked me up from the airport. The absolute point of this return visit was a) to catch up on family I missed back in January and b) to go to a game of football; Derry City v Sligo Rovers. But smuggled unseen in between a and b was another special night at the Grand Central Bar. No book launch this time, but as issue 16 had recently hit the streets, it was agreed, let's do it all again, have a party.
Wednesday was me catching up on lost sleep and then my cousin Gary being a cool driver tour guide on places I hadn't been to before. All this and he was going down big time with mumps. Via his many tips, on the Thursday I walked the city, both sides of the river, for 4 hours. I popped into Little Acorns Bookstore on Pump Street of course, as they are the number one book store in all of Ireland! But most already know that. And so on to the Grand Central Bar.
It all began calmly. Me chatting to Geraldine before the mob arrived. Her inspecting the cup. Her brother wrote 'My Perfect Cousin' don't you know and Kevin in the song is a real bloke - and all roads connect as they should. If you don't know the form, a quick rewind. PUSH launches do have readings, but are kept to a minimum so not to disrupt social chat as you get at any gathering. There's always been a raffle (prizes - literary, football and music themed). To me, PUSH is all about reading the mag, not having to go out there and spend the night having it read to you for more time than really necessary. Launch nights should be fun. And anyway, a lot of PUSH is dark and full of a want to riot. So launch nights to me are about striking a healthy balance. So that's why, to cap the night off, you always get a chance to win a Subbuteo team and to enter the knockout penalty shoot-out and possibly win a PUSH Cup. Just like Madness bassist Graham Bush did in West London in March. Check his happy face here and you can see why everyone was up for the Derry Cup.
Before the raffle and the flick-to-kick football, we had readings from PUSH 16. Jenni Doherty read her poem 'Strange String Fellows', I read 'The Column Inches' by Tim Wells, 'Gunships' by Simon Dent and 'Laugh Our Death Away' by Ford Dagenham, while Geraldine Quigley read an extract from her debut in PUSH - 'Mark of the Hydra.' Mickey Rooney took all these photos by the way but there doesn't seem to be any of Jenni and Geraldine reading. If anyone has any and can mail me so I can update, please do.
Anyway first up was Gerard Ryan who won the Derry City team and was matched against Ben Allen who runs the Abbazappa record store at Bedlam Market and was representing West Ham. Ben is a nice guy and I had every faith in him not letting me down. The other semi final saw Mark representing England and my cousin Lorraine winning an Ireland team and the other place in the semi. First up, Derry City v West Ham.
Don't get me wrong, Ben is a very nice generous man, but he was in charge of West Ham on the night and they went out 7-6 to Derry City. Let's move on. The next semi was England v Ireland. My cousin Lorraine won the Ireland team and lined up against Mark's England. Lorraine before game: What am I supposed to do? Me: Flick to kick like Kevin did in The Undertones song. Mark before game: Can't I be Ireland? Me: No. Cut a long story short, Ireland beat England 9-8 and Lorraine didn't hold back in celebrating. (See top photo). And so onto the Final. Derry City v Ireland. While it was all occurring, Siobhan Curley was social networking the game live so I have intercut her words with photos so it is just like you were there too.
Before the kick off it almost kicks off as Derry City and Ireland go toe-to-toe. Game soon starts and it is one-all and then the ball gets lost.
Replacement ball on the pitch and Ireland miss. Derry Stepping up...and miss as well. Who'd have thought it. Still 1-1. Ref Joe lines the ball up for an Ireland kick.
And Ireland miss again, Derry step up. Back of the net 2-1.
Ireland score a beauty. 2-2. Derry then miss. Crowd getting rowdy. Penalties at round number 4.
Ireland score 3-2. Ireland's hands getting sweaty. Derry score, 3-3. Amid confusion it's now sudden death. All happening fast now. Ireland score. 4-3. If Derry miss it's all over. Gerard of Derry is checking his studs. And scores. 4-4. Lorraine of Ireland takes one step. 5-4. Derry has a swig of Guinness. 5-5. Ireland looking nervous. But no. 6-5. Derry step up. And miss. Was it the Guinness? The place goes wild.
The winner of the PUSH Cup.
The sore loser.
So my cousin Lorraine wins. Was all meant to be.