On August 4, 1996 I became a hurling fan.
Visiting all the way from Canada meant that I got the 3rd ticket to the hurling semi-final between Wexford and Galway. As we disembarked from the DART at Connolly station, we joined the lively and jovial throngs of people headed towards Croke Park. All around us, the fans were decked out in purple and yellow for Wexford or maroon and white for Galway.
When we took our seats, I was sat in the middle with Frank Sr. to my right, his ear pressed to his handheld radio, and Elaine to my left. I had a rudimentary knowledge of hurling thanks to my dad - he had passed on bits and pieces of the rules of the game as he taught me how to pick up a sliotar (ball) from the ground using only the hurley (the stick) – but I did not know enough to follow the game that was unfolding in front of me, and that’s where Elaine came in.
While Frank kept his ear to the radio to update us on the on field calls we couldn't hear, Elaine broke down the game for me and pointed out the various rules as they occurred in front of us. She was knowledgeable and patient, obviously loving the topic we were discussing. I couldn't have asked for a better teacher to have sat beside me.
We were cheering for Wexford as Frank is from there, and they won 2-13 to 3-7. (That's 19 to 16 for you non-GAA people.) By the time the final whistle blew, I was mad for hurling. It was, as I have often described it, field hockey played by rugby players and I loved it. On my last weekend in Dublin, we all went berserk as Wexford defeated Limerick in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Finals.
On August 22, 2012 Elaine left her dad’s house, stopped to buy a packet of cigarettes, and then visited the park where her mum, my dad’s youngest sibling, is buried. Her car was found there the next day. She has not been seen or heard from since, nor has a body been found.
Elaine struggled her whole life with depression.
Every time I check my GAA app for hurling results, my heart aches a little.
I miss her.
Update: On September 17th, 2013 Elaine's remains were found dumped in the Wicklow Mts. After a year of assuming she committed suicide because of her history, we learned that she was murdered. It is an odd sense of relief to know that she didn't voluntarily leave her life, but it just leaves us with more questions.