Tony Hall is a lecturer in NUI Galway. He is a graduate of the University of Limerick (BA Physical Education and English, and PhD Computer Science) and NUI Galway (Master of Information Technology). He recently completed the Postgraduate Award in Teaching Shakespeare with the Royal Shakespeare Company/University of Warwick. He is a former post-primary school teacher of Physical Education, English and ICT. Tony writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction.
Ode to My Rugby Boot
Thou warrior of Connacht’s battlefields,
Thou tattered relic of the season past,
As thou repose upon my recycling bin,
So thou beget great imagining.
What maroon-clad legends haunt about thy shape?
Lo! Wings, and centres, props and locks!
On College Road or the dales of Dangan,
What players, what gods are these? Heroes true, legends all!
What song, what backline call?
‘The West’s Awake’ and Munster ball!
What mad pursuit? Behold the break, through the line!
What wild ecstasy? To see the College score a try!
Penalty goals are sweet, but converted tries are sweeter,
Therefore, legends of College, always tap and go;
Never to yield, succumb or falter, playing only to prevail,
Until the referee’s whistle heralds final play.
Place kicker, never dost thou despair,
No matter how far from goal – thou dost never doubt;
Thine kick will never fade, thou hast done thy best,
For ever wilt thou strive, to kick o’er Everest.
Our forwards offloading, and for ever strong;
All breathing rugby passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-joyful amid the throng,
Along the Corrib’s sacred rugby grove.
Who are these now playing on the hallowed patch?
The College Cú Chulainns of the past,
Lions, internationals and the greats uncapped.
To what endeavour, O glorious captain,
Lead’st thou that team running the ball?,
Decked in maroon and white,
Lovely little offloads, a majestic sight.
The half backs step, the cover parts,
The full back straightens, and the winger darts.
The forwards heave, ruck and maul,
The props keep alive and spin the ball!
O oval shape! White pill of wonder
For thou, the defence we scythe asunder.
With fend most fierce, and drive most dire,
Our collective spirit a fiery pyre.
Though thou rest now in my bin,
In the oval-shaped cathedral of our hearts,
Is thine memory eternal interred within.
A symbol of our sporting life, a sole of soul,
For ever to remind, thine silent message thou bestow:
“Rugby is truth, truth rugby,” – that is all
Ye know in Dangan, and all ye need to know.
Did you reach the summit that fateful day?
As you sought to conquer your “wildest dream”,
Mallory, Irvine, were you the first to pray
At the altar atop the Himalayan seam?
The expedition watched your two silhouettes
Like occlusions on giant, jagged teeth,
Your redoubtable steps along ice epaulettes;
A schedule with fate you were fated to keep.
Our everyday Everests are not always chosen,
And being imposed, loom much larger to ascend,
Our mettle for the assailment often unproven,
The climb’s grim gradient too hard to apprehend.
And so it was for one of our bravest sons,
His was a mountain he did not elect,
A challenge unconscionable – an Olympus Mons,
But three times he climbed, though the climb so abject.
Fateful mountain, inscrutable in silence,
You give up no secrets, no reasons, no why;
A lofty majesty and solemn salience,
Reverently rising, in the azure sky.
And heroes, if we hear, we feel our souls lift,
From your mountain, your resounding call
For ever to remind us of life’s great gift,
To appreciate every moment, to feel it enthral.
And so long as Everests rise in our lives, however abrupt;
Through your inspiration, our hope fate can never corrupt.