There was a cold and grey Saturday afternoon late last November when there seemed little to do to pass the time. A scan through the sports pages of a website revealed that a football match was being played at the local ground.
I did not support either team, I knew nothing about either team, but I put on my coat and went to watch the match. This was anoraked geekiness of the first order.
It was a play off for a place in the top tier of League of Ireland football in the 2022 season. Waterford who had endured a difficult season in the Premier Division, and had finished in penultimate place, were playing University College, Dublin who had topped the second tier.
It was football for the sake of it. The crowd was sparse, probably to be numbered in hundreds, certainly no more than a thousand.
Waterford had lost their manager earlier in the week and lacked sharpness. As the match progressed, the younger legs of the UCD players stretched out and the college won the match.
There was a sense of sadness for the couple of hundred Waterford supporters who had travelled to Inchicore for the match. A banner they had attached to a fence at the end of the ground seemed to capture the essence of what the experience was about, “Passion Without Reason.”
There seemed to be little by way of reason for them making the journey up from the south coast of Munster for a match that their recent form had suggested they were most likely to lose.
At the conclusion, there was a sense of sadness for the Waterford faithful, their passion had gone unrewarded.
Standing on an open concrete terrace this evening when the temperature hovered barely above freezing, watching the supporters of clubs which lay only a few miles apart, there was time to ponder the perceptiveness of the Waterford fans’ banner. They are not the only ones who are passionate without reason.
There was something visceral in the expressions from the terraces, both in their support of their own team and in their hostility towards their opponents. The match officials attracted abuse from both sets of supporters, even when decisions were clearly correct.
When Saint Patrick’s Athletic scored the only goal of the match, the unreasonable passion reached a frenzy. Supporters standing in front of me jumped up and down and hugged each other. The score was regarded as a personal triumph.
What is it all about? Does the game allow a sublimation of some thoughts and the transference of others? Is the passion a dynamic of the crowd? Does loyalty to the team and hostility to opponents create a sense of community, build bonds with those around, make strangers into friends?
Perhaps it is not so much passion without reason, but passion without, as yet, any obvious explanation.