Today is possibly most intense marathon Irish sports fans will ever endure. We've spent our lives building to this day. Here's a breakdown of the journey we're all about to embark on.
Arrive with plenty of time. Drink lots of water. Clear your bowels. Say goodbye to your loved ones. Don’t be too cocky. Others have not survived this. Eat something protein-heavy and nourishing. Poached eggs, beans, avocado. Make a cup of tea, coffee will be required later. Restart the computer for the hell of it. Buy a newspaper to commemorate the day. Most importantly, visualise the finish line, 20 hours from now, when there’s an Irish champ.
Mile 1 --- Norwich vs Everton kicks off at 12.45. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins as the undertaking officially commences. You know how long the road ahead of you is, but you can’t help but be excited. You want to restrain yourself, but this is your day. You’ve been planning for this for months.
Mile 5 --- The Premier League’s 3pm fixtures kick off. You run alongside old friends Kammy, Thommo, Jeff. The pace is brisk but you contain yourself. There will be bigger to challenges to overcome.
Mile 8 --- It’s 5pm. The Euro 2016 draw has started in Paris. You join up with Gianni Infantino and David Trezeguet. The camera cuts to Keane, O’Neill and Delaney, who smirk as Ireland’s Euro 2016 fate is spelled out. You tweet ‘merde’ a few time and book a flight to Beauvais for June. You pour yourself some French wine, take a deep breath and savour the moment. You’ve been on the road for 4 hours but you’re still a long way from home.
Mile 12 --- You’re not even halfway done but you’re feeling it. Bournemouth vs Manchester United has petered out and you’re now onto Munster vs Leicester. Those first doubts start to appear in your mind. 26 miles is a long fucking way to run, especially when Munster don’t have Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony. You check your watch. Has it only been seven hours of watching sport? Who’s Munster’s hooker anyway? How much longer can this go on for?
Mile 15 --- This is getting painful now. Worst of all, you're on your own. The boxing is on from London. First Spike vs Eubank Jr, then the Joshua fight. That Fury fella is in the crowd. You start reach for a beer, something to kill the pain. The boxing is tolerable but the ads are tough. Not to mention the bright lights and the excitement. It’s too early for that kind of excitement.
Mile 18 --- This is it. The wall. You’ve heard about it but it is worse than you imagine. The boxing is over. There is no more sport to watch until 3am. You enter a metaphysical wasteland. You tell yourself: “I cannot stop, I will not stop” and you forget the pain. Then you remember how long it’s been on this couch watching sport. You stuff pizza and beer into you for a distraction but it cannot change the reality of how far away that finish line is. You try watching football reruns on Sky Sports but it doesn’t work. Instead you opt for a three-hour Bruce Springsteen concert on youtube. It’s long but it will kill the time.
Mile 22 --- Your brain is mush. Your legs don’t work anymore. You can’t see straight. It’s 3am. UFC 194 is officially underway in Las Vegas. It’s like 5pm there. At 5pm here, you were watching the Euro 2016 draw. Who were Ireland drawn with again? You’re a shambles. This experience has been excruciating and it will only get tougher but your body has not failed you yet. Maybe you have the will to do this.
Mile 24 --- 4:30am. The walls of the sitting room seem to be moving but you are not far now. You sense the finish line in the near distance. You can maybe hear the crowd. On the telly, they’re saying McGregor is due to the ring shortly. There’s nothing more to wait for really, it’s all come to this. You count the minutes down. Not long now.
Mile 26 --- It’s happening. It’s actually happening. The end. You’re going to do it. Exalt as McGregor and Aldo are finally in the octagon together. Listen to those ole’s. But remind yourself not to overdo it in those final moments celebrating because it could throw your body into shock and give yourself a heart attack.
Before you cross that finish line, remind yourself of how the day started, yourself and Robbie Brady and Aroune Kone eighteen hours ago viewed from this very same couch. Kone, Stelling, Thommo, Infantino, Delaney, van Gaal, the Munster hooker you don’t know, Spike O’Sullivan, Anthony Joshua, Springsteen, Joe Rogan, Gunnar Nelson,Bruce Buffer, Aldo, McGregor. 18 hours. You saw them all. Pat yourself on the back because you fucking did it.
Finish line --- Stop. Shout. Cry. Celebrate. Collapse. Sleep the sleep of champions.