It’s a long time since I spent a full week in Sweden, and even longer since I’ve felt as humbled as I did on Saturday.
The Irish Embassy had organised a reception to acknowledge the launch of the book, and it turned into a wonderful celebration of our club and our community and our games.
Displaying all the diplomatic skill he has honed on almost 40 years in the service of our country, Ambassador Donal Hamill made sure that his last official engagement before his retirement was dedicated to the ordinary people of Ireland, and his gracious speech highlighted not just my achievement with the book, but those of the whole club.
It might sound a bit far-fetched, but I don’t like being in the spotlight for my own achievements – I’d much rather share it with the lads or the girls or both – but I had to grab the bull by the horns.
I read two extracts from the book – the first in particular I still find tremendously difficult, a year after I forst wrote the lines- and then spoke about my gratitude to everyone there, and to the club.
I finished by saying that this book is but the first chapter in a new era for the Irish in Sweden, and that there was still plenty of time for everyone to make their mark.
I wasn’t joking. The previous Thursday the unstoppable Liam Kennedy had taken three others with him to a Swedish school and spent an afternoon teaching them to play hurling and Gaelic football. The kids loved it.
Our Embassy in Stockholm is in a beautiful location, with breathtaking views over the Stockholm archipelago.
As I stood by the window in the sunshine and read from our story of our first season, a thousand miles away in Dublin the future was taking shape – three of our girls had been selected to play for the European county in a seven-a-side competition.
Later we found out they’d made it to the final.
Long before that, we’d decided that this tale is far from over.