“Are you here for the funeral?”

It’s 7am, and I’m strolling through customs at Birmingham International Airport on the second to last day of Aston Villa’s 2015/16 premier league season. I’ve been a Villa fan for as long as I can remember. A massive perk of my choice of university – Warwick, based in Coventry – was the opportunity to switch from regular trips up to Villa Park with a friend of my dad’s to a fully-fledged season ticket holder in the Holte End Upper. I’ve made a point of dropping back when I can over the years, even while living abroad.

My interest in the intervening years has varied from ‘makes sure I check in on the score’ (living in Asia for several years made it hard to watch regularly, and pushed things down my priority list), to being utterly besotted. Strangely, the link between quality and my interest has often worked in reverse: my most dedicated Villa years were the ones where they weren’t very good.

I vividly remember another second-to-last game of the season in which an extremely late goal from Marcus Alback ensured survival. It was tense and uninspiring, but also a heavy relief. While I’ve also witnessed that ridiculous game against Newcastle, a Europa League defeat of Ajax and a cup final that we should probably have won (the last one not in person, sadly), tense and uninspiring have summed up a large part of the whole experience.

But you can’t change your football team, right? So the customs lad summed it up: I was here for the funeral.

Protests in full swing at #AVFC

A photo posted by James Hendicott (@jameshendicott) on

February, sadly, was the very last edition of long-standing global music project Music Alliance Pact, for which I’m really proud to have represented Ireland for the last three years or so. Scottish-based blogger The Pop Cop has decided to fold his blog after a decade, and as the project coordinator, taken MAP – which was undoubtedly a heavy monthly workload – with him.

It’s been an absolute pleasure listening to some of the stuff that’s come up over the last few years: few things liven up a weeknight like a carefully curated dose of Indonesian pop punk, Mexican trance or South Korean indie. There are well over two dozen entries from MAP to be found elsewhere on this blog, featuring all the international content (hundreds of tracks a year). Before I took it on, Ireland was also represented by Nialler9 and Harmless Noise.

These things can’t go on forever, but it’s been a huge pleasure putting together this stuff over the last few years, so in a little nod to that, here are most of the songs – the ones I’m free to post – that have represented Ireland under my watch. Thanks to every one of the acts for taking part…

On Saturday morning the news started to filter through that Ireland had lost one of it’s great up and coming musical talents in Conor Walsh. I first came across Conor playing in a basement on Dame Street. He just sat down in front of a screen projecting the most peaceful of images, and – no […]

We’re coming up to the 25th track I’ll have posted as ‘Ireland’ on Music Alliance Pact, and I must admit I’m still really quite besotted with this as a concept. Naturally, many music-lovers are hooked on a combination of big acts, hype bands and the best of our local scene, and what I find so […]

I’ll ‘fess up: this month, for the first time in almost exactly two years running MAP for Ireland, I was too disorganised (post-Christmas mayhem combined with a new job!) to get a track together. Of course, that’s no reason not to post the glorious selection of tracks put together by my colleagues around the world […]

“I’ve never actually played a game outside Croke Park in the Championship. We play league away games and with our clubs. The fans love a trip. I was on the bench last time Dublin played outside Croke Park in the Championship, in Longford, and the atmosphere was electric. We’re players, though, and we’ll play wherever we’re put. It’s a commercial thing I presume.”

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