Bray People - - SPORT -

IF YOU were look­ing for proof that small club teams in the G.A.A. are in trou­ble re­gard­ing num­bers in this day and age, then our last game on Tues­day evening would have been the per­fect case in point.

Po­si­tional strengths or weak­nesses are no longer of any im­por­tance.

For small clubs it has come down to a case of 'have body, fill po­si­tion', as vil­lages and towns are scoured on match day for up­right and mo­bile male hu­man be­ings whose only con­nec­tion to the G.A.A. club is that they may have once drove past the foot­ball field on the way to work or that they may have ac­ci­den­tally paused on a match on the telly while chan­nel surf­ing.

No, times are bad lads. Times are bad.

I pulled in to the foot­ball field of the club we were fac­ing in the third league game of the year on Tues­day evening and I won­dered whether both teams would have the 15.

The club we were play­ing are a proud club, long-time ri­vals of our­selves.

In fact, 20 odd years ago both sides met to see who would go up a grade and that club won and they en­joyed a so­journ in Se­nior and Intermediate for two decades while we bat­tled away in Ju­nior, vis­it­ing Intermediate briefly af­ter a won­der­ful cham­pi­onship win in 2006, only for about half the team to then de­cide to hop on the next plane to Aus­tralia for a year or two.

We sur­vived for one year at Intermediate but crashed back down in the sec­ond year. Still, I hear they had a great time Down Un­der.

As is the case nowa­days, the car park of the club was al­most over­flow­ing with cars yet there were only a small group of play­ers milling around. No­body car shares any­more ap­par­ently.

A head count was on­go­ing when I ar­rived. I think I made num­ber 11. Even­tu­ally we had 14 and some­one said they had heard that ' Humph' was on the way so we made our way to the dress­ing-rooms to pre­pare for bat­tle.

At the start of this diary process I didn't for one sec­ond be­lieve that I'd ever be com­par­ing the bauld 'Goose' with Clare leg­end, Davy Fitzger­ald, but would you be­lieve it I have solid grounds for mak­ing just such a com­par­i­son.

I can't find my one and only pair of knicks. Don't know where they're gone. I've even en­listed the al­most ca­nine search and res­cue skills of the wife but to no avail. They're gone.

So I'm left with this baggy track­suit bot­toms; grand in the cold and wet and dark evenings but start­ing to look a lit­tle weird now in the fine, bright days. People will start talk­ing. Ru­mours will be­gin to cir­cu­late.

‘What's the story with Da Breno lads? It's not nor­mal to wear a track­suit bot­toms. Is he a per­vert or what?’ That sort of thing.

But it's re­ally just a case of lazi­ness com­bined with be­ing miserly to be hon­est. My boots are now more tape than boot, my gumshields were a gift from ' The Gar', and the Car­low jersey I wear to train­ing was a gift from work col­leagues in that fair county when I left the last job.

Al­most ev­ery day I take to the field wear­ing the lovely bright gar­ment I'm hit with the same ques­tion - ‘where did you get that yoke?’ I quite like it.

Any­way, the bauld ' Goose’ and Davy Fitz. So I've took to the field (you reach the field by cross­ing over a bridge if you don't mind, across a lit­tle river, very pretty) in my track­suit bot­toms and I'm busy warm­ing up my kick-out leg when 'Goose' si­dles up be­side me.

‘You're start­ing at cor­ner-for­ward,’ he says, cool as you like and in the same man­ner as Davy Fitz must have told young O'Don­nell on the morn­ing of the All-Ire­land hurl­ing fi­nal re­play last year that he was start­ing against Cork.

‘I am in my arse,’ I replied (or some­thing along those lines). ‘I can't run. My chest wouldn't be able for that. I've no knicks.’

I made a long list of rea­sons why I shouldn't start but I could tell it wasn't go­ing to make any dif­fer­ence to the 'Goose’.

‘You're start­ing at cor­ner-for­ward,’ he said. ‘There's a bit of run­ning in your legs, and I have knicks in my bag,’ he added.

Back I go to the dress­ing-rooms try­ing to get into the mind­set of a cor­ner-for­ward, try­ing to re­call the think­ing from my out­field play­ing days. Got to the dress­ing-rooms, can't find ‘ Goose's bag so J.P. (an­other bearded one, suave, so­phis­ti­cated) pulls one out of his bag, fits per­fectly. Can't find the feckin gumshields any­where. It'll be al­right, I haven't re­ally worn them at all yet, usu­ally stick them in the sock. Be grand. They're hardly that strict are they?

The teams line out. I take four blasts of the in­haler, four!

It's me and 'Beefy' in the cor­ners. I spot a young look­ing cor­ner-back and head for him and let Beefy take the stocky, tough look­ing dude. I've a young fam­ily lads.

Game on, first ball, I'm out in front, gather and lay off. I like this, like the free­dom, like the po­ten­tial, feel like a car­ni­vore, a hunter.

The ' Bread­man' is cen­tre half-for­ward. Dur­ing an at­tack the ref blows his whis­tle and con­fronts ' Bread­man' over not wear­ing his gumshields. Flashes a yel­low card. ‘Bug­ger,’ says I to my­self, he'll spot me now and I don't have any on me.

Se­lec­tor Joe is on the side­line. I tell Joe to get in­jured Johnny's gumshields off him for me. He does, but they're shaped to Johnny's mouth and it's the quarest mouth I've ever came across but it beats shov­ing your tongue up un­der your top lip ev­ery time the ref is in the vicin­ity.

An­other ball in, gather, seem to think I'm 'Gooch’ Cooper all of a sud­den and I launch a shot for a point from about 45 yards out. It lands around about the 21-yard line. Still, I'm show­ing well, as they say in the G.A.A. and in ma­ter­nity wards.

Turns out my choice of cor­ner­back was a very good one, not be­cause I was su­pe­rior or any­thing like that, but be­cause he was pos­si­bly the nicest young man I've ever met in my life. A pure gent. All busi­ness when the ball was around but, dur­ing the quiet times, ready and will­ing to chat and have a bit of ban­ter. He's a credit to his club and at 17 he can al­ready boast of a ma­ture look­ing growth of fa­cial hair. Mine is still un­de­cided and I'm 37.

We won the game. I didn't score but did make a few, and pulled off some good in­ter­cep­tions and dis­pos­ses­sions.

Thought my self­ish team-mates could have passed the ball to me a bit more but I'm not one to wash the dirty un­der­wear in pub­lic. Know what I mean lads?

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