WARNING - EPIC BATTLE AS NEIGHBOURS CLASH
THE LOCAL derby approaches. On Saturday evening we will take to the field against 'them'.
Every club has a ' them'; the nemesis, the arch-rival, the bitter enemy, those of whom we would prefer not to speak their name.
At inter-county level you could compare it to Dublin and Kerry or Tyrone and Armagh or Kilkenny and Tipperary, two teams that bring a fierce rivalry to the table, two teams that carry with them decades of contempt, of feuding, of differences and slights never tended, never healed.
Yes, on Saturday evening the local G.A.A. pitch will be rocking as the green and white jersey takes to our field, our spiritual home, our Mecca.
Even the thought of it (wipes sweat off brow, heart races, tongue lolls freakishly, eyes cross) does something to me, brings me to a place of sporting readiness, lifts me to a ninja-like space.
I feel like Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and on Saturday evening (if the bauld ' Goose' decides to return me between the sticks) I could see myself stamping on the ground and roaring ‘you shall not pass’.
In fairness though, they're not the worst, the neighbours, the green and white jerseyed hoardes, 'them'. They're sound at the back of it all but there is something there, there's no denying that.
As children, we grew up hearing tales of fierce combat between our two localities.
We also watched that fierce combat during and after matches as both teams would retire to the local hostelries and after a brief imbibing of ale, that late tackle in the game or that passing barb would be recalled and retribution sought.
There's no doubting that the differences were also of the nonsporting kind yet they manifested on the field of play.
Women would have played a role in the helter skelter of the G.A.A. battle.
Many a maiden’s hand would have been won by players from the opposing teams, many a sister would have been swept off her feet by the heathen brutes from either side, and many of those same sisters would have settled in enemy territory and, worse still, the ultimate insult, the worst wrong of all, they would have given birth to sons who would go on to wear the hideous, eyeball-burning, skin-wrinkling jersey of the enemy.
Oh yes, the rivalry runs deep between our two clubs.
And then you would have other numerous reasons for the deep hatred (hatred is such a strong word, especially nowadays in the politically correct world we live in. Maybe we should change hatred to dislike, although it does lack a punch).
How about disdain, that's a better one! And then you have other numerous reasons for the deep disdain we feel for the enemy.
For example there are, undoubtedly, countless tales of agricultural dealings gone wrong.
We hail from a rural area where fields are littered with ambling sheep, where holdings are large at 50 acres, where children still walk to school in their bare feet, where men use twine for belts, and order large McArdles off the shelf.
Yes, who could imagine the amount of times a few sheep would mysteriously vanish from one field only for the flock size to increase slightly at the home of a G.A.A. rival across the hill.
Who's to say how many handshakes at the sales yard were not honoured over the decades (a waste of good spit if you ask me).
Or, how many public humiliations were dished out on the street, in the work place, at school, outside mass, inside mass, who's to say, but all the perceived wrongs have bled into the souls of the present day G.A.A. footballer and this is what we bring to the table on Saturday evening.
We play not just for league points but for that old rascal, pride.
The world may well be a changed place, we, as a people, may well be nothing more than sheep who bow to all and accept all wrongs and taxes and laws, but come Saturday evening we will rise up and go to war like the French did when their government tried to raise the retirement age. Sacre bleu! We will march across that beautiful, slightly sloping rectangle of soft green grass to prepare for battle in those pretty dressing-rooms and then we will emerge in our red and white armour to face the heathens and those of us who are old enough to remember the excitement of video vans calling to our houses will utter those immortal words, which are also the title of one of the classics of that bygone era, ‘no retreat, no surrender’.
Or as the bauld Highlander might say, ‘there can be only one!’
This Saturday evening a rivalry like that of Kerry and Dublin (above) will play out in our G.A.A. pitch.