WARN­ING - EPIC BAT­TLE AS NEIGH­BOURS CLASH

Bray People - - SPORT -

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.

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