BEATEN BY MY BELOVED COR­NER-BACK ‘RANNA’

Bray People - - SPORT - Edited by Brendan Lawrence. Email: brendan.lawrence@peo­ple­news.ie

A BRUISED ego and a bruised left breast, that's what I got for my trou­bles af­ter the lo­cal derby on Satur­day evening.

We'll start with the ego. 3-10 to 17. Take away the three goals and it's a level game, any­body else no­tice that?

Three goals, it would sicken you. As our de­fen­sive rock, Paddy, said af­ter the game in a deathly quiet dress­ing-room (save for some teas­ing of ‘Ranna’, I'll ex­plain shortly), ‘is foot­ball worth it at all lads?’

I'd like to of­fer my con­grat­u­la­tions to the neigh­bour­ing club as well while I'm at it.

Not on the win, are you mad? But on the com­ing to fruition of what must have been a col­lec­tive breed­ing pro­gramme that, I imag­ine, was put into place some time around 1994.

They have pro­duced an abun­dance of young talent, fine strap­ping young men, hand­some devils too most of them it must be said, and all ex­tremely well ca­pa­ble of play­ing foot­ball.

I used to know ev­ery sin­gle player on that team hav­ing gone to school with most of them. In­deed, one of their se­lec­tors, John, and I shared Ger Duffy's bus to school for five years and par­took in many a ques­tion­able ac­tiv­ity such as games of knuck­les, séances, singsongs and other teenage ten­den­cies. He was a fairly de­cent full­back too as I re­call, not so good on the sing-songs though.

But now, apart from a hand­ful of the team, I wouldn't know any of them, they're all young bucks, ready to take over the world, brim­ming with vi­tal­ity and enthusiasm and fire in the belly and all way too ea­ger for go­ing for goals. What hap­pened to 'take your points' lads?

The first goal was my fault, I have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity. I got sucked in to tack­ling the big ma­raud­ing monster from the half for­ward line who charged up the field.

All he had to do was turn his big back­side to me and the full-back and swing his boot at the ball and in it went. Had I stayed away from the melee I could have dived and blocked his shot but I was wrapped up in a tan­gle of limbs and a storm of snot and tears and the sound of gnash­ing of teeth.

It was a hor­ri­ble evening. Af­ter all the good weather is there any­thing as dis­ap­point­ing as wak­ing up to a dirty grey day know­ing that there's a game on later on?

Not long af­ter the first goal came the sec­ond and, well, it was re­ally some­thing to be­hold.

It's one to tell the grand­chil­dren about to be hon­est.

And we have to give credit where credit is due for the amaz­ing, elec­tric, top drawer strike that saw the O'Neill's ball shoot like a rocket to the top right-hand cor­ner of my net. And that credit goes to my cor­ner­back, the ir­re­press­ibly, un­de­ni­ably, un­mis­tak­ably sound, ‘Ranna’.

I love ‘Ranna’, in fact, the whole world loves ‘Ranna’. He's one of the good guys. He's also a very good cor­ner-back and per­haps it was this qual­ity that saw him score one of the finest goals ever scored in my lit­tle vil­lage.

The ball comes in, ‘Ranna’ and his man and one or two more are com­pet­ing. ‘Ranna’ should go down but doesn't. Some­one should go down, but they don't, the ball rolls to­wards the goals, a tan­gle of bod­ies chase it down. Sens­ing dan­ger, ‘Ranna’ de­cides to put boot to ball, clear it out, worry about the con­se­quences later.

But wait, what's that large gap­ing hole right in front of you, ‘Ranna’? That large rec­tan­gle with the wor­ried look­ing Brenno stand­ing guard in. Yes, it's the goals, where, should the ball cross the line, it will gift the op­pos­ing team three points.

But does ‘Ranna’ care? Ob­vi­ously not. He whacks it. I never re­mem­ber him strik­ing a ball with such con­vic­tion and we've played to­gether for many a sum­mer, and in it cruised to the top cor­ner.

The large crowd laughed. It's very un­usual to hear that hearty laugh­ter at a game un­less the ref­eree falls over or a dog runs on to the field so it ac­tu­ally came as a bit of shock to hear it rip­ple around the ground.

And what made it worse is that Ranna has deep roots in the neigh­bour­ing ham­let (it's not a vil­lage; it's a ham­let, just say­ing).

He has deep, deep roots. So the con­spir­acy the­o­rists would have ev­ery right to have their lit­tle field day with this one.

And poor ‘Ranna’, he took it so bad, hands on his head, shak­ing his head in dis­be­lief.

He was still shak­ing his head over an hour later. He prob­a­bly still is shak­ing his head.

The third goal was struck well in fair­ness, bot­tom cor­ner; I wasn't too far away but far enough ob­vi­ously. I don't know what was worse, the sight of the ball hit­ting the back of the net or the sound of the um­pire (from down there) al­most chok­ing on his false teeth as he cheered his team on.

De­fen­sively, even though this might sound strange, we played well enough.

It was fur­ther up the field when we lost ball af­ter ball and al­lowed them to break at will that cost us dearly, that and the three goals of course.

As for the bruised left breast. Went to gather a high ball in the sec­ond-half and took it well into the chest but where once was mus­cle and a chest plate is now a soft cush­ion of flesh so it's quite ten­der still, a bit like when you used to get a painful nip­ple pinch in school back in the day.

Ger Duffy's bus used to be a real dan­ger­ous ter­ri­tory when it came to your nip­ples, they were never safe. Nei­ther was your lunch, or your con­fi­dence, or your cloth­ing. It's very sim­i­lar to Ju­nior foot­ball re­ally when you think about it.

A game of inches - My cor­ner-back’s shot flies past me and into the top cor­ner in the lo­cal derby. Note the look of hor­ror on the face. Photo: Joe Byrne.

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