BEATEN BY MY BELOVED CORNER-BACK ‘RANNA’
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.