There’s no short­age of fun on the fringes

Bray People - - SPORT -

ON SUN­DAY evening I sat down to watch the movie ‘Pride’ on BBC2, the in­spi­ra­tional story of how a gay group from Lon­don helped Welsh strik­ing miners in the mid-’80s, show­ing sol­i­dar­ity with the work­ers against their com­mon en­emy Mar­garet Thatcher.

A bus-load of the self-pro­claimed Les­bians and Gays Sup­port the Miners group ar­rived in the vil­lage of On­ll­wyn in South Wales, bravely en­ter­ing the lion’s den of a red-blooded, nar­row-minded min­ing hot­bed.

How­ever, their fundrais­ing ef­forts even­tu­ally con­vinced the wary lo­cals that they were singing off the same hymn sheet, lead­ing to a heart-warm­ing and up­lift­ing tale which ac­cen­tu­ated the power of hu­man spirit.

The sweet, yet emo­tional com­edy was def­i­nitely a wel­come break from ‘The Sun­day Game’, with its neg­a­tive foot­ball and even more neg­a­tive pun­ditry.

It’s not just Gaelic foot­ball that can be a dif­fi­cult watch at times as hurl­ing hasn’t been im­mune from neg­a­tiv­ity re­cently ei­ther, with more sweep­ers than you’d find at an Olympic curl­ing tour­na­ment, al­though some would have you be­lieve that every cham­pi­onship game is a bona fide classic.

There’s no doubt­ing that cer­tain teams need to de­ploy cau­tious sys­tems to give them­selves a chance of com­pet­ing at the high­est level, but when you see it filtering down to a lo­cal Ju­nior hurl­ing match, you re­alise it has been over-car­ried one or two too many steps, like Kilkenny great D.J. Carey in the 1991 Le­in­ster semi-fi­nal against Wex­ford.

Speak­ing of lo­cal G.A.A., some­times when I’m stand­ing on a side­line re­port­ing on a game it’s hard not to smile at some of the small pe­cu­liar­i­ties of it all.

One thing that al­ways amuses me is the usual hunt to find a will­ing vic­tim to act as lines­man at a match.

As soon as the ref­eree asks if some­one can take the role, count­less pairs of eyes head south and be­gin to stare at the ground, fear­ing eye con­tact could mean they’ll be asked to per­form the thank­less task.

Even­tu­ally some poor un­for­tu­nate sod steps for­ward to vol­un­teer to do the gen­er­ally un­wanted job; I say vol­un­teer, though co­erced may be a slightly more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion.

Of course, it’s a strange thing hav­ing a mem­ber of one of the clubs in­volved rul­ing on who should get a de­ci­sion. It’s hu­man na­ture for some­body to give every 50-50 call in favour of their club-mates, or even 40-60 for that mat­ter.

In fact, once I wit­nessed a fella giv­ing pretty much every line ball to his own club even when it should ob­vi­ously have gone the other way, much to the amuse­ment of his fel­low par­ish­ioners and the ire of their op­po­nents.

It got to the stage where the ref­eree had over-ruled him so many times, that the man in the mid­dle had lit­tle choice but to re­lieve him of his du­ties and just do the job him­self.

In the main they try to be as fair and im­par­tial as pos­si­ble though, al­though every dis­puted de­ci­sion is of­ten met with a vol­ley of abuse.

Hav­ing said that, it’s a strange sight to see a man with a flag in one hand and the other clenched in cel­e­bra­tion as his side plun­ders a goal.

Speak­ing of dif­fi­cult jobs, it’s not al­ways a breeze re­port­ing on lo­cal games ei­ther.

On many an oc­ca­sion you’re the clos­est thing to a hav­ing score­board in the ground and have to keep ev­ery­body within earshot in­formed of the state of play, and it’s al­ways a re­lief to learn that your tally matches what’s in the ref­eree’s note­book.

That said, my cus­tom­ary po­si­tion be­tween the two dug-outs is nor­mally the most en­ter­tain­ing place to be, where you can en­joy the odd chuckle or two when the war­ring par­ties have a dis­agree­ment, al­though if they want you to take sides the best course of ac­tion is the old Arsene Wenger­style shrug of the shoul­ders and ‘I didn’t see it’ ap­proach.

Ac­tu­ally some­times the slightly heated ex­changes on the fringes can pro­vide more en­ter­tain­ment that what goes on be­tween the white lines.

The neg­a­tiv­ity on the pitch may be dic­tated by the minds on the side­line, but off of the pitch it’s al­ways all-out at­tack, with even the most mild-man­nered of men­tors not will­ing to take a back­ward step.

Johnny Buck­ley of Kerry is tack­led by Gary O’Don­nell of Gal­way dur­ing the All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal.

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