KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
And it had all started so well. All season, The Boy has been giving out about playing in the half-back line, but when I wander over to the pitch where they’re warming up for their championship game, I spot him doing his shuttle runs in a number 14 jersey. Full forward. He loves that. And then the whistle goes and Jude’s start brightly and The Boy does all the right things and the sun even comes out.
I have seen him taking hard shoulders before. To be fair, I have probably seen him deliver harder ones. But there is something about this otherwise ordinary tackle, right up at the far corner of the pitch, that sets him off balance. He tries to right himself, and suddenly, everything goes wrong. Later, he will describe seeing his knee bend out sideways, in a way that knees are not supposed to do.
I don’t see that, of course. From my vantage point, on the opposite sideline, it looks like he has grabbed his hamstring as he falls. It also, to be honest, doesn’t look that bad. But he stays down, even as play continues around him. I watch and wait, and (for shame) mentally urge him to get up, get on with the game and stop grand-standing. Then I hear him roar.
And that’s the moment, right there, when you just don’t know what to do. That’s the point when you should start running, but for a moment, it’s like a film of somebody else’s life – and you’re not even sure if you’ve a walk-on part.
So I walk on. Along the sideline first, then, when the referee realises something is wrong and blows up, I take off, sprinting across the pitch. Now, unfortunately, The Dog, who has been lying at my feet, mistakes this for some impromptu high spirits and – though I don’t really notice this – he flies along beside me, up for whatever. By the time I reach my prostate son, roaring in pain on the ground, the referee and two of the team trainers are already there. I drop to my knees and bend over The Boy – and right there, in front of this microcosm of the Gaelic Athletic Association – The Dog takes this as in invitation to mount me from behind
In front of this GAA microcosm, The Dog decides to mount me from behind and enjoy the pleasure of my company
and enjoy the pleasure of my company. So I’m trying to get through to the distraught Boy while simultaneously trying to beat The Dog off me, all the time pretending – for the sake of decency – that I don’t know what he’s up to. In a flurry of fabulously profane language, I dislodge him, and he immediately steps up for round two. Again cast aside (with an emphatic “f*** off”), The Dog then approaches The Boy and begins licking his face. It is enough: I drag him off and tie him to a tree. This, presumably, is why there is no record of Florence Nightingale ever having a dog.
Anyway, here’s the 10,000th reason why I love the GAA (you’re probably familiar with the other 9,999). By the time the match, the team’s championship and The Boy’s season have ended, he has been treated and strapped by the team trainer and the club physio is on his way. As the referee enters the details of the injury in his report and one of the trainers heads to the club to note it in the injuries book – for insurance purposes – the physio has pronounced damage to the collateral ligaments and cartilage. He will, he tells the now sitting up Boy, be out for eight weeks, will have regular physiotherapy during that time and for the last fortnight of it will enter rehab physio. The thing is – the really amazing thing is – that this is exactly the same rehab programme that the likes of Kevin McManamon or Danny Sutcliffe, our club’s star players, would enter if they get injured playing for St Jude’s. Double All-Ireland medal winner, All- Star hurler, under-15 footballer: in the world of the GAA, they’re all treated the same.
Even before we get home, a pair of crutches has been dispatched from our friends down the road (camogie, ladies’ football) and within an hour, half The Boy’s luckless team has come to visit. So now we have a Boy on crutches and Nurofen, a chair in the shower, and an insurance claim form that the GAA will honour. Though to be honest, right now, I’m more interested in claiming a refund for The Dog’s castration operation. Or I will be, just as soon as I go up and untie him from that tree.