The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

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.

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