Billy Keane: Two proud GAA men aim to pen their own verses
I was backward at going forward and why I didn't know,
Some people said that I was shy but others called me slow,
My father blamed my mother for me being a lazy sod,
But she maintained it was all his fault, that all his crowd were odd.
Pat McGeeney, father of Kieran, is the man who rhymed this for us. There's one thing for sure and that is that he wasn't writing about his son. Kieran captained Armagh to their first ever All-Ireland success and now he's a game away from glory with Kildare.
McGeeney Snr gave us the other 21 verses in the pub last Saturday. Brigid, his lovely wife, mimed as Pat recited.
An old travelling man who used to frequent the bar in my father's time was heard to say 'poetry is bad enough without it being long'. That's for sure but Pat McGeeney's poems fly past like the last week of the summer holidays:
Now get me out of here you blackguard, before I call the law,
And just at that she scattered me with a faluder to the jaw,
Oh it was a dirty false one and took me right off my feet,
And in the melee that followed I lost my bottom row of teeth.
I'm not sure what a faluder is but I wouldn't like to get one. Young Kieran was well able to dish out the tough stuff when he played for Armagh. He had to. The only pacifists at Ulster championship games back then were the lads holding up the John 3:7 sign. Armagh were a tough old bunch but they could play football too. McGeeney was their Beckenbauer. Kieran read the game very well.
His cybernetic kicks were deadly accurate and towards the end of his inter-county days -- when his pace had gone -- such was his importance to Armagh that Joe Kernan employed a super-domestique to do the marking while Kieran did the kicking.
McGeeney didn't have that much experience at management when he took over the Kildare job. Managing isn't just about saying a few words in the dressing-room or picking the team. Inter-county management is a full-time job in the playing season. Every player has his manager's number.
Then there's dealing with the county board, who in many counties would prefer fantasy football. There's medics and physios, physical trainers and shrinks. The back-room teams are bigger now than government departments. The press have to fill up space, every day, and each of us wants the angle.
McGeeney has done very well but he looked on his way out after Kildare were eaten alive by Louth in the first round. It seemed like a case of another great player who couldn't make it as a coach. The back-door route was his road to Damascus.
Down manager James McCartan is proof that an ounce of breeding is worth a ton of feeding. James was a fast, almost unmarkable footballer who seldom missed even a hard chance. McCartan, no more than Kieran, isn't a big man but he had the heart for it.
The McCartans have been Down football since time began in 1960. The family fight, pride and allegiance to the jersey burst out through James.
Down have taken the road less travelled after a humiliating exit in Ulster. They shocked Kerry but were deserving winners. Tactically, James got it right. He is no novice manager. McCartan won the Sigerson as Queen's trainer in 2007. And in fairness, he did inherit a well-trained Down team from Ross Carr.
Congrats to my pal Billy Morgan, twice an All-Ireland-winning young manager. Billy was elevated to the MBNA Hall of Fame as part of this week's Bray Emmets cic fada celebrations. No man deserves it more.
Billy has suffered too. Pat McGeeney's lines describe the plight of the defeated:
I'm sitting here with a hump on me and a jaw the size of two,
I'd make meself a bite to ate if I had me teeth to chew.
So will Pat be composing an ode or a requiem on Sunday evening? There isn't much between the teams. Kildare have been racking up huge totals. Down might have problems if Kildare run at them and pass through the tackles. Benny Coulter is as good as ever but he will probably have a double bodyguard.
It might be a draw. It's a tough call but I'm going for Kildare, provided they get a belt of a starting handle. The Lilies are slower to start than a banger full of sumos.
The family trend of following timeless GAA tradition is very much in evidence. You kick the ball so often against the gable end it causes structural damage. Your parents tell you of the deeds of old and when you give a couple of kicks in the womb the mother will put her hand on the bump and proudly proclaim 'there's a footballer'.
It's all about inheritance and death duty. You could leave your kid millions but a football and a pair of boots will do more for a child in terms of development as a human being.
The McGeeneys, the Carrs, the McCartans and the Morgans will know what I'm talking about. The Earleys too. Dermot Earley Snr passed it on before he passed away. His son has a knee that needs fixing but he battles on regardless. All of the GAA pray Dermot Jnr is fit to take part tomorrow. For his Dad's sake.