'Catch her nose there 'till I put the tag in. Hold on a minute, there's me phone."
I looked on as Dad fished his phone from his breast pocket; meanwhile I grabbed the Charolais' nose and wrapped her up in a head-lock. We were down in the yard, re-tagging one of our ladies who'd lost an ear-tag.
"Hello . . . ah Dickie how're you getting on."
I wiped the sweat from my brow as Dad blabbed away on the phone. "Hurry up Dad, she's fighting me here." By now his back was turned and he took no notice of my whimpering.
I exhaled sharply under the pressure as he turned in my direction, still deep in conversation; a look of sheer disbelief on his face. " . . . are you mad Dickie, what do you think I am, St Vincent de feckin' Paul?"
My forearms were now burning as I tried to hold on to the cow's head. "Dad, will you put the phone away and tag this bitch before she pulls the arms off me!"
Ignoring my painful pleading, he slowly put his phone in his pocket, staring into space as if he couldn't believe what he'd heard.
"Dad will you feckin' tag her."
He snapped out of his trance and re-tagged the beast. I collapsed back onto the grass in relief as the cow darted out of the crush, my arms and shoulders throbbing with pain.
Dad tottered over and helped me up off the ground.
"You'll never believe what the chairman has just asked me."
I didn't answer, still overcome with crippling pain.
"They're looking to entice this young minor star, Dan Larkin to the club and they – Jesus I couldn't believe it – they're looking to offer him a site to seal the deal! He's wondering if we have any spare land."
Dan Larkin had been a revelation on the county minor team that summer. He was a stylish forward; big with the skills to match. It was like there was two of him on the pitch. A fabulous athlete, he was a gifted footballer also, with the ability to spray the ball around off either foot.
The problem with poor Dan was his roots. He hailed from St Brigid's, a Junior C boxing team who broke into the occasional spat of football. If he stayed there he would fade into the abyss; becoming a member of the young-lads-who-showed-promise-but-discovered-beer club. His father had married into the parish, he himself hailing from a footballing stronghold in Kerry and had recognised the potential his son showed. It'd become widely known across the county that Dan's father was looking for a transfer for his son. The fact that Dan had pals in our parish as well as the little matter of our freshly carved name on the senior championship trophy made us front-runners to secure his signature. But trying to entice a young lad by offering him a site to build his future house on was taking the biscuit.
* * * * *
"Anyone else get a smell of shite?"
Two evenings later, we were back in with the club. I kept my head down as nostrils began to curl in the dressing room. I hadn't bothered to change clothes after a day spent mucking out sheds and the lads were obviously beginning to notice. Thankfully, an awkward situation was avoided when the chairman stuck his head through the door.
The nattering instantly stopped and a blanket of silence engulfed the room. When Dick was about it meant one of two things; someone owed the club money, or he wanted a favour.
"I'm delighted to announce that the club received good news today . . . "
"We got the bar licence?" a voice echoed to my right.
There was a wave of laughter as the chairman shook his head angrily. "Come on now lads, we don't want a repeat of the AGM; let me finish." He popped his head out the door again and nodded. A tall, thin, brown-haired teenage boy reluctantly walked in and stood beside Dick, who correspondingly put his arm on the boy's shoulder. "Dan's joining us. He's a superb talent who'll be a great addition to our parish. I hope you'll all make him feel very welcome, I'm looking at you especially Brian."
Brian 'Brick' Dillon was a club stalwart. At 38, he was like a bout of pneumonia in a shed-full of calves; he just wouldn't go away. Other nicknames for him included the Duracell Bunny and Knuckles. He was a fabulous footballer in his day but old age and bad knees meant he was reduced to kicking the odd point for the juniors and clocking lads in training. If there was one thing Brick didn't like it was young lads coming in and reminding him of his age. My party piece, being able to pop my left collarbone out of place on demand, was thanks to Brick. Six years previously, in my first training session with the senior team, I'd tried to sell him a dummy and ended up in A&E on a morphine drip.
There was an eerie silence as the chairman finished talking; whether he was expecting some kind of applause I don't know. The atmosphere was tense.
Thirty pairs of eyes were firmly focused on poor Danny as he shyly stared at the floor. His nostrils began to quiver. I cursed to myself, he was picking up the smell too. Eventually, Brick broke the silence. "What the f**k is this, transfer deadline day?"
I really felt for the young lad; whose cheeks turned a crimson colour as the lads began giggling. Secretly, we were all delighted to have him; we just didn't want to show it. Eventually, as the sniggering continued, my conscience got the better of me. Brick was out of order.
"Pity it isn't transfer deadline day Brick, we could've offloaded your fat arse." I blurted out. An eruption of laughter and jeering followed. This lightened the atmosphere and fellas began to approach and welcome our new addition.
That night Dan lit up the training field. He was full of running and showed his class, as his father happily watched on from the sideline. Brick Dillon, not for the want of trying, couldn't manage to get within striking distance of the chap. He had an engine like a John Deere. After training I stayed behind to kick some frees and the team manager approached me as I walked in alone.
"What do you make of him?"
"He's some talent isn't he? What's your plan for him? Break him in with the Juniors?"
He laughed. "We'll be breaking him in alright. The draw was this evening. They got Brigid's!"
You couldn't write it.
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