Saturday 23 September 2017

Now is the time for men with murderous intent to prosper

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The bad weather finally came this week as promised by nature. Gales and rain pounded us. Then the cold snuck in from the north.

Off-white nearly yellow vests – as if they had been left out too long on a shop window facing the sun – and Long Johns, like the kind worn by John Wayne and the boys in the bunkhouse, were dragged out of cold storage.

Back in the sunny days of summer when searching for swimming trunks, I came across a hairy old jumper made from the wool of a llama crossed with a mammoth. I laughed and thought of how out of place it was in the summer drawer. But never laugh at nature because nature, and the seasons, always have the last laugh.

Football is hard work from now, what with the heavy slow lads finally able to get in the hits on the fast small lads. Hurling was never meant to be played on boggy fields where the curlews wear wellingtons.

SEDUCTION

The ball won't bounce up or fly off the turf and the psychopath who hates townies – ever since one of them made the sister pregnant and promptly fecked off to England never to be seen again – is out to get you even though you were in no way to blame for the seduction of the novice nun.

Men with murderous intent will nail players they wouldn't even get a finger-tip on in summer. Now is their time. Tanks go better in the mud and, like horses, some prefer the heavy going. The bad weather puts us in bad humour.

There will be melees, pitch invasions and outbreaks of vile temper by supporters. Refs will be locked in dressing-rooms for their own safety until the Gardai arrive.

Mild-mannered men, who wear aprons and bring their wives tea and toast in bed with homemade marmalade carved and mulched from the finest of Seville oranges, will turn into baying monsters when the ball is thrown in. What is it in Gaelic games that drives us to sayings and doings we would never contemplate in ordinary life?

For spectators there's somewhere to go on Sundays. As a kid I swore that if I had to sit through another episode of 'Little House on the Prairie' I'd run away from home.

The women folk loved it and there was a girl with pigtails they all adored because she was honest, hardworking and she never gave what were known as 'back answers'.

There was no pouting or giving out because she wasn't left out on a Saturday night to disco-dance away to lads that sang in girls' voices. God forgive me, but I was always hoping she'd be eaten by a wolf.

There was always a few drinks after the matches by roaring fires and enough soft drinks for the kids to turn lips orange.

The kids would always be asked how many oranges they drank. Those at home minding the house knew there was a direct link between the number of bottles of orange and the number of pints consumed by our guardians.

I often think the seasons give the farmers an awful blackguarding. They're at their busiest during the summer and a day at the seaside was as rare as triplet calves with two heads. Football matches were the only show in town when the cows dried off.

November and December and a nice bit of January was holiday time. Or maybe less work time is more accurate. The first time a fella from our way and his wife went out to the Canaries during the slack time, most of his neighbours thought he was clean off his head.

There are no after-match pints now. It's not easy to car pool in the country. Those first couple after the game were the nicest of all. The sweetest ever. I challenge the doctors who are trying, inadvertently, to close our bars and push drinking underground – or worse, into kitchens – to prove these first few pints were not the most beneficial for body and soul. What makes you happy is good for you.

There was talk and analysis. All were equal. The wealthiest could be contradicted by the poorest. Farm labourers were afforded the same right of audience as the man who owned the farm.

There were always quizzes and trick questions. Name the player who played for three counties on the one day? The man who posed that question would move off then to annoy and tantalise another company. Never did he give the answer to his own question.

CONUNDRUM

I'm fairly sure that was because there was no answer. We are offering a substantial reward for information that will lead to the solving of the conundrum.

There are still good days out but not like before. At such gatherings you could meet the representatives of a hundred townlands. A whole generation is missing out on these post-match conclaves.

Friendships were made that have lasted the decades. There was an honesty of expression and you knew where you stood. Sometimes matters got out of hand but mostly players from opposition teams would meet and make up.

There was nothing nicer than walking into the pub if you had a good game. No one ever said you played well but you knew. That was Kerry. They'd never praise you to your face but you'd know by the body language.

We will try to keep up the tradition, those last few of us who shorten the winter with talk and good times. You could do a lot worse than try the therapy yourself.

Irish Independent

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