The Fielder: Stealth tactics essential for annual September scramble
'Oh you're going to the cinema are yas? I, ehhh, I've to do a bit of work here actually lad. Sure go on ahead anyway. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Bye . . . bye-bye-bye-bye-bye-bye."
I hung up the phone and sighed.
"What work is that gosson?" my father asked from the doorway, frightening the shite out of me.
"Jesus Da, will you knock before you come in here!"
"What work are you talking about?" he continued.
"Oh, nothing. I've stuff to do for college," I replied unconvincingly.
He laughed, knowing well that the chances of me doing college work in September were about the same as Miley Cyrus becoming a nun. No point peaking too early I always say.
The truth was I was broke. I had a bank balance lower than a hurler's chances of getting recognised in Coppers and, to make matters worse, I'd just started back in college.
But there was a way out. Each and every county player is given the option of purchasing a pair of All-Ireland final tickets at the beginning of September. We can purchase them at cost price, even though, as is well documented, people are willing to pay colossal amounts of money for them. Imagine the abuse if I was caught though? How terrible would it look if I was seen to be taking advantage of some poor oul' sod? What would they say if I took €800 from a diehard; someone who's seen every kick of a ball, every block, every sneaky elbow from their beloved team that year. I could see the headline – 'County Player Acts The Bollox By Making Big Bucks From Ticket Sale' – or something like that.
On the flipside, there was only so much beans on toast and rice a chap could eat. I stared at the wall above my bed. Here I mounted every ticket I'd ever collected; I liked to keep them as mementos. There were tickets from the ploughing, the Saw Doctors, Westlife (the budgie made me), Kanye Wesht, Oxegen, the Tullamore Show, dozens of GAA matches, the Grand National, airline tickets, bus tickets, even flippin' parking tickets. It was a weird hobby of mine.
Right in the middle of the batch, my two All-Ireland tickets from the previous year stared back at me. They had pride of place. Back then I'd been in a similar predicament. Amongst other things I'd been offered two heifers; a baler; four sets of slightly-worn tyres and, unbelievably, one chap even offered me a date with his daughter for my tickets. I heavily considered the last offer, until I caught a glimpse of her photo on Facebook. The poor girl had a face only a mother could love.
But I resisted the offers and attended the game with my brother, a decision which I didn't regret. It had been wonderful to be involved in such a fantastic occasion; albeit as a spectator, but our day would come.
I pulled out my laptop and scrolled through some of the 'Tickets Wanted' adds. There were hundreds of them, each one more desperate than the last.
"Need pair of tickets, money is no obstacle. Can meet anywhere in country."
I couldn't . . . could I?
* * * * *
"Is that him over there in the black BMW?" Tommy asked.
We were sitting in a busy supermarket car park where I'd arranged to make the 'drop'. I'd brought Tommy along in case it got too hot and shit went down (I really needed to stop playing Grand Theft Auto).
"Here ring him from this," I ordered, handing Tommy a sim card I'd been using to contact the buyer.
Tommy slid the sim card in and I called out the phone number, before ripping up the sheet of paper I'd written it on.
He held the phone to his ear.
"Well horsebox! Is that you beyond in the fancy beemer?"
I shook my head.
Tommy nodded a couple of times as a man's voice crackled in his ear.
"It's him alright lad, go on over."
After a deep breath, I grabbed the envelope from the glove box before stuffing it inside my jacket.
I adjusted my sunglasses and pulled the peak of my cap down before exiting the car. I needed to be stealthy and discreet, like a ninja or . . .
"Well, hello young man!"
"Oh, hi Mrs Reilly . . ." My cover had been blown by a pensioner pushing a trolley full of groceries.
I cursed and continued quickly towards the target car, leaving a puzzled granny in my wake. As I neared the vehicle, the driver's window descended smoothly, revealing a well-polished, important-looking gentleman. All of a sudden I didn't feel too bad about what I was doing. What was a few hundred pound to a chap like this?
He greeted me before proceeding to fish out a wallet like an over-filled doner kebab. I cursed to myself again, I should've bled this whore for more.
He licked his thumb and counted out our agreed sum. I thanked him, nodded and handed over the envelope. After a quick glance inside, he smiled and shook my hand.
"Enjoy the game now."
He nodded appreciatively before rolling off.
* * * * *
As I sat down to watch the game the following Sunday, there wasn't one ounce of regret in my mind. I sipped away on a cold beer and took a bite from one of Mammy's sandwiches, looking on as the teams took the field.
"Go out and get two more cold ones there gosson," I uttered to my brother before taking out my phone to compose a tweet.
"Can't wait for throw-in at Croker. Some noise when the teams ran out. #NothingBeatsBeingThere #GAA"
Merely a hundred yards away a scene was beginning to develop at the Hogan Stand turnstiles.
"Try them again!" a wealthy-looking gentlemen shouted at the staff member. Behind him a queue was beginning to develop.
"Sir I assure you, they are not going to work!"
"What the hell do you mean?" he replied in an alarmed manner.
The staff member, although obviously slightly frightened by the imposing man, afforded himself a cautious smile before his reply. "We don't accept last year's tickets Sir."
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