Friday 2 December 2016

Joe Brolly: Players arrive in their tracksuits wearing headphones, play the game, then go home - How dull!

Published 18/10/2015 | 17:51

Gaelic football analyst Joe Brolly
Gaelic football analyst Joe Brolly

After winning the Cork senior hurling final last Sunday, the Glen Rovers clubhouse had the atmosphere of Russian Cossacks carousing after slaughtering a battalion of the French.

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The last time I was there, it was a Friday evening some years ago and the place was jammed.

Tomás Mulcahy said, “We’ll have one pint Joe.”

“Ah go on ahead,” I said. I woke up on Monday morning. Ever heard 300 men singing ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’?

No celebration can compare to the winners’ clubhouse after a county final. Yet even this is becoming an endangered species. There was a time when a good knees-up was par for the course after every championship game. Now, after all the other rounds, the players immerse themselves in ice baths and drink energy brews.

The fact they are as effective as urine is neither here nor there. They are a symbol that the game must be treated with the utmost gravity.

So, players often don’t even use the changing room to shower anymore. They arrive in their tracksuits wearing headphones, play the game, then go home. How dull. And how unnecessary.

The morning after Edendork’s triumph in the Tyrone intermediate football final a fortnight ago, I bumped into one of the players outside the court in Dungannon.

“Can you run me up to the Square Bar, Joe? I’m too drunk to drive.”

Which reminds me of a yarn about a chap leaving Kavanagh’s at the bottom of the Malahide Road one night after a championship match in the 1970s. As he staggered towards the door, he said, “Thank God I’ve the car. I’m so drunk I’d never make it up that hill.”

The Edendork boys had been drinking in the clubhouse until the cock crowed. At 11 next morning, they resumed in the Square Bar, Dungannon. Darren McCurry, aka ‘The Dazzler’ (a name he himself chose), was in attendance.

There are only a handful of people entitled to talk about themselves in the third person. These are Floyd Mayweather, Tyrone country and western singer Hugo Duncan, and the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. I bumped into Hugo once at a wake. He has that happy bearing of the character in Not the Nine O’Clock News who challenged random people he met to, “Punch me in the stomach, Go on, punch me in the stomach.”

I said to Hugo, “How are you?”

“Hugo’s doing great Joe, he’s absolutely flying.”

“I thought you were Hugo,” I said.

He looked at me puzzled, and said “I am.”

The Dazzler is a teetotaller, so at his request, the cup was filled with Fanta. No sooner had he had his sip, than it was dumped into the sink and replenished with fire-water.

When we won the All-Ireland, we arrived in Dungiven about the Tuesday. The clubhouse was thronged. At around midnight, Joe O’Neill, philosopher and owner of Joe’s Bar on the Main Street, led us down the street to his west bank establishment.

When he reached the front door, he flung it open melodramatically and said, “Gentlemen. Welcome to reality.” We were still there at dawn.

I remember one night not long ago after the current generation won a Derry senior hurling championship, they ran out of coal in the pub in the early hours, so the boys burned their tracksuits.

Sadly, Joe’s refined sensibilities were not shared by the authorities. And so, as was inevitable, it all came to an end one fateful morning in Limavady Magistrates Court. Thankfully, the proceedings were recorded for posterity in the pages of The Mid Ulster Observer.

Prosecutor: Officer, can you tell His Worship where you went on the morning of the 7th?

Policeman: I went with a colleague to Joe’s Bar on the Main Street in Dungiven.

Prosecutor: Why did you go there?

Policeman: There had been a Gaelic football match the previous day and we had reason to believe there may be late drinking going on.

Prosecutor: At what time did you enter the premises?

Policeman: Can I consult my notes Your Worship?

Judge: Did you make them at the time?

Policeman: I did Your Worship.

Judge: Yes, you may.

Policeman: We entered the establishment by the rear door, which was open, at half-past seven in the morning.

Prosecutor: Can you describe what happened?

Policeman: There were roughly a dozen people in the lounge. As we entered, I saw a gentleman sitting alone at a table close to the door, who appeared to be drinking a pint of Guinness. I asked him, ‘What are you drinking sir?’

Prosecutor: And did he reply?

Policeman: He did Your Worship (consults notebook). He said, ‘Thanks lads, but I’m happy enough on my own. You work away yourselves.’

Memories, memories . . .

There is always a worry about lads overdoing it, especially at this time of the year when club championships are reaching their climaxes and boys

who’ve been living like monks suddenly let rip. This problem of work/play balance is a chronic one in the GAA.

No wonder lads go crazy at this time of year.

They would be more careful had they ever heard Professor Jack Crane, the Northern Ireland state pathologist, giving evidence to juries about the effect of heavy alcohol intake on already dehydrated brains. This combination is very dangerous, causing the brain to swell into the skull cavity and the central nervous system to malfunction. A good trick is to drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol.

I was reading the pen pics in the programme for the Joe Brolly Cup last weekend, which is the Derry junior football championship cup, named after my grandfather, a most fascinating man. Drum, where there are no ice baths, were playing Faughanvale. The printer obviously hadn’t read the stuff sent in by the Drum lads.

Niall Farren, grinning broadly in his pic, described his best career moment as, ‘The time I headbutted Conor in his stupid face’. One of the Moore boys gave his occupation as ‘Taxidermist’.

My favourite though, was Niall Ferris’s entry, whose biggest career influence was Chuck Norris. Now there’s a man entitled to talk about himself in the third person.

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