Thursday 19 October 2017

Student vet has to learn what a good delivery is

Jump back to 2010. It's a crisp February Sunday morning at the local football pitch. We're playing a neighbouring club in the league and it's all square going into the final minutes.

Our goalie launches the ball into the skies from the kick-out. I was playing at centre-back and positioned myself for the breaking ball under the midfielders. "I'm up!" roared big Sammy, one of our men, as he leapt into the air like a jumbo jet taking off. I took a chance and ran into the opponents' half. "Flick her on Sammy!"

Sammy palmed the ball into my path. I'd built up serious momentum and easily went by two or three of their backs who were caught off-guard and flat-footed. There was only the burly full-back to beat. I looked to my left as I sprinted goalward and wound up to deliver a handpass. Just as he went to make the block I retracted the ball, Owen Mulligan-style, making him look like a right tit as he fell onto the turf.

I was clean through on the advancing 'keeper; not my strongest position as we know from previous tales.

"Yeah, square it!"

Thank God, I had some support. I glanced towards the caller and cursed to myself. Paddy Matthews was shouting for the ball, wide-open to my left, but events the previous week meant he was the last person I wanted to pass to.

* * * * *

"There's a leg anyway," I thrust my arm deeper in and felt for a head. It was 4.0 on a Friday morning. Temperatures were well below freezing and our first calf of the season was on his way into the world. The whole family were away visiting a sick relative and I was left on duty. The cow's bellowing had woken me and sure enough she'd gone into labour. I was elbow deep in a Charolais with my right arm and trying to set up a calving jack with my left; a tricky situation, but I suppose I'd been in worse positions at 4.0 on a Friday morning.

I found the head and realised just how big the calf was. I faced a dilemma; go it alone and pray I got him out alive, or call for help and wait in the freezing cold for God knows how long. It was an easy decision.

After some struggling and a lot of swearing, I manoeuvred the calf's legs into position and somehow got the ropes onto them. I slotted them onto the jack and began to crank the handle up and down, slowly but surely edging the calf out. By the time his nose appeared, my arms were aching and the sweat was bubbling from my brow. I'd never had a harder pull; he was more hippo than calf.

The poor cow was also feeling the pressure; you would be too if some gobshite was trying to pull a transit-van sized sucky calf out your rear end. I needed an extra pair of hands. But who to call?

We were still on bad terms with the neighbours after our bull had done some grounds-keeping work in their once pristine flowerbeds. There was Paddy Matthews, a vet student from the parish. He'd surely know what to do? With one hand I fished through my overalls for my phone. Holding it in my palm, I awkwardly tried to hit the unlock button. My heart skipped a beat as it slipped from my lubricant-covered hand towards the ground. "Ah Lord, not in the . . . ah shite!" I looked on helplessly as my iPhone fell into a steaming, fresh pile of cow dung.

'MAAAAW. . . ' The cow was getting desperate, I had to act soon or she would go down. With one hand securing the calving jack I bent down and grabbed the phone. I wiped the screen clear and scrolled to Paddy's number. The phone was still warm; lovely.

"Paddy, it's me. I'm in a spot of bother here. Can you come over?"

"What? Jesus, what time is it lad?"

"It doesn't matter, I've a whopper of a calf out to his nose here and he won't come anymore. What'll I do?"

"Ah I dunno, ring the vet?"

"YOU ARE A BLOODY VET PA!"

"I'm only in my second year of training, ya gobshite."

"Look, you're up now, I've no one else. Please get down here. The oul' fella will kill me if this lad doesn't make it. Bring your 'vet-kit' and if needs be we'll call the actual vet."

One hour later myself and Paddy were struggling. He'd decided we could in fact pull this monstrosity ourselves. I'd stated that we should give in, ring the vet and take him out the side-door (Caesarean section) but Paddy wanted to be the hero.

His head was well out now and he was moving but we needed to act fast; once the umbilical cord broke we had seconds to get him out before he was a goner.

"This isn't gonna work, we should've rang the vet," I moaned, exhausted.

"Don't be silly I've got this. Alright lad, pull like a mad whoer!"

Ten minutes later, we were standing over a lifeless corpse. I had my hands over my face in dismay and was muttering every profanity known to man, dreading the call to my father.

"Ah sure, these things happen," Paddy exclaimed somewhat philosophically.

"What are you talking about; I said we should've got the vet," I shouted, in a state of rage.

"Sure you'll know the next time, do you know there's a big lump of shite on your ear horse?"

I was absolutely livid and fought the urge to crack him a left hook to the jaw.

I dialled Dad's number, my phone was still warm and sporting a tangy aroma.

"You had better be fucking joking . . ."

* * * * *

So there I was with a fresh dilemma. Pass it to the lad who'd cost me a lovely bull calf and got me a right grilling from the father or go it alone and try and beat the 'keeper.

I swallowed my pride and bit the bullet for the good of the team. After a deft palm into the top corner, a delighted Paddy ran in my direction. The crowd was going bananas. "Thanks for the pass, I owe you one."

"You owe me a lot more than feckin' one Paddy."

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