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Nicola Anderson: Rivals try to avoid silly own goals in Match of the Dail

HERE comes the fresh-faced Fine Gael hopeful, nifty on his feet, weaving in and out of the legs of the opposition.

The two Fianna Failers are doing their best but they aren't as young as they used to be and this candidate has had a sniff of success, likes it and has the better of them.

Labour is going strong and playing well but is a bit too clumsy for the pitch while the Sinn Fein man is positively winded by the experience and clearly hasn't had this much exercise in a number of years.

The current climate is not helping and everybody is feeling the effects of the chill wind blowing.

But everything is going okay until the football gets stuck on the fence and needs cross-party teamwork to get it back down again.

Oh sorry, confused? You think we're talking political metaphors here? Listen, forget the election for once, this is just football, plain and simple -- no funny stuff.

Or maybe not.

Radio station Newstalk might have been a bit optimistic when it tweeted about its charity football match of politicians organised yesterday in aid of Barnardos at Ringsend park in Dublin, promising that "tackles will fly".

Within a tantalising stone's throw from the national stage (that would be the Aviva Stadium), the politicians did indeed battle it out on the all-weather pitch -- but mostly against their own poor fitness levels. Ouch.

Fianna Fail TDs Barry Andrews in a blue shirt and cousin Chris in red seemed strangely to be playing for the same side.

Amid frantic calls of "behind, behind, behind", Chris tripped over Fine Gael TD Damien English but it was Fine Gael councillor and Dublin South East election hopeful Eoghan Murphy -- younger and fitter than the rest -- who swept in.

Newstalk stages this interesting little match every time an election comes around, usually pitting the Government against the opposition.

But this time, organiser Susan Doyle explained, the station had "mixed it up" to make it more interesting. Quite possibly because Newstalk felt the opposition might have an unfair advantage.

Soccer legend Johnny Giles came along to offer a little support to the teams, posing for pictures with Sile Seoige.

Rugby legend Keith Wood was to come but in the end couldn't make it.

THERE was a fair level of confusion on the pitch, along with quite a few anguished cries of "ah ref" from players who felt they weren't getting their fair share of the action.

Asked which side was winning, a bystander shrugged and gave the short answer: "I don't think anyone is."

Vincent Browne may well have given precisely the same answer after the previous night's debate.

The match struggled on and then Chris Andrews went down with a bad cramp in his legs and had to have a time out to iron the problem out.

He later jokingly tried to pull down the pants of goalie and Newstalk breakfast presenter Oisin Langan, who reprimanded him, saying: "Not in private and not in public."

Aengus O Snodaigh of Sinn Fein, much out of breath and panting, passed to Fine Gael's Damien English in the blue but it was a bad kick that went nowhere.

It was 5-3 to the Blues, somebody thought. But nobody could be sure.

At any rate it went to penalties in the end, all square 4-4 until Labour councillor Aidan Cullane lost it for the blues.

The Andrews high-fived.

Now if only Fianna Fail were as good on the electoral playing field.

Irish Independent