Monday 27 May 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Our young football fans deserve better'


John Delaney pictured at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Gerry Mooney
John Delaney pictured at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

We were never what you might call a sporty household, so my love of football was bequeathed to me by a kindly bachelor uncle who felt that I needed a hobby and some fresh air.

I wasn't any use as a player. Having a decent left peg is considered an asset, but two left feet means that you never get picked.

Instead, he used to bring me to Turners Cross to watch Cork Celtic.

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Because of his dicky ticker, the rest of the family feared that he might get a heart attack standing on the grassy knoll at the St Anne's end as he frantically tried to suck the ball into the visitors' goal.

A compromise was reached when his sensible doctor advised that while it was still fine to indulge his passion on a winter's Sunday afternoon, it might be better to give the Shamrock Rovers clashes a wide berth.

My uncle, the sort of man who bled Cork when cut, had a thing about Rovers. His normal florid complexion could turn a raging puce during these bruising battles.

I worried that he might expire at my feet - a mortifying experience for a 12-year-old, and I don't think he would have enjoyed it much either.

Whenever Rovers' prolific goal-poacher Mick Leech stuck one in our net, my uncle would invariably bellow "Get your hair cut, ya bloody Jackeen", before adding discreetly for my benefit "good goal, in fairness".

The day after my confirmation back in 1969, we took the long and - in those days - very windy national route to Dublin to watch Celtic take on Rovers in the FAI Cup Final at a jammers Dalymount.

After a thrilling draw, a ham sandwich and a flask of stewed Barry's, we drove back down in his trusty Vauxhall Viva - a car that knew how to keep going, but never got the knack of going fast. It took forever, with extra time added.

Rovers were like Real Madrid to us back then, and loving to hate them was a sort of rite of passage. But it was our own team, so unlucky not to pull off an unlikely victory that day, we had travelled to see.

It's a memory that makes me smile. Every time.

Football still has the ability to do that. All you need, as the Sultans of Ping so pithily put it, is a ball and a yard of grass.

For all the excesses of the modern game, its hype and hyperbole, greed and excess, diving and narcissism, I am a schoolboy again whenever I am around it.

John Delaney goes before an Oireachtas committee tomorrow. Let's just say that this is a tricky away game, and he's a few goals down before he even slips in the shin pads.

But there is nothing to smile about here. The game that this nation plays more than any other appears, from the terraces at least, to be chaotically run.

All the 12-year-olds who love it, and the schoolboy lingering in all of us, deserve better.

Cauliflower curry makes Lent seem never-ending

Lent is supposed to be 40 days and 40 nights, but I've stopped counting this year. It's clearly endless.

This is not because of any sacrifice I chose to make, but one that was imposed on me.

Deborah has gone vegetarian for Lent as a sort of amateur experiment.

Her thinking is that if she can live without consuming flesh for the time that it took Jesus to find his way out of the desert, she might decide to go professional. That is, forsake meat permanently.

Last night, she whipped up a cauliflower curry. If that sounds gross, you should have smelt it.

And the taste? Don't go there. I didn't. Big Mac, anyone?

Irish Independent

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