Monday 23 October 2017

The first, and last, time I went for the top job

Eanna Martin. Photo: Sportsfile
Eanna Martin. Photo: Sportsfile

MISSED training the other night. Feel bad. I didn't even text 'Goose'. Texted 'Gaz', the selector.

It was a genuine reason though, but still, felt sort of guilty for about two minutes, a strange feeling I must say.

I considered going out to the garage to hammer the boxing bag the wife bought me for Christmas two, or maybe three, years ago and maybe do a bit of skipping, but when I got home there was a major league chunk of bread and butter pudding waiting for me after the dinner so that idea was quickly scuppered.

The boxing bag is hanging above the mountain bike, also bought by the wife for a Christmas present.

Both items get about as much physical exercise as myself. The bag gets disturbed when I am foraging for firewood and the bike is moved once a week every summer as I bring out the lawn mower to cut our own personal prairie around the house.

They're great presents but they're not being utilised to their full potential at the moment.

Handed in the transfer form to the County Board office the other day. It was quite a moment. As close to epic as I get these days. Ok, there mightn't have been any reporters outside waiting for me to arrive, my home club didn't put on a helicopter to get me to the office, there was no medical exam to see if my body will survive the physical battles of the year ahead, but still, it felt important, even though the world continued around us as if nothing of any importance was happening.

A quick check by the county Secretary was all it took. He scanned the page making sure the signatures of the relevant parties were in place. He nodded approvingly. I asked if my 'Reason for Transfer' answer was sufficient. He said it was. I had written 'I'm going home'. It felt dramatic and romantic. I don't think he considered it as such. To him this was merely another piece of paper to file, another stamp to issue, another moment out of his busy life conducting the affairs of an entire county.

I watched him as he scanned the document and I got to thinking about the people who fill the executives of counties and clubs all over this country and how important they are to the organisation and how much flak they have to take at different times.

I couldn't imagine being a county Secretary or a Chairman or anything else for that matter, just the same as I couldn't imagine being a referee.

No matter what happens or what you do in those roles you're still going to be the bad guy to the majority of people or at least that's how it seems to me.

The county get beaten in the championship, what do you hear? - 'County Board should resign'; 'Get rid of that County Board'; 'What would them (sic) lads know?'; 'We need a complete change of furniture'.

A stag party can't be accommodated in the fixture list, what do you hear? - 'Them (sic) shower, they're not worth a curse'; 'They'd change it for the bigger clubs though, no wonder the county doesn't win anything'; 'Damn them, damn them to hell!' (I only added the last one for effect; it's probably a little bit melodramatic).

But I always wonder what would happen if those in the positions did up and resign or retire? Would there be many people willing to take on the responsibilities in their place? Is there the passion out there in the majority of Gaels to endure the meetings, come up with fixture lists and try to make them work, try to better the county as a whole, attend countless matches, present countless cups, pose for countless photos. I seriously doubt it. Not if I'm in any way representative of the average person.

I was Chairman of the club at home once. It was the longest year of my life. The U.S. should consider using G.A.A. executive positions as methods of torture I think. For the senior level criminal they could throw them in as Treasurer or the Secretary. That would take the terrorist tendencies off them fairly quick.

I bought into it with a savage zeal though. I was just back from Australia and I was ready to take on the world.

It's amazing how your view of the world at home can change when you're away. In Australia, Ireland seemed to me to be a wonderful place, welcoming, wholesome and all the rest.

You think that when you get home you'll be embraced in the street; you imagine old school friends will be only too eager to listen to your countless tales of camping in the outback or of drinking with fellow Paddies in Sydney.

The reality is quite different though. Irish people don't really care for that malarkey. Instead of the massive welcome home from the community what you really get are eyes raised to the heavens. 'Oh no, he's back.' Or 'bugger, the snakes didn't get him'. Or 'damn them Australians, damn them to hell' (again, I only added the last for effect, although knowing my community as I do that may well have been the chant at the local church when news of my return was announced from the pulpit).

To make matters worse my nomination as Chairman was part of a coup. This was possibly the most outrageous event in the local area since the Famine. Phone calls were made in the run up to the A.G.M.

'We need a change,' said the hoarse voice on the phone in the dead of night (I think there was a 'flu going around or something at the time).

He could have meant a change of toothbrush for all I knew. I just wanted to get involved. I wanted power. I was a whore for power.

'Forget your P.R.O. position,' I yelled down the phone. 'Forget your Secretary spot. I want the Chair!,' I bellowed (only joking).

It came down to a vote. I won, unfortunately. Sometimes, in the dead of night I wake up sweating, possibly with guilt, but it could be a malfunctioning home heating system; I really need to check that out.

But sometimes I wake up sweating. A savage urge to drive to the home of the ousted one comes over me. I want to ring his doorbell and fall at his feet and sob, 'I'm sorry, I didn't understand the true awfulness of the job of Chairman, I didn't really want it at all. I didn't understand the horror of the weekly lotto draw, calling numbers to an empty pub, living in fear that someone would notice that the number 11 was broken and wouldn't fit up the chute. Please forgive me'.

But I don't ever do that. His house is 20-odd miles away and I hear he has a gun. And anyway, what would he say? Would he embrace me, hold me like a brother, tell me it's all ok, it's in the past, he's moved on.

Probably not. He'd be more likely to calmly place the barrel of his gun under my flaming nostrils and say in a hoarse voice (another 'flu going around), 'damn you, damn you to hell!!'

New Ross Standard