Joe Brolly: Choose life. Choose to be given a choice. Choose club
On the occasion of the release of the Trainspotting sequel. With gratitude to author Irvine Welsh and his original masterpiece . . .
Choose a life. Choose the GAA industry. Choose development squads. Choose training six days a week, slowly losing your mind. Choose early-morning weights. Choose brain-numbing training weekends away.
Choose the GPA. Choose sponsors and stakeholders and a GPA tracksuit. Choose mindfulness and wellness.
Choose pressure, constant daily pressure. Choose self-obsession. Choose exhaustion. Choose thinking like a machine. Choose not thinking at all. Choose overuse injuries and long, painful recoveries. Choose sports psychologists who tell you there's no 'I in team'. Choose gobbledygook. Choose unleashing the potential within and visualising the parameters of success.
Choose no club games. Choose strength and conditioning and vests with computer chips in them that send your sleep patterns to strangers. Choose nutritional diaries. Choose spirit-crushing training and game plans. Choose Saturday morning fitness tests. Choose being instructed never to shoot. Choose ice baths. Choose player contracts. Choose being treated like a fucking child.
Choose the blanket defence. Choose endlessly sitting in meeting rooms watching sports psychologists write acronyms on a whiteboard: ATTITUDE, MOTIVATION, FEARLESS . . . as your brain turns to mush.
Choose no social life. Choose sitting at home when your mates are going out. Choose PlayStation. Choose Grand Theft Auto. Choose Netflix, even when you've watched them all already. Choose abstinence from everything. Choose punishments for breaching drink bans or missing Pilates. Choose heavy training away from the group at the other end of the field.
Choose nutritionists. Choose turning meal times into a medical procedure. Choose studying the calories and fat content of everything. Choose gluten-free noodles and oats. Choose weighing yourself twice a day. Choose pomegranate seeds and protein shakes on a Friday night when your mates are eating pizza and going on the beer. Choose boredom. Choose iPods and earphones. Choose wearing a tracksuit seven days a week. Choose ordering every new pair of adidas made then tweeting it for a few quid. Choose jealousy because the Dubs got sponsored cars.
Choose living in a bubble. Choose insecurity. Choose being a brand ambassador instead of a proper career, because there's no fucking time left.
Choose handpassing backwards. Choose safety. Choose fear. Choose standing alone at full-forward waiting for a kick-pass that will never come. Choose dwindling crowds. Choose an elite super-eight competition that doesn't apply to you and never will. Choose watching Dublin and Kerry win in September from now until you die. Choose no club football. Choose Paraic Duffy's proposal.
Choose wondering where it all went wrong instead of doing anything about it. Choose a year-long season. Choose boring, boring games. Choose spending your free time before bed watching video clips of your possessions from Tuesday's training game. Choose having your life controlled. Choose media training. Choose clichés ("Leitrim are a great team, they're not coming up here to make up the numbers" and "There's no I in team Marty, I was just happy the ball went over but it's the 30 men in this squad who deserved the credit for that").
Choose Phil Coulter. Choose 14 men behind the ball. Choose America in the summer because your club has no games. In the end, choose soccer. Or give up altogether in your early 20s. But why would you want to do a thing like that?
Choose something good. Choose participation. Choose Leitrim and Carlow and Antrim. Choose the club. Choose passion. Choose community. Choose expressing yourself. Choose fearlessness. Choose the Irish language. Choose helping your neighbour. Choose sing-songs on the bus. Choose Amhrán na Bhfiann. Choose a senior and reserve double, in hurling and football. Choose football. Choose a proper club season. Choose a beer after matches. Choose fist fights to put manners on skitters from Tyrone when they throw their weight about at friendlies in The Loup.
Choose faith in yourself and your team-mates. Choose the folklore of the parish. Choose love of place and people. Choose helping out with the underage teams and washing dishes in the club and selling tickets. Choose making sure none of your neighbours are going hungry. Choose not giving a damn that Diarmuid Connolly is the greatest footballer in the country. Choose not giving a damn that you're facing a multi-national superclub in an All-Ireland semi-final. Choose going for it to the bitter end. Choose loyalty. Choose adventure. Choose passion - the real sort, not the sort that comes out of a performance guru's manual. Choose life. Choose Slaughtneil.
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