All fair in love and war when training's off limits
'Yeah, well I never said it, but in the last six months you've been thriving better than your father's bullocks Kathleen; you fat pig!'
"Says himself, you're fat and bald. Why did I stay with you for so long!?"
It was four o'clock on a bitterly cold New Year's morning. The nightclub had just shut and my mate Tipper was having it out with his girlfriend of four years, Kathleen – after catching her wearing the face off someone else. I was standing between them acting as a referee, while making light work of two battered sausages.
"Leave it Tipper, talk when you're sober. Are you sure you saw her smoochin' him?"
"The bitch was all over him lad, it was like one of them nature programmes . . ."
It was one of the ugliest break-ups I'd seen. The abuse was atrocious. We stood there for a full hour before I said enough was enough and went for two more battered sausages. As I walked out of the takeaway, snow began to trickle down like confetti. The two of them were still at it.
"I was only with you for your father's land anyway you feckin' brazzer!"
At that, I took the initiative and ordered a taxi for the two of us; Tipper had made his mind up.
Three months passed and Tipper and herself still hadn't spoken. Kathleen hadn't been seen at Sunday mass for weeks and the rumour was that she'd burned his clothes and wanted to avoid him at all costs. This was Jeremy Kyle stuff.
Anyway, it was the first of April and the National League was entering its business end. It'd been a while since we'd been released to our clubs and I was craving a bit of the atmosphere and general crack that the club scene brought. Myself and Pádraig, another county panellist from the club, decided to tip down to watch club training that evening for the sneer. In typical fashion we left it as late as possible to go down, so as to avoid being given the arduous task of filling water bottles or laying out cones.
I pulled up outside Pádraig's house and beeped the horn. He opened the front door and shuffled out to the car.
"Well Pádraig lad."
"How's she cuttin' horse. Here, dya see Home and Away there? What about that April. Mother of God!" I laughed and we sped off.
As we neared the pitch we were greeted by a disastrous sight. No floodlights. This meant one of two things. Either we'd got mixed up and there was no training tonight, or the main pitch was unplayable and the boys were across the road on the training field using the portable lights.
Sure enough as we drew closer the dim glow of the portable floodlights came into view. The lads were out on the swamp.
"Ah shite, we're not going out there to get covered in shite are we? I've me new Vans on?"
I looked at Pádraig and began to think.
"Tell you what lad, we'll go into the clubhouse and throw on a cup of tea and wait for the lads to come in. No point going out there and getting flippin' pneumonia is there?"
We parked up and walked into a deserted clubhouse; across the road we could just hear the faint echoes of our team-mates in mid-session effing each other out of it.
We made our tea and strolled into the home dressing room where the gas heater had been left on by the lads for when they came back in from the hell-hole that was the swamp.
I scanned the messy dressing room. There were clothes, shoes and bags everywhere.
"Jesus, they're nice runners. Whose are them?"
"Ah don't start robbin' Pádraig. You wouldn't like it done to you . . ."
Suddenly there was a buzzing behind my right ear. I looked up and realised it was a phone vibrating in someone's trouser pocket. I reached in and fished out a set of keys, a wallet and an iPhone. Tipper's iPhone.
"Whose is that?" Pádraig asked.
My lips curled into a wry smile as my brain whizzed into mischief-mode.
"Lad, it's only feckin' Tipper's!"
Pádraig jumped up.
"Awh text your one Kathleen and call her a skank!"
What an idea. There would be all-out war. Or would there? Would she be smart enough to know it was his phone in someone else's hands?
Then it hit me, an epiphany of biblical magnitude. I proposed my new idea to Pádraig.
". . . ARE . . . YOU . . . FECKING . . . SERIOUS???"
"Ah come on lad, they'll be talking about this for years. We'll land the poor crater right in it. Sure don't you owe him one for the time he stole your pint in Flannery's?"
Pádraig looked at the ground and shook his head nervously. He looked up at me with a frightened look in his eye, but I knew he was ready.
I gunned down the road, dropping gears like there was no tomorrow. There wasn't much time. I looked in the mirror as I flicked on the indicator; nearly there now. A quick peep at my watch, 9 o'clock. Training would just be wrapping up. As we neared our destination I slowed up. There didn't look to be anybody at home – perfect.
I turned into the driveway and stopped the car. A few seconds later another car whizzed in and I watched as Pádraig hopped out, locked the car and ran over to my window.
"Here's the keys, you do it!"
I grabbed them and got out of the car.
"Alright lad, turn my car around there in case we need to get away sharpish."
I grasped the keys tightly and jogged to the front door of the house.
My conscience momentarily got the better of me as I reached the door and held out the keys.
Was I going too far?
I shook my head.
"Be grand . . ."
With that I opened Kathleen's letterbox and slid Tipper's keys through.
"April fool Tipper boy!"
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