The Fielder: Shooting the lights out takes on a whole new meaning
The real adventures of an inter-county footballer
Our club had always been looking for new, innovative ways to raise funds, but this was a bit much.
As I stood backstage waiting to go on, the butterflies started. Playing ball in front of tens of thousands felt like a doddle compared to this. I couldn't have been further outside my comfort zone. I whipped out my phone, checked that no one was looking and used the camera to make sure I was presentable. Then I heard it. A comrade before me had fallen.
'AAAAAAll byyyyy myseeeeelllllf . . . Don't wanna be, aaaaaaaall byyyyyy myseeeeeellllf . . .'
"Tough crowd lad. Best of luck!" he said, patting me on the shoulder as he walked by.
Jesus, that was Ultan Ryan, one of the finest lookin' lads in the county and even he couldn't get a date. I was like a lamb going to the slaughter.
"Alright Ladies, our next man is about to come on stage . . ."
Hail Mary, full of grace . . .
" . . . He's a big name on the football scene around these parts and needs no introduction. Remember, no likey, no lighty! Let's give it up for . . ."
It was 'Take Me Out' time.
As they announced my name, the stage hand gestured for me to proceed. Then my pre-chosen music kicked in; as did the pangs of regret. 'Whooo let the dogs out? Who! Who! Who! Who!'
I cursed the smoke machines as I clambered up the steps and onto the stage, running my hand along the wall for guidance. I was greeted by rapturous applause. Through squinted eyes I assessed the scene. The parish hall was packed to the rafters, with people standing on chairs at the back just to get a look. Having it after Saturday evening Mass had been a stroke of genius. To my left the 30 girls did not look happy, I was in for it. The host shook my hand and I introduced myself nervously.
Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew!
Six lights down, though on second glance, three of them were my first cousins.
"Sheila, you switched off your light. Why?" the host asked.
"What the feck is he at with that song like? Tryin' to be funny man?" a disgruntled Sheila answered.
I looked at the ground and tried not to giggle as the host moved on to the next unhappy girl.
"Cara, we lost you too. Any reason in particular?"
"Yea, he's an absolute ball bag so he is!"
"Ah Cara, that was three years ago. Will you ever build a bridge," I shouted across the stage. Me and Cara went way back . . . the bitch.
An awkward silence descended on proceedings and the crowd started to mumble.
"Okaaaaaaay, let's move quickly on to round two!" the host exclaimed quickly in a desperate effort to lift the mood.
"Arrrrre youuuu ready? Your time starts . . . now," the host shouted.
Immediately the crowd began to chant.
A few days before the event, myself and some of the lads had sat down and had a chat about what I would do to impress the girls in my 30-second window.
Play the spoons? Sing? Do the robot? Keepy Uppys? One of the lads had even suggested that we let a bull calf loose and have me catch him; I was the best in the parish at that. But after careful deliberation we agreed that there was one thing I could do that was sure to get the crowd going and hopefully distract the women for long enough that they would forget to turn off their lights.
I grabbed the first pint and cocked my head back.
Chug, chug, chug. The crowd loved it. I could feel the overspill splashing against my chest and by the time the first pint was gone my good check shirt was doused in beer. I could picture the mother in the crowd giving out about the stains already. After a deep breath and went for number two.
Number two didn't go as smoothly. A badly-timed breath after two gulps had sent the golden ale the wrong way, causing a ferocious cough and creating a little lake at my feet. But hey, it was half a pint less for me to worry about. From the crowd, the obligatory slandering began to ring out.
"You wouldn't drink water gosson!"
I needed to win them back. Taking a final breath, I curled my fingers around the third and final icy glass and thrust it upwards.
I gulped desperately. More beer was ending up on the floor than in my mouth. I could feel it sloshing about horribly in my stomach.
I was nearly there; my shirt and jeans utterly saturated. If I did get a date I would have to change first.
I slammed the glass down on the table and wiped my mouth just as the buzzer went off. The place went mental. I held my arms in the air triumphantly before turning towards the girls who were equally impressed. I couldn't believe it – no lights gone!
My enthusiasm was short-lived. For my final round, the lads had made a short video that was supposed to 'sell' me. They'd assured me that it was all clean and positive stuff that was sure to get me a date. I cursed myself for being so gullible as the hall filled with the shrill echoes of rejection. The bastards cut me to pieces.
Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew!
" . . . There's nothing more our mate loves doing than heading up to the pitch and laughing at the ladies' training sessions . . ."
Not the line I would've chosen considering the ladies team accounted for the majority of the contestants. I could only watch through my fingers as the carnage ensued. The crowd were silent, utterly disgusted. ". . . he puts the STD in stud . . ."
Pew! Pew! Pew!
I afforded a glance at the women. Two left, both factory ready; the sort that wouldn't go well on soft ground. Jesus lads, I wasn't gonna go home with one of these was I? Come on don't let me down!
" . . . he likes to see things from a woman's point of view . . . the kitchen window . . ."
Come on, hit the button . . .
As I descended from the stage to that familiar chorus and the boos of the female proportion of the crowd, the host whispered into my ear.
"Hard luck buddy!"
I looked him in the eye and shook my head.
"What're you on about? I would've had to get the trailer down for those last two. Happy days!"
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