Billy Keane - The jersey comes first in the battle between husband and county
The feed was banged on top of the table, without so much as a word. The new diet had caused some friction.
The dinner, if you could call it a dinner, was the young lad’s favourite. The county team nutritionist gave his mother the recipe for hummus energy balls and a side of high-fibre fricassee of flaxseed fillet filled full of falafel and bagel.
The father of the county man was in a desperate state. There was a danger his belt might go around him twice.
The father grumbled, under his breath, but not enough as not to be heard. “This is no grub for a farmer. I’m a rabbit everywhere except in the bedroom.”
He downed tools. “I can’t take no more. All I wants is a feed of bacon and cabbage with real spuds and not dem orangey sweet potato wans either, but Aran Banners and Kerr Pinks, dripping with butter.”
The thought of the traditional dinner Pavloved a slow slurry of saliva down the deep crevices of his once jowly jaw.
His missus was not for turning. She was a formidable woman. It was said the young lad got the bit of size from his mother’s people.
The mother stood up to her full six feet and folded her arms by way of showing, through body language, that she was closed to any debate. She then placed a Wellington the size of a tuba on the chair next to where her husband was sitting, next to the untouched starter of couscous in a lemon drizzle.
The wife finally broke her silence. “Are you not proud to see your fine, strong, well fed-son on the county team? Don’t you know he’s on the county man’s diet. It’s all scientifically proven. The Dubs are on a protein shake made from camel’s colostrum specially brought in from Morocco, and Cork are feasting on a plague of Saharan protein locusts.”
“But,” said the fallin’-away-to-nottin’ father. “We are in Division 7B and we have no chance of winning the All-Ireland even if we feed them up with every superfood known to man. Our forwards wouldn’t score in Lisdoonvarna and we didn’t win a championship game since De Valera died.”
The father was in full flow now.
“And how is it all the greats of long ago like Bernard Brogan Senior and Paddy Bawn Brosnan ate mate and spuds every day? Now woman, have the grace of God about you and bring me a mug of tae to take the taste of mulch out of my mouth.”
There was no drawing back and the mother of the county man planted her elbows square to her husband’s face on the kitchen table.
Then she breaks the final link with tradition. It was worse than Brexit.
“There’s no tae today. Not a drop. Your son was told by the manager, he’d be no use without the ginger, apple and rhubarb smoothies. Sure isn’t there aten and drinkin’ in them? No more tae and that’s the last word”
“No tae?” says the father. “Ah woman,” he shouts out and jumps up from the table. “Tis the end of civilization.”
And countered the wife. “His sports psychologist will be here at three for a visualisation session. Have a hundred ready.”
The father is demented now. “Visualisation is it? Visualisation? Will you stop woman? The only visualisation we had in our day was when we had impure thoughts about young wans in short dresses.”
By now the county man had become “your son”.
“Your son didn’t milk a cow since he was called in to the panel three years ago. With his naps, apps and abs, he’s never here. I’m a slave and he’s above in the bed snoring in the middle of the day and him not even having a hangover.”
In comes the physio, another 70 euro, followed by the strength and conditioning coach, the chiropodist and the massage therapist. More dosh. It costs more to train a county man than a racehorse.
His wife relents ever so slightly when the money is paid over. “I’ll do you a treat for the supper,” she promises.
“Is it a big fry-up? With lashings of chips?” asks her husband, as his empty tummy gurgles a succession of harrowing burps and endless banshee windies.
“No,” she says. “The fry-up might only tempt our son to go off the rails. I’m doing chia seed brownies to give him an energy boost before training, and before I forget, will you put a drop of diesel in the car for him. Our county has no money for expenses. And we must buy Maca powder. It is the food of The Gods , the food of the ancient Inca.”
The husband stands and has one up on her, at last. “Sure woman, isn’t it a well-known fact the Incas were killed off by the flu and the Spaniards? One sneeze and they were gonners.”
They argue about the Maca powder, the demise of the Inca and he punches pilates in to the ground. The battle rages. There’s no giving in. “I’m leaving,” he says.
“There’s the door,” says she. The jersey comes first in the battle between husband and county.
Bluff called, the county man’s father tucks into a feast of shoots and leaves but he stays put. Half the farm saved, but at what price? And they say the players make sacrifices.