Billy Keane: Last of the Lads reveal dangerous side effects of overdoing the socialising
Most of The Lads from The Team are either dead, punch drunk or too old to hack it.
The survivors have been sworn off for life by the AA, and that's not the AA who fix the broken-down cars. The rest have been tamed by Herself who could quieten starving lions with no more than a cross look.
The Lads will be coming back from being off the drink now after the November abstinence. Just in time for the apres-match binges at the local championships.
The Lads' motto is binge-drinking is grand in moderation.
The Lads were out walking every evening in November, trying to lose the bit of weight off the belly and sparing up for the Christmas semi and finals. They were slow enough on the first couple of weeks of the month of the Holy Souls. Slow as Shetlands pulling coal up Kilimanjaro on a roasting hot day.
The Lads sweated out pure alcohol and at times it looked as if they were walking while standing still, like they were travelling on one of those electric pathways in the airport.
The turning of a corner twists the bad back, hurt in the final all those years ago, or was it from a fight later that night after too much drink.
"What a night we had. Drank poitin out of the cup and sure didn't Bandy even get sick in it."
And as he walks he thinks, wondering why Herself isn't as carried away with him as she was on the summer's night in the back of the Fiesta when we won the League for the first time in 27 years.
Those first few November nights were the worst. Dreams so real he would have been only too delighted to wake up dead. There was the nightmare of the missing of a penalty in the last minute, over and over again.
Then in the morning there was the awful depression with the wide-awake dreams of what might have been. The Lads said he was good enough for the county, but he "overdid the socialising". The void that had been filled with drink was home to dozens of flitting butterflies with razor blades for wings.
By week three or four, the hands were swinging. He was passing out slow walkers as if they were lapped runners in a long-distance Olympic final. And for the first time since this time last year he could see his penis without the aid of a mirror.
No sweats. No fears. No frontiers. He's ready now for the first of the four binging Sundays between here and Christmas. Sure, it's part of our heritage, he'll say, going back to the evening the team trainer handed him a bottle of beer after the win over the North of The Village when he was only 16.
He'll start off slow enough, a couple of sociables with the lads after the semi, but as the days go by his intake will increase. Drink is a stealth thief. It sneaks up on you and takes you out of the game.
The Lads hardly ever drank mid-week back in the day when they played but man did we make up for it after the games. These are big, brave men as they face out this evening, with a shine off them from the feeding, the power-walking and the abstinence. The pint is an egg cup in their shovels of hands. Their first sip is a half- pint and a gulp in the full glass...
I was reared over a pub and now I run one. I have seen the best and worst of drinkers and I have come to the conclusion that the only type of drinking that is of any use to a publican or society is that of the moderate variety where the focus is on the company, the talk of the match, the singing and the taste.
Our young players must not only be taught how to play football, they must be coached how to drink and warned of the dangers. Inter-county players are most at risk.
There are the months of training and then the stars have to pack a whole summer's celebrating in to three or four nights. No wonder so many get into trouble on their nights off.
The problems occur in all team sports where groups of young men are on a night out after a period of abstinence. Something has to blow.
The seeds for future harm are sown early on. We can only give you a brief outline here of what is a serious, generational issue.
There is a great need for a proper study, not just for the GAA, but in all team sports.