Saturday 16 December 2017

Change of time provides welcome change for the bettor

The Fielder - The Real Adventures of an Inter-County Footballer

The opposition's star man plucked the throw-in, soloed the length of the pitch and lifted the net out of it
The opposition's star man plucked the throw-in, soloed the length of the pitch and lifted the net out of it

I’ll always remember where I was when I heard about the Sky Sports/GAA partnership, which some may think is strange. Usually this applies to moments of huge historical significance like 9/11, Roy Keane doing a runner from Saipan or the Simpsons episode where Maggie shot Mr Burns.

I recall the news buzzing through our kitchen radio while I was receiving a talking-to for getting sick in the kitchen sink the night before. I’d hobbled in from a night out and hadn’t made the toilet in time. My failure to then clean it up made matters worse. I can remember cracking a smile as the words Sky TV’ reverberated around the room. It rekindled a treasured memory of mine.

“Oh, you think this is fecking funny now do you gosson?”

Is the Sky coverage really that big of a deal, I hear you ask?

Fear not, you’ll soon understand the reason behind my smirk . . .

“Well chap, what’re you having? How’s the hammy?” I asked as Plough sat down on the stool to my left.

“Ah not too bad brother, nothing a creamy pint of stout won’t heal,” he replied, carefully throwing his injured limb across a stool.

It was a warm afternoon in late summer. We had been knocked out of the qualifiers the week before with the county and I was back on club duty. The night before we had earned a point in the club championship against an ultra-defensive team. There was a clutch of tired bodies with sore heads scattered across the parish that day and myself and the Plough were the first ones to rouse ourselves from under the duvet and make it into the local for the cure.

“What’ll it be lads?” Geriatric Gerry wheezed timidly from behind the counter. “Two stout please and can you grab me a caramel Dairy Milk from the shop please?” I said, adding substantial volume to my voice. Poor oul Gerry was getting on a bit. The man was well into his 80s and his hands shook like a new-born lamb. He had the memory of a goldfish with Alzheimers. A lot of the time he didn’t know whether he was coming or going.

“Whaaat?” he groaned, cupping his hand around his ear.

“Two stout and a caramel Dairy Milk please Ger,” I shouted.

Though his failings were obvious, a lifetime of experience meant Gerry pulled an incredible pint of stout. He put two on and pattered next door for my chocolate. I loved that our local shop merged with the local pub. There was nothing like dipping your taytos into a pint . . . try it, trust me.

“Alright boys?” a confident voice howled from the doorway. It was Plough’s brother, a man who was always thirsty.

“Good man Harrow,” I exclaimed, clapping his shoulder as he took a seat beside me.

At that moment Gerry hobbled in from the shop and Plough began to snigger. He was holding four cartons of milk, a bag of carrots and a tub of hair gel.

After trying in vain to explain my request to poor old Gerry I eventually went in myself and fished out the object of my desire, replacing Gerry’s armful in the process. I sat between Harrow and Plough and we peered up at the telly.

“Here, this is shite!” said Harrow, referring to the golf tournament that was showing.

“Hi Gerry, throw out the Shky remote there will ya,” he shouted.

Gerry eventually obliged, after handing him the cordless phone and a calculator.

Harrow began to flick through the channels rapidly. The few souls in the bar chuckled as he slowed down going through the late-night’ section.

“Turn off them blue channels you little bollox or I’ll have that zapper back,” Gerry threatened.

Suddenly Harrow’s eyes widened and he looked down at the floor momentarily, like a chap who was concentrating with all his might. His lips curled into a smile that, I must admit, gave me the jitters.

“Here you, ask that geriatric bastard for something in the shop,” he instructed his brother.

“What do you mean?” Plough responded.

“I mean ask him to get you something from the shop, you numpty!”

Ah, brotherly love. Plough hopped down from his stool and dragged his ailing leg over to the counter.

“Hey Gerry, give me a wibbly-wobbly-wonder and a vodka Red Bull will you?”

Gerry staggered next door, not before having to hear Plough’s audacious order three or four times. The instant he was through the doorway Harrow leapt off his stool and made a bolt towards the television.

“Jesus go handy,” I shrieked, as my pint wobbled from the shockwave of his sudden upsurge.

Beside the television hung a plastic clock that Harrow was now trying to fish down from the wall. Eventually, on the fifth attempt he sprung high enough and pulled it down.

After ten seconds or so of fiddling, he re-mounted the timepiece; just as Gerry emerged behind the counter with a small bag of potatoes and some women’s panty-liners.

As the Plough negotiated with Gerry I examined the clock face. Harrow had wound it back by one hour.

Before I could question his logic I received a sharp elbow in the ribs and a wink.

“Watch this lad,” he whispered, flicking the station yet again.

Harrow traipsed over to the bar and pulled out a crisp, blue banknote.

“Gerry, will you hold a bet for me, I can’t get the bookie on the phone?” he asked with an uncharacteristic politeness.

It was commonplace for our local to take bets from punters, especially when it was quiet. Gerry nodded and snatched the note from his hand.

“What do you want it on gosson?”

“Gimme the score on the number 2 horse in the next. See it up on the screen there?” he declared, pointing towards the television.

Gerry nodded and scribbled out a makeshift slip for Harrow who proceeded to wedge himself between us and folded his arms contently.

“What the feck has you so happy. What’s going on?” Plough asked.

“Oh nothing, I fancy this yoke in the next that’s all!”


“Because this is Channel 4 plus-one we have on and he won an hour ago. Say nothing!” he uttered, clasping his slip tightly.

Ah the wonders of television.

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