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Gate prices force the lads to drive a hard bargain

'Can we get some more toast over here please?' I mumbled as I munched on a forkful of white pudding. "Slow down lad, that Ned Kelly of yours isn't getting any smaller." "Ah will ya stop, sure what's winter training for?"

It was a Sunday morning in August. We'd played club championship the day before and were having our traditional morning-after fry in the local café. It was the essential hangover cure and also gave us the chance to share tales of divilment from the night before.

"Did you see the yoke Willy brought home? Don't know how he got her into the taxi." "It was one of the Clancys I think; she's some heifer alright. Anyone see the lovely right-hook I hit the bomber Staunton outside Supermacs?"

Twenty minutes later, we piled into my car. The bellies were full and the heads felt a bit better. Next stop was a pitch about 20 minutes down the road to support the junior team. They needed the win to have any realistic chance of qualifying.

"Go easy there lad will you, I'd one tequila too many last night. My stomach is like a diet feeder on full revs."

As we neared the pitch I glanced around the car at the lads. They'd all nodded off. I flicked on the CD player, turned up the volume and pressed play.

"Don't you want me baaaaby."

"Jesus, what's going on?"

"Whaa, what's happening?"

I laughed as the three of them nearly leapt from their seats.

"Get the funds together lads. Ye can pay for me, I drove. Only fair . . ."

After some rather awkward rummaging there was a deathly silence.

"I'm skint lad . . ."

"Yea me to . . ."

"Same here, I drank it all last night. What've you?"

I'd spent my last few bob on the breakfast. "Uh oh, I've nothing either. These whoers will hardly let us in for free will they?"

"Not a chance lad, sure didn't they put new floodlights up at the start of the year. Dad reckons their chairman is fond of gambling too."

"Shite, check between the seats there."

We were less than a kilometre from the pitch at this point and the situation looked bleak.

"We're fucked, sure you may turn around. The place will be like Fort Knox. We haven't a hope of getting in."

"Be alright, wait and see."

The lads shook their heads as we drew closer to the venue.

I turned up the driveway into the club grounds. My palms were sweaty and my mouth was dry. My heart pumped like a thousand drums. I gripped the steering wheel, took a deep breath and continued forward. Up ahead there was one car stopped at the entrance which was manned by two old-looking bearded men; one on each side. I looked on as the car pulled on ahead into the car park.

"What are we going to do lad?"

I ignored the question and continued on slowly along the drive. Up ahead, one of the gate-collectors stepped into the middle of the road and put his hand out to stop me. I bit my bottom lip and squeezed the throttle a bit more. He began to wave his hand up and down slowly, he was chatting to his companion, oblivious to the fact that I wasn't slowing down.

"Slow down lad, you'll take the arse off him if you're not careful." Again, I ignored them, I gritted my teeth, dropped her into third and pressed the accelerator some more.

"What the hell are you at?"

By now the gate collector had noticed that I wasn't going any slower and was subsequently waving both arms up and down and uttering countless profanities in my direction.

"Jesus Christ man, go easy." My passenger closed his eyes and put his hands over his face, he couldn't watch.

The expression on the gate-man's faced turned from one of anger to one of sheer terror as he leapt out of the way of the car. I breathed a sigh of relief, for a second I thought he'd be too thick to jump. The lads on the other hand, were shell-shocked.

"Did you hit him?"

"You mad bastard."

I calmly parked the car and we hopped out as if nothing had happened. A small crowd had formed at the gate and some of them were pointing in our direction. "Right lads, disappear into the crowd and it'll be grand."

Our juniors were being eaten alive and found themselves 10 points down in as many minutes. More worryingly from our point of view, the stewards were drawing closer and closer as they scoured the crowd in their search for us.

"We're up shit creek lad, what'll we do?"

Suddenly I felt a firm grip on my shoulder.

"There you are you little . . ."

"Leg it lads!" I lashed out with a karate chop onto my captor's arm and broke his grip. I'm not in the habit of assaulting OAPs but desperate times called for desperate measures. We barged our way out of the crowd and after some O'Driscoll-like footwork to avoid a steward at the entrance to the carpark the four of us piled into the car. The smell of burning rubber swept across the tarmac as we screeched down the road.

"Some crack!" I shouted as I glanced at the lads; all of them hunched over, panting like dogs.

"It's not over yet, look."

Sure enough the stubborn stewards were giving chase in a battered old Toyota Corolla.

The adrenaline was coursing through my veins.

My foot didn't leave the floor as we snaked wildly across the countryside; but still the little Toyota was stuck to my backside.

"You're not losing them horse."

I smiled as I saw a familiar signpost out of the corner of my eye. We were speeding towards a junction. "Hold on lads, we'll lose the bollox here."

As we neared the turn-off I jerked the wheel to my right at the very last second and the car lurched down the side road. The little Toyota couldn't respond in time and the lads clapped and cheered as it skidded by the junction in an effort to stop. We'd beaten him. I continued driving like a madman until we hit the main road, just for peace of mind. On arriving back in the parish I parked outside the shop and we strolled in, still laughing and joking about the morning's events.

"Well lads, how did the Juniors get on?" It was Francie, the village shopkeeper. "Ah they were terrible Francie, sure it wasn't worth paying in for at all."

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