The Fielder: Ringcraft essential in dodging expensive blow
The real adventures of an inter-county footballer
What happened on that sticky July evening will remain etched in my memory as long as I walk God's green earth. As the spectators took their seats in the magnificent amphitheatre, I never could've guessed that things would go as pear-shaped as they did.
There was a particularly big crowd that night and each and every man and woman tried their damnedest to get the best view. On a night like that you needed to be in ten minutes before proceedings began to have any chance of getting a seat. The atmosphere was electric. As the clock approached the hour, the ever-swelling crowd broke from a curious mumble into an excited hum. As the officials emerged, angst-fuelled epidemics of palm-rubbing and watch-checking took hold.
"Not long now," said the mouse with his tail on the train track.
In the wings, the stars of the show waited patiently, some growing restless. Heads bobbed up and down; breathing grew heavy; feet began to shift compulsively. Some bellowed loudly, others stayed quiet. Beads of sweat glistened like precious stones on each individual. For some of the newcomers, the occasion was nearly too much. The look of alarm on their faces was only the tip of the iceberg. Inside they were brimming with terror, yearning for a way out. For the more seasoned skins, this was just another day out. They knew the drill by now, as was evident from their calm expressions. As crunch-time grew ever closer, a purposeful buzz echoed loudly from the galleries.
From the tunnel, huge muscular physiques began to explode violently into the floodlit arena. In the crowd, arms shot into the air excitedly. Countless elbows met with dozens of unassuming ribcages as punters jostled for position. Behind me a huge speaker vibrated ferociously, cranked up to such a level that it felt as though a giant invisible hammer was pounding rhythmically against my head. But that came with the territory, I suppose.
"Tyeow tyeow . . . helllowe . . . is it on lads?"
Here we go . . .
"Fine pair Charolais bulls in the ring to start us off tonight, who'll start me off?"
On the podium the auctioneer stood like a priest on his altar. For the next couple of hours he was the man. From deep in the crowd there came a shriek.
Mr Prendergast wasn't waiting around. "Fifty . . ."
"Thousand . . ."
"Eleven . . ."
"Fifty . . ."
"Twelve . . . do I see twelve? Eleven fifty bid, eleven fifty bid, eleven fifty bid for the bulls in the ring . . ." exclaimed the MC. I looked down at my father who was leaning up against the ring, his arms folded across the top of the wall. He'd stayed out of this one. Myself and my brother loved accompanying him to the mart. We'd sit up contentedly in the upper echelons of the galleries and take in as much as we could.
Down below the new owner of a pair of Charolais bulls surrendered his place at the side of the ring and headed smugly towards the office. He was a stranger and received dirty looks. The crowd didn't take kindly to outsiders round these parts.
As the next animal entered the ring, there was a sharp intake of breath. Before the auctioneer opened his mouth, hands shot into the air around the ring. A magnificent beast graced the stage. I'd never seen such a well-built animal. The bull strutted around the ring like a model on the catwalk. His back was as wide and flat as the M50, his legs were like telephone poles and he'd an arse that'd frighten a butcher. He was the epitome of bovine brilliance. A bidding war ensued as desperate efforts were made to try and secure ownership of this masterpiece of beefy brilliance.
"Fifteen hundred and fifty . . . going once . . ."
"That yoke is gonna fetch some price . . ." my brother exclaimed.
I nodded before realising that he was in fact pointing at a colossal gentleman who was awkwardly making his way through the crowd below us, displacing dozens of people with his voluptuous rear end. I quickly pointed towards a lady whose face was a picture of pure and utter shock. She'd just bore the full brunt of the man's wrecking ball-like belly. He was completely unaware that he'd just shifted her from her seat with his stomach alone.
"Sixteen up the back. Any advance on sixteen . . . sixteen hundred bid . . ." What the hell?
Suddenly an eerie silence gripped the room. Dozens of heads turned in our direction. I could see my father shaking his head frantically at us.
"Sixteen for the first time . . ."
The auctioneer had taken my quick hand movement for a bid. By Jesus, I was rightly fecked if nobody stepped in here. "Sixteen for the second time . . ."
Sixteen hundred euro? I hardly had sixteen euro to do me the week! I tried to get the auctioneer's attention but it was no use.
"All done at sixteen? Sold, to the young gentleman in the gallery!"
Around us the punters broke into a low-pitched chorus of speculative mumbling. Who was this youngster who'd waltzed in here with balls like round bales of silage and snatched the best animal in the place from under the noses of the most powerful cattle dealers in the county?
I made a bolt for the office to try and correct the situation. As I ran by one of the men who'd lost out on the beast gave me a warning. "Take a bull off me again and you won't be running after footballs for a while young man . . ."
* * * * *
Phew! That was close. Twenty minutes later, I emerged from the door of the office where my father and brother were waiting anxiously. "Did you get sorted gosson?"
"Yea, everything's taken care of, thank God. They did a deal with the chap I outbid."
"Right, 'mon we go. Your mother has the spuds on . . ."
As we walked out, I felt a finger tap me on the shoulder. I turned around expecting another threat.
"Hey, are you the chap who took that big limousine bull?" asked a cute little redhead with a fantastic set of . . . eyes.
Her cheeky smile was infectious and she blushed as she talked. Good-looking budgies were few and far between in a place like this.
"I am indeed. Ah sure look I buy a couple of hundred here and there. You know yourself."
She exhaled excitedly and grabbed my arm, scribbling her phone number down and ordering me to text her the next time I was coming up.
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