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The Fielder: Grandpa's throwing balls and I'm kicking them back

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

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

SPORTSFILE

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

I set out a little early as the evening moved in,

The trek home for football wouldn't prove such a bore.

I swung by the Mater as the daylight wore thin,

Training could wait, I had some business before.

As I entered the room he sat up in his bed,

My spontaneous arrival brought a smile to his face.

We began to converse and he seemed in good stead,

I could tell that he longed to be out of this place.

Not a fortnight before we'd been rounding up stock,

He was full of curiosity about how they were growing.

"Flying," I said, but that came as no shock . . .

I'd learned from the master and his wisdom was showing.

Talk turned to the upcoming test in Croke Park,

Where I was hopeful of making my county debut.

There was no team named yet, we'd been kept in the dark,

But Grandpa was sure, said I'd flourish there too.

Every player will know of the fair-weather fan,

Who lambastes in defeat but wants in on the win.

Grandad was different, a well-reasoned man,

He preached to 'enjoy', take a loss on the chin.

I chuckled as he frowned at the nurse and her pills,

To him he was fine, no need for the flurry.

But when he coughed loudly it gave me the chills,

Just a chest cold he said, there was no need to worry.

* * * * *

We said our goodbyes and I pulled out the gate,

Trying to focus on training, the long slog ahead.

My mind wandered, seeing Grandpa's good form had been great,

And I reminisced about all our good moments instead.

In '08 our minors finished top of the pile,

The cup came from Croker, to where she belonged.

Seeing his joy made the long nights and hard graft worthwhile,

I looked round for his face as the welcome crowd thronged.

"You must be so proud . . ." declared a polite passer-by,

As Grandpa and I discussed the new prize.

"I've always been proud . . ." was his instant reply,

"Win, lose or draw, he's a champ in my eyes."

He'd ferried me round since I was a tot,

To training and games and blitzes and meetings.

He lived for the football and the satisfaction he got,

When he saw his grandson on the playing field competing.

It's a long time ago but the image is fresh,

We're out in the garden and the sky's turning black.

Still only a pup, barely out of the creche,

Grandpa's throwing me balls and I'm kicking them back.

"C'mon in 'fore the rain . . ." Grandpa points at the door,

But I dig in the heels and protest with a moan.

"Just a while longer?" I ask as the rain starts to pour,

We stay out for an hour and he's soaked to the bone.

To him a man's values meant more than the game,

"Treat others with respect, be a gentleman too . . ."

I could pluck thirteen kick-outs, they'd be cheering my name . . .

But Grandpa would scold me for the elbow I threw.

Farming roared through his veins, a man born to the plough,

His Agri know-how would fill many's a book.

You could run round for an hour trying to bring in the cows,

He'd stand back, let a call, then they'd walk in like ducks.

And he thought me to drive when my sixteenth came round,

Slowly but surely up and down the farm lane.

I was clumsy at first, very slow to make ground,

The poor clutch on his car would never again be the same.

But not once did he flinch, sigh, moan, shriek nor give out,

When constant failure left me full of dismay.

If it took a year he was happy, once there was no doubt,

That I'd be safe, take care and stay out of harm's way.

* * * * *

A phone call the next morning jerked me out of my sleep,

And I pattered downstairs to find mam was there first.

She answered it quietly before starting to weep,

I knew not the caller, but still feared the worst.

As she shared the bad news my heart sank like a rock,

My eyes welled with tears as my mother looked on.

I needed to sit; I was numb with the shock,

My mentor, my hero, my grandpa was gone . . .

At the wake we were mobbed, the house walls nearly burst,

I told them all of my pride and they stood and they listened.

He loved his grandchildren, they always came first,

I spoke well into the night and their glassy eyes glistened.

Oh how I longed to be out there again,

As I tell them the story the room starts to pack.

We're in the back garden, it's foaming with rain,

Grandpa's throwing me balls and I'm kicking them back.

In everyone's life there's one little regret,

For me it's quite simple, a word never spoken.

I simply never said 'thanks' before Grandpa left,

For the help and a bond that will never be broken.

For Pat

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