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Saturday 18 November 2017

Training gives way to a match made in heaven

Most counties these days are on a par with Premier League teams in their preparation. The endless hours of training can be horrific; particularly early in the year for the lads who enjoyed Christmas that bit too much.

Farmers, too, find this part of the year particularly hard. Once February hits it's time to start calving (or lambing if you're into that sort of thing) and statistics show that most cows begin to calve exactly ten minutes before you have to leave for training . . . the bastards.

It's still a mystery how the national leagues can be run during such an important period. Who put the Townies in charge? Never mind burnout; train away during the winter and give us two months off during calving season. Give me a pulled hamstring over a dead calf any day.

Once the league is over, talk will start about where we're heading for our training camp. The dressing room will be like an episode of Fair City there'll be that many rumours flying.

"I heard Magaluf?"

"Don't be silly, we're heading to Barcelona."

"Nah man, it's Rome. The Pope invited us. We're playing a friendly in the Coliseum."

Then came the announcement; "Lads, we're heading down to Kerry for a few days at the end of next week for a training camp so make arrangements."

A bit of a let-down; we were still looking forward to getting away for a few days, even if it was in the middle of silage season. The father wasn't happy and even though I'm in my 20s, Mam still cries whenever I head off for a few nights.

"Here, don't forget your sun-cream and take your vitamins," she sobbed as she filled my gear bag.

"I'm not joining the army Ma. I'll be back in a few days."

Dad was still annoyed about me missing the silage being cut.

"Can you not tell him you'll go down on a bus on Sunday?"

"No Dad, it's too important."

He reluctantly slipped me a €20 note as Mam soaked me with holy water.

In Kerry, we assembled in the foyer of the hotel waiting to be assigned our rooms; a tense atmosphere set in.

There were some lads no one wanted to be with. The older players would be in bed at 10.0, no crack at all there. The really young players wouldn't sleep at all with the excitement of being away from home for the first time and would bounce around their rooms like monkeys in heat. No thanks. There were a few smelly lads that everyone wanted to avoid. The jury was out on the quiet lads, you'd get plenty of peace but things could get a bit weird; hard to know what to expect. The Townies would spend a good chunk of the night in the hotel car park pulling doughnuts in their cars so they were obviously a decent option, a bit of banter. Things would change though when they returned to their room and had to ring their 'birds'.

"Miss yew babes."

I was put in with Philly, not the worst roommate. He was a grand lad, from the sticks like myself. But to say he was a bit of a ladies' man was an understatement. As we headed up stairs we heard some commotion in the foyer and ran to the landing for a look.

"Is there a row? H'mon we go batter a few lads." Philly exclaimed. It was a wedding, and a huge one at that. We scanned the crowed as they filled the reception area.

"Jaysus the bride is a fine door-full of woman."

"Never mind her, look at that bridesmaid," Philly winked. "Bags the double bed."

I was worried.

We trained that evening at a pitch down the road and returned to the hotel for a swim. We were given the evening off and the option of a round of golf on the hotel's course was available.

Myself and the Townies decided we'd head out and dig up the course, while some lads stayed in the pool and some elected to chill in their rooms.

We lost interest by the fourth hole. I found myself admiring the field of cattle which ran adjacent to the golf course while the Townies used up all our golf balls trying to hit them. We were tired from training, it was late and we said we'd head back.

The reception area was full of wedding guests. The party was in full swing. The couches littered with those embarrassing uncles and aunties who'd had one glass of wine too many and were sleeping it off. My phone vibrated, it was a message from Philly, 'Well horse ya wudnt b a legend & sleep in da boys room 2nite'

I showed the lads and explained how he'd taken a fancy to one of the bridesmaids. We headed to their room and I set up the camp-bed for myself.

The next morning we were standing in reception waiting to board the bus for our morning session. I looked nervously at the Townies.

"Where's Philly?"

The manager wasn't happy. We didn't dare say anything to let the calf out of the bag. It was 9.30 at this stage.

"He said something about feeling sick," I piped up.

"Well he said nothing to me," the manager said angrily.

"I'm here. Hold on."

Philly was running down the stairs in his socks with his training top on backwards. Boots under his arm and bags under his eyes, he was a mess.

"Sorry boss, I slept in."

"Right, hurry up lads, on the bus quick."

Then another figure appeared on the stairs.

"Phillip, Phillip. Wait."

It was the bridesmaid. Her hair was all over the shop and she was wearing one of our training tops and her high-heels. She froze at the top of the stairs, lads looking up in disbelief. There was a moment of silence, then the whole place erupted with laughter.

"QUIET!" the manager shouted. The whole place went silent. He turned to Philly, he was done for. The vein in his forehead was throbbing; he was not a happy camper.

Then, unbelievably, his expression changed and he broke into a wry smile.

"Well Philly, I hope you can leave the opposition in the state you left her."

The Fielder is not a fictional character. He currently plays for his county and club. For more, follow him on Twitter @TheFielder2

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