Saturday 18 November 2017

I put my back into it . . . and paid the price

A few years back a high-profile athlete got into bother for allegedly diluting a urine sample with a little drop of whiskey. It wouldn't be my favourite tipple.

Today's article is written under the influence of drugs. It could well be mandatory testing will now be brought in for hacks.

So far as I know, professional rugby players have to give a urine sample several times a week to their clubs to check if they are properly hydrated or are suffering from any illnesses.

Nowadays, players nearly need a prescription from the doctor before they go off drinking.

Premier League players get 'locked' on wine gums. There's hardly a weekend goes by that one of them doesn't wrap a Maserati round a lamp post.

It wasn't uncommon when I was playing for my team-mates to take a few pints before a match to get the dander up in much the same way as Nelson's sailors were given rum for courage before great sea battles.

There used to be a time when teams were brought off to the Canaries for 'winter training,' but in the early years, it was really an excuse for a massive booze-up.

Nowadays it's all bleep tests and running with Sat Navs attached to make sure you're not cutting corners during the 23 laps of the pitch warm-up. Football coaches are gone too strict.

I went on the dope last Saturday night. I was pulling a pint and down I went with a heart attack in the back.

The pain was worse than child birth. I was lifted to the doctor and given a valium injection and opiate-based painkillers that could be sold to junkies for big money. I was well cared for, but it was a long night. The spasms would have killed an ordinary man.

"What was the cause?" asked the medic.

We were travelling from Toulouse to Bordeaux for the Leinster-Clermont game.

Our driver, Peter Guy, is an old buddy who lives in France. Peter is 6 feet 10 and, as the smallest, I was put sitting behind him. It was the contortions in the back seat that did for the back. There was a time when back-seat gymnastics never caused me the slightest bother.

Or it could have been the long walk uphill to Rodez square and the lifting of a heavy bag with a laptop, two pairs of underpants, two pairs of socks, a toothbrush, a shirt, and three bags of Tayto for Trevor Brennan.

Sure, you'd want a small donkey to carry that lot. Rodez is very hilly, but the cheeses and the wine are worth the climb. It would be easier to find a taxi on the top of Croagh Patrick at midnight on Christmas Day than to get a cab in Rodez.

But the cathedral there is magnificent. We lit a candle. You would think after all that prayer, the back would hold up.

Brennan's welcome hug would have squeezed the blood out of a black pudding and that surely caused enormous damage.

I suppose lifting the prop from Clermont shoulder-high in the wine bar off the rue de something in Bordeaux didn't help too much, either.


The Clermont fans were the finest bunch we have ever encountered. There was lashings of wine and a great sing-song.

As usual, I invited my new best friends to stay with us for the summer. Whoever it was coined the phrase 'in vino veritas' couldn't have been more wrong. I'll be ducking every French tourist for the next four months.

It could well be the strain of trying to explain the situation to the family when a group of Clermont guests take up every spare bed in the house, and even those that are not to spare, might well have caused serious psychosomatic spinal trauma.

We ended up flying out of Biarritz. It was as if some mythological Wicklow giant had turned the Lugnaquilla reservoir upside down and emptied it over the town. The rain was incessant and the body had to be immobilised indoors.

Luckily, we have rugby friends who own a pub in St Charles. We spent the day in the Bar Maitena sipping a few beers, so it could be that the damp weather and the salty air brought on the back pain.

But it could well be the damage was caused closer to home. My 83-year-old mother had the hip done lately and now I have to lift the beer barrels.

Some people can be very selfish. The next thing is she'll have me peeling my own spuds.

Irish Independent

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