Growing up I was never a great man in school, I often struggled to understand the simple things. Sure even to this day, I find myself under awful pressure trying to identify where to stick “There & Their” into a sentence. Only for spell-check you would be fairly puzzled trying to read my stories. I reckon my aul man must have dropped me when I was baba because that part of my brain has been nonexistent since the get go!
I struggled through both primary and secondary school, ducking and diving out of any homework I got “I’m telling ya teacher, I had it all done and forgot my copy book”.
During my last 2 years of Secondary school, instead of the traditional leaving cert were you are expected to sit 37 exams over 2 weeks and your poor hand bolloxed tired filling the English paper full of waffle, I went for the easier more enjoyable option that is Leaving Cert Applied.
So I basically had nothing but pure craic for my last two years of school and I don’t regret it in the slightest. The only bad thing about it was that there wasn’t a drop of rain in the dessert chance of UCD, DCU, DIT or any of the other big guns entertaining me and my ‘merit’ in LCA.
So, when I left school of course the mother annoyed the life out of me to do something with myself;
“You’re not hanging around this house sticking your head in & out of the fridge all day; you may get a job or go to a college that might take you!”
“Jaysus ma I’ll sort something out, any chance of tea and toast!!”
Being very into sport I said I would do the ‘fitness instructor’ course in Colaiste Ide, Finglas, even if it was just to keep the parents happy. I arrived in on my first day, wearing the Meath tracksuit, wanting to tell the whole collage, I play for my county. Typical young GAA lad thing to do.
After a few days in collage, I approached my tutor; “What’s the craic with football in this place, when we training?”. He said they fielded a team alright but they were never any good, they’d never won a thing. The year I was there we had 5 or 6 solid players. We had Dublin’s double All Ireland winner and a pure hardy buck; Philly McMahon, along with his club teammate; Ballymun’s Duracell battery Alan Hubbard and a pure talent in St. Vincent’s utility man and Leinster club medal winner Willie Lowry – Willie is a genius at football, I’ve never met a man to take the piss out of opposing players like Wille did. A pure class act!
We also had a couple of Meath minors at the time including my big awkward frame; so I felt that we had the spine of a decent team sorted. I reckoned that we’d give this competition a right good rattle. All we needed to do was gather up 5/6 lads to field a team. Well, you would want to have seen some of the ‘bandits’ we had togging out for us. There were 2 or 3 lads who we thought looked a bit ‘wirey’ and asked them to play” fancy playing a bit of football lad?” “eh, like Soccer” No, Gaelic, the real mans sport
“Ah well I played a bit of GAA in school alright, I wouldn’t be great, but if yis are stuck I’ll play alright”
These type of heads, all heart but wouldn’t have the foggiest what a ‘square ball’ meant.
One lad, woeful sound chap, we used to put the number 15 on his back in every game and ask him to stand in the corner for the hour and try hit a lad with a shoulder if possible. He used to arrive to every game in a pair of summer shorts, jet black ‘Dunnes Stores’ socks, and a pair of them astro runners that you’d buy below at the Fairyhouse market. He also had a pair of glasses on him that were thick enough to survive a smack of a sledge hammer. “I have to wear them Rory, I can’t see a bleedin’ thing without them”. He reminded me of that little chap out of the film “The little giants” were the mother sent him into battle covered head to toe in bubble wrap.
Then there was our north Dublin ‘Intimidator’, he was brought along to give us that rough look, “fuck, these lads will murder us if we act the bollox”. He’d play the game with a jewelry box full of gold on him, from the Nike earrings to the knuckle duster sovereigns, he looked like a lad who would take your head off ya if you asked for a sup of his water bottle, if truth be told he was a gentleman and wouldn’t harm a fly, but he struck a bit of false fear into the opposition so that’s all that mattered!
We defiantly weren’t the only collage who had to round up 15 lads at the last minute to play a game. I remember one day we played a team from up north. We were expecting big hardy brutes, giving the dominance of Ulster football at the time, but no, they were woeful!! I’m still convinced that they were the college soccer team because they were absolutely Cat.
There was this one lad; ah the collar up, socks up and baggy shorts on him. You knew by the head of him he hadn’t the slightest drop of GAA in his blood. Whenever he got a ball he’d throw it on the ground and head for goal. Every time this happened his manager would roar in an outrageously thick Derry accent;
“acccttt pick er up sir, you’re not playing saccer now bhoy”. Philly Mac managed to score 2-4 from play with the number 3 on his back that day. One of the goals he scored he was teed up for a header - that kind of opposition! We’d have been better off playing a game of ‘heads and volleys’ for the hour!
We had great craic playing the matches. Most games, the standard was no better than Junior B, so it was very enjoyable. I remember the semi final of the competition so well. We were a point down with 1 min to go. Lowry ran the pitch and hand passed the ball to our lethal number 15, who palmed it to the net and we’d won! I’ve never seen such a happier lad on a field in all my life, “I love the GAA lads, fookin whopper so it is” he says to us in the dressing rooms after.
We went on to win the all Ireland Division 3 that year, (behind Sigerson & trench cup). It was the most enjoyable few months of football I’ve ever played. I believe our lethal number 15 is still kicking ball for Parnells Junior D team. The likes of him is what really makes the GAA; pure characters!