Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Savage Tom - The 16th Man
Am fed up listen to all this manure about that shower from Munster and their followers. Jaysus sure there was 60,000 of them rugby boyos over in Cardiff..how the hell could it not spur the team on to victory. But ya cannot tell me that this was a 16th man, bollax to that. Its easy when you have hapes of fellas roaring you on. Can you go on and play after someone has shouted out so everyone at a match can hear – look at that windy bollox, he’s afraid to run through a field of daisies.
I’ll tell what a real 16th man is. I know because he plagues me when I trundle on to the pitch for a Junior D league match. He’s been plaguing me since u-10s. It’s that one oul fan who follows his team around everywhere, home games, away games, training sessions.
He's not always there to support, after thousands of miles travelled and hundreds of ham sandwiches eaten en route to games he has earned the right to criticise and curse the useless shower he supports whenever he feels like!!!
Sceal amhain - In the 40’s he once cycled from Ballivor to Croke Park with his friend – the Meath Goalie Paddy Dixon to Leinster Final Meath were playing in. (That’s right the Meath goalie had to cycle fecking 27 miles before the match, in the boots probably, tog out, screal a load of Dubs during the match, win, have a rake a pints and then cycle home. Them were men!) They arrived at Croker to find that the 16th man couldn’t get in. So he promptly turned the bike around, cycled to Blanchardstown to the only pub he knew had a telly and would show the match.
Every club has a sixteenth man, you know the sort, family holidays are planned are squeezed into the first two weeks in June as there is no league or championships games during the leaving cert. Although it you ask him he cant figure out why young fellas have gone so soft that they cant play and do the exams, sure didn’t the brothers always say to go out and kick a ball before ya did your lessons!!
He's the sort that is critical of all players equally, although never to the clubs one county players face..he is saving that for the big day out in Croker. Best of all you know he always has is own young fella, football skipped his generation and now is son plays every match like his life depends on it….and it does..cause he gets nothing but abuse for three days solid if he so much as puts a foot wrong. God help him if he drops a ball!!
The funny thing is that, this fella becomes an integral part of the club, people rely on him, there's a weight of expectation that he has knowledge and that he is needed as a mascot of sort to ensure the teams success.
He has legendary spakes – like the time one of my teammates in the auld Junior D went to the sideline for a mouthful of water, the sixteenth man shouted out to the water-bottle woman – “Don’t give him none of that water, he’s hasn’t done anything yet. He’ll get water when he wins a ball.” The crowd erupted in laughter. Mary, the water-bottle woman, didn’t know what to do and hesitated. The player did as well and then sheepishly turned and pretended to be interested in the ball at the other end of the pitch.
The 16th man is particularly prominent in the Junior D matches I’ve been playing so far. There isn’t a sinner on the sidelines – so his heckling isn’t drowned out any other supportive voices of the crowd.
He might cut you to the quick but you know it comes from his passion for the club.
You only have to look at him when you win a championship – he’ll be the drunkest man in the pub and he’ll be whispering in awed tones behind the rim of his pint about what a mighty player you are and how if you’d be on the county team if those bastards in Navan didn’t have the whole thing sewn up.
So a salute to the real 16th man.