Monday, June 19, 2006

Savage Tom - AIB, Badgers and Team Spirit

Savage Tom’s rapid progress up the ranks of Junior D football has stalled. It’s a fecking disgrace what they’ve done to him. Poor auld Tom has put the effort in every week – one kick around match at training every week, he’s cut the drink down and gone to visit a sports headshrinker to get him in the right frame of mind for competitive football. He’s played the League matches, he’s even went between the schticks because he’s a might righty boot on him and can lamp a ball half of the way up the field. He’s done everything they say you should do in the AIB club football ads to be a good team players. You know the one – be good, be part of something, be a winner, just be….Be my bollox.

The minute those bastards got the opportunity they brought in a load of Junior B players and Savage Tom ended up warming the mahogany. A load of young fellas with different woejus uneven haircuts and white streaks who wouldn’t bother their arse going training all year arrived at our Championship match…they look like fecking badgers.

Onto the field they strode happy out – oblivious to the ten brooding resentful teammates that found themselves occupying that horrible space in the dugout. Savage Tom is proud to say he instigated a quiet rebellion. Like Spartacus I lead the gladiator substitutes on journey of rebellion against our oppressors – the team selectors.

When we ran out on the field I whispered ‘you should be on’ to the most surly and delusional subs – generally the older guys who never just quite made it in their hey-dey and are still chasing the glory of GAA. As the first fifteen warmed up the subs defiantly kicked points. When those imposters and blow-ins joined us after their warm-up we acted as one – only passing the ball amongst each other.

We felt no sorrow. Whatever about the blow-ins, we had some begrudging respect for them, wishing we could saunter onto teams like them, how could our old team mates turn their backs on us. Hadn’t we shared the disappointments of many defeats together? The infamous more goals than points conceded defeat at longwood (7-4 to 0-3) hadn’t we bled the pitches red at Ballygrattan, Cortown, Summerhill? Hadn’t we inhaled the alcohol-fuelled stench of defeat after the Mickey Murphy’s wedding where all our full-back line collided giving each other concussion? All of these memories. Nothing to them when it came to the chance of a win in the Championship.

Our rebellion caused consternation amongst the selectors. They were rattled - they just weren’t showing it. At half-time we stayed in the dug-out not running out for the customary kick around – that’ll learn you ye poxes.

During the second half we were winning handsomely – but I knew our rebellion was ruffling feathers. I had the boys well prepped. As we stretched the margin I predicted that they might start to throw the odd sub on for a run. A real sneaky Sasanach move, divide and conquer. Under no circumstances were any of our heroic brigade to break ranks to stretch the hamstrings and do that funny run where you kick your heels of the palms of your hands.

We sat resolute as the minutes ticked by. The odd selector would survey the bench and see eyes set in stone resolutely staring out at the match. Never back at them. Never.

Then came a key moment – the selector huddle. Like three teapots with their handles out they stood and mumbled like I’m sure Judas did before making our lord the world’s most famous pin-up. We were standing firm. We were resolute.

All of a sudden came the call…….a couple of legs twitched. Hold. Hold. Steady. Hold the line.

“Tom, warm-up there”

I came on and kicked a few atrocious wides to the chagrin of my team-mates. When I looked over all the legs on the bench were bouncing up and down rapidly and there were storm clouds under the corrugated iron of the dugout. One of my ex-gladiator subs, one of my friend, who I had led to glory, came on later on, ran over and hit me a dig in the ribs.

That’s GAA for you, no team spirit.


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