Sunday, May 21, 2006


Whenever a World Cup looms football fans come over all foggy eyed as we waffle about the 'beautiful game', 'total football' [my own personal favourite], and the Braziliants. As I sat in the stand [as a kid that always confused me] at Tolka Park on Friday for the game between Shels and Bohs those thoughts wafted fleetingly through my unconsciousness.

A clash between the North Dublin rivals usually has plenty of spark and bite to it. This game had falsers, and loose ones at that. Pat Fenlon has been afforded the luxury of assembling a fantasy football type squad at Tolka Park. He picked Damien Richardson's pocket in the close season, running all the way back to Dublin with Liam Kearney under his arm while pulling Greg O'Halloran behind him. I have heard no dissenting voices whenever the petite one's squad is referred to as the best in the country.

SCENE 1 - Pre match talk, home dressing room, Tolka Park, 19/5/06.

Nutsy enters, Napoleonic, followed by his faithful lieutenant Eamo. Silence. Nutsy speaks," Don't give Farrelly any time on the ball". The players become infatuated with the floor. Silence. Heads lift rapidly as a voice other than the gaffer's speaks. It's Eamo." Farrelly's out boss". " Stay tight on John Paul Kelly then." He's not playing either boss". " Up Ward's arse, don't let him turn". "His name's not on the teamsheet boss". " In the name of Rico, there must be someone we can get tight on, is Grant playing?" Eamo shakes his head.

Back to Monday morning type reality. The loudest voice in Tolka Park on Friday night regularly bellowed SQUEEZE across the arena and from my vantage point the 20 outfield players resembled an amoebic form as they thronged around the white plastic nucleus of the game. We've all stood on wet, windy days sensibly attired in white Nikes watching 7 year olds chase a terrified ball in a melee of enthusiastic disorganisation. We smile and marvel at the strides they take in a few short months as they realise what positions are.

I've always wanted to try out my poetic license; they say the first time is usually a disappointment. Shels and Bohs weren't that bad, but I couldn't understand why Shels didn't just go out and play the weakened opposition in a football match where the best team wins. Instead the dish of the day was fear of defeat; don't let the opposition play. What was the point in playing Liam Kearney and then making him spend most of the game inside rather than 'walking the chalk' where the opposition least want to see him. Then the poor lamb was replaced.

Then it was Saturday night. "We'll go out next Saturday love, promise. Any picture, you pick". Felix reminds me of a trendy priest; Father Felix, and he sings for charity, classic trendy priest stuff. Pat is more of the enthusiastic Southern preacher in a big white suit. Reverend Pat and Father Felix are conducting tonight's ceremony. It's Derry City v Cork City. Fair f***s to Derry, they took the game to Cork in the manner I had hoped Shels would have taken it to Bohs the previous evening. Silken Pat McCourt slalomed through the Southerners at every opportunity... ah the World Cup is starting soon.

The Great Embellisher claims to KNOW that he has the best team in the league. If he has the best team in the league, and they were only missing Horgan who was ably replaced by Lordan, why did they not play Derry? Instead of feckin' squeezing the game at every opportunity. Georgie is a smashing player to watch, he hadn't room to squeeze a fart out in midfield. For 80 minutes Cork persisted with a system that patently wasn't working. Just play the game, you have the players!

I dearly hope that our new found professionalism and investment isn't going to make everyone afraid to lose, producing stalemate bores, and then all hell breaks loose in the last 10 minutes as both sides try to win playing the game the way we want it played. By the way, next time Rev. Pat is presenting a live game [June 2nd UCD v Derry] look over his right shoulder. There's an image of Georgie, and it resembles a serpent's head. Cue Faithless, "THIS IS MY CHURCH", Rev. Pat and Fr. Felix giving it loads, I can't wait!

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