Friday, May 05, 2006

Kick-Off time for Walk The Chalk

I sometimes wonder whether I'm a genuine sports fan, or a variety of the stereotypical screen-kissing Manchester United follower, who supports the Bhoys in Scotland and then purchases the latest Dubs jersey for stylish summer wear; rabidly deriding the GAA for the ever-present scarcity of tickets for a True Dubs fan who turns out every summer. But I console myself with the knowledge that I am an ardent Leeds United fan who doesn't check the Scottish results and almost always gets a ticket for the Gah.

I can sense the derision out there and I accept it. Hands up! I'm a fair weather GAA fan, I love to watch the game; I've a huge admiration for the fitness and dedication of the inter county players of both codes, and I feel that my support [such as it is] confirms this. Anyway, the cards are on the table and I'm hoping there's safety in numbers. I don't understand these GAA nuts that would bleed Powerade for club and county: - they rightly promote the sport, but then moan about newcomers coming to watch it! Enough about GAA...this is a football blog.

With the disappearance of my beloved Leeds United from my flat screen pixel plus TV [at time of writing they're still a Championship side, and Sunderland won that last season!], I began to take a closer interest in Irish soccer, the 21st Century edition, i.e. the Setanta Sports Cup. What a fantastic tournament full of genuine footballers and bereft of the bling now so much a part of the English game. I'm sure an Irish version of Footballer's Wives would not portray a bunch of vacuous snakes and poseurs, unless the FAI had a cameo.

Some background...
Many moons ago I had the misfortune to come into possession of a sponsor's season ticket for Shelbourne. I won't say when because I don't wish to offend the sensibilities of the players from the era in question. Reason being I had allusions of playing at that standard myself in my late teenage years, but managed to do an FAI official on it, thus, leaving me with an unswerving respect for the ability required to make the grade here.

If the sponsor in question cared enough to get involved with the club, why didn't he use the ticket? Foolishly I hadn't asked myself that question and I dragged my gullible younger brother and innocent son down to Tolka Park, scene of a forgettable two goal haul in the first of my two appearances on the hallowed sand.

The facilities, the playing surface, the ground, the borrowed Lada all contributed to some unforgettable experiences for all three of us. But we turned up game upon game in the hope that it would get better, with the dream of feeling the same connection with a local club as I did with my boyhood heroes at Leeds. Eventually it became too much for my No 1 son who began to head for the 'toilet facilities' at every opportunity to relieve the boredom; thus I spent most of the night watching for the bobble on his hat as he weaved his way skilfully through the crowd. As for my younger brother...I'll wait while you go for a tissue.

Fast forward and I recently had reason to attend the Drogheda United Bray Wanderers tie in the burgeoning northeastern town. What an atmosphere, what a playing surface, what fitness, what high skill levels, Granny. All the better to make you forget about that overrated object of ostentatiousness that is the Premiership.

I had finally connected, the Drogs, their nemesis Georgie, the bullishness of Doolo, the bullshitness of Rico, the professional calm of Nutsy, the Ferrariesque acceleration of Shane Barrett, Ollie Cahill, Mark Farren, the sublime touch of Steven Bradley, Neal Fenn, Pat McCourt. This is a proper league with proper footballers, and for good measure every year our lads take on the top four from the Irish Premier League which I've also found intriguing.

Cue the fearsome hulk that is David Jeffrey as he homes in on a quivering fourth official, marvel at the fairytale that is Dungannon Swifts, marvel at the fact that their manager also runs the clubs U-13 side, envy the skills of Rodney McAree, David Scullion, Paul McAreavey, dream of a strike force like Thompson and Ferguson.

All the corniest love songs, you know the ones you play when you're trying to be romantic, are about some plonker who's been looking for love everywhere, and then realises he's been living next door to Alice.

And so I have been inspired to wax lyrical about the beautiful game in Ireland, I'm sure my ramblings will have one fan at least in Setanta Cup analyst Bryan Hamilton who always loves someone who'll 'Walk The Chalk'.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home