Patrick Kavanagh and the G.A.A.
Munster Intermediate Hurling Final program at Cashel, July 16, 2003
'Go on, our Mickey. Gut yer man. Bog him.'
A football match is in progress in my imagination, and I must admit that I am not a spectator but in there, ploughing all around me, making myself famous in the parish as the man that never 'cowed'. even at the risk of a broken neck.
'Aw Kavanagh, the dhirty eejet.'
'Ho could he be an eejet and him a poet?' one of our supporters replied, and my traducer had no comeback.
The battle raged up and down the raging field.
The team we were playing were a disgusting class of a team, who used every form of psychological warfare. For instance, when one of them was knocked down he rolled on the ground and bawled like a bull a-gelding.
Then there was the time I pulled the ball over the goal-line and a most useless non-playing member of the opposing team kicked it back into play. We argued and there was a normal row. The referee came up and interviewed the non-playing member of the opposition and the man replied: 'I never even saw the ball. Do you think I'd tell a lie and me at Holy Communion this morning?'
What could we say to that?
Of course we had our own methods. We never finished a game if towards the end we were a-batin. We always found an excuse to rise a row and get the field invaded.
Ah, them were the times.
For one year I was virtual dictator of that team, being captain of the team, and secretary and treasurer of the club. There was no means of checking up on my cash, which gave rise to a lot of ill founded suspicion. I remember I kept the money in an attache case under my bed. It is possible that every so often I visited it for the price of a packet of cigarettes, but nothing serious.·
I once went as the club representative to the county board. We had to defend ourselves from a protest against us being awarded a certain game, on the grounds that the list of players wasn't on watermarked Irish paper.
I pointed out that the list was written on the inside of a large Player packet and that Player packets were made in Ireland. This did not impress. Nothing I said impressed, as I hadn't the cliches off.
It took a good deal of conspiring to depose me from my dictatorial post. Members of the team met in secret groups to know what could be done, but as soon as I got wind of the conspiracy I fired every man of them.
In the end they got rid of me, but it was a job.
The man responsible for my deposition was a huge fellow, a blacksmith, a sort of Hindenburg, whose word carried weight. He was a great master of the cliche, but sometimes he broke into originality, as the time we were going for the county final and he wouldn't let us touch a ball for a week previous as he wanted us to be 'ball hungry'.
Ball hungry as we may have been, we lost the match, and I was blamed, for I was 'in the sticks' and let the ball roll through my legs.
The crowd roared in anguish. 'Go home and put an apron on you'. And various other unfriendly remarks were made such as 'Me oul mother would make a better goalie.'
Somebody has said that no man can adequately describe Irish life who ignores the Gaelic Athletic Association, which is true in a way, for football runs women a hard race as a topic of conversation.
The popular newspaper has driven out the football ballad, which at one time gave fairly literal accounts of famous matches:
At half-past two the whistle blew
And the ball it was thrown in,
The hare Murphy saved it and
He kicked it with the wind!
Then there was a ballad singer who used to sing 'The catching and the kicking was mar-veel-e-us for to see.'
After the ballad came the local paper where we were all Trojans in defence and wizards in attack. I once got a lot of kudos from a report which described me as 'incisive around goal'. No one knew the meaning of the word, incisive, but it sounded good.