Posts Tagged ‘GAA’

It should have been a feeling of satisfaction. I’ve completed an inter-county season as a supporter starting way back in January on a cold winter’s night in an eerie Enniskillen. I’ve learned a lot (about Ireland) and lost a little (marriage probably). Donegal took home the cup to the province I used as my base. Yet the feeling is quite empty now. I know the hurling replay has yet to come, and I’ll be there, but there’s a fear surrounding me about the abyss after that. I have decided on a new non-sporting mission and, like Crocodile Dundee, it’ll take a bit of getting used to. But more about that anon.

Last weekend saw Donegal take the big one as expected. So confident was I of a victory, I emptied my credit card, savings and Confirmation money and lumped it all on Jimmy’s men to take it home. It’s rude to talk about money but let’s just say that my winnings has enabled me to stay another 12 months in Ireland working on my new project. I’m also sitting on my new Ferrari computer desk seat and I’m wearing a crown. Throwing money away you say but I’m not stupid to wear it around Belfast. I’d be destroyed. No, people buy iPhones etc – I buy a crown. That’s how I roll.

Me, 10 mins ago.

The day itself was a magical experience. In order to avoid the toll lady, I took a plane from Derry to Cork. I asked to go into the cockpit as usual and was quite amazed that I was successful. Luckily, I managed to talk the grumpy pilot into landing in a field near Croke Park to drop me off. It was a fantastic gesture and although I bored him senseless by my tales of what’s been happening in the XFactor and the ingredients to make a sensational Yorkshire Pudding, the surly 50-year old navigator still did me a good turn and threw me off. Threw me off isn’t an exaggeration as the plane never touched the ground but it was close enough. On reaching Dublin, I was swallowed up by genuinely 100% country folk from Mayo and Donegal. Not a streetwise person amongst them. I copped on to this early enough and it did cross my mind to do a bit of pick pocketing as I’d be wise to things like that but it soon dawned on me that these people were tight. They kept their hands in their pockets, jingling and jangling their money. A canny breed afterall.

Arriving in Dublin

The match was a bit disappointing. Donegal scored 5 goals in the first 5 minutes and the rest of the game was just a bit of a farce with Mayo shooting for points just to make the time go by a bit faster before they headed home to batten down the hatches in the windiest county in Ireland. I can understand their rush. I’m sure the players’ heads were wrecked thinking about gates being blown about and maybe even cattle. Talking about cattle and there was a man beside me at the game from Mayo. He seemed a bit unusual with his eyes going in different directions but he told me the following story at half time:

He was at the pub one night last week and decided to walk home as it was a clammy night. It was a good 2 mile walk. After a mile he couldn’t hold on any longer and went to the toilet in a field. It was the number two he had to do. It was fairly dark so he just grabbed a pile of grass and leaves to clean himself and made on his way happily enough. When he got home he went to close the door behind him but it wouldn’t shut. It was still pitch black so he groped behind him to see what was keeping the door open. It happened to be what felt like a rope. He turned around and groped is way to the end of the rope – it was a cow!! Unbelievably, when he cleaned himself in the dark he lifted the end of a rope that was around a cow’s neck and had mistakenly put it up his backside.  Unbelievable series of events.

Midnight walk

Anyway, the celebrations were great to watch although I felt bad about the Mayo people. They seem to lose finals a lot. One boy just said “same oul shite” and they all nodded in agreement. So that’s that. Sam Maguire is in Ulster and my journey is almost at an end.

As I intimated earlier, I’ve decided on a new adventure beginning the first week in October. I am to visit all 32 counties in 32 weeks, taking in the delights and culture of each one over a seven day period, starting in the southernmost corner. I’ll find out what that is when I look at the map. I’m a bit nervous about it with my accent and looks but sure, the abyss is to be embraced sometimes. Hurling next weekend first.

My home for 32 weeks


I’ve had many memorable moments. My marriage, graduation and an episode of The Waltons are the top three. Or were the top three. Yesterday, I attended something that eclipsed all those, with plenty to spare.

I wasn’t really into the hurling at all. On TV it seemed like a big game between the boys I see beating lumps out of the police, and each other, in the Ardoyne area in July. Or manic polo without the horses/upper classes. I tried watching a game on TV in preparation but it didn’t whet my appetite at all. I simply couldn’t follow the ball. On 15 minutes, feeling slightly dizzy, I decided to just watch the score up in the left hand corner of the screen. Every now and again my eyes would wander towards the action and the nauseating feeling would return. So you could forgive my apathy as I made my way to Croke Park yet again for the final.

The only hurling I knew

This time I took the train. There were only a handful of Antrim hurling aficionados on the journey and they seemed to want to make the best of it. We’d only reached Newry and I’d counted 29 empty cans of Stella. Songs included “You Can Stick Your Decommissioning Up Your Arse” and “I’ll Tell My Ma”. I have to admit, I’m still a bit perplexed as to the etiquette as to when to join in. I thought I’d add to the occasion and after a quick g&t I began singing “Bat Out Of Hell”. The reception was muted.

Getting off in Drumcondra, the noise and colour knocked me out. I think it was that or perhaps the boy from Poleglass who was bad-eyeing me up the whole way down on the train. When I recovered sufficiently I made my way to the pitch, not forgetting the last disastrous episode of pub-hopping. When I got there, a minor game was in full flow. I’m not sure what minor means. It wasn’t their size. The physique of some of those boys was mind-boggling. If they continue growing at that rate, the average height of an Irish male will be over 8 feet and weigh a healthy 20 stone by 2030. I thought I read they have to be under 18 but that cannot be true either. I saw one of the Tipperary players with a handlebar moustache. I also spotted one of the Dublin hurlers afterwards with a half bottle of Smirnoff, driving off in a flashy Peugeot convertible with wife and children in the back.

Ireland. 2030.

The pageantry of the senior game was unique. The players all lined up in a row to meet a very small man, possibly one of the remaining mythical leprechauns. I used my binoculars to see if he was kneeling in front of the players but it was quite the opposite – on his tiptoes. God help him. Then they all calmly marched after a brass band, never quiet managing to catch them although the players barely broke sweat, saving their energy for the game. The band were a crazy outfit. One moment they’d be walking straight towards a stand and at the last minute turn away, much to the relief of the frightened women and children in the front row. They did that four times with the crowd trying their best to drown them out and waving flags in protest.

After all that shenanigans we all stood still and listened to the band play the national tune of Ireland. A lot of people didn’t know the words and just sang some kind of celtic gibbiltygeek. Even before it ended, the crowd got bored of it and started yelping and yahooing manically, shouting things about cats and tribes. I must admit I felt frightened at this point.

Supporters were glad the anthem was over

The match was a blur of speed and hurls. It was quite majestic in its ferocity. Men and women in the crowd frothed at the mouth, most of their anger aimed at the ‘blind bastard in the black’. Quite why they put a man in charge with visual difficulties was beyond me but I suppose equality and all that. The match ended in a draw and as I waited for penalties the players sauntered off, as did the crowd. Apparently they just replay the game – IN THREE WEEKS. A lot can happen in three weeks. Players can age, have a growth spurt or fall in love or out of it. It must be a manager’s nightmare.

The cats nearly won it but a Harry Shovelling missed a penalty by about 20 feet. I think he got a bit excited. On the tribal side was a Joesph Canning. He scored a point from his own penalty box, hitting it over 120 yards. Both managers had a bit of a spat at the end with the Tribal manager calling the Cat manager a wee pussy which irked the old Cat man. He fly-kicked the Tribal man and all hell broke loose, only ended when a guard fired a shot into the Dublin sky, hitting the wheels of the RTE overhead blimp.

Unseemly fight between managers at end

I’ll be at the replay.

I had planned to type up my experiences at that wondrous occasion in Croke Park yesterday, but that will have to wait. For today the sad news that Baker Bradley has called it a day means nothing else matters right now. I thought I’d put a few words down on the great man and save the Donegal report for a few days. I can equate this day to the news about Maradona’s handball, Take That disbanding and finding out the truth about Santa. When I first came over to Belfast in January I needed a father figure; someone to mimic and make me a better person in a foreign land. I didn’t need to look too far. I’ll never forget the first time I attended a Baker press conference. It was before a McKenna Cup game and the media vultures were beginning to circle around Bradley after early defeats to Fermanagh and Antrim. I could see the progress being made but the success-hungry Antrim media were starting to prepare the noose. They smelt blood. Baker simply strolled into the press-room, remained standing, stared into the whites of their eyes, and said:

“Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll float around in space, so you will, for eternity either starving to death, freezing to death, suffocating, have a tiny meteoroid shoot through you, baked to death by radiation, further away from humanity than anyone has ever been, completely alone so it is.”

Andersonstown today after the news of Baker’s resignation.

The stunned hacks just looked at each other, blankly, with their bottom jaw hanging open. They knew as I did – they’d just heard the most profound motivational speech since De Niro’s in Any Given Sunday. I connected immediately with Bradley. He was taking a chance with Antrim, aiming for the moon, and it was a lonely, dangerous business. Sure wasn’t the same for me arriving in Belfast from Durham. From that moment on, I knew I’d be writing any snippet he said down onto my notebook. I plan to sell the collection this Christmas, simply called ‘So It Was’.

That was the steely side to Baker that many would have witnessed on the sidelines. Roaring and spitting fury. But, what others would never see was the humane element to his character. Bradley was possibly the best man-manager in the game, any game. I will give you just a couple of snippets.

When Aodhan Gallagher was off-form in February, Baker waited until the rest of the lads were doing upsidedown squats during a training night and managed to pull Gallagher aside, arm around the shoulder. I sidled up undercover against the wire mesh and caught the whole conversation. Gallagher confided in the boss that his lack of hair was starting to get to him, with pupils calling him Harry Hill, crystal ball, Buddha, bulb-head, baldilocks, Mr Baldwin, Fester, chrome dome, lollypop head and melon. When Baker finally composed himself from laughing, he rubbed his chin and simply said “Bruce Willis”. A smile as wide as the Albert Clock formed over the shiny-headed midfielder and he scored 3-9 in the next game.

This man saved Gallagher’s season

The following week, goalkeeper Chris Kerr was seen crying in the goalmouth after another NFL defeat. The crowd had dispersed at this point and Baker ushered the the rest of his concerned side back into the changing rooms as he strode manfully across the field to his custodian. Kerr, playing with the sand, was in floods of tears. Again, with skilful stealth, Baker put a hand around his man and asked what was up, wiping a tear from his eye with his used handkerchief. The St Gall’s stalwart looked Bradley tearfully in the eye and said “the McCann’s are bullying me. They keep calling me big-foot an all and saying my kick-outs are dung. When I banter back they sing, ‘KERR BEAR, KERR BEAR’ about a hundred times. Even the crowd behind the goals start it too. I’ve had enough.”

Baker, again laughing heartily, composed himself to pass off some words of wisdom. He told Kerr that when the Care Bear’s first came out he was smitten by them. He bought every Care Bear in Derry that winter, depriving every child in the Oak Leaf one for Christmas. He said he still sleeps cuddling a manky old Care Bear and that every night now, as he wraps his arms around the teddy, he’ll think of Chris. An awkward silence descended between them and Kerr never mentioned it again.



Anyway, I hope those two stories show the measure of a great, great man. Antrim might crash and burn without him. He aimed for the moon and nearly landed on it. In the week that saw Neil Armstrong’s final days, it’s quite ironic.


Kerr Bear


Another quiet week meant that I had time on my hands to immerse myself in the Irish culture before next week’s Donegal game down in the capital city. I wanted to get to the heart of rural Ireland to witness how the natives really live. Belfast does that to an extent but there’s only so much observations one can make about women in pyjamas walking to the Centra or young men with blue WKDs wandering around graveyards. Like Roy Orbinson, I just drove until something caught my eye of note. Rather foolishly, I spent the first hour casually freewheeling along the M1. Having realised that there was little happening on either carriageway, I took a turn off at Dungannon and kept it ‘between the hedges’ (as the man giving me instructions to Kildress said) until the fancy took me. It wasn’t until I found myself in the deepest mid-Ulster that I finally followed the banners along the road informing me of ‘Kildress Sports Day 2012’.

Woman out getting Irish News

I wasn’t disappointed. What I’ve always liked about my time here was the informal approach to everything, especially when it comes to crossing palms with silver. I’ve been in shops and the customer maybe didn’t have enough cash on them for their sausage bap, crate of Guinness and the Irish News. The shopkeeper would simply say ‘sure I’ll get it off you again’ which confused me at first as it never happened the first time, never mind again. Yet I gradually worked out that they’d pay up the next time they would be in the shop. I don’t think they ever did. And so it was at the entry to the sports day last Sunday. There was a man standing at a small table with a plastic chair beside it. I asked how much it was in to the event. He just said ‘sure whatever ye think yerself’. Extremely confused, I asked him to repeat the answer. He again retorted, ‘whatever ye think yerself, bai’. Partly afraid, slightly bewildered, I offered him a £20 note, hoping he could work it out from there. He put it in the tin, said something about how generous the Brits were, laughed and waved me on.

Happy after a 20-spot

It wasn’t a great start but maybe if I’d put the effort in earlier in the year to understanding the language this expensive mix-up wouldn’t have occurred. On getting out of the car, a young lad ran straight towards me, shouting something that sounded like a martial arts war-cry. I took the stance of a Korean Warrior waiting for the impact. Luckily, the excited ruffian was simply asking if I wanted a programme. I took it and he again shouted, ‘three pounds please’. Already fleeced, and knowing how the Irish didn’t care too much about payment, I said ‘sure I’ll see you again’. The young lad ripped the programme from my grasp and said something about being a tight English bastard’. My emotions were rather fraught at this point and I felt like a fish out of water. Luckily I managed to get my hands on a programme lying on the field. This ‘£3’ effort was simply a printed one-page Word document with 4 events written on it.

  • Tug of War
  • Ice Cream Van
  • Rita Fairclough from the TV and another Star Man.
  • Closing Prayers

I wasn’t here to judge the content of the day, just to breathe in the culture. I’d missed the tug-of-war, but judging by the field-fights still burning in neighbouring bits of land, it seemed to be a feisty occasion with a contested conclusion. Next up was the arrival of the ice-cream van. It seemed to be a novel experience for the locals and a rapturous roar built to a mighty crescendo when the vehicle appeared in the distance playing Molly Malone. The queues for the van made it impossible to taste its delights so I simply watched the locals enjoy the culinary delights of a 99. Of interest to me were two elderly men who managed to make their way to the front of the line. Instead of the cone, favoured by the youngsters, they asked for what they were familiar with – a rectangle of ice-cream in between two wavers, sometimes called a ‘slider’ by the rest of the world. These gentlemen, with the experiences of living in Mid-Ulster deeply imprinted on their wizened faces, took great care with eating their dessert. It was like a work of art, lick by lick. Soon, after some careful finishing, all that remained was the waver on either side of the ice-cream. I moved in closely as they returned to the van. This was what I’d come for. A closer look at the cultural traditions of rural Ireland that we don’t see on the TV. The leader of the two men, wearing his Sunday best, simply placed all four wavers back on the van counter and said, “there’s yer two burds back’. The vendor looked as confused as I did.

Ice cream between two burds

Next up was the appearance of Rita Fairclough. Hundreds of local men gathered with pens and paper waiting for her appearance on the back of the lorry resting in the goalmouth of the pitch. I was sort of excited myself, having watched her performances on the Street since I was a child. To the initial disappointment and eventual anger of the males in attendance, the local priest announced that Rita didn’t arrive at the airport this morning but that they had a special guest replacement – the ex-England goalkeeper Bob Wilson. There was a muted applause as a surprisingly elderly man made his way across the stage. He was barely able to stand without the PP propping him up. He was also wearing a fedora and what looked to me like a suspicious beard. The PP said he was too old to talk and swiftly took him off the lorry and into the public house. I was nearly sure Bob was only 60-odd. I followed up the story by going for a pint myself, sitting within earshot of the great ex-Arsenal keeper. He never spoke, apart from asking for a ‘half-un’ in a suspiciously local accent. After a few of those, Bob became careless and his hat fell off to display a shock of red hair. Some local sitting at the end of the bar shouted, ‘hi, I know that man. He’s one of the Yellow Boy Murphys from Galbally’. Bob took to his heels followed by the priest and then 2-300 locals with pikes. I got out of there before the whole thing turned sour. The prayer service was cancelled.

Rita didn’t make the plane

I think I’m not ready for the acclimatisation yet and look forward to the All-Ireland semi next weekend.

I haven’t got to grips with the hurling game yet so it was a quiet week for me. It offered me mountains of time to reflect on my year so far in Ireland and attempt to collate words of wisdom for gaelic football officials in the coming years. A decade ago I ran into the Spanish Soccer Association beside a pool in Benidorm. After two pints of sangria, I told them to forget about lumping the ball on top of some mountainous forward from Bilbao and play it along the ground, always. Two European Championships and a World Cup later and I’m a bit miffed that Ángel María Villar Llona has yet to acknowledge my part in their recent success.

Yer man knows the truth

I sat through the Olympic Closing Ceremony and two things struck me. Firstly, I’m glad my LSD years are finally at and end. That flashback of a ceremony reminded me of escapades long forgotten and best remaining there. Secondly, the GAA are missing a trick in terms of getting bums permanently on seats. Times have changed. Growing up in Durham and attending lower league soccer games, we’d be ecstatic when a ukulele-playing elderly man would appear on the field at half time and play greats such as ‘Banana Pancakes’ and ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’. The hushed tones would develop into rapturous applause as he neared the end of his 15-minute gig. Nowadays, people have more refined tastes and expect to see something new. My last soccer game saw a half-time show consisting of nine Lithuanian strippers juggling live fish to the strains of Jessie J’s ‘Who Are You?’ And it was OK just. I was sort of hoping they were poisonous fish.

Half Times Were Great

I attended the Antrim Championship last weekend between St Gall’s and Lamh Dhearg. It was an exciting game with the cream of Antrim footballing cutting lumps out of each other. At half time, I was looking forward to a bit of entertainment to keep the blood boiling at a decent temperature before the gladiators returned. What I got was the following:

  • A draw to raise funds for the prisoners
  • A telling off by the announcer for not buying crisps and mineral from ‘the man’
  • An announcement of a result in Ahoghill
  • Last orders for the bar

Definitely not Superbowl material and I saw young children pleading with their parents to go home and watch a rerun of Harry Hill’s TV Burp from 2008. Why couldn’t the Antrim County Board round up even two acts from the county to perform on a crate at half time? Liam Neeson could act out a scene from Michael Collins. Tony McCoy could ride in on Kauto Star and jump a few hurdles. That’s all it needs. Imagine the advertising. “St Gall’s v Lamh Dhearg, featuring Kevin McGourty, Paul Buchanan, Chris Kerr, Paddy Cunningham, Liam Neeson and Tony McCoy”. You’d have all shapes and sizes there for all reasons. The takings would go through the roof.

The Big Man

This can be done at all levels in all codes. Even the smallest of townlands have thespians, sportsmen or musicians just waiting to be acknowledged to the local masses. I have forwarded this post onto the HQ at Croke Park. Like my Spanish friends, lets hope they act on it. This time, give me a bit of credit.

Mayo 5-29 Down 2-3

Posted: August 7, 2012 in Down, Mayo
Tags: , , , , , ,

There is a time when you have to naval gaze. It seems that when the Gods decide to do their business on me, they do it from a great height. It’s like a triple whammy of a speeding fine followed by a clamping and then having to go to dinner with the mother in law, all in the one day. I was over Antrim. I’d forgotten Tipp. Now, Down had won my affections like nothing before. Puffed with confidence, an array of heroes and the fearsome red and black – how could you not fall for their charms. What’d they do? They completely capitulated to Mayo, a team the experts tell me perform equivalently to England at a major championship after walking the qualification tournament. I liked Mayo. They had a lovely accent and approach to life, like as if everything was a surprise. I witnessed a father buy a son (in Mayo colours) a packet of crisps. The young fellow reacted like he’d been offered the keys to a Lego factory. I’m going to do them a favour and not weigh in behind their cause. They don’t deserve my curse. But…I hope…..

Mayo child loved getting McCoys

It all started so well. Down ran onto the field as the stadium shuddered under the pressure their legendary tree-trunk thighs. Mayo, on the other hand, meekly made their way to the photographers’ bench apparently amazed that they were invited to the whole shebang. I remembered the boy with the crisps and it’s just their way. I saw one of the Mayo forwards smile heartily when he picked up one of the balls thrown towards him, as if he wasn’t expecting one. It does the heart good to watch these Connacht men simply live. I can just imagine them waking up in their beds every morning and shrieking in delight when they look down and it dawns on them that they have hands. I lovely bunch but back to the game.

Mayo man uses phone and laptop for first time.

It was tit-for-tat at the start as goals rained down. Mayo would show their hand, only for Down to trump it. Suddenly, something happened. You know when sometimes you look at a word that you’ve read and written thousands of times in the past and all of a sudden it seems strange to you. The word ‘the’ does it to me often. Even now. Anyway, it suddenly dawned on Down that they couldn’t defend. It completely escaped them. Mayo ran at will like the England rugby blitzing the first year hockey side at a convent sports day. It was hard to watch. Mayo piled on the scores. The Down keeper left the field at half time pushed in a wheelchair such was the pain in his right thigh from kicking out the ball repeatedly for 20 minutes. The upside is that he has a massive right thigh this week and he should put that to good use by entering hopping competitions or something.

Down Keeper used both legs

I don’t know what the Down manager said at half time but it didn’t work. In fact, it got worse. Maybe he told them to give up. The Mayo players were initially slightly amazed that they were allowed to play another half but soon settled down to settle Down. The crowd soon became disinterested in the one way traffic and I could see over in the Hogan Stand a Mayo priest celebrating Mass with about 2000 dedicated followers. In the Cusack a section of Clonduff parishioners were apparently having a heated debate on the bother in Syria with applause ringing out for well-reasoned orations. You have to give it to the Irish. They will find something to do in the face of abject boredom. And that’s what was being dished out on the field. The one-way traffic was so mesmerising I imagined there were 3-4 balls on the field making their way over the black spot above the head of the Down keeper.

Bored Mayo fans celebrate Mass

In the last few minutes one of the Down stars, Benny Hill, scored a Messi-esque goal taking it around 12 Mayo players and slamming it into the top corner. True to form, the Mayo defenders cheered in amazement. The referee put us out of our misery and ended the debates and ecumenical happenings. Mayo go on to play Dublin. I wish them well but, as I said before, I won’t jinx those fine breed of people.

As for me, I’ll throw my lot behind Donegal. I’m sorry Mr McGuinness.

That’s like a second family loss in a week. Having finally got over the elimination of my dearly beloved Antrim last week, I’ve now gone and lost her all over again as Tom Hanks said in Cast Away. Tipp were starting to feel like a second home. I’d watched them go toe-to-toe with Antrim twice and now they’ve been put out to graze for the rest of the year by the mighty men from Down. I didn’t shed a tear but it was a sad farewell to that famous war song. Antrim have wafted from my heart.

Yet, I may be in love again. Down. It’s a defeatist name but boy do they play out the oxymoron value here. There’s nothing down about Down. It’s like calling Messi, Lionel Dowie. There’s nothing Iain-ish about the little Argentinean magician. When I experienced that black and red burst on to the field for the first time, their chests puffed like a thousand big puffy things, I knew I’d found the one. I’m sorry, Antrim. You’re cold in the grave and I’m courting the blond buxom bimbo from two doors down. Cold but clinical. I can’t resist. I’m a Durham man and there’s something regal about the men from Down. Something Cromwellian.

Down. Definitely not Dowie.

A look through the team sheet and you could not be anything but impressed. Flash Gordon. Flash effing Gordon. If ever I experienced manlove it was then. He lined out at full back but it was full frontal I was imagining. I make no apology for saying that. I’m sorry but it stirred something in me I never thought I’d possess in the company of men only. That was something else I tell you. Like a re-awakening. He ran the show. A man mountain with lava spewing from his nostrils. Add to that, wait for it, Buck Rogers. BUCK bloody ROGERS! The man lorded it in midfield and won the hearts of a nation. Never did one man do anything so mindnumblingly complete as Buck did last weekend. At one stage he leapt like the proverbial salmon. All scaly and fishy but metres into the air. He was the Maradona against Shilton.

Down midfielder Rogers.

The main man seemed to be Benny Hill, a rotund, comical looking figure but lethal finisher, a bit in the mould of Mick Quinn or Gazza at the end of his career. He scored 1-10 without breaking sweat. I’m sure when he came out for the second half he had mayonnaise down the front of his jersey and seemed to be picking stuff from his teeth with a toothpick. He showed Tipp no respect and why should he. A turkey shoot with big 20 foot turkeys in a small cup. It appeared to me that, such is his genius, the management turn a blind eye to his KFC half-time tradition. They also have a couple of men under 4 foot in attack under the names of Laverty and Poland. They’re like two magically talented oompa Loompas. They’d run under the legs of the Tipp defenders singing little inky ditties.

Poland, Laverty and wee James.

Down won well, the players ole-ing the last few minutes amongst themselves. I’d never seen that before.

It’s early days but I’m off to see them play Mayo, a team that’ll surely put the hunger again in young Hill.