Soul murder with a seven-iron


So there I was, lying in my old bed in the family home a few years back and brooding magnificently. My backbone was an amoebic sponge soaking up all higher resolve and positivity. All my early morning gloom was lacking was a Smiths album playing in the background.

Actually, I was just bored. Or so I thought as I began to feel the postcard-blue haze of an unseasonably bright winter’s morning filtering through the closed curtains and my mood lifted. The word golf dropped into my brain and I sprang up from my misery, dressed and washed quickly and was soon in the shed disentangling my old golf clubs and cart from the clutter.

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The last great blaze of a fading autumn (first draft)

Guinness kicker

What the fuck does he want?”

The familiar low-arsed heft of coach Hauley O’Brien was silhouetted against the gathering autumn dusk now as he picked up the last of the stray footballs from beneath the wire mesh behind the town goal. He squeezed it into the frayed old ball bag with the rest of the shoal and pulled the drawstring tight as he stood up and called Grady over to him.

Grady was not in the humour for any more talk tonight about the big play-off game against Coolderragh on Sunday. Relegation for the losers.

The pain in his left ankle was worse than ever and the aching in his right knee was a right bastard. Going, going, but never gone, nagging away like an auld wan.

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Diary of an unknown football legend


teds over 75s

He’s going to shoot any minute now: the All-Priests Over 75s Indoor Challenge match  … or my weekly five-a-side game?

The nights are drawing in and those ankle ligaments strained months ago are still not right. But it’s just a twinge now and as the evenings stretch out long — unlike my strung-out hamstrings — my Wednesday night indoor soccer game is calling me back. 

How dignified is it to be still drawn to that draughty old sports hall to run … trundle …  around red-faced and panting and kicking ball for an hour with similarly deluded/evergreen old boys? Sure even my 12-year-old son has told me I have no pace. Just saying it like it is.

When is it over?  Continue reading

We only hate the GAA hit men when they’re on the other team

Or how we foster the bad boy stuff we claim to condemn

Lee Keegan of Mayo is the filling as he is sandwiched by Dublin’s Brian Fenton and Diarmuid Connolly. Tom Parsons of Mayo waits to pick up the crumbs.

“Garda probe as teen’s leg is broken in ‘sickening GAA match attack’ ’’

“Garda investigation after hurler (13) hospitalised in ‘assault by adult male who ran onto pitch’ ” 

Two headline newspaper stories in just one week late last autumn.

Around the same time there were the pre-match busts ups and assorted off-the-ball bumps, thumps and jersey shreddings in the showpiece All-Ireland football final and replay between Dublin and Mayo. 

And at any number of Gaelic football matches, big and small up and down the country there was plenty of guff and stuff going on. Even the youngsters — and their coaches — are at it, as any parent standing on a seething sideline will tell you.

Sure some of them are even joining in. Continue reading

Tipperary hurlers lift the Kilkenny curse

Dark forces waged against Premier and me dispelled!

Tipp topNo desire to add to the superlatives after Tipperary’s wonderful double-All-Ireland day yesterday. I’m from Tipp  but didn’t go yesterday because, to be honest, I could not stomach the idea of  standing outside Gills  afterwards yet again nursing a pint and a grievance. Surrounded by magnanimous, but smug Kilkenny friends, gorging routinely on success.

It had got to the stage where logically, I knew Kilkenny were winning because they were the better side, and had the better manager  — the best ever  —  but in the deeper recesses of my psyche, it all seemed to point towards some kind of curse, or existential injustice. Fair play seemed to have left the building and didn’t look like showing up any time soon. I don’t believe in God or any of that, but yet it felt as if if some dark force was operating against, if not my county, then against me. It felt personal.

It’s good to get that weight off our (my) shoulders and out of my brain and I will be able to go to the next episode in this saga – at whatever stage it takes place – and be ready to treat success or defeat with something approaching  equanimity. I will still be pissed off if we lose, mind.

— Enda Sheppard

Shutters go down on transfer window madness

£155m spent on transfer deadline day alone

pogba signs

Paul Pogba signs his £220,000 a week contract with Manchester United after joining them from Juventus for £89 million

Anybody else think the spending during the Premier League summer transfer window just closed was absolutely nuts?  Well, even more nuts than usual.

More than £155 million spent on transfer deadline day alone as the outlay reached a record £1.165 billion? Insane!

Thirteen top-flight teams breaking their own transfer records! Not that the other seven — Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Hull City, Middlesbrough and Manchester City — were idle; Pep Guardiola’s City alone dropped well over £100 million on the likes of young England hope John Stones (£47.5 million from Everton), Leroy Sane (£37 million from Schalke), and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo (£15.4 million from Barca). Crazy! 

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England’s bad World Cup day at Belo Horizonte

USA part-timers tamed the Three Lions in 1950


Joe Gaetjens, the dishwasher who cleaned out England in Belo Horizonte in 1950

The other morning my 11-year-old son was telling me he read something on Instagram about the USA beating England in soccer once. Was this true, he asked me, incredulously.

Yes, in the World Cup of 1950, in Brazil, I told him, his eyes still not convinced. For me, it’s just one of those never-forgotten facts picked up as a kid devouring soccer magazines like Shoot and Goal. A shock to beat all shocks, mighty England brought down by a bunch of part-timers in Belo Horizonte. Like something out of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Impossible but true.

Even the name of the United States’ goalscorer, Joe Gaetjens, a Haitian dishwasher, as I informed my son, is saved to my memory’s hard-drive.

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