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Tuesday 15 October 2019

Funny tales from the GAA scene guarantee a laugh

Book review: Breaking Balls, The Funny Side of the GAA

John Scally's book
John Scally's book

Alan Aherne

Everyone has a favourite story or two to tell from the G.A.A. world, some amusing tale or other that always provokes a laugh.

One of the most enjoyable anecdotes I heard happened at a county Junior 'B' hurling championship final in the late 1980s.

In keeping with the best traditions of the grade at the time, one of the corner-backs in action was a grizzled, battle-hardened veteran, the type with no pace left but someone to be avoided in close combat all the same.

As is often the norm at that level, he was set to mark a young whipper-snapper of a corner-forward who had racked up big tallies for his team on the march to the final.

Prior to throw-in, it was announced that a minute's silence would take place. When it concluded, the young lad turned to his marker and innocently asked: 'who was that for?'

Quick as a flash and with as solemn and fearful a face as he could muster, the veteran replied with the immortal line: 'that was for you me good man'.

Suffice to say that the defender didn't have too worry about his opponent too much during the game; after putting the fear of God into him the young lad spent most of the afternoon trying to avoid him and staying as far away from the goalmouth as possible.

If you are fond of a good yarn or two about the G.A.A., then you might consider purchasing 'Breaking Balls' by John Scally which explores the funny side of the association in some detail.

I think we would all agree that the fun has been taken out of our games at inter-county level, particularly for young players with college playing commitments added to the mix.

All this talk of two training sessions per day makes one wonder where it's going to end, but this book harks back to a more innocent time and also reminds us that it's possible to have a good laugh while being successful too.

The author has spent twenty years researching to come up with the funniest quotations and anecdotes relating to the G.A.A.

Many of the stories will be familiar, but chances are that readers will come across plenty of new ones too. It's the type of publication that one can dip into whenever the need for some light-hearted reading arises.

The format of the first three chapters wasn't thought out very well in my view though, as it's entire focus is on Kerry. Firstly the spotlight falls on the late, lamented Páidí O Sé, then it's the turn of Pat Spillane, and that's followed by even more general Kerry stories.

It means that the first 60 pages are based entirely around one county when perhaps a bit of variety would be more inclined to draw the reader in.

There's scarcely a mention of hurling until the fourth chapter for example, but the balance is restored for the remainder of the book.

John Scally has certainly filled a gap in the G.A.A. reading market by compiling so many amusing tales in the same publication.

The Roscommon native previously penned the autobiographies of his idol, the late Dermot Earley, as well as rugby out-half Tony Ward and Clare manager Ger Loughnane.

And this book is worth checking out if you're looking for some light reading and a bit of a laugh.

Wexford People

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