Saturday 16 December 2017

There's no shortage of fun on the fringes

Weird Wide World of Sport

Dave Devereux

Johnny Buckley of Kerry is tackled by Gary O’Donnell of Galway during the All-Ireland quarter-final
Johnny Buckley of Kerry is tackled by Gary O’Donnell of Galway during the All-Ireland quarter-final

On Sunday evening I sat down to watch the movie 'Pride' on BBC2, the inspirational story of how a gay group from London helped Welsh striking miners in the mid-'80s, showing solidarity with the workers against their common enemy Margaret Thatcher.

A bus-load of the self-proclaimed Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group arrived in the village of Onllwyn in South Wales, bravely entering the lion's den of a red-blooded, narrow-minded mining hotbed.

However, their fundraising efforts eventually convinced the wary locals that they were singing off the same hymn sheet, leading to a heart-warming and uplifting tale which accentuated the power of human spirit.

The sweet, yet emotional comedy was definitely a welcome break from 'The Sunday Game', with its negative football and even more negative punditry.

It's not just Gaelic football that can be a difficult watch at times as hurling hasn't been immune from negativity recently either, with more sweepers than you'd find at an Olympic curling tournament, although some would have you believe that every championship game is a bona fide classic.

There's no doubting that certain teams need to deploy cautious systems to give themselves a chance of competing at the highest level, but when you see it filtering down to a local Junior hurling match, you realise it has been over-carried one or two too many steps, like Kilkenny great D.J. Carey in the 1991 Leinster semi-final against Wexford.

Speaking of local G.A.A., sometimes when I'm standing on a sideline reporting on a game it's hard not to smile at some of the small peculiarities of it all.

One thing that always amuses me is the usual hunt to find a willing victim to act as linesman at a match.

As soon as the referee asks if someone can take the role, countless pairs of eyes head south and begin to stare at the ground, fearing eye contact could mean they'll be asked to perform the thankless task.

Eventually some poor unfortunate sod steps forward to volunteer to do the generally unwanted job; I say volunteer, though coerced may be a slightly more accurate description.

Of course, it's a strange thing having a member of one of the clubs involved ruling on who should get a decision. It's human nature for somebody to give every 50-50 call in favour of their club-mates, or even 40-60 for that matter.

In fact, once I witnessed a fella giving pretty much every line ball to his own club even when it should obviously have gone the other way, much to the amusement of his fellow parishioners and the ire of their opponents.

It got to the stage where the referee had over-ruled him so many times, that the man in the middle had little choice but to relieve him of his duties and just do the job himself.

In the main they try to be as fair and impartial as possible though, although every disputed decision is often met with a volley of abuse.

Having said that, it's a strange sight to see a man with a flag in one hand and the other clenched in celebration as his side plunders a goal.

Speaking of difficult jobs, it's not always a breeze reporting on local games either.

On many an occasion you're the closest thing to a having scoreboard in the ground and have to keep everybody within earshot informed of the state of play, and it's always a relief to learn that your tally matches what's in the referee's notebook.

That said, my customary position between the two dug-outs is normally the most entertaining place to be, where you can enjoy the odd chuckle or two when the warring parties have a disagreement, although if they want you to take sides the best course of action is the old Arsene Wenger-style shrug of the shoulders and 'I didn't see it' approach.

Actually sometimes the slightly heated exchanges on the fringes can provide more entertainment that what goes on between the white lines.

The negativity on the pitch may be dictated by the minds on the sideline, but off of the pitch it's always all-out attack, with even the most mild-mannered of mentors not willing to take a backward step.

Wexford People

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