Declan Bogue: Sweet tea, village idiots and aging stars all add up to get us through the cold winter
Seeing as we are now in the full flow of winter football and hurling, with almost all the county finals played and already on the cusp of the Ulster hurling finals, here are some unwritten rules of following GAA sports in the months of October, November and December.
1. Absolutely everyone at a game is ‘making the most of the day' and will congratulate themselves on the fact that while the rest of the world gapes at the Eastenders omnibus, those attending matches are engaged in a higher calling.
2. There is no tea in the world quite as sweet as the tea served in polystyrene cups at county grounds in these months. If the first sip scalds the tongue, then all the better. Fingerless gloves are also a necessity, as are scarves and wooly hats. The terraces of Ulster can be colder than the Central Siberian Plateau.
3. It is inevitable that in a tournament mainly made up of village teams, that a village idiot will come to our attention having ‘lost the run of himself,' such as the incidents involving fans last weekend in Limerick and Cavan.
4. And this will bring about sensationalist headlines concerning some puffed-up concerns for discipline in the GAA. Better stewarding is the answer. If it costs money to hire professionals, so be it.
5. There shall be a widely-shared belief that a bigger team can win matches when 'the going gets heavy' in the winter months. That ignores the fact that this country generally enjoys drier autumnal months and the advances of pitch conditions. Crossmaglen's success used to be credited because of this quality, but as their team evolved, they are far from the bruisers of old.
6. Your chances of winning are directly in proportion to the accuracy of your freetaker. This is indeed a truism, with ready-made examples of Oisín McConville (pictured) and Liam Watson in either code. If you can punish the opposition for poor tackling, then you are halfway home in Ulster.
7. Some wily veteran, who perhaps did not fulfil all his potential at county level, will produce a few days of magic that leaves spectators spellbound, and even wondering if a county comeback could be entirely ruled out. John ‘Shorty' Trainor's performances in the twilight of his playing days with Burren were spectacular and now Frankie Dolan produces similar things for St Brigid's.
8. However short-changed fans felt at the entertainment they witnessed, they will inevitably conclude that it was nonetheless a lot better than whatever scheduled late kick-off Premier League game Sky has arranged to accompany their post-match meal of a carvery dinner.
9. And the Spanish game. Unless Messi is playing, of course.
10. Crossmaglen win. Always. Without exception.