Belfast Telegraph

January GAA: Dipping toes into a new year of promise

By Declan Bogue

January GAA is many things.

It is the first training session of the year, picking on each other about the variation of new leggings that are ubiquitous nowadays, while old topics of slagging are exhumed with new life breathed into them…

It is spotting who the first man leaning over the wire fence will be, emptying their stomach with the exertion of it all…

It is hearing every name and, more importantly, every nickname of county players when they call for the ball off each other.

Do you know who 'Skeet', 'Cecil' or 'Brick' is? Well then you haven't been at your McKenna Cup football…

It is to gain entry to a ground and make straight for the hot drinks stand, focusing on the urn of boiling water and blanking the ticket seller frantically appealing for your attention…

It is to 'run the eye' over new lads fresh out of minor and others that have earned the right to a trial after years of working hard on their game away from the bright lights. And when your side wins, you realise that as much as you cherish each generation of players, the appeal of the jersey will never diminish…

It is sitting in a car driving home with the results coming in from other parts of the country, making your mind up even at this early stage who will be making a serious case for Sam and Liam…

…It is to put the car heater under serious pressure on that same journey…

It is the 'new man' taking training, and the first attendance of the year with attendance in the 30s. Expect that to dwindle to a dozen by the height of the summer…

It is watching Sean Quigley lean up against the goalpost with his arms folded, watching his teammates try to scramble a ball clear and think to yourself, 'This could be a scene from the 1940s,' along with, 'he's some boy'…

It is running through the newspapers on a Monday, studying the names of players and wondering how many of their fathers you can remember from their own playing days, making snap judgements on their potential based on their heritage…

…And then reading the match reports in the local midweek papers, searching for a nugget of information that you might have missed out on at the time…

It is the stories of unusual preparation that Chinese whispers bestow upon managers. 'Apparently he has them all doing meditation/eating pavlova'…

It is to pine for the wonderful league days ahead, when Gaelic football and hurling can be watched in full, glorious coverage on Saturday nights through Setanta, and Sundays with TG4…

It is the month of the diehards, when Derry journalists travelling to away venues can identify and name every single Oak Leaf fan in the ground…

It is the adjourned AGM. The first one having been eaten up with debate over the new senior manager by the swollen numbers, suddenly it's left to the same hardy half dozen to fill all the other positions in the club…

It is playing up the importance of January competitions when your team is going well in them, and dismissing them when you lose…

It is feeling that immense protective streak when a fella from your own club is being given the chance to show what he can do and he makes an innocuous mistake…

It is floodlights. In January. You can keep your Champions League glamour…

It is 8,463 in the Athletic Grounds on a foundering Sunday…

It is half-hour delays to the throw-in to the Fermanagh and Tyrone group game in 2012 in Healy Park, the Gortin Road entirely choked up with traffic as they come to pay homage to opposing manager Peter Canavan…

It is hurlers having trained in winter on 3G surfaces suddenly cursing the Gods as their stickwork, stamina and sharpness is rendered obsolete by gluepot pitches…

It is the inevitable post-match question afterwards: 'It's not simple hurling in those conditions?'…

It is the inevitable answer: 'Aye, but it's the same for both teams'…

It is the month where Christmas clothes make their runway debut in the John Vesey, Lone Moor Road and Gerry Arthurs Stands. Men dressed head to toe in Marks & Spencer and Dunnes Stores…

Belfast Telegraph

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