Joys of summer as hunt for Sam starts
You may not realise it, but the All-Ireland football Championship begins in 10 days, with Leitrim's pilgrimage to the Big Apple to take on New York.
Just as the summer rolls in, players, supporters and pundits are all going through their curious little rituals before the hunt for the Sam Maguire gets under way. Let us guide you through the minefield of GAA habit and etiquette.
Before a match, the average inter-county footballer will say things like:
"It's all on the day, if we can beat them"
"It's 15 on 15 and anything can happen"
"I don't read newspapers, so I wouldn't know if anybody has written us off"
"Mr X (new county manager, or member of the backroom team) has come in and given us a new emphasis/a fresh voice/a different way of doing things and....
"The boys are all responding well to it/there is good competition for places within the squad"
"What happened in the league is irrelevant" (if they were relegated)
"We would be looking to build on a good league campaign. Our first objective was to avoid relegation, and after that we targeted going further" (if they enjoyed a healthy National League campaign).
After a match, the average inter-county footballer will:
• Set his face into the solemn expression of a parish priest conducting a large funeral.
• Declare that, "That kind of performance will never be good enough to beat (insert future opposition's name here) in the next round – note: this will always be the case, even if your side has just beaten the All-Ireland champions by 20 points.
• Talk about the importance of "having something to build upon/ getting back to training and working hard/ focusing on the next game and no further." Note: If the opposition scored a late goal to cut their own defeat to merely 17 points, the winners will make that concession of a goal their theme for the post-match interviews.
What the average inter-county player will not say:
"I read any newspaper that I am in, because it is an absolutely natural thing to do."
"Our manager is a clown and a little part of me wants to lose two games as quickly as possible so I can get back to the club and we can start again under a new manager."
"We put a huge emphasis on the league and we had the dung ran out of us in December because we wanted promotion...
"Therefore it came as a surprise that our manager says it doesn't matter!"
(If his side won): "It was easy out there today. If we can play like that in the next round we should be in with a shout to win Ulster. I am going to head out for a few drinks to celebrate and I hope we get a nice easy training session on Tuesday."
(If his side lost): "I wonder if it's too late to get a club to play for in America for the rest of the summer?"
The average pundit is likely to lie back on the salubrious sofa and:
• Tell you that the All-Ireland will be won by either Kerry, Cork, Donegal, Dublin or Tyrone.
• If pushed, they may say that Kildare are dark horses.
• Invent new phrases for the purposes of appearing that they think about the game on a, like, whole deeper level than you, dude.
• Recent examples of which include 'hotzone' (which apparently is the scoring range of an unspecified forward), a 'gainline' (which we believe Tommy Lyons bought the copyright to when used in connection with Gaelic football), and the 'half-foul' (mauling an opponent in possession yet managing to hold an expression of wounded bewilderment should a referee blow it as a foul).
• Keep a tally throughout a game of possible black card offences and chuckle along at the thought of the "mess we will have next year" when teams are reduced to 11-a-side.
• Remind you that Mayo have not won an All-Ireland title since Moses was in short trousers.
• Make some remark that Kildare couldn't hit a cow on the a*** with a shovel.
• Refer to the 'production line' of talent and tradition in Kerry, even though they have not won a minor All-Ireland since 1994.
And lastly, the GAA fanatic will make it their business to:
• Scour any website for news of injury scares or departures from a county panel.
• Be able to recite what the odds were for any team winning summer silverware, back in January.
• Hunt out challenge matches that county teams were hoping to play 'behind closed doors'.
• And spend days picking a fantasy football team, and hours christening it with a snappy name.