Belfast Telegraph

Festive kickaround highlights positives of our game

By Declan Bogue

On St Stephen's Day, a number of senior Tempo Maguires footballers hosted and organised a seven-a-side tournament at the club, to be competed for by eight different townlands comprising the parish.

It meant that fathers got to play with sons, nephews with uncles, and brothers and cousins could make up half the team. If Gaelic games really are faction-fighting in a civilised Ireland, then this distilled local pride into something stronger.

Everywhere you looked, there were ghostly reminders of times past. It's amazing how men never lose the running gait they had in their prime, or indeed how a dummy they may have been fond of in their twenties can still be produced in their late 40's, codding someone 30 years younger.

In the group stages, Brian Jackson remarked to me how his free-taking – Jackson was famed for being able to throw sideline balls over the bar off either foot – had deserted him.

By the time the final came around, he was slotting dead balls over the narrow seven-a-side goals with the outside of the right boot.

This is sport for the sake of sport, with a good crowd there taking in the action and glad of the fresh air after too much turkey the day before.

Not that it was too cuddly, mind. By the time the semi-finals came around, there was ample evidence that those who played Gaelic football still have their animalistic side, dormant though it may have lay for decades.

Daryl Keenan, undoubtedly the finest player in the club, was unceremoniously bundled, held and grabbed by much lesser athletes whenever he advanced. Nothing personal. He understands the law of the jungle.

Eugene McConnell came down from Clogher in Tyrone to take charge of the games and he was forced to dish out a few black cards. What forces a man off the sofa on December 26 to take abuse in another county? It remains an enduring mystery of the GAA.

Doon won, but controversy continues to rage on Twitter on their poaching of players mid-tournament and the eligibility of one in particular.

Next year there will be a bigger, better competition and already there is talk of collective training in preparation for it.

Sure, what else would you be at?

Belfast Telegraph

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