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McBurney/Declan Bogue

Pictured Declan Bogue

Date: Thursday 12th April 2012

Location: BT Offices

Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Copyright: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney - RAZORPIX


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We're all left with the games in our imagination now, longing for that taste of life

Declan Bogue


Under pressure: the trials and tribulations of management show on the face of our intrepid hero

Under pressure: the trials and tribulations of management show on the face of our intrepid hero

Under pressure: the trials and tribulations of management show on the face of our intrepid hero

Take a look at the picture above. 'Tis me, in all my glory taken exactly a year ago at the time of writing.

I'm standing on the sideline in my role as 'Maor Foirne' - selector - for the Aghaloo O'Neill's senior Gaelic football team in our first league game of the year, against Castlederg St Eugene's.

You might notice the slight strain etched in those normally youthful looks. I must confess, I was under some stress at the time. The 'Derg were threatening to run all over us at the time before a Conor Mullen goal put us in the lead at half-time, 1-5 to 0-7.

The history books will record a comfortable 1-13 to 0-11 win for us but, in truth, I lost. Lost my head and my self-respect when at one point during a break in play I ran on to attend to an injured player and began barking at the referee, Simon Brady.

He was a man under pressure at that point and I was just another ill-mannered lout getting up in his grill. He lost it a bit with me and - as they say in these parts - 'guldered' in my face. I retreated to the sideline and the following day made a point of calling him up to apologise.

The point of all this preamble is to illustrate just at that precise moment in time, the world had stopped. It might not mean a damn to anyone outside the grounds. Indeed, for many present, just out for some air on a clammy afternoon with a distraction in the background it mightn't even have stood for anything much either - but for those of us that had stood out on the evenings when it felt the sky was one big open tap, the snowy mornings when the footballs were like iron, it was everything.

Not that many sports writers actually compete in sports. There's a fair few that play golf socially but as a cross-section of the community, they don't like to work up a sweat that much.

Maybe that gives them the remove they need. The great playwright Tom McIntyre once said that the ideal position of a writer was to be on the other side of the road, watching the crowd go by.

But then, MacIntyre was a goalkeeper in Gaelic football, progressing from his club, Bailieborough Shamrocks, to play for Cavan. So, too, was Patrick Kavanagh, though he never got beyond Inniskeen.

And then you have Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, late of Portsmouth FC, and Albert Camus…

Sometimes if you want to write on a subject, it does no harm to actually put yourself in the shoes of the managers and coaches that you might occasionally plan a hatchet job on later. Not saying that it gives you a greater authority, but there are many writers on GAA matters that have no club, let alone involvement within one. There are even those that boast of never having paid into a game, but it doesn't impede their pontificating.

The reason I do it is purely selfish. Anyone involved in Gaelic sports, which take up so much time, is making a healthy choice if unburdened by dependents. Those that do, they make an inherently selfish choice and they make peace with going down a path that isn't conducive to home life. All to taste a little bit of life through the teeth.

And that's how last Sunday was just about the strangest experience that many involved in Gaelic sports have endured.

The club month as we all knew and looked forward to was gone. There would be no Braveheart speeches in dressing rooms, no reminding ourselves of all the work we had put in.

We would not spit on the hands and go to combat. Regroup at half-time, re-assess, and go again. Return to the dressing rooms head buzzing and body spent.

Look, we know all about that other thing. All the death and misery and everything that is in the post. We know that we are standing at the shore wondering when the tide is coming in, knowing the tsunami it will bring with it.

But at times, as if in order to preserve some sanity, we forget about it. And the mind returns to other, local matters.

It brought to mind the great yarn of Con Houlihan recounting a time when a few were gathered in a Kerry pub on a Monday evening, quizzing a local who had attended the Kerry game in Dublin the day before. The conversation turned to what was the 'turning point in the game'.

The matchgoer answered in earnest. But it wasn't good enough for one man, who argued against him. He wasn't at the game himself. Instead, he had been listening on the wireless while out fishing.

Right now, we are all that fisherman. Engaged in something else, dreaming of the games in our imagination.

Belfast Telegraph