How a town player rises his marker vs. how a country lad does it
Welcome to the big time, buddy.
It's just the way it is in the GAA. There's so much at stake. Nobody wants to lose.
For the 70+ minutes that you're out on the pitch, your opponent is your enemy. They're the only lads that can take the sweet scent of victory from you. They're the only ones that can ruin it all.
So whatever the hell you can do that you think might put these lads off their game, you'll do it without question. It mightn't affect the lads at all but you have it so ingrained in your psyche that it's just a part of your own game.
We all have our own different tactics to rise the opposition, to rile ourselves.
It's a championship semi-final. A country side take on a town team. Here's how the dressing rooms and the players differ.
The country team have arrived. Six lads jumped out of a 00 Ford Mondeo. Two of them are wearing wellies and their jeans are covered in cow dung.
They sling the gear-bags around their shoulders. Their steel toe cabs in plain sight, their game face is on. They march into the dressing room.
These lads are raw. They're ready.
The war begins the minute they set foot in the dressing room. But they're quiet. There's fury written on their faces. That's enough for now.
The town lads are much more vocal in there.
Barry listens to Big Shaq on his Beats headphones while Diarmuid takes a few glucose tablets out of his blazer pocket.
Tim didn't come all the way down to the back arse of nowhere to lose a game. It's his duty to rally his troops.
"Let's stick it to these boys straight away. Lets have them bricking it in their dressing room."
Hurleys are smashed off tables. Quick feet and steel studs thud off the concrete dressing room floor. It's D-day. War has been waged.
That's only natural. This is how we do it.
There's a fire raging through the bellies. They go the long way out to the pitch just so the opposition hear them. They roar like mad men. Tim belts his hurl off the country team's dressing room door. He's gunning for this one.
The country club are reserved in their enclosure in comparison.
"We've got the brains on them lads," says team captain John.
The town lads' fire isn't long quenching in the lashing rain when the cute country lads delay for ten minutes in the dressing room.
Can they light it up again?
John offers a soft, gentle handshake to Barry. He's lost the mental warfare already. He's tame, he's not wired to the moon, he doesn't seem ready to run through walls for his team.
Barry lives for this. He puts out his hand and follows it up with the butt of the hurl into the ribs.
The time is now.
Little does he know he's after awakening the competitive demon in Barry.
The boys go at it for a few minutes.
Barry's running mouth hasn't yet stopped.
"You're gone, you're passed it. There's no way you should be on this team at all."
John is clever. He stands on Barry's heels and pulls his shorts. But the referee has seen none of it. He hasn't opened his mouth all day. Barry doesn't know what to make of him.
Barry is getting rowdy now. He's getting frustrated, he's putty in John's hands.
"Are you blind ref, do you see what he's doing to me?" he roars at the referee.
The man in the middle didn't appreciate the insult. He'll remember that one.
The hits just keep on coming and coming from John. Barry has realised the error in his mouthing ways.
He's up for this now. He's giving as good as he gets.
Barry flicks the ball over John's head and scores a cracking point. How could he pass up the chance?
"I made a mug out of you there pal, see the subs warming up, they're coming for you."
The next puckout lands down on top of the pair. John stands up straight and lets fly. He breaks his hurl off Barry's fingers.
He runs away from the crime scene, and in his defence the ball was in the vicinity. Barry is sprawled and the whole stadium can hear his roars.
The country team's water-boy races in from the sideline during the break of play. He throws the Lucozade Sport bottle at John who guzzles a gulp.
He doesn't offer Barry's replacement a sip. He sprays a bit on his boots instead.
The dig that never fails either man.
"Take a look at the scoreboard, that's all that matters."
There's no comeback to that.
Once the game's over, the tetchiness, the fire, the blows, they're left with the blades of grass.
The town team win out some days, the country lads land the spoils on the others.
There's never a dull moment in the GAA.
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