Monday Blog: Getting the better of old Father Time
By Ciaran Woods
Monday’s are bad at the best of times, but Monday’s off the back of a week and a half of holidays, a man down, on Ulster Club week, is nothing short of a nightmare.
Oh, and there’s the small matter that I’m now a 30-something.
As critics of my writings have been all too quick to point out, I never played football at any substantial level. Seeing as that last Friday I entered my fourth decade of existence, my 31st year, that isn’t likely to change either. In fact, there’s absolutely zero chance of it.
My underage football consisted of limited game time for Carrickmore. Like so many of the clubs former and current players, I passed through the underage coaching academy of Oliver Kerr and Laurence Kelly. I remember talking to Conor Gormley about it in the lead-up to the 2008 All-Ireland, and he agreed that it was at this early age that the key qualities and sporting beliefs of so many young players were instilled. Two absolute gentlemen, club stalwarts who set the right tone in terms of discipline as well as footballing skill.
I went on to be part of Carrickmore u-14 and u-16 squads who, although could always come out on top in the West Tyrone section, always came unstuck against Errigal Ciaran in the play-offs. It was just another instalment of what has been a long-running and fantastic rivalry between the two clubs.
Despite spending more time warming the bench than doing warm-ups, it’s amazing how you still remember the teams that you were part of, the games you were involved in. Like an u-16 league semi-final against Errigal at Beragh, or an overnight trip to play Dungloe which saw us enjoy a great night out with our would-be opponents before taking them on the following afternoon, off the back of a sleepless night in a local hostel.
I could still name you the line-up of that team, and the one which came after it. It would actually give you a wake-up call when you run through and realise how many of them are now strewn across the four corners of the globe.
We had a family wedding last Friday and my uncle Canice had travelled over from Doncaster for a few days for the occasion. He has lived over there for over 30 years, but still gets back here at every possible opportunity, especially when there is football involved for club or county.
He was part of the famous Carrickmore side which claimed a three-in-a-row of county senior titles between 1977 and 1979. A big, imposing full-back with his trademark flowing hair and an ability to come upfield to kick long range frees. He also represented Tyrone with the same level of distinction.
He started telling of how, when rummaging through his loft a few weeks ago, he came across a box of memorabilia. The box contained one small trophy in particular which caught his eye. The inscription read “1967 South Tyrone Juvenile League Winners.”
Canice was able to tell me that he actually lined out as goalkeeper on the team as a 14 year-old. He went on to start naming many of the players and the positions they played in. He was able to say that my now father-in-law played at left half-back… But when I asked him about it he didn’t even realise he had played in the game never mind know where his winners’ trophy was!
The point I’m trying to make is that even for average footballers like me, the GAA has helped to forge bonds and create memories which are never likely to be forgotten. No matter how long it has been since former colleagues have been apart, they can still slip straight back into that same groove of camaraderie when they get back together in the same place.
There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but there’s a history and a friendship which cannot be broken, even by the passing of time.