[sz-gplus-share size=”standard” align=”none” annotation=”none” position=”outside” /]“The death of Gaelic football” as Jarleth Burns referred to it, was served up on a platter at HQ on Saturday, as Dublin slugged it out with Derry.
While there is no disputing the lack of entertainment on show at Croker, the ‘death of football’ is going a bit far. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Andalusian League.
As the clock struck eleven on Saturday morning, bodies began to shuffle into the home of GAA in Gibraltar, the British Ministry of Defence. Yes, that is the home of the Gibraltarian GAA. The shuffling bodies were slow and lethargic.
But as one by one the players arrived, it became clear, these players were very serious about the task at hand, winning the Andalusian League. Don’t let the smell of stale vodka or the stories of late night spins on the roulette wheel in the local casino fool you, these we men fixed on winning.
The first game was scheduled for midday. As the sun stretched to its highest point, it was all too obvious, this was one hot bastard of a day. The southern Spanish sun was overpowering in it presence. A regular GAA team would struggle with such conditions, the Gibraltar Gaels would almost certainly die. The body composition of at least seven of the starters was made up of 70% alcohol, 20% kebab and 10% everything else necessary.
However, The threat of death by dehydration was not enough to put off these warriors. Most of them have had tough lives. The Irish lads all looks at least 15 years older than they are after growing up with the wild westerly winds that sweep the emerald isle. The English, Romanian and Welsh lads that made up the rest of the team on the day may look younger, but God knows what has happened in their lives to end up playing GAA in Gibraltar. Then there is ‘El Capitan’, Pablo, the Spanish captain from Madrid. I won’t even tell you what he’s been through!
The league consists of three teams that get together roughly every 6 weeks for a one day, round-robin tournament. 15 minutes a half, believe me, that’s enough.
A random player from the team not playing referees the match. First up, Gibraltar v Marbella. Gibraltar had to win to win the league there and then.
What followed was a great advertisement for what not to do on a GAA pitch, (or at least a soccer pitch with 20 foot piping taped to the post’s to make points possible). The shooting was poor, the handling was shite. But by God it was honest. Gibraltar were missing players and at times it showed as Marbella cut through them with ease.
There were initial doubts about our classy midfielder Ray ‘Rimmer’ Doyle, a Sligo native who was meant to be on a ‘work’ trip to London. However, he made it to provide plenty of examples of his famed ‘Ray Doyle classic’, a striking technique that means is left ear is virtually scraping the ground due to leaning so far over when kicking from his right ‘peg’. The threat of ‘cauliflower ear’ looms large.
Limerick man Jason Ryan lead the line at full forward, immobilised by the copious amounts of buckfast (or whatever the Gibraltar equivalent is) filling his body, we had to put the ball into his chest every time. He would peel off to his left, turning like the titanic, to stick the ball effortlessly over for a score.
Mike McGrath, still reeling from his dream debut in Seville, reminded us all that his football is of the American sort. The poor Marbella full forward had never been sacked in such a fashion, he must have thought he was playing International Rules against Barry Hall.
Down man JP Thornton was in goal. Later to proclaim the reason for THAT goal was down to his lack of ‘goalie training’ in the past two months. Controlling the back was Seamus ‘Don’t Call Me Shea’ Hayes, another Connacht man (Clare), but of a different ilk to Rimmer Doyle. Seamus is a no nonsense, ‘fist’ tackle kind of defender, take the man, if there’s a ball there too, great.
Andy Stronge was in good form, he won a lot of tackles and was more often than not out in front of his man. The less said about his
kick passing the better. Rob Voyzey, a cross between Steve Irwin and David Mitchell, was his usual, unpredictable self. At one point stepping over the ball to leave his opponent bamboozled, only to realise he was two feet from the touchline and the rolling ball went straight out of play.
The first game was a close affair, won by a single score, and in truth, Gibraltar were lucky to win, but they did. And they were the Andalusian Champions. A good feeling. Unfortunately for the peninsula team, they were on next too, a five minute turn around was not enough in the sweltering heat. Nevertheless, they carried out a, erm, performance of sorts. The highlight of the heavy loss to Seville was Eoin Walsh’s parting shot to GAA Abroad, squaring up to the referee, in a fashion that would have had Roy Keane looking like a choir boy.
Shay ‘I’ve Got Pictures’ McDonnell took advantage of Luke Nixon’s good nature to bring himself on as a late substitute. Despite his well-publicised knee problem, he shuffled about up top and eventually got his score, only to hobble back off the field, Shay being Shay, that was the last we heard about the point.In the aftermath of the games, there was a presentation of the trophy. At time of writing, the last known whereabouts of the trophy is Molly Blooms in South Central, LA Linea.
The story goes Danan Truong finally got his hands on that trophy wife he’s been looking for, but nothing can be confirmed by the man himself, as he has been locked up in the house frantically trying to work out the meaning of the phrases, ‘The RA’ and ‘The Parish’. Some people…