Different Game Altogether

Hope you’ll forgive me this little indulgence :
Had this one on the back burner for a while : it started out as a paean to a Gaelic Football match here in Ireland, but then the soccer tie-in became more obvious. It’s still very relevant at time of posting (written early August 2002, posted early December 2002). UEFA will decide on who gets to host the European Championships 2008, on December 12th, 2002 (less than a week’s time).

Different Game Altogether

The ball’s the same
Same shape, same feel
Different look (old fashioned panelling)
Different logo’s
There’s just as passionate a crowd
“Come … on … you … boys … in blue
Come on you boys in blue!”
The same emotions
Anger, frustration
Wonder, admiration
Joy, elation
A packed stadium, full of knowledgeable fans
‘Watch yer back’, ‘man on!’, ‘get tighter’
‘Get yer tackle in’, ‘good block!’, ‘great play!’
But then you hear
‘Catch it’, ‘off the deck, ref’, ‘free out!’, ‘free in!’
‘Watch the hop’, ‘four steps ref!’, ‘carrying, ref!’
Foreign shouts, to us, but an indigenous game
Beautiful accents, fast and flowing, like this match
A celtic lilt, so full of humour
A creamy fresh hint of stout, hangs heavy in the air
And sure, the craic is mighty!
The passion too, is ever present
‘Take your point’, ‘get it over the bar!’, ‘Punch it into the net!’
Maradona would have been great at this game!
Different rules
Different game altogether

But still there are similarities
Fans festooned in their teams shirts
Different styles, different shades, different sponsors, different era’s
Different game altogether
Yet the field, also bossed, by a colourful man
No longer sombre-suited all in black
And he receives the same admonishments
But not with quite the same vehemence
The language fruity, but slightly toned down
For there’s just as many women and children in attendance
A family following, supporting their own clans, their own tribes
Their teams, populated, with native talent
Local lads, that they’ve nurtured, and loved
From grass roots, to money stuffed boots
But still they dote, on their home-grown boys
Different generations, Grandmothers, Grandfathers
They remember, a different pace, different styles, former heroes
This is, for them, a different game altogether

And there’s still the same hopes, the same dreams
Every year, up for the cup
But here, it’s the League, that is the distraction
And it’s all through the summertime
That they watch and pray
As the allstars, battle and play
Touchlines thronged, with staff, squads and panels
Managers (Baneisteiors), assistants, physio’s with flannels
Before every game, the sides line up, then face the flag
Standing to attention, proudly
The crowd joins in with the National Anthem, loudly
Goalkeepers, defenders, midfield and forwards, jostle, for position
But it’s fifteen a side
And the pitch is huge
They aim to score, in readiness for the roar
Three points for a goal, but on the whole
They settle for a point, a high punt, between the posts
Different results
Different game altogether

And so often, it’s an Indian summer
As they head to their Mecca
Third week in September, sacrosanct
As two teams on fire
Battle it out, for the Sam Maguire
Wishing and hoping
That they’ll sport, a big grin, in Dublin
And not be victim, of a choker, in Croke
They’ll turn up in their droves, and mingle
Mix happily with the opposition, as they share the same tingle
And a few scoops
The troops, will reminisce, about previous finals
Great games from the past, and the fast, since they won it last
They’ll all support the County, every man jack (and Jackeen)
Not Notts, nor Derby, or Stockport
Different teams, different boundaries
Different game altogether

So what relevance is there, for this platform of football poets?
Where’s the soccer tie in?
Well, apart from the near obligatory Dirty Diego dig
We should be concerned, about a body, that just doesn’t give a fig
And nor do they have to, this is no admonishment
We can only look on, in wonder and astonishment
At how an amateur game, can be so awash with money
And delight, in a dispensation so sunny
But they hold the key, in a dual bid, for Euro 2008
The Celtic cousins, Scotland and Ireland, have set their hearts on that date
The SFA and FAI
Have gone from pie in the sky
To real contenders
Not just great pretenders
But in with a real chance, of a winning bid
Perchance, a time to dance?
But a celebratory jig or reel
Would, I feel
Be too premature, for us to exalt
Nor for a mature malt
With or without the ‘e’
To splash with glee
Into tartan tumblers
For the FAI bumblers
Are beholden, on the ok
From the GAA

Different values
Different flora, the Shamrock and the Heather
Football : Gaelic or Soccer
Same shaped globe, same leather
But same ball park?
Sport and Politics :
Different game altogether

Jackeen : a Dubliner. Dublin was always seen as the most “English” city in Ireland by provincials and this was coined as a term of derision stemming from the English flag, the Union Jack, by adding the diminutive, -een. Literally, “Little Jack”. Derived from “shoneen”, a sort of “working-class West Brit”.

GAA : Gaelic Athletics Association

The goals and goalposts : a cross between soccer and rugby

Croke Park, Dublin : holy ground, sacrosanct to the values of GAA and used only for Hurling and Gaelic Football.
Recently redeveloped, now holds a capacity of 80,000.
Soccer is not allowed to be played there,
yet it is part of the combined bid by Scotland and Ireland for the European Championships 2008.
At time of writing, the Irish government expect the GAA to cave in to demands and accede to the request to use it for Association Football.
But it’ll be a big surprise if that does happen. And they shouldn’t have to. Very few GAA die-hards would be happy to
allow the use of the Stadium for 2008 only (the latest request from a very desperate Government), even for a cut of the income that’ll be generated. It contravenes their ‘Rule 24’.

But their prejudices apart, their most telling point is that the Irish government had committed to building
a National Stadium (‘Bertie Bowl’, after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern), for Soccer and Rugby to share. The Government dissuaded
the FAI and IRFU from commencing with their own plans for a new stadium. But now all plans have been shelved, since early September.
And the Irish Government have had to go cap in hand to request that the GAA allow that just 4 games of Soccer be allowed as part of the 2008 European Finals.

Nevertheless, whatever way Ireland’s contribution of two Stadiums works out, the best of luck to the bid. EUFA decide on Dec 12th 2002.

Kevin Moran and Steve Staunton both played Gaelic Football to a high standard.
I once watched Kevin turn around a Provincial Final in Dublin’s favour, a typical bloody and unbowed performance from a stalwart.
And if I remember rightly, it was just weeks before he signed for Man Utd – or is this just part of the wonderful folklore?

Thanks to Alan for the ticket, to see Mayo v Cork and Dublin v Donegal, double header at Croke Park in August, 2002.
A lovely birthday present, apart from Mayo (hello mam) losing to Cork (hell’o in-laws (just kidding)).
And great to meet the cousins in the obligatory pre-match build up in the pub beforehand, howya to Ian and David.

September 2002 All Ireland Gaelic Football Champions : Congratulations to Armagh (winning the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time ever).
And to Mayo Ladies, All-Ireland Women’s Champions again.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/news/2002/12/08/different-game-altogether/