Most of us in the packing room at Flahavan’s played soccer, and every lunchtime we participated in full-blooded games in     a nearby field. The packing room made up the bulk of the Kilmac minor team, and because I displayed some skill in the kick-a-bouts I was soon in contention for a place. For days leading up to a game all the speculation  concerned the likely make-up of the team. Teams were picked, lists were written out and taped to the walls – all futile exercises because the team     proper was never picked until the morning of the game, and was mostly dependent on who turned up.                                 At the top of Currabaha hill stood our pitch, Alaska Park, which the team shared with a herd of cattle. Our first task on     arrival was to clear the cowshit from the pitch. After the shit had been cleared away, the pitch had to be lined, and the goalposts and nets put up. The lining was done by spreading lime by hand from a bucket, a task rendered hazardous by the icy winds that invariably blew in from the Comeragh Mountains in the background.                                                                 For my first game I had been picked to play on the left wing, and I wasn’t doing very well. The Johnville defender was     kicking lumps off me every time I tried to go past him, and in an effort to escape his attentions I moved into the centre. Nearing the end of the game, with the score level, I found myself unmarked in the six yard box when a high cross from John Kiersey came towards me. Heading was not one of my strong points so I just stood there hopefully.The ball landed on my head and shot into the roof of the net.. I was a hero for days afterwards; we had beaten Johnville, one of the top teams in town.                                                                                                                                                                                    That was as good as it got. In and out of the team, I was tried in various positions – even goal-keeping – but I never     managed to secure a permanent place. Marginalised by my talent – or lack of it – I minimised my chances even more the day my dog ran on to the field of play and scored a goal for the opposition. The ball struck him and was deflected into our goal. It wasn’t the humiliation of being beaten by a goal scored by a dog that my team-mates found hard to take, but the fact  that the dog was owned by their own sub!                                                                                                                        Football at Alaska Park was warfare, not sport. Before ever a ball was kicked the bleakness of the place demoralised     opponents. Then there were the cattle, guaranteed to put in an appearance at some point during the game, their arses working overtime. This was the cue for the shovel brigade to dash onto the pitch. Naturally, the occasional green pile was overlooked, and if an opposing player went into a sliding tackle and came up looking a sickly shade of green…well, it was     just too bad. He should have familiarised himself with the terrain before making the tackle. These townies just shook their head in disbelief; they had never before played at a place where the cows outnumbered the spectators.                         If this didn’t demoralise them then the spectators themselves did. Partisan to a man, they were vociferous in their support. Every decision against the team was greeted with hoots of derision and torrents of abuse. It was so bad that some referees refused to officiate there. One supporter in particular – on of the team selectors –  stalked the touchline throughout the game, a hurley or blackthorn stick clenched in his hand, berating the official continuously.                                                   On Sundays that we didn’t have a game we went to Kilcohan Park to watch Waterford play in a League of Ireland game. It    wasn’t unusual to hear the same supporters screaming the same abuse from the depths of the stand.

   extract from THE SHINY RED HONDA, published by  Amazon

THE SHINY RED HONDA…read first chapter

19-01-2014 11;22;17


Chapter one

I was thirteen tall and gangly when I first pulled on long trousers. What a relief that was; I was the longest streak of misery you were ever likely to see in the short ones. It was my last year at the National school in Newtown and the Master used every opportunity to drag me around the classroom shouting “just because you wear long trousers now O’ Brien, don’t think it makes you any smarter”. I wasn’t and it didn’t, but the Master was a law unto himself so I just kept my gob shut. There were discussions about what, if any, further education I was to get. Dungarvan was out I heard my father say; it was too far away and the fares were too expensive. That only left the ‘Tech in Portlaw – and that seemed to totter from one financial crisis to the next.
We were poor I guess; no running water, no toilets, to TV, no car…you name it we didn’t have it. But then, money wasn’t as important as it is nowadays. If you had enough to live on you were doing well. If you didn’t you wouldn’t starve because the countryside was abundant in most of the things needed to survive. Even the poorest cottage had half an acre of land attached, and enough spuds, cabbage and other vegetables could be grown to keep a family from the poorhouse. Hens provided eggs every day, a pig could be fattened and killed; and if you couldn’t afford turf or coal, well, there was plenty of wood scattered about… Continue reading