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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 18, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

    Thirsty Work

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Getting back into blog mode after a wee holiday, may I advert to a subject far removed from politics? Any time I attend a GAA match at Croke Park I am struck by the number of water-carriers who invade the pitch at every opportunity.


    The Bert at Croker: maybe he knows the answer? (Photograph by Alan Betson)

    It’s an irritating distraction from the business at hand. Does it happen on this scale in any other sport? I don’t go to many non-GAA sporting events, so I wouldn’t know for sure. Are hurling and Gaelic football players particularly thirsty individuals? And given the amount of liquid they consume, how are they able to contain themselves until half-time or full-time as I never see a player making a break for the loo?

     What’s it about? Is there an advertising dimension? Does the Maor Uisce (what a wonderful title, “Water Mayor”, like Maor Atha Cliath/Mayor of Dublin) who gets on TV offering a bottle of a particular brand of soft drink get a reward from the manufacturers? It’s not weather-related because last Sunday’s hurling match  (or was it a massacre?) involving Tipperary and Limerick was conducted in sub-prime conditions for the time of year, yet the water brigade (or whatever is in those bottles) were out in greater numbers than ever.

    Or are they conveying top-secret messages from the Bainisteoir (manager)? Or alternatively and rather sadly are they just people who want to say they were on the pitch at  Croker during one of the All-Ireland Semi-Finals in 2009?

    Somebody please help me out here as I have a feeling that the answer to this question might contain a clue to the solution of our national political and economic malaise which is that an awful lot of people are faffing about with fairly-pointless tasks when they should be focusing on things that really matter.

    • robespierre says:

      Does it happen on this scale in any other sport? Yes it does and companies had to agree guidelines to stop leading rugby players, for example, from using post match interviews for blatant and unapologetic product placement. George Hook memorably (and unmercifully) satirised an Irish rugby star after he sucked out of a bottle about 10 times in a 90 second interview.

      Are hurling and Gaelic football players particularly thirsty individuals? I am more of a long distance slogger these days but I also do endurance activities like high altitude hiking where you can consume up to six litres of fluid a day over a 12-14 hour hike. This is for a number of reasons but regardless of the sport you need to maintain a certain amount of fluid in the system to maintain the efficiency of oxygen delivery around the body. The sugars put into some of the drinks have a highly debatable impact but conceivably can help with some short dynamic bursts but would have almost no impact on endurance as they are simple rather than complex sugars. As regards toilet rituals most players have gone before going out on the pitch and they would have a routine for prehydrating before a game and would know their own bodies. Occasionally in rugby it has happened. Nick Popplewell or Keith Woods took a leak in Twickenham one year when the players made a circle around the player.

      Is there an advertising dimension? Yes and it is highly paid for.

      Does the Maor Uisce (what a wonderful title, “Water Mayor”, like Maor Atha Cliath/Mayor of Dublin) who gets on TV offering a bottle of a particular brand of soft drink get a reward from the manufacturers? Highly unlikely. They are probably just a flunky. It is often the fitness trainer that does it.

      It’s not weather-related – this is a misnomer, even swimmers sweat and have to hydrate with drinkable water.

      Or are they conveying top-secret messages from the Bainisteoir (manager)? Sometimes, YouTude the famour instance from Englands 2003 World Cup Final win where Martin Johnson was seen to be speaking into a water bottle. Brent Pope on RTE was they only person who seemed to notice this and it was subsequently picked up elsewhere. In the light of Harlequins shenanigans against Leinster who knows how important this was.

      Or alternatively and rather sadly are they just people who want to say they were on the pitch at Croker during one of the All-Ireland Semi-Finals in 2009? In fairness it is mecca to most of the slack jawed brethren from the country that come up to visit Dublin. Notwithstanding that I think you are being just a tad harsh on them.

      If you are trying to see how it may illuminate the national malaise then think of it as tending to a garden. A plant, like a player, needs food and water. Too much of the wrong thing or too little of the right thing has consequences. Allowing an economy to stagnate is like failing to prune a fruit tree or adequately prepare a team with fitness training and prematch nutrition. That is probably the best link.

    • Gav Reilly says:

      I think what’s most likely is that they’re carrying messages from the team management – “Gaffer says to run over there and follow da’ lad, hai”.

      On another point, isn’t the ‘maor’ meant to mean ‘steward’?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I understand the practice is something we picked up from the Australians who have what they term ‘runners’ and that the water boys are also passing messages to the players from the managers and selectors about positional switches and to whom to make comments about their sister being too fond of the ould chocolate cake. as for the loo breaks, they are replacing water lost to sweating so it shouldn’t be a problem.

      Also, it is a little known fact that I played in goal in front of the hill back in 1996. It was after Laune Rangers won the All-Ireland club final and by play I ran out of the Hogan stand, stood in the goal mouth and jumped up in the air. The sheer size of the pitch is something else from there though and that was before the Canal and new Hogan stands were done.

    • S Ó Loingsigh says:

      ‘Méara’ is the direct translation of mayor. ‘Maor’ is used to mean steward, warden or umpire, amongst other things.

    • Deaglán says:

      Mea culpa. Méara is the Irish for Mayor and Maor can mean Steward or, indeed, Major.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      It has only just occurred to me but how do we know it is water and is this where the expression “Now we’re suckin’ diesel!” comes from?

    • Dani says:

      I’ve noticed this a lot too this year and wondered about it.
      My cynical side says it’s just a front for passing on messages from the bench, but perhaps could it be some new Health and Safety nanny bull, because we are apparently no longer able to mind ourselves and know when we need a drink?
      From watching old footage from the 80s or 90s, you’d barely see a Maor Uisce on the pitch, unless the player was injured.

    • Mark Coughlan says:

      They’re running out to tell them the odds for the horses.

    • D O'Neill says:

      During the Cork-Kerry Munster football semi replay in pairc ui caoimh this year, one of the cork subs was warming up in front of the covered stand. He got the call of the manager to remove the tracksuit as he was about to enter the fray, and at the same time he got the call of nature.

      Unpreturbed by the 30 odd thousand people in close proximity, the young buck entered into the ‘lunge stretch’ position, and whilst keeping a leg between ‘himself’ and the patrons of the stand. proceeded to relieve himself on the hallowed turf.

    • Paul says:

      There was a girl on the Tipperary sideline last Sunday with the grandiose title Maor Uisce/Camain emblazoned on her high-vis jacket. Carrying water is difficult, carry hurleys a challenge – but both? Such responsibility on such young soldiers

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