Malachy Clerkin: A simple life without headbands or ham sandwich hang-ups
The po-faced reverence for GAA in Irish society drives the bad gael up the walls
The bad gael loves nothing more than to go to a game on a Sunday in the summer. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
This one goes out to the bad gael. If you’ve never called a ham sandwich a hang sangwich and if you’ve never eaten one from the boot of a car down a cul de sac in the shadow of Croke Park, then fear not – there’s a welcome here for you.
The bad gael goes to matches but doesn’t get caught up in any of the other carry-on. He loves nothing more than to go to a game on a Sunday in the summer. He hasn’t been to a league game in years, not since his dad used to bring him. His dad was a great gael. Never happier than when he was cold and wet and far from home. That is not a lifestyle that interests the bad gael.
The bad gael owns neither a hat nor a flag nor a headband. She has no need of one. She certainly has no call for all three. The bad gael knows a money racket when it presents itself. Her view of anyone over the age of 10 wearing a headband is informed by this knowledge.
It’s really not in the bad gael to hate the suits in Croke Park. God’s honest truth, he has no major thoughts on them one way or the other. He wouldn’t know Tom Ryan if he saw him bellydancing on the bar below in Gaffney’s after a game. He couldn’t tell you what John Horan does and suspects that anyone who says they can is spoofing.
The po-faced reverence for the GAA in Irish society drives the bad gael up the walls. She can’t abide all the droning on about volunteers, as if they aren’t the bedrock of literally every other sport on the face of the earth too. She’s no drum-banger for professionalism but she could live without the endless reminders that these are amateur players. She will not vote for you on Friday if she suspects you are parlaying a GAA career into a political one.
The bad gael wouldn’t be a big club man. It’s 20-odd years since he played with his home club and he doesn’t know half the people who are there these days. The half he does know are a shower of mé-feiners in his eyes, in it to feed their own low-level celebrity about the place. He’s happy to stump a few quid for a club lotto ticket now and then but he’ll be careful about who he buys it off.
Come to that, the bad gael doesn’t grieve for the club player. She understands, of course, that they get a raw deal and if anyone puts her on the spot, she’ll back the CPA to the hilt. More luck to them and God bless the work. But in all truth, she finds it tough to get overly exercised about the whole thing. She just likes going to the matches – is that so bad?
The bad gael doesn’t care about how much or how little time his county gets on The Sunday Game. He can’t imagine anything less worth his outrage than something Joe Brolly has said. He likes Donal Óg and Ciaran Whelan but finds himself scrolling through Twitter when any of the rest of them start talking. He doesn’t care whether they give out the Joe McDonagh results or not. He never makes it to the end.
The heat of a nova isn’t enough to describe how badly the bad gael doesn’t want to hear your thoughts on championship structures. She’d rather sew her earlobe to her cheekbone than have to listen to another conversation about tiered competitions. She’d happily take a fiver hike in the ticket prices if it came with a ban on the phrase Champions League format. Put the games on and she’ll go to them. Organise them however you want. Just STFU about it.
The bad gael has no time for winter talk in general. He never agreed with taking the All-Ireland finals out of September in the first place but he’s even more against it now. The last thing winter talk needed was a whole extra month into which to the Gah bores could stretch and spread themselves. If they ever move the finals to July, he’ll strongly consider emigration. Or homicide.
The bad gael has never asked aloud what the hell has happened to ground hurling. She has spent not a single nanosecond worrying that the sliotar goes too far these days. She thinks hurling people could do with getting over themselves and just bring in a black card, especially when it seems every second game she goes to has a defender pulling down a lad who’s through on goal. She thinks hurling people could do with getting over themselves in general.
For what it’s worth, the bad gael thinks the black card has actually done a fine job in football. He thinks the blanket defence is a pretty boring way to play the game but hardly the end of civilisation as we know it. He loves a good dummy team and says people moaning about them are only looking for notice.
So here’s to the bad gael. There’s more of us out there than you think.