Gaelic Games, Expat Edition

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve taken up Gaelic Football here in Busan, so finally I’ve got the pics and the post to substantiate my claim.

Football has never truly been my strong suit, or even my weak suit. In truth, it probably isn’t something I could class as one of my ‘suits’ no matter how I tried.

How I managed to be roped into it is a long story, which can be condensed into a fit of patriotism seizing my consciousness while I was intoxicated and signing me up. So it came to pass that I attended a training session early one Saturday morning under the blistering sun of South Korea.

Having last played gaelic in the Oranmore Boys National School “School League”  way back in 2003, aged 11, it goes without saying that I was rusty. However, the Laochra Busan crew helped me find my feet… and arms with the game play. And also the necessary skills such  as basic hand-eye coordination and judging the distance of a kick. Both of which are still works-in-progress.

Being the welcoming and encouraging bunch they are, the team made the somewhat naive decision to get me to play in a tournament just one week later. Now, this came as a shock to me, and I tried my level best to persuade the team that they should place their faith in another man. I mean, I’d only just picked up a ball for the first time in over a decade.

Brian, the trainer, was having none of my waffle excuses, and told me that they’d play me in corner-back and all would be sound. In fairness to the man, all was sound…after a fashion.

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After getting to the venue in the neighboring city of Ulsan I learned that our first match was our own A team vs. the B team, on which I was taking my spot. So far, so good, I thought to myself, the boys will be just warming up sure it’s only a bit of a laugh.

Little did I know that I was to become that laugh.

Having had no luck during the first half as corner back I asked to switch into goals, where, conceivably, I could do better.

gameplay

“Come on Number 6 Whattaya playing at? Runnin away from d ball?!”

At first, refreshed after the two minutes of rest at half-time, I was pumped up to be the star goalie of the B team. My opportunity came when the forwards rushed into the box. I seized my moment and ran to meet the attacker. At the crucial moment, however, he passed to the right.

Next thing I knew, the ball was headed right over the bar. Or was it? No. No. It’s hit the crossbar.

My mind frantic with thoughts of saving the day. I rushed forward reaching out to grab it.

My fingertips began to get a hold of it. Yes! Here comes the glory. Oh shit! No!

My hands, sweaty from the exhilaration of finally being a true Irishman (as measured by usefulness on the GAA pitch) were my downfall as I neatly fumbled the ball into my own net.

It cannot be said, though, that I’ve never been cheered for on a GAA pitch as the other teams gave me a round of applause such as I’ve never received, before or since! An ill wind blows some good after all I guess.

The day did improve for me though, as I came to terms with the fact that, I am, perhaps never going to be a natural on the sports field. There were some times where I surprised myself by making bursts for the ball and being able to understand, if not always follow,  the directions roared from the sideline.

endgame

After four games an attractive sportsman I was not!

All-in-all I’m more than happy to settle for ‘not a nuisance on the field’ or even just a roadblock in the back line of defense. Who knows though, maybe I’ll wake up one morning and understand the game. Somehow I think I’d better keep up the training just in case that doesn’t happen.

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