A tough day at the office
On the road
A constant heavy drizzle. It doesn’t just fall on you but seeps into you instead. That’s the Sunday we encountered on the road across three counties once we broke the border line in Ballindine. We were mapping towards the hurling heartland of Athleague to see the men of Tooreen have a cut at adding the Connacht Intermediate title to their boasts of 2013.
Tippin’ her on nicely towards Glenamaddy we encountered the mother and father of all road blocks. Loosely posted diversion rerouted us cross country. Luckily we were familiar with the terrain. God knows where we’d have ended up otherwise because some amadán had turned the road sign.
The only sound of music emitted from the radio. The presenter dropping a hint perhaps when he cued PJ Murrihy singing, “You’d be better off sitting at home by the fire drawing little men in the ashes.”
But we recovered our bearings and resolve enough to negotiate again one of the renowned four thoroughfares drifting from Glenamaddy towards Brandon country and the rugby stronghold of Creggs. We reached the headland of Athleague’s field of dreams just in time for throw-in.
This homely village on the banks of the river Suck is to Connacht hurling what Thurles is to Munster. Spectators packed sardine-like into the venue’s modest stand. Others battled with the elements under the evergreens bordering the pitch. No shelter there either as rain dropped down like ringlets.
November rarely lends itself to good hurling. That’s why the hurlers of Tooreen and Kilnadeema/Leitrim deserve great credit. A goal nine minutes in gave the east Galway side an early cushion they took to the dressing-room.
We repaired to Athleague’s welcoming clubhouse kitchen to sup hot tea. They’ve a sense of humour too. “Your mother doesn’t work here so clean up after yourself,” the sign requesting good housekeeping reads.
We had an early stoppage in act two when the referee had to get his earpiece bandaged with enough elastoplast to cover an episode of ER. Any night soon some entrepreneur is bound to appear on Dragon’s Den pitching an apparatus to remedy this refereeing dilemma.
By three quarter watermark the game was slipping beyond Tooreen’s baling after Kilnadeema/Leitrim opened a seven point divide. But in matches like this we see the honesty needed to hurl for Tooreen. And nowhere was this more obvious than in the candour and demeanour of their sharpshooter Kenny Feeney.
The normally reliable free-taker was having one of those afternoons Dylan sings about. Days when the wine won’t come to the top of your cup. Days when a drying kiln never mind a towel wouldn’t dry timber. Days when the playing surface was so slippery you’d need a coal shovel instead of a hurl to lift the sliothar.
But Kenny Feeney doesn’t shirk his responsibility on days like this either. When the game looked all over bar the presentation he was still up for it enough to take ownership of a free and rifle the sliothar to the roof of the opposition’s net.
And when Tooreen came charging again it was he who buried another goal to leave just two points in it. Tooreen weren’t far away and the panic was raining down in bucketfuls on top of Kilnadeema/Leitrim now.
But time and tide ran out on the High Kings of Mayo hurling. The long road beckoned again.
By the way
Bon voyage to Tooreen defender Stephen Coyne who heads back to Australia to work after Sunday’s defeat. What commitment.