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Sgt Mattie.

The Late Late Show

MAURICE HICKEY WEEKLY

Pat is proud to support
Power 4 Good Ireland
12th February 2011

FORGOTTEN BUT NOT GONE

Nowhere is the curse of emigration more obvious than on the soccer and GAA field.Tis like the last days of the Second World War; fellas of all ages, even auld lads who hung up their boots in the last century are bein' hauled out of retirement to tog out. Of course, this solves the problem of tryin' to get players who have reached their sell-by date to realise their glory days are over; fellas like Hosni Mubarak who just won't admit the game is up.

I am reminded of Mattie Grennan from down the Cossatrasna side. Mattie played for Killdicken Junior B hurlers until he was into his fifties. Now, you may well ask why he wasn't given his walkin' papers before that but he came from a long tailed family in the parish and everyone knew he had a clutch of nephews and a retinue of cousins who'd walk away if Mattie was sidelined. There is no doubt about it but, in his day, Mattie was a powerful hurler; a Killdicken team without Mattie Grennan was like Kilkenny without Shefflin.

Anyway when Mattie hit the early thirties, like the rest of us he began to slow down. With every passin' year it was expected he'd hang up the boots but, no, he turned up for every trainin' session, every challenge match and every tournament so that, when it came to the league and the championship, there was no question but Mattie had to get his place.

He was well into his forties and while he still had the skill the speed and the durability was a problem; if you could get a ball to him when there was no-one within an ass's roar of him he was alright but if he had to run for it or run with it he was fecked. Like all older players who ignore the biological clock and overstay their welcome, he turned to the dirty dig. When speed and accuracy let him down he became a hoor for the tap across the ankles and the rugby tackle. If all else failed he'd give his opponent a wallop of the hurley across the arse which inevitably drew the attention of the referee and often earned him a place on the sideline.

As I said he had numerous nephews and cousins playin' with the club and they were all fierce loyal to Mattie. If he didn't get his place with the first fifteen there would be all kinds of faces in the dressin' room; the Drennans and the Shady Ryans, his cousins from the mother's side, would be snortin' and gruntin' and wallopin' hurleys off the walls and doors until they got on the field where they wouldn't bother goin' beyond second gear until the sideline boys saw the error of their ways and brought on Mattie. Then they'd transform their game and tear into it.

Mattie was eventually sidelined, not by the club or the mentors, not even by his health; 'twas love and romance did to Mattie what managers, mentors and referees couldn't do. A young one in her thirties from Glennabuddybugga set her sights on him and after a short courtship she marched him down the aisle and into wedded bliss. He was a changed man after that; always late for trainin' always behind the ball and winded after a few minutes. He was so bad that his nephews and cousins began to have their doubts about him. Of course they blamed the woman, "That wan from the Glen has him killed; he's able for nothin' only the quare thing since she got her claws into him."

The woman herself had the last say; in a league semi final against the Bally boys Mattie was destroyed by the Dunnes of the hill. Towards the end of the first half after he was flattened for the umpteenth time she left the sideline and hauled him off the pitch. She deposited him in the dug-out and made a bee-line for the manager and the mentors and told them in no uncertain terms they should be ashamed of themselves; askin' a man of his years to play a game that was only fit for young blackguards. She was completely puzzled by the look of relief on their faces.

Mattie never played again and the nephews and cousins never forgave the woman from Glennabuddybugga for ruinin' him. He was 84 when he died last week and they said he'd still be playin only for her; on hearin' this one of the old club officials remarked, "wasn't she a godsend; if only the poor auld Egyptians could get a woman like her to convince Hosni Mubarak to hang up his boots she'd save them a lot of trouble."