I have always been a very keen GAA man; it’s a huge part of my life. When I was a young lad, all I wanted to do was play for the Royal County in Croke Park. I grew up watching Big John McDermott in the middle of the field, he used to pluck balls out of the sky for fun and I always wanted to be him.
Growing up I was always very big for my age, my manager from u10 to u14 had to bring a copy of my birth cert to most matches to prove to the ref and the other team’s manager that I wasn’t a “banger”.
From u14 to pretty much minor football I had it all my own way. If I’m being honest, I was never a great footballer, I was the type of chap that once I’d won a ball I’d hear “Lay it off Rory, lay if off” from the side-line. I could though, catch most kick-outs because I was a foot bigger than anyone around me; I thought this was a ‘piece of piss’ and I was destined for Croker!
Eventually though everyone around me began to naturally grow and I wasn’t as influential as my underage days. I still am an awkward whoor to have around the middle to ‘shake things up’!
In 2008 I was midfield for the Meath u21 team; we got absolutely spanked by Kildare in Navan. I did though, have one of my better outings and was proud of my efforts after the game. In the showers after, like most GAA lads, we tried to forget about the game and spoke about the drinking session we were going to go on, “mon we hit Navan lads, drown the sorrows”. As we headed back into the changing rooms, Colm Coyle (Meath manager at the time) called me over and says “I want you to come in for a training match tomorrow morning with the seniors, you deserve a shot after that performance”.
This was great news, but I was still mad for a few pints with the lads as it was my last year u21. So I said I would go for the famous ‘1 or 2’. Sure of course the craic was ninety and as the night went on I’d say to myself just to justify what I was doing “Sure even if I play a stormer tomorrow, I’m still not going to be on the championship panel so fuck it, I’ll arrive up and do my best”(a woeful attitude altogether). So I ended up getting locked and got a taxi back to Ashbourne about 4am, absolutely mouldy drunk!
The next morning I woke up on my couch in an awful heap. I just heard my doorbell ring, the mother answered it, came into the back room and says “Cormac is at the door (Cormac was a fellow clubman on the Meath team at the time) “What does he want..” says I.. “You have a game don’t you??” .. “OH SHITTTE, I do”!!
So I jumped in the car, still in the jeans and shirt from the night before “where’s your gear!?” asked one of the lads in the back seat, “awe boys I can’t play I’m in an awful way, I wouldn’t run up the stairs right now. I’ll just say one of the Skyrne lads were meant to pick it up for me and they forgot”. – Such a brutal excuse!
So we got to the pitch, late of course, most of the panel were out on the field warming up. I’d got sick out the window on the way down to Navan so I was as white as a ghost getting out of the car. Tommy Dowd (Meath Legend, was a selector at the time) took one look at me and says in a pure thick Meath accent “You’re soooome cowboy O’ Connor” and burst out laughing.
I strutted into the changing room, with the stamp from the nightclub clearly visible on my hand and stuttered my woeful excuse to a dead wise Colm Coyle. I thought being size 13 in boots that I would have been safe enough that nobody would have spare boots of that calibre, so I was thinking that I was going to be sitting in the dugout having the bit of craic during the game and let my hangover pass by comfortably.
But no, just my luck up perked an excited Mark Ward (Meath Midfielder at the time) “jaysus Rory, I have a spare pair of 13s in my bag here, you can wear them!” he knowing well the state I was in – da bollix!
“Ah jaysus thanks Wardy, you’re such a gentleman!!” I then got a pair of socks and size 34 shorts off another lad, I’m size 38 at best, so they were completely bet onto me! So off I headed out onto the pitch to join the warm up; looking like a chap they had dragged in off the street to make up the numbers. I was marking Nigel Crawford and I never got such a roasting in all my life, I was calling for kickouts and jumping about 10 minutes too early. The game was a complete disaster and an utter blur!!
After the game as we were jogging from side-line to side-line to warm down, I had to pull up along the railings and put the fingers down the throat. Anthony Moyles, Meath captain at the time walked by with a look of utter disgust on his face, shook his head and pointed at me saying "that is what is wrong with Meath football right there". I was in such a heap down on my hunkers that I couldn't even feel ashamed; I just stuck the fingers back down the throat again to get the last of the Navan Supermacs out of my system.
When I was eventually done getting sick, I didn’t even bother my hole having a shower; I just jumped into Cormac’s car, sat there dirty and freezing, waiting on the lads to come out so we could go home ta fack!
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t too surprised that I didn’t get a call back to training the following Tuesday – nor play another game for the Royal county!!