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Authors: Joe O'Brien

Feile Fever

BOOK: Feile Fever
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Féile Fever

 

‘Welcome addition to sports literature for youngsters’
Sunday Independent

 

‘Fast-paced and exciting’
Irish Independent

Féile Fever

Joe O’Brien

For my cousin, and dear friend, Michael.

When I decided to write another book about Danny Wilde and his team's promotion to the Under-14s Division, I didn't initially think of including the Féile. However, after
researching
the Féile and discovering its importance to GAA, both in Ireland and in other GAA-hooked countries, I'm thrilled that I did!

 

I feel that the Féile is a symbol of the great GAA spirit that stretches from the highest levels right down to local communities, enhancing the lives of all the participants. I hope you enjoy reading about Danny's Féile experience in this book.

 

Joe O'Brien
 

As always, I’d like to thank everyone at The O’Brien Press for their support and hard work, especially my editor, Helen Carr, Emma Byrne for the wonderful book design, Ruth Heneghan for all her hard work promoting my books, Ivan O’Brien, Brenda Boyne and all the sales team for their support and hard work. Special thanks must go to Mary Webb, Editorial Director, for encouraging me to write these sports books and Michael O’Brien, Publisher, for being the great person he is and for giving me the opportunity to be an author.

Big thanks once again to Paul Faughnan of St Patrick’s GAA Club, Palmerstown, for all his valuable GAA advice and information, and for giving me so much of his time.

I would also like to thank Kevin Nicol for his fascinating tour of Croke Park (which I would highly recommend) and John Costello (County Board Secretary) for his kind welcome and words of wisdom at Parnell Park.

Sincere thanks to all the supportive booksellers and librarians, and all who dedicate so much of their time to the world of books.

A huge thanks to the staff at Ballyfermot Library for looking after me so well and finding me cosy, quiet corners while I was writing this book.

Once again, thanks to TG4 for their comprehensive coverage of GAA games, which I enjoyed while writing both
Féile Fever
and
Little Croker.

Last, but certainly not least, sincere thanks to my wife, Mandy, and my son, Jamie – I love and adore them more than anything in the world (even writing, and that’s saying a lot!).

‘W
hen you go out onto that pitch, lads, where are you playing?’ cried Mick.

‘The Little Croker!’ replied the team.

‘And how do you play every game?’ asked Mick.

‘LIKE THE ALL-IRELAND FINAL!’ cheered the whole dressing room.

Then with a familiar clatter of studs, the team raced out onto the pitch like an army going into battle.

It was Saturday 25 April and Littlestown Crokes were playing at home against
league-leaders
Chapel Hall. Even though the Crokes were finding their promotion to Under-14’s
Division 1 difficult, only picking up five points out of a possible ten in their first five games, Danny Wilde led his team out onto the Little Croker with his head held high.

Crokes had beaten Barnfield in last season’s Under-13’s Division 2 league, and Danny’s winner’s medal was sitting polished and proud on the mantelpiece back home, but neither Danny nor Mick could work out exactly why Barnfield were settling into Division 1 so much better. This bothered the father and son – the Crokes’ coach and captain – big time.

Today was a huge test for Mick’s team. Chapel Hall, last year’s Under-13’s Division 1 winners, were already looking like runaway league leaders, and they proved that in the first twenty minutes of the match, hammering over six points and playing as if
they
, and not the Crokes, were all-Ireland finalists.

Danny and his cousin Jonathon battled their hearts out in midfield, but every time they
managed
to get the ball up to their forward line, the
Chapel Hall defence was too strong. By the half-time whistle, Chapel Hall had scored a goal and two more points. Even though Danny had knocked over a wonderful long point after going on one of his special Danny solos, and Barry Sweeney, Crokes’ centre full forward, had added two points to Danny’s, Mick was faced with fifteen deflated Littlestown warriors at half-time, trailing by a score of 0-3 to 1-8.

‘Gather them in, Jimmy,’ instructed Mick.

‘Come on, boys!’ said Jimmy, Mick’s
assistant
, clapping his hands a few times to get the players’ attention.

Larry, Mick’s brother and Jonathon’s dad, was strolling back down the line. He had Danny’s dog, Heffo, the team mascot, with him; Heffo was twirling around in circles trying his best to eat his lead. Alan Whelan, Crokes’ centre half back and big Johnner Purcell, the full back were laughing at Heffo and paying absolutely no attention to Jimmy.

Suddenly everyone around the pitch jumped
to attention as Mick Wilde blew hard on his whistle.

‘Right, lads, are yiz
listening
or will we all just go home now?’

Everyone, including Jimmy and Larry, gathered in a circle around Mick. Even Heffo didn’t dare take his eyes off his master as Mick delivered his half-time words of wisdom.

‘I know yiz are struggling in this division, lads, but you have it in you to compete with these guys,’ encouraged Mick. ‘You just have to knuckle in and believe in yourselves. Barry,’ said Mick as he glanced over at his centre full forward, ‘great points, son. You’ve scored in every game so far this season. Get me more of them. And well done, Danny, and you too, Jonathon. Don’t be afraid to take them on and run at them. I know their defence is strong, but don’t be afraid to shoulder them off.’

‘That’s right boys. Get stuck into them. Show them what you’re made of,’ added Larry.

Jimmy rolled his eyes at Larry and then
rolled them up to the heavens, making sure that Mick saw him doing it.

Who does he think he is, interrupting Mick like
that
, thought Jimmy,
I never interrupted Mick
during his half-time talk and I’m assistant coach. Flamin’ cheek. Things were better when him and Mick hated each other. He wasn’t around to interfere then.

Mick managed a discreet supportive smile at Jimmy, who he knew had become a little jealous of Larry’s new-found interest in his son’s team.

Suddenly the ref’s whistle blew, it was time for the teams to get back onto the pitch.

Mick made one substitution and brought on Derek Moran to replace Paul Kiely, who was having a terrible game at right half forward.

‘Come on the Crokes!’ shouted Jimmy, as the boys took up their positions on the field.

‘Come on there, boys!’ cheered Larry. ‘Get in there from the start!’

Jimmy looked at Mick again.

‘I think I’ll bring Heffo for a walk now,’ he said.

‘Will you relax!’ whispered Mick, smiling. ‘They need all the support they can get.’

Deep down, Mick knew that Crokes needed more than just support if they were to get
anything
out of this game.

The referee threw the ball high in the air and Danny Wilde jumped for that ball as if he was jumping on behalf of every single one of his players. Taking his dad’s advice on board from the very start of the second-half, Danny
shouldered
his opponent off him as his feet landed back on the crisp turf and he swiftly fisted the ball to Jonathon.

Jonathon then fisted a high pass over the other Chapel Hall centre midfielder sending the ball back into the hands of his captain. Once again, Danny Wilde went on a Danny solo, twisting and shimmying around the Chapel Hall players as if he was a ghost player, untouchable and unstoppable.

Doyler, Crokes’ centre half forward pulled his player out wide and opened up a gap for Danny as he approached the heart of Chapel Hall’s defence.

Barry Sweeney was battling with his marker to try and shake him off, but the full back was stuck to Barry like super glue. Then, with an extra burst of effort, Barry shrugged off the number 3 and headed for goal, just as Danny lobbed a perfect pass towards him. Barry fisted the ball into the back of the net, clashed with Chapel Hall’s goalkeeper and went crashing to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs.

‘GOAL!!’ cheered Jimmy, and he danced up and down the line.

The Crokes supporters went wild!

‘Barry’s not getting up!’ announced Larry suddenly to Mick.

‘Water, Jimmy,’ instructed Mick as he ran across the pitch to the stricken player.

The celebrations came to an abrupt end as the spectators became aware that Barry
was lying in agony on the ground, holding his collarbone and crying in pain.

No amount of water was going to fix this injury, and Mick knew straight away that there was a real chance that his in-form number
fourteen
had sustained a broken collar bone from the clash with the goal keeper.

Danny ushered his team away from the scene and instructed them back to their positions.

Mick and Jimmy managed to get Barry to his feet and helped him over to the sidelines. The referee and Chapel Hall’s manager followed them over.

‘I think he needs to go to hospital,’ said the referee.

‘I’ll ring an ambulance,’ said Jimmy.

‘I’m not getting into the back of an ambulance,’ screeched Barry.

‘You have to, son,’ said the other team’s manager.

‘No way!’ insisted Barry.

‘I’ll take him in my car,’ offered Larry, seeing
that Barry was getting more and more upset at the suggestion of an ambulance being called.

‘I’ll go too,’ said Mick.

Jimmy looked relieved. The thought of having to sit beside Larry in the car was too much to bear, but then suddenly the thought of having to finish out this awful game without Mick seemed worse.

‘Are you sure, Mick? I can go,’ said Jimmy. ‘Sure you stay here for the rest of the match.’

Mick Wilde wasn’t having any of it. He was the manager and one of his players was hurt. It was his place to be with Barry.

* * *

A good fifteen minutes had passed and the buzz of Crokes scoring their goal had fizzled out completely.

Jimmy brought on little John Watson to play in centre half forward and Doyler pushed up into Barry’s position – centre full forward.

Even though Crokes tried their best to stay in touch with their opponents, Barry’s exit had weakened their attacking power.

Jonathon managed to score a point, as did Jimmy’s son, Splinter, bringing Crokes’ score up to one goal and five points, but Chapel Hall surpassed their efforts by adding a further three points to their score.

To make matters worse, just as Danny had knocked the ball out wide to Splinter, with an amazing hook kick from the outside of his right foot, and Splinter had turned his marker to shoot for a point, an unusual disturbance to the far side of the pitch caused Splinter to miskick his shot, sending it far wide of the posts.

Billy Stapleton, a boy from Danny and Splinter’s class in school, charged onto the Little Croker on the back of a horse, with two park rangers chasing him.

‘Get out of the way!’ roared Billy, as he
skillfully
guided the horse around all the players.

Danny was
furious
and poor Jimmy was
mortified. Jimmy and Mick always prided themselves on the good reputation that
Littlestown
had when it came to GAA. It was one of the good things going for the area, and now here was young Billy tearing across Mick’s arena, making a mockery of it and letting down Littlestown in front of the opposing team.

‘What’s the story, Danny?’ shouted Billy, ‘all right, Splinter?’

‘Get off the pitch, ye muppet!’ yelled Danny. He could hear all the Chapel Hall supporters laughing from the sideline.

The referee had had enough. He put his whistle to his mouth and blew on it as hard as he could.

The match finished 1-5 to 1-11 in Chapel Hall’s favour.

As Billy Stapleton rode off into the distance and the clouds began to pour rivers of rain down, all the Crokes and Chapel Hall players ran to the dressing rooms.

Danny and Splinter helped Jimmy take down
the nets, then slowly made their way off the pitch, leaving it all alone; worn and battered and empty and humiliated.

It was a dismal day on the Little Croker.

BOOK: Feile Fever
7.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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