In his hugely entertaining Hooker’s Diary column, John Hogan writes that his Christmas eating habits had the desired effect.
When I last wrote an entry in the Hooker’s Diary, I set a goal of putting on weight during Christmas so as not to look so much like I was doing a rag doll impression during games. Over the festive period, I crammed in as much turkey as would fit, drank gravy like it was water, and chowed down on pudding as though it contained the antidote to shortness.
And now half way through January, have I become the proverbial brick poop house? Have my efforts at putting on significant body mass proven fruitful? Well, should I need a cat scan, I won’t need to be taken to the zoo just yet, but I am happy to report that there is now about half of stone more of John Hogan on this planet than there was in early December.
Aside from eating at an alarming rate, I also caught up with some old friends and played a bit of ball over the Christmas break. So as to recount some of my festive highlights, I’ll break with tradition for this installment of the diary and expand it out to cover more than a week.
It’s easy to forget how many of our former teammates have departed these shores over the last few years until you actually see most of them standing on the same field again. In keeping with a longstanding Bruff tradition, our ‘exiles’ came to play the first team on the morning of St. Stephen’s Day, with former comrades in arms returning from locations as diverse as the UK, Switzerland, Honduras, Kuwait and Carlow.
I barely noticed Michael Lynch, a former Bruff prop who used to rampage his way around the field like an angry bull last season. A few months working in the Middle East, however, has produced a tanned, slimmed-down Mike who now bears more of a resemblance to a Mediterranean lothario than an Effin barreler.
The game itself was great craic and probably the first time that the Bruff senior team was matched in strength by the returning prodigal sons for the annual fixture. To keep everyone happy, it was decided at the end of the game that the two sides had drawn.
December 28–January 5
Much of the last few days of 2013 and the dawn of 2014 were spent sweating off the excesses of the festive period in our gym in Bruff. Our regular conditioning coach, Bourkey, has found himself a partner-in-torture named Grainne. Although an incredibly pleasant person in the real world, once she passes through the doors of the gym, Grainne displays more than a slight inclination towards the sadistic.
Her arrival also presents a major problem for those of us who like to grab a millisecond’s reprieve when Bourkey has his back turned during a session. Now that there are two sets of eyes on us, there truly is no place to hide. And I like hiding!
I found out tonight that one of our latest arrivals in Bruff, Jack Cullen, started at scrum half for Ireland U-19s, a terrific achievement. After congratulating Jack, I realised that for the first time, I am now a decade older than one of my teammates. When I was Jack’s age, he was just an 8-year-old whippersnapper in London, dreaming of one day joining Bruff RFC.
Two years ago, we pulled a Houdini by grabbing an unlikely victory against Buccaneers on the final day of the season, thus leapfrogging Galwegians and consigning them to relegation.
Within a year, of course, we would join the Galway boys in Division 2A, after a season of thrashings in 1B. Today, unfortunately, proved to be the occasion when Galwegians got to show us their appreciation for sending them down the trapdoor in 2012.
We did manage to score three late tries but we were throwing stones at a steamroller at that point, with Galwegians coming out the victors by 48 points to 20.