In this week’s column, our Secret Junior Footballer pays tribute to the unsung heroes of all local soccer clubs.
When a clubman passes away everyone bands together and remembers the impact he or she had on their lives throughout their time with the club.
When you’re a kid and you start your playing life they’re just another face in the crowd when all you want is to get out onto the grass and kick as many footballs as you can. You don’t understand what their job is, they’re just the ones that open the gate for you and collect the balls from the ditch behind the goals for the millionth time and usually the ones who give out to you for kicking a divot into the field so you can cross the ball or take a free kick just like Matt le Tissier did the weekend before.
They’re the ones who are on the sidelines for every game, roaring at you and everyone else to run faster, kick it harder, heading every cross and making every save even though their playing days finished so long ago that even your Da never saw them play.
When you get older they’re the ones who organised the bus for the away trip to Thurles when you made it out of town in the National Cup and they’re the one who brought you to Supermac’s on the way home to cheer you up after you got beaten out the gate and you still didn’t know who they were, just their first name if you’d heard it enough times.
When drink and women came calling they were the ones who made you turn tail and run when you stuck your head into the local on Friday nights to chance a pint and they were the ones who dragged together a minor team because if they didn’t, the juniors would be full of the same fat thirtysomethings for the next ten years.
When you leave the safety of underage football they’re the ones who come into the dressing room after the games to talk about the chance you missed or the last minute block you made and take you for a pint in the same local they barred you from only a few years before.
Every club has those people, the ones who established the club, who scrounged every penny for the new clubhouse and worked on its construction every day to save a few quid. They lived and breathed every blade of grass and knew everyone, everyone’s brother and everyone’s cousin who’s finished with the GAA and could make a handy centre forward.
You only really figure out who they are and what they did for you when they’ve passed on and you stand around drinking pints and remembering.
Football won’t be football without you, thanks for everything.