In this week’s Secret Junior Footballer column, our man looks at the problem of drink and drugs in the local game.
Great to be back in action, I reckon we’re due a win soon and the buzz is coming back. For those of us off the drink for lent, St Patrick’s Day brings a nice little hiatus from the alcohol famine and usually we all go out together on the day.
With Cheltenham a fading memory and a real Super Sunday the day before (wasn’t too super if you’re a United fan, mind), March 17 was a day for the cure. For once, I looked after my ageing body but looking around at my teammates, it was astounding the amount they could put away. The drink has taken a bit of a hold on the younger lads.
Most of them are out of work and all that free time and the boredom that comes with it has led to more missed Sunday mornings than I ever remember as a 20-year-old.
I’m one of the lucky ones still employed, as are most of the lads my age in the club, thank God but I’d like to think that if I had found myself in that situation as a younger man I’d have kept busy, got myself as fit as I possibly could and lived for sport. At the time, I played everything and most of the same group I grew up with played soccer, hurling, Gaelic football and even the odd bit of rugby up the road.
We all found time to socialise and, with a few exceptions, you made it in to work the following morning, to the training pitch most nights and nothing would’ve made you miss the game, or games at the weekend, regardless of how many drinks you had the night before.
But much like Davy Fitz lately, it’s becoming apparent that it’s not just the demon drink that’s robbing these lads of any ambition. It’s whatever else they’re up to before, during or after they meet up with the rest of us and it’s in every city, village and town in the country.
More than any pint or short, this stuff is stopping a generation of young players from achieving any scrap of their potential and the evidence is in the membership of the club this year as well as on the numbers on our teamsheet on Sunday mornings.
You’d wonder if there’s anything we can do to stop it and there’s probably nothing anyone can say to the boys that would have an effect. Cutting it off at the source could be the only answer, making parents aware that there are dealers active in the area.
As dangerous as the drink can become, at least in the pub you’re with your mates and they’re the ones that will carry you through 90 minutes the following day.
With the other stuff you’re on your own.