THERE IS ONE thing that we, the lowest breed of footballer hold over the highest. Christmas off.
Whilst the elite grind their way through the festive period, we are in slippers watching them while trying to find the last Malteaser Celebration.
It was a shock to the system then when the mobile went off last Thursday with the message to resume training ahead of the cup game on Sunday.
Luckily it was a gentle session, no more than a brief amble around the pitch before the blessed five-a-side. I do love five-a-side, it gives me a chance to express myself and try things I wouldn’t normally contemplate: like shooting.
It was another Sunday-morning kick off. Facing Rathcoole’s ‘A team’. Cue the theme tune.
They are a full three divisions higher than us and some of our lads were in less than healthy condition from celebrating the new year. They were there before us. All buzz and intent. We, the prey.
Due to a combination of factors our numbers had been reduced to a paltry 12. This removed the safety net of a substitution. It was going to be a long 90.
They zipped around in the opening period. I resembled a tennis spectator, my head flicking left and right as they passed and moved around us. It didn’t take long for the first to arrive.
I have often read in match reports about a goal coming from a comedy of errors but after our full back whacked the ball off of my knee onto the onrushing striker for him to shoot, I couldn’t help but think that comedy of complete balls up was a more fitting description of our defending.
The second arrived almost immediately after. Our long 90 was quickly descending into a long nightmare. But than the penny dropped. We lost any fear and they relaxed.
We started to play, with a freedom and clarity that only comes when you expect certain defeat. Alan, our lightening quick winger went down in the box. Penalty. 2-1. Neil our top scorer, wrestled down in the area. Penalty. 2-2. That is how the half finished. The plucky underdogs in the ascendancy.
It didn’t last long. Their fitness began to pay off. Balls were cleared from the line, shots were saved before they went ahead, somewhat fortuitously from a free-kick that took a deflection. With 10 to go we were one down.
I got the call. Get up there. While I’d like to believe the manager was impressed with the roaming trequartista role I had performed in training, his bellowing orders of “Launch it!” seemed to suggest he still believes my height is my biggest asset.
It took about 30 seconds. I drifted back post while Neil ran down the right flank. He took the ball, beat his man and looked up. There I was in glorious isolation. He played the percentage ball. I watched it fall. Pulled my head back and buried it. Bottom corner.
I turned away in celebration, seeing as it was my second goal of the season, I felt entitled to a bit of finger wagging a la Robert Pires but my team-mates didn’t quite share my joy. One enquired “Why the F*** did you do that? “ Ah yes, I forgot, this meant extra-time.
They scored two in extra-time to kill us off.
We could be proud of our efforts all things considered. We departed beaten and bruised but proud. The new year is a week old, and I have learned a valuable lesson: stick to the chocolate Celebrations.