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If somebody had told me in November 2008, just before I embarked on my first solo bout of world travelling, that I’d become indifferent to being involved in Gaelic football, I would have suggested they see a psychiatrist.
At that time, in addition to playing, I’d started training my club’s under-21s and I’d served as public relations officer. To say I was gaga about Gaelic football is pretty much, um, on point.
Nipped in the rib
Of the myriad concerns I had about leaving home for a protracted period, abandoning Irish football was chief amongst them.
My absence from the game could hardly grow my fondness for it — my heart was pumped full of it. Thus, it was probably only natural that travelling would begin to weaken the bond, even though I didn’t think it at the time.
The love was reignited on my return to Ireland in late 2009, but it was of a different beat. Work took me to Belfast and with it a change in club. While I enjoyed playing for Naomh Bríd, my outlook had changed. Gaelic football was now a pastime, not a vocation.
Leaving Belfast in mid-2011 to base myself, eventually, in Gaelic football-free Bogotá ensured my playing days ended.
The odd game of fútbol (soccer) filled any ball-shaped void but it was with surprising speed that I kicked to touch the “need” to play such sports regularly or join a club.
Merely making ends meet became my Bogotá sport; that and travelling around Colombia when I could. Thus it has largely remained.
Yet, while Gaelic football may have been out of sight in a real-life sense, it has never been out of my mind.
‘With no health insurance, I would have to be close to death to see a doctor right now. Anyway, I had a fair idea that the best treatment is ice, rest and time.’
Even so, when the game made a brief appearance in Bogotá recently thanks to the guys at Go Gaelic, I was somewhat surprised at my excitement to be reunited with an O’Neills size five — the ball used in the men’s game, that is.
More surprising, if I do say so myself, was that my touch was fairly sharp, all things considered.
Playing a compromise rules exhibition game with the well-established Australian (Aussie) Rules football club, Bogotá Bulldogs, my enthusiasm to play some “footy”, as our antipodean acquaintances affectionately and boisterously call their game, was reignited. (Aussie Rules and Gaelic football are seen as close cousins.)
This enthusiasm was dampened when, adrenaline abated, I noticed I’d picked up a bruised rib or two. It’s really only when you suffer such an injury that you realise how intrinsically involved your rib cage is in every movement of your body.
Nonetheless, invited to train weekly with the footy folk with an eye on playing in an upcoming Colombians versus The Rest internal club game, I was determined to show commitment to my new cause.
While the bruised ribs were still bothering me, I managed to take in a few training sessions before the big game.
Indeed, it took all four weeks between the compromise exhibition match and this internal game for the injury to heal; and not even fully at that.
One heavy, late hit later — if it was rugby, I’m sure the tackler would have been sent off — and it seemed as if my whole rib cage had been shattered.
To give an idea of my suffering in the days that followed, I was compelled to take painkillers. This is something I rarely do. I hadn’t taken any for the previous rib injury. I usually take a grin-and-bear-it approach to pain.
Some barrio friends, seeing me in such a state, suggested I seek medical help. With no health insurance, I would have to be close to death to see a doctor right now. What’s more, I had a fair idea that the best treatment was (still is!) ice, rest and time.
Health insurance or not, getting these rib injuries within a month of each other has certainly made me less eager to play such a high-contact sport. (Gaelic football is a little less physical.)
I’m not as bulky as I was in my early 20s and I am, naturally enough, a little slower, so both factors make me more vulnerable to getting smashed up.
OK, I did enjoy being back in the heat of battle but I haven’t enjoyed the aftermath, injured to the point where I’ve struggled to do low-intensity activities, meaning I’ve been less active overall. And I’m not the most patient patient, particularly when my everyday movements are curtailed.
Thus, I won’t lament a return to being indifferent to such team sports. I had been more than happy engaging in my own physical fun this past decade.
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