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GAA Novel

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Hi lads. I've been trying to write a fiction book about the run up to a JFC final and a family involved in it. I thought what better place to get some feedback than the most visited GAA website. Due to space restrictions I can only add the first few pages in this message - I'll add a little more in next reply - in th but I'd would appreciate comments good or bad. I genuinely think there would be an audience for this genre and hope to have that confirmed here. Cheers

A small round fist on the end of a thick muscular forearm hammered down on the laminated desk puncturing an uneasy silence. Two plastic cups hopped up releasing a few drops of water apiece before returning to upright positions. Ciaran Matthews's grim puce face was awash with the determination he wished to infect each and every lad in the room with.

He had a neck and head on him like a tough, resolute and scarred Jack Russell. There were many scars, visible and invisible. His thin-lipped mouth reflected a yellow-toothed mordacity ready to snap at the drop of a hat.

There was important business at hand and it concerned every member of the small Mount View football club that occupied the room with Matthews. A heavy air pervaded the crowded room lapping into the lungs of Matthews's audience. A couple of lads - keen on keeping those same lungs on the edge - dragged on fags beside an open window, despite the presence of two 'no smoking' signs.

Matthews rubbed the bottom of his throbbing fist with his less aggressive hand allowing silence to creep into the atmosphere. He had been here before on numerous occasions and was sure he knew how to work his crowd.
Then, resting his two palms on the table, he rolled his head on his short neck and gathered his thoughts before delivery.

"I cannot emphasise just how important tomorrow is. The lifeline of this parish is at stake, the pride of its older generation can be restored; and ye there, ye are the boys for the job at hand," he barked, spraying the front row with saliva.

He tapped his left watch-free wrist with his right index finger before pointing at the crowd and nodding with a crazed smile taking them all in.

"The time between when you leave this room tonight and the throw-in tomorrow is equally as important, if you get my meaning. I'll personally kick forty shades of s**t out of anyone I hear about straying before I dump them on the bench, if they're that lucky."

His shrewd dark eyes scanned the room in search of even a hint of dissension among the ranks. There was none, a canvas of black lying on the belly of a deep coal pit. Everyone knew the manager's ruthless nature; there was not even an attempt at humour concerning the subject. Any lad spotted within spitting distance of a pint would be axed, there was no doubting it.

Each member of the panel was vying for a place in the final and the competition was as fierce as a furious volcano. No one wanted to be handed a jersey with the number sixteen on it or over. That is a familiar but sickly and angry disappointment a player could always do without. The manager and selectors' way of saying you're not good enough so go where you belong, like back in school, join the group of players in the yard that are always last to be picked.

The reality dictated that there would be over thirty players togged out for the decider, meaning half them would be on the bench. In truth, plenty of the gang knew their place and would accept just being a part of the occasion, but there would no doubt be many victims with a hump on them, brimming with retrospective fantasies of glory if they had played, should the result go against them.

chaz (Meath) - 27/02/2013 15:58:40    1339912

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Earlier in the year some of the cockier lads who thought they would walk straight into the team - after walking trouble free across the surface of a deep lake - were taught a harsh lesson by the new trainer. It had never happened before to this breed of player in the club, but this was the new coach, a former All-Star who took no sh*te from any prima donnas. They had learned; the most of them.

Matthews once again rolled his head on his short neck and said: "I have every confidence in each and every one of you. I believe ye can bring back the O'Brien Cup to this parish tomorrow evening for the first time in forty two years. Well, CAN YE?"

There was a thundering roar of agreement from the players. Some shouted louder than others but this was not an indictment of some lads' lack of belief, it was just that some of the players were plum crazy when it came to voicing how they would gladly sacrifice their soul in exchange for that piece of metal. It also did not do any harm if you were seen to look more determined than the rest. The coach was as vigilant as a Cavan man minding his pennies in proximity to a Cork magnet, he never missed a thing of note.

"Well boys, I've kept ye here long enough, I'm not naming the team tonight, the selectors and myself have decided to leave that until the morning. I want to see everyone in mass tomorrow morning, atheists included, we are going to take all the help we can get, whether we need it or not."

He looked at the ceiling smirking.

The lads started to give Ciaran a round of applause. He held his hands up in the air to signal a halt.

"Let's not go wasting any energy unnecessarily, go home now, and for f*ck's sake no fries in the morning. And remember to bring gloves; the forecast is for a bit of rain tomorrow. Straight home now, I mean that."

The spirits were high among the team as they dispersed but there was a heavy sense of purpose hanging over them, curbing them from the usual high jinks and shenanigans. A day of reckoning for them all was just one night away, it promised to be a long night for the most of them.
As the car park emptied, Fionn Martin felt good but was still weighed down by guilt. He started to walk up the hill towards his home with his training bag slung across his left shoulder. Strolling alongside him was Darragh Kennedy, a friend who he had grown up with. It was a steep hill they climbed, about the width of a large Massey tractor.

The boys were next-door neighbours, living about two hundred metres from each other. They did not talk much as they walked, both lost in their own private thoughts. When they came to a T-junction they stopped for a moment. The air was damp and heavy though neither of them took much notice of this.

"Look Darragh, I hope there's no hard feelings, I know I went in hard, but I was genuinely going for the ball, I'd give anything to see you trotting out there tomorrow, anything, you'll be badly missed," Fionn said.

Darragh's head dropped and he frowned for a moment looking down at the plaster cast on his left wrist.

"It wasn't your fault Fionn, I just fell awkwardly that's all, it could have happened to anyone."

But it had happened to him the curse of f*ck on it. He lifted up his uninjured arm and looked at it.

"At least I can lift a pint tonight with this good arm unlike the rest of you poor souls."

Fionn sniggered. "You know as well as I do that some of them f*ckers will sneak off somewhere further afield for porter, it's just their nature and youth I suppose. I'm not exactly one to talk."

"Aye sure. Well that was when you were younger; I think you've learned since then."

"Have I?" said Fionn "I wonder sometimes."

"Anyway that's enough old chat for tonight, tomorrow we'll be in great form for a bit of craic, I'm off home to change and head out, goodnight," said Darragh heading off to the left unwilling to reveal his true emotions.

chaz (Meath) - 27/02/2013 16:11:34    1339922

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A couple of stray tears escaped his eyes and his nose began to run as it always did when he got emotional. It was true, the metal pin in his wrist defined it so; the lads would have to do it without him. It had been a tough and sometimes downright cruel eight months of training in every kind of weather imaginable.

Lungs burning as they searched for oxygen, snot streaming into the mouth and down the chin; almost heaving, coupled with knowing there were another ten shuttle sprints to go before the next drill and another ten drills after that. It was hell at times for the cause.
But it was now that it hurt the most, feeling the emptiness of his efforts echo through him. Give him the muck and torture of training anytime in exchange for an unbroken wrist that could pluck the ball from the sky.

Tomorrow was the day he had prepared all his footballing life for. There was not a damn thing on earth he could do now but cheer on his friends. It was a poor consolation but the only consolation on offer.

"Night," said Fionn. It was an often burgeoning guilt he would never be rid of; no matter how many times Darragh laughed it off.

Fionn ambled off in the opposite direction towards his abode, the memories of the incident in clear focus stomping through his mind. They were playing a game of backs and forwards. The going was hard with no quarter given. The challenge was fair, a fifty-fifty ball they both went for. But this was where the guilt raised its ugly face. Fionn went in hard, all right, but it was harder than he should have, he was still fuming over getting clocked on the jaw by Darragh a minute previously in a careless tackle. The focus was primarily on Darragh's shoulder and not so much on the ball.

It was a sweet connection that caused Darragh to trip over his legs and fall awkwardly on his wrist resulting in a bad break. Fionn won the ball and picked off a point.
But his pleasure lasted only a moment as he turned to see Darragh writhing on the ground and groaning through gritted teeth. It wasn't like Darragh to stay down and Fionn knew immediately his rage did this, albeit unintentionally.

But rage is usually only short-lived, the guilt that replaced it was a different creature altogether. It was not something Fionn could dismiss, it always lingered there, sometimes forgotten but always with you, ready to remind you at a moment's notice.

He had walked over fifty yards when he heard the hum of a car and then noticed the headlights coming up behind him. He stepped up on the ditch to give the car plenty of room and allow himself better odds of remaining fit for the game.

The car - a souped up silver Nissan Micra with spotlights on the front and blue go-faster stripes along the sides - hooted its horn three times as it passed. It was one of the young Reilly's - from beside the lake about a mile the far side of the football pitch - behind the wheel.

He couldn't make out which one it was. This was no real surprise as the poor mother had produced six lads and a single daughter, the good Catholic upbringing she had was not wasted on her.

The eldest lad, Glen, owned the car, but they all drove it whenever they needed it, covered by the insurance of never missing a Sunday's mass, Fionn suspected.
None of the Reilly boys ever kicked a ball, it was such a waste to the parish; their father was a wizard on the pitch who had a couple of runs with the county team. His gene pool was not totally wasted though as their sister Josie was a talented player for the ladies team.

Despite their reluctance to play ball, all the youngsters and their parents and grandmother - an iron old lady that could melt opposition fans with a momentary glance in their direction - would be at the game tomorrow, they rarely missed a match.

chaz (Meath) - 27/02/2013 16:14:38    1339923

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There was a great buzz circulating throughout the parish, it was even stretching into neighbouring parishes. There was blue and white bunting, the team colours, hanging on everything that was high enough to proudly display them. Each telephone pole on all the roads leading to the church had a flag pointing at forty five degrees towards the sky, imploring the heavens to deliver a promise of victory.

The church was the centre of the parish; it was one of the smallest parishes in the county with only a pub, a small grocery shop and a primary school accompanying the place of worship. The school had about sixty kids, the majority of which were female much to the woe of the football brethren. Most of the young boys did not hail from good football stock either. What had they done wrong at all?

The population comprised of the inhabitants of houses scattered throughout the roads and boreens within the parish borders. It amounted to about two hundred and eighty people.
It wasn't much of a pick to choose potential junior football champions out of, but there were some outside players on the peripheries of the border who felt an allegiance to the team and donned the blue and white.

Some of the players lived in Dublin, studying or working. There were five offspring in Fionn's family. He was the youngest of the lads, his sister Aislin the youngest of them all. The three brothers were in the capital, two of them settled into family life and a third still testing the water before such a drastic decision.

Fionn reckoned that particular temperature would never reach an acceptable heat for Tom, the artist, his eldest brother. His two other older brothers Eamon and Joe dropped anchors fairly early on their journey.

Eamon was just touching thirty and a father two times after one successful accident. The twins were girls but that did not seem to bother him at all, despite bragging when his wife Karen was pregnant of how his son would play for the county, his county that was.

Joe was two years younger and only married over a year. His wife Jasmin was a real looker. That pair were of the same mind when it came to the direction of their lives.
They were both the same age and very career orientated. Joe was an architect and Jasmin an Industrial Engineer.

They were the most organised pair Fionn had ever come across. Lord knew where Joe got it from, it certainly wasn't his family. They had penciled into their diary the February of their thirty second year for the conception of their first child. Joe had confided in Fionn this information on one of the few times he allowed himself complete inebriation. This way they could still enjoy a summer holiday and not have the inconvenience of a pregnancy during the Christmas period. What would Mother Mary of God think?

Fionn wondered what deity would be answering to them if the target was not hit on the first time of asking. They still had about four years to make their first million. This was no fantasy either. Fionn believed they were more than capable of accruing such a sum, especially considering their unashamed tight fists.

Fionn was approaching the quarter century and was playing the best football of his life so far. Joe and Eamon still played for the home team and would make the eighty mile-round trip once during the week for training. Though for the last month they were making that journey twice a week. Usually they would be joined by a pair of the college lads.

Tom never showed the slightest interest in football, all he ever wanted to do was chase women; and avoid the traps they set for him once he caught them.

chaz (Meath) - 27/02/2013 16:17:38    1339926

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Apologies, there are a few words I meant to put asterisks over before sending. Sorry again.

chaz (Meath) - 27/02/2013 16:20:59    1339927

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looks good chaz, keep er lit.

Tom1916 (Armagh) - 27/02/2013 16:56:27    1339957

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I like that. You have me hooked.
Did you by any chance base your football coach on the legendary Leigh Matthews of Aussie rules fame. When i was reading it was him I could se up there .

derryman (Derry) - 27/02/2013 17:40:11    1339988

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It's not Leigh Matthews no, he's more a composite of many coaches I have played under though there is one in particular he has a lot of similarities to.

chaz (Meath) - 28/02/2013 10:36:54    1340187

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I read your first post and thought it good.
I don't want to read any more and then not be able to finish the book...

When will it be on sale?
What is the title?

You could serialise it here on Hogan Stand if the Admins let you.

Keep up the good work.

Fat Boy (Cavan) - 28/02/2013 11:12:59    1340211

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Thanks for the vote of confidence lads. Fat Boy I have yet to go down the publishing route. I did send my idea to a couple of mainstream publishers who politely told me it is not for them. Fair enough, so I will need to go down the self-publishing route but before I go down that path I just thought I'd throw it out there to see if there is a market out there for it. With the times that are in it I'd hope to break even. As for a title that's still up in the air, I was thinking maybe something simple like The Championship I'd appreciate any suggestions. As for serialising it, absolutely if they were keen. Thanks again.

chaz (Meath) - 28/02/2013 16:06:18    1340435

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How about "It's more than a game, it's life."

OntheWhiteSide (Kildare) - 28/02/2013 19:22:51    1340559

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chaz. thats pretty good
If you want more advice online look to the creative writing and GAA forums on boards.ie where you could get great advice from both GAA fans and decent writers

ormondbannerman (Clare) - 28/02/2013 19:32:32    1340561

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Brilliant...

A GAA based fictional novel by a Meath man

It's bound to be filthy dirty.

Count me in...

(PS fair play to you :)

Beelzedub (Dublin) - 28/02/2013 21:17:28    1340609

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I think theres an absolutely obvious choice of title, right from within your first extract, 'Forty Shades of Sh*t!'.
Lets get on that bandwagon while its still there!

OffalyBigBall (Offaly) - 01/03/2013 08:44:40    1340649

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I must tell ye Chaz, I'm really enjoying it so far. You have done a good job bringing these characters to life in a few short pages.

Suas Sios (None) - 01/03/2013 11:32:02    1340741

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I actually agree, I like it...

Horsebox77 (Kerry) - 01/03/2013 11:58:03    1340759

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yeah very good so far, few very minor bits I felt could be worded a bit better, but am sure that woudl be covered when proof read. If you ever get round to publishing I would be interested.

Rosineri1 (UK) - 01/03/2013 13:03:40    1340805

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A former sports editor of the Irish Indo called PJ Cunningham brought a book of short stories based on the GAA, it ready very like the above. It was a great read at the time and I remember thinking why is there not any more of them like it? Perhaps you could research it.
Well done so far, really enjoyable and I think everyone visiting this website will be able to relate to the subject matter! Keep it up!

sportsfan14 (USA) - 01/03/2013 15:03:59    1340913

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Fair play to you Chaz. I wish you nothing but the best & look forward to the book signing in the Four Masters Bookshop in Donegal Town!!

MuckrossHead (Donegal) - 01/03/2013 18:31:34    1341061

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well done Chaz,

although there is no need for the jibe at the Cavan man. that's lazy. By the way. what era is the book set it. I get the impression its fairly recent. Do players still smoke fags and expect to get on a team. I know some did when I was playing but I don't think you'd get away with it now. Is the book going to be chaptered chronologically. If so you will have a lot to fill in in one night. (ulysses :)) perhaps you are going to take us back to the first round of the championship or maybe even previous years. Also would it be plausible for a former All-Star to to coaching a junir team. although if he is just starting out I suppose so. Anyway I am gripped and I hope the game goes to about 5 replays and yer man with the broken wrist gets his game after all. :)

s goldrick (Cavan) - 01/03/2013 20:57:19    1341118

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