Every inter-county team carries a well-staffed backroom these days. Depending on who you talk to, Tipperary have well over two dozen people beavering away behind the scenes, for instance. Michael Moynihan identified some of the job descriptions which go beyond maor uisce . ..
Everyone knows how picky hurlers are about their weapons of choice, and this seldom-identified backroom member has a very specific task. This person maintains the ambient temperature, atmospheric moisture content, and relative angle of repose of the team hurleys in a specialised container, one adapted from the traditional cigar-carrying instrument.
The model used by most teams is based on the Montecristo Cigar Caddy, we understand, and can be seen after games being manhandled onto the team bus like a particularly awkward coffin.
All those sticks at the side of the pitch are primed and ready when someone makes smithereens of his hurley in a full-blooded clash. This person’s job is ostensibly to write the name of the owner on the hurley in such a way as to make the hurley-carrier’s job easier — but the calligrapher isn’t doing his job right if the name is too legible.
A few extra swoops and flourishes on a name, and a sweating hurley-carrier is under pressure picking out the right stick five minutes into the All-Ireland final as an adrenalised player screams into his ear. Great fun.
All those millimetres make a difference, and this person has a very specific objective — to ensure that the balls being used are on the money, weight-wise. He or she prowls the sideline, and at every opportunity whips out those tiny scales and rolls the sliotar up onto them to gauge how near it is to optimum weight.
Most people think this person’s job revolves around throwing on heavy/lighter balls to suit the situation, but it’s all about the accuracy as an end unto itself (How heavy should it be? Between 3.9 and 4.2 ounces, but I’m sure you knew that.).
This person usually works as part of a team with the People Person (see below), but while the P. P.’s work is not strictly time-sensitive, the C.G. moves among the weary players after the final whistle with a subtle phrase dispensed here and there. The immediate job is to find the bare minimum for the lads to say after the game.
‘We knew coming up here we were in for a tough test,’ ‘this is a hard place to get a result’, and, for the newcomers on the team or those who can’t manage anything more sophisticated, ‘a lot of people wrote us off’.
...which is where the People Person comes in. He or she is charged with finding these people who are writing the team off, but to the best of our knowledge, none have ever been found.
Every inter-county side —hurling or Gaelic football — must carry at least one person in an official tracksuit whose identity is a mystery to everybody watching from the stands. Is that person a team psychologist, or a barrister if there’s a need for a sudden appeal against a red card?
The bus driver who (finally) wants to see a game, or a random fan whose car broke down on the way to the game, only to be recognised by a clubmate on the team bus?
None of the above. Like the people paid to fill seats when stars go to the toilet during the Oscars, this person’s role is to give the impression that this is one team with a backroom that is capable of addressing every eventuality. Sure look! They’ve taken all the seats available!
A new development. This person is in charge of inconsequential debates which flare up from time to time to distract everyone from the matter at hand.
Probably the laziest person in the backroom team.
*Hurley, of course.
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