Violence is refuge of talentless

THE statement hung in the air like a heat haze on a desert highway, or a bad smell in the Pairc Uí Chaoimh toilets.

It was a heartfelt statement, one I had no hesitation in uttering and it went something like this ...

“I can honestly say lads, that in 14 years of senior rugby I never threw a dig and I am very proud of that fact.”

Well, stop the lights, you’d swear I’d declared my homosexuality at the bottom of a ruck in a Junior Cup tie in Kilfeacle.

It was in the company of a couple of GAA men, as engaging a pair as you could ever meet.

One came from a Cork hurling background, the other from Kerry football and both, as subsequent research revealed, talked a far better game than they had ever played.

In such company, sporting comparisons are inevitable and, in the build-up to The Statement, the conversation had revolved around the relative roughness of rugby versus the GAA codes. I maintained that there was more sneaky thuggery in GAA than in the oval game, the lads obviously disagreed.

“Ah, but lookit,” said I, with tongue only partially in cheek, “examine the origins of the GAA. Every Sunday, after M ass, the lads from the village would head off for a scrap with the lads from the neighbouring village. All the GAA did was lob in a ball.”

There is no thuggery, said the lads. There is healthy scrapping in hurling and football and it constitutes an expression of your masculinity. No room for cissies in the Association, said they.

“Not like ye in rugby, with ye’re pads and chest guards and gloves. When you take a hit in the GAA, you take it like a man.”

Warming to their theme, their faces flushed with pride and porter, my companions recounted battles of yore and concluded that, in sport, there is nothing wrong with a healthy clatter.

And that was when I made my statement.

After the lads recovered their composure and their pints, I attempted to plead my case.

Unfortunately, such was their disgust at a man who had never thrown a punch in a 14-year playing career that they could not focus on my argument and kept interjecting with statements such as, “Never threw a dig, Sacred Heart, was it a skirt you were wearing?”

Therefore, I would now like to take advantage of the absence of hecklers, to explain to that Corkman and to the man from Kerry exactly why I went 14 years without a dig to my name.

There are three reasons.

One, I believe violence is the refuge of the talentless.

If somebody is at you during a game, outplay him and if you frustrate him and he reacts violently then it is advantage your team.

We tend to make heroes out of our scrappers. Look at The Claw, he became a cult figure after a bit of a divilment in his early career.

But what was far more impressive about Peter Clohessy was the way he adapted to the professional era and cleaned up his game.

For, you can be hard without being dirty, as Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan are currently demonstrating. They’re too good to resort to violence.

Two, a punch jeopardises your chances of victory.

What does throwing a dig actually achieve? Why do we pat our team-mates on the back and say “Well done” and “unlucky” as they trudge to the sin bin after throwing a punch?

All they have done is reduce their team’s chances by giving the opposition a numerical advantage and a shot at goal. Nonsense.

The final reason for a career of pacifism is less worthy.

I have to admit now to the man from Kerry and to the Cork man that the main reason I never threw a dig in 14 years is that ... well, I wasn’t very good at it.

If truth be told, I once attempted a punch during an AIL game in Rosbrien. The Old Crescent player who shipped the blow, I think it was David Bowles, chuckled and told me to cop myself on while my team-mates said afterwards that it looked like I was stroking his hair.

Ah sure, you either have it or you don’t.

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