Irish rules is no rules atall, atall!

I’m not sure if Gaelic Football came first, and being a mixture of football and rugby played with a round ball confused the Brits so they had to make two games of it, or the Irish decided to combine both the games to draw bigger audiences and permit semi-legal kicking the hell out of each other. Anyone from the southern hemisphere will recognise the game as Australian Rules Football, which, contrary to its name, seems to have very few rules at all – other than kicking the hell out of the opposing team.

When I went to watch a game of Gaelic Football at Levante FC’s training ground in Valencia, the players were there more for a bit of a lark and a pint or two later, so the violence of professional games wasn’t on show. That may also have been because both teams included colleens (women, for the non-Irish speakers), who nonetheless did a fair amount of shouting and bawling.

The referee was also a woman who, in plaited ponytail and flip-flops, skipped up and down the sidelines trying to keep order, although she spent a fair amount of time asking other girlies on the sidelines if anyone was keeping score. The Spanish groundsman was totally confused – a game that allowed both men and women to play together (the first equal-opportunities sport?), players to kick and handle the ball, and the score didn’t depend just on goals but also on points, but how the points were given seemed totally obscure. There again – it is Irish after all!

It seems to be that you can only run a few steps before kicking the ball – usually a little flick upwards into your hands, a neat trick when travelling at speed. The goalie – obviously a first-timer – got a bollocking because he threw the ball out of the goal instead of kicking it. “You’ve got to kick it out, mate. Every time!”

Timing seems a bit fluid. “Let me know when it’s fifteen minutes for half time,” the ref called to her sideline aficionados. Half-an-hour a game! That wasn’t going to raise a sweat. “No, were going to give it tirty minutes a side,” someone called from the pitch. “Right’ch’arethen,” the ref called back. A short while later a voice called, “Eight minutes left.” “We’ll give them one more minute fer yer man wasting time,” the ref called back.

I’m pretty sure that a trainer for Levante Football Club wouldn’t run onto the pitch partway with a bottle of water to refresh the poor wee players, but just before half-time one of the male sideliners ran onto the pitch shouting, “De yers wanta take a break fer water?” “Ders only tree minutes left – WILL YE FECK OFF!” one of the petit ladies hollered back.

Probably the best thing to do if you go to watch Irish Football is not to try and understand it. Probably half the players don’t – and I wasn’t one hundred percent sure about the ref – but what the hell, everyone was having a great time and were there for the craic more than anything else.

But as ever, the poor ref got all the stick!

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered

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