Updated: Aug 29
Last Saturday morning, 21st day of May, coach A. W.J. Fitzgerlad related to this very correspondent, the hopes and expectations for this specially selected Earl’s side. Half full or half empty, as the reader shall see, would be the deciding theme of the day. With expectations high on this 9th anniversary of the Earl’s founding, Fitzgerlad knew the risk of disappointment that is so well intwined with the standards set by previous Earl’s generations. Coming to mind immediately would be the 25 yard goal by Rory ‘Gibbonator’ Gibney to finish off Brussels in the Benelux round robin of two, 2005, for example.
In the first game, as the third mark was marked by a the man from the land down under, there have been antelopes in the inner Serengeti which pranced around the grass with much less grace than that man from Melbourne. The capital and most-populous city of the Australian state of Victoria, and the second-most populous city in both Australia and Oceania, produced an heir forcing a shift toward the ball winning late 90s football style for which the mark was reintroduced under regulation 93A of Gaelic Athletic association AGM 2004, twice postponed.
As an aside, if truth be told, tactical instructor James ‘Earls’ Jones explained everyone who would listen on the night about the Melbourne man’s constant half-pintje during the whole evening. Inexperienced observers would likely conclude that the pintje was never being touched by the midfield maestro. Through monthwhile study James Jones observed that Patrick ‘Mark’ Abbott, matching that consistency of ball winning style regular Earl’s watchers are well accustomed to, simply consistently drinks only in half half-pintje mouthfulls, well explaining the constant sight of Paddy’s half full pintje. Although it did look like that half-full pinjte was not being touched the full evening, that can be well put down to Paddy Mark’ Abbotts singular ability, also witnessed via the Luxembourg men falling to the floor without a single touch from Abbot, as the ‘Mark’ did explain to the referee.
Partnering the Melbourne midfield man was another recent addition Oirin O Coinneceain, from Ballymore. Prowling the region between both half back lines, an unquenched hunger to clean up the Earls 50-50 balls was observed by quite all the assembled crowd.
Furthermore, many in the crowd murmured approval to the silky ball playing characteristics of one Tom “Silk Road” O’ Dowd.
Non-regular readers of this column are referred to last Octobers interview with A. Fitzgerlad (Earl’s) whom memorably described the route to goal beginning with Tom’s articulated distribution
from centre back as a very modern ‘silk road’.
A ball player with a refined reading of the game, O’Dowd is a recent transfer in the Spring 2022 season from South County Dublin.
Management of facilities on the day at thehome of the Earls was ably martialled by Konnemara Kun Aguero. He marshalled a stubborn, yet dedicated bar staff featuring elements from London, Morocco and Netherlands and James Earls Jones. A fine Belgian Summer day which was previously predicted to be clouded throughout the day, as often does happen, turned furiously bright to the vocal displeasure of coach Alan W. Fitzgerlad. Predictably, the referees waved away his pleading for aftersun breaks, of course, not allowed for in the current European GAA regulations. While player welfare is rightly, to the forefront of recent rule changes, trainer redness continued throughout the day.
In defence, the Seville Leech Pablo Cantadore stuck to his job as a trusty corner back under Fitzgerlads tutelage as much as to the Luxembourg forwards on the day. While language problems were an ongoing concern, his colleague Sean ‘the machine*’ O’ Hara in defence finally made the breakthrough in Stapeltons, 2:38 Saturday night. *Commonly called ‘the machine’ due to his untiring engine and robot-like determination to collect second-balls. The two corner backs, having martialled the Earl’s from the defence out, duly had an unspoken understanding concerning zonal marking over two half pints of Guinness at the corner bar. Unspoken that is, as Sean doesn’t speak Spanish.
Bernie Burns has a wand of a left foot. Deep in the second half, he pranced up the left hand side. In hindsight, completely unnecessary shouts of ‘go yourself Bernie’ were heard from the Earls support on the sideline, including the viciously sunburnt coach A.W.G. Fitzgerlad. The ball was stuck ferociously yet gently, as is his want, into the top right corner. As the goalkeeper picked the ball out of the very top right corner of the net, none could blame him of questioning the decisions of that day which resulted in facing an Earls team, assembled from all corners of the emerald isle (including the controversially occupied 6 counties) which featured the silky ball handling Tom O’Dowd, Melbourbon Maestro Patrick half pintje’ Abbott from Victoria state (commonwealth) and full forwards Bernie ‘Burn’ Burns and Tommo.
Tommo first played ball around the streets of Santry under the watchful eye of A.G.W.J.
Fitzgerlad. Fitzgerlad saw something in the youngster, unnoticed by the established giants of European GAA, and Tommo followed a somewhat unorthodox path to European A competition. There is more than one way to the top, and more than one way to skin a cat. In an earlier trial period togging out for the earls, Full forward Tommo was noticed for a roaming role around the Oude Markt, a key training ground of the Earl’s sporting roster. His prevalent role there brings to mind the curious case of Patrick Abbots long-time half full/ half empty pintje as detailed by J. Jones in his tactical presentation to the Earls sporting Staff on Saturday last, 4:59 AM, Revue CommV establishment. To entice the Earls Staff, to hear out his theories on this matter, James .J. Jones had organized 21 pintjes at the bar (plus a half for Patrick Abbott) on a recurring basis.
Previously unmentioned Tadgh G. O’ Kinsella had a more free-roaming role at right-half back, than regular Earls viewers had been expecting. As the majority of opponents often do setup a sweeper role to accommodate the interloping runs of Cormac O Sullivan at left half-forward, when fit, an open space opened up for Tadgh in which to operate.
Roving from side to side sweeping up the play, and dropping some serious shoulders to thwart the building Brussels breakouts, Coach Alan ‘the lobster’ J.G. Fitzgerlad, had yet again, been proved correct in the utilization of such a sweeper role for the youngster Tadhg G. Kinsella. Apart from spurious outbursts from the crowd on the day to ‘ fucking bring on Ollie’ there was mostly appreciation from the support for Fitzgerlads approach, which continued as the venues shifted from Stapeltons Irish Pub through to Revue CommV. Warmly welcomed by the assembled fans in each establishment, coach Fitzgerlad wryly remarked on if the welcome would be as warm if Oirin O hOchtegain has not pointed multiple times under pressure to secure two early wins for the Earls.
Regarding injuries, on a serious note, Niall O’ Halloran featured
intermittently on a toughly competed Earls first 11.
As regular readers of the column know, plag
ued by shin-splints throughout his young Earls career, Niall could often be found on match days at the corner bar of Stapelton’s irish bar, nursing a dark, cool half-pint,all around fully aware that this could mosttimes be his only solace from the debilitating condition. It should be noted that this nursing of a pint, is indeed different than Paddy Abbots, in that the indication that Paddy has not touched his pintje all evening simply comes from the fact that the Victoria state player drinks in exact mouthfuls of a half-half pintje, so that it appears that he has not touched the pintje all evening, which is clearly not true, as well explained by trainer J. Jones in Revue, last Saturday evening. Such contradictions are common to Earls team members, the singular stylish team in the heartland of Europe, often featuring caresses of the ball exemplified by Tom O’ Dowd’s silky ball skills, as a modern ball playing centre half back.
Full forward on the day was Daire ‘the doll’ O laioighre. The doll is so called, for the frequent, beautiful, almost porcelain touches of the gaelic football, applied by his favoured right foot.
Noticeable absentees on the day were Cris C. Cristofferson and Conner ‘G. Thang’ O Connor who eloped to Wembley stadium for an unsolicited viewing of a banned foreign sport. Towards the end of a victorious evening, embarrassed coach W.J. G. Fitzerald was carried aloft on the shoulders of the remaining Earl’s sporting staff, much to his protestations, toward home. The embarrassment was evident on the softly spoken Fitzgerlad on account of the deep rouge of his cheeks and forehead. Fitzgerlads strict protection of his players is Earls folklore.
In the second half of the brussels game, tensions were at breaking point. Victoria state midfielder Patrick Abbott had thus far dropped two players without seeming to make any contact, in a curious similarity to the fact that he was indeed continuously drinking his pintjes in Stapeltons bar throughout the evening, even though uneducated observers would indeed claim that he ‘had not touched his pintje all evening’, a point wryly noted by the referee in the post tournament fact finding mission in Revue CommV establishment. J. Jones has covered this point in full detail in his recent thesis. At that point, coach Fitzgerlad controversially subbed himself on, immediately taking two hard shoulders, being carried off the field, his job done, the situation defused.
A surprise appearance on the night was made by Ciara ‘Sierra’, the Wicklow Mountain
ball-playing midfielder of renown. A previous Earl’s midfield staple, Ciara was the appointed referee liaison for this Benelux edition, ably assisted by the flown-in team of Jarnoe ‘the face’ Jarnovski and Steffi ‘De Jonge’ De Jong.
Violence erupted amongst the crowd when the desired introduction of Ollie ‘Howay the lads’ Ollerrson never materialized.
A patient coach fitzerlad stepped into the crowd to defuse the situation by explaining that Newcastle wunderkind Ollie was in fact employed in buoying the Earls B full forward line at Sportkot field. Ollerson remarkably can be seen wearing ‘shades’ while playing, although these are obviously not sunglasses, but eyewear for a recently diagnosed sight condition.
As an aside, spectators from Sportkot field later informed this very correspondent of a singular trademark run of Dries Mertens from full back, through a tricky maze of defenders concluding in a well taken punt, missing the left upright by a margin comparable to the height of the long faded foam on the half pintje of Patrick ‘the Mark’ Abbott. This is course is a well known optical illusion in Leuven bars, not as a result of The Mark nursing the same half-pintje for the duration of the evening, but of the man from the southern hemisphere’s singular drinking method of no more and no less than exact half-half pintje mouthfuls.
The scientifically interested among our readers will be aware of the curious fact that water from both hemispheres does indeed flow down the toilet in the same direction, which would, incidentally, be an apt description of the first two opponents to face the motivated Earls side on the day.
Eventually the baying crowd was sated by the introduction of Ollerson’s North eastern colleague Joda ‘in the net the ball is’ O Hallahan.
Interestingly, although some Earls regulars would swear to his Newcastle origin, Joda hails instead from the riverside area of Middlesboro.
In a videolink interview with previous Earls head coach Fergal ‘Sinatra’ O Loneraghan, conducted in a makeshift studio of the outside seating area of Stapleton’s Irish bar, the changed philosophy of this young earls side was outlined as ‘all out balling’. Some would argue that such a change in approach was inevitable in a side of all out ballers, featuring the silky ball carrying of Tom’ Silk road’ O Dowd, to give but one example. Recently deceased composer Ennio Morricone was renowned for his creation of atmosphere and tension in his work. This could also well describe the conditions in the stadium when half centre back O Dowd scooped ball around the middle of the park, to begin his silent symphony of sorts.
Other previously unmentioned remarks on the day were the emerging silky ball playing half-full back, Tom O Dowd, patiently hand-popping ball over the rushing intentions of a Luxembourgish half forward’s head and the invigorating tussles of Patrick ‘half pintje’ Abott around his reign on the centre spot. Abbott, the Melbourne man made 9 marks on the day from a total possibility of 8 air-balls, all 9 contested. The pride of the coach, W.J. Fitzgerlad could be just about discerned, by the more keen sighted observers from a slight rose markings upon his face, at the conclusion of the Men’s A semi final. Keeper played well.
Report completed by Earls veteran and local wildman, Sossa Mac HiHi. For queries, corrections, or follow ups, you can find him in any of Leuvens nude saunas.
Reports from Earls Ladies and B team to follow in Tuesdays edition. Additional reporting was provided from Stapletons Irish bar by Erika, Roisin and Roisins friend. Moving images by Jan Van der Gorp and his twin brother Quintin ‘Tarantino’ Van der Gorp, on account of their experience with moving images in Stapletons Irish bar closing time Saturday.