There’s a line in a song by a band called The Counting Crows, which goes ‘We talk just like lions, but we sacrifice like lambs’. Now, I don’t know how many of An Fear Rua’s regulars are familiar with the American rock group, but I’m sure the sentiments will strike a chord with anyone who has played club football or hurling anywhere in the country, or especially in a rural club like my own.How many of you have won championships sitting at the bar in December? Come on! Hands up at the back there. I’ve won several. You never saw a man like me to sidestep an opponent for the winning goal in a county final nine months before the final is even played. Give me the beer, and I’ll give you the dream.You know the scene yourselves. It’s the first week in December, the AGM has just finished and you trudge from the Community Centre to the ‘local’, full of the hope and enthusiasm that the impending New Year promises to bring. At the AGM itself, the Chairman has castigated the players for their lack of commitment throughout the year, citing devotion to alcohol and poor attendance at training sessions as the main reasons for the club’s failure to break it’s 74 year long championship hoodoo.The manager and his selectors resigned en masse at around five past four, but were re-instated by a quarter past, as a troupe of amateur Mrs Doyle’s have coaxed and cajoled ‘The Boys’ into staying for just one more year. ‘Ah go on. You will….’ Reluctantly, they concede to the approval of the masses, while pointing out that they are only staying on as it is the seventy fifth anniversary of the last Senior Championship won by the club, and this should be the year of ‘The Big Push’. Cue applause.Then the hall falls silent as Micheleen Rua, the last surviving member of the nineteen twenty whatever it was team, and now Honourary Club President, makes an impassioned plea to the lads to give it all they’ve got, to bring the championship back to it’s ‘rightful home’ in this historic year. (Note: When using GAA speak, ‘rightful home; means ‘wherever the speaker is from himself’. In this case - although the trophy may not have visited said parish in 74 years - the parish can still appropriately be termed ‘The Rightful Home’). Micheleen finishes to thunderous applause, someone who is not at the meeting is appointed Oifigeach Gaeilge, prayers are mumbled for the deceased, and the circus moves on to the ‘local.’After three or four hot half ones (it is December, after all, and there were only two bars working on the gas heater below in the hall), the boys move on to the stout and speculation quickly begins as to what the year ahead may hold in store. Promises will be made by all and sundry that come the New Year, the beer will be abandoned and the fags forgotten. In the meantime: ‘Another pint of stout there Maggie and give us change for 20 Major!’‘Ah, but this year it’s going to be different. It’s s**t or get off the pot time, do or die, and no stone will be left unturned. The pair of bucks is coming back, the ‘Bomber’ said he’d give it another year and ‘Psycho’s’ suspension is up in February. Sure we should have won it two years ago anyway. We’ll take it I reckon if the heads are right. After that, if we got a handy draw in the provincials you’d never know where you’d end up, and I always said that Croke Park would suit our style of play. Bejaysus it’d mean missin’ the Saint Patrick’s parade beyond in town though. Still, cross that bridge when we come to it. Maggie, did you put on that pint at all at all?’ Talking just like lions. The scene changes and it’s now the last week in January. Two glorified headlamps, posing as floodlights, peep sheepishly through the cold mist and illuminate the glut of shining puddles littering the training pitch, emptying their cold discomfort into your squelching sock at every unfortunate opportunity. This is no dream. Your legs are trying to carry a burden they were never designed to support, your wheezing chest is looking in vain for an exit through your back, and all you can do is close the two eyes and pray to Jesus it’ll all be over before too long.The two bucks never did come back; ‘Psycho’s’ gone to America and the ‘Bomber’ got engaged on Christmas Eve with herself imposing a pre-nuptial ban on Gaelic games more frightening than anything the GAC could ever conjure up. You’ll never manage another lap at this rate and so you toy with the idea of feigning a groin strain or some such. Hell it mightn’t be too macho, but it’s a lot better than throwing up in front of all the boys. Sacrificing like lambs.Or maybe not? Last Christmas, one of the finest young footballers in our parish went to his eternal reward at the behest of a rare strain of meningitis. Eighteen years of age; his whole life taken away in less than two hours. This year, there was no need for anyone to talk like a lion; there was no need for anyone to talk at all. On that last week in January, on that gut-wrenching final lap, no one thought of the pain, no one thought of dropping out. For the first time ever there was a sub-conscious realization that we were young men in our prime, lucky to be afforded the luxury of wet socks, sick stomachs and heavy breathing. Damn it, lucky to be alive…We’ve had our best championship run in fifty years, we’re unbeaten in the league and we play the county quarter final in a few weeks time. The boozing has been cut to the minimum, the bullshit cut to the bone. On average, you may get fifteen years to play senior adult football. You should live until you’re seventy five. One fifth of your life with the chance for glory. Don’t waste it lads. Make the sacrifices; you’ll be long enough wishing you could do it all over again. When you retire, walk away with no regrets, because there are no second chances.I’ll let you know how we get on…..