Oh To Be A Sports Journalist

by Back Page Football

“People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news”.

- A.J. Liebling


If you spend as much time as I did on the sidelines watching amateur football matches in all kinds of atrocious weather you eventually become disillusioned and bored with the game. There are only so many warm up routines you can indulge in.

Being a restless individual something else was needed to help pass the time until the third sub had been introduced and you could safely tog off knowing you weren’t going to get a game. At the beginning of the 2005-06 campaign I designed and developed a web site for the West Cork based club Clonakilty AFC and www.clonafc.com was born.

The early months of the web site included the briefest of match reports from our various pre-season games. I began to notice an upsurge in the number of hits on the site and started to spend more time on the reports including analysis of the opposition and referees.

The feedback I received was mostly positive and soon Sunday evenings spent typing a report on the previous afternoon’s game became more enjoyable than actually being part of the squad. It was only when a friend suggests I try writing for the Evening Echo that I seriously considered the notion of attempting to submit articles to a newspaper.

Coming to the attention of or getting your foot in the door of any newspaper is practically impossible when you have no journalistic qualifications to speak of and only a small web site full of West Cork League match reports as proof of your existence.

I must be mad though, who would want to read anything I had to write about. Is there something wrong with me?

Some Years Later…

This incessant rain refuses to let up. I can barely make out the two sets of players racing around the pitch in front of me. My fingers are blue from the cold. Standing on the sideline (again) and soaked to the skin from the pouring rain I struggle to make out the scorer of the last goal.

“Who was it scored that one there lads? Too-ches-ki? Ah Jaysus, How the hell do you spell that?” My soggy notebook is beginning to shrink from the rainfall. None of the three spare biros I brought along are working. The stopwatch I purchased at the beginning of the season is counting backwards. The tips of my fingers are shrivelled from the cold and rain.

Most of my friends are spending their Saturday afternoons either relaxing at home with their family’s or are out on the golf course working on their short game. I, on the other hand, have decided to spend my Saturday as the only other match attendant at a West Cork Schoolboys League fixture apart from the two sets of players, the match referee and a handful of substitutes.

A stray dog runs towards the pitch but quickly scuttles off in the direction of a cluster of briars. Even the dog has sense.

They say you have to pay your dues to make your way in any walk of life. Today is another day of dues paid towards the possibility and a long shot at that of a career in sports journalism. Is there something wrong with me?

And then it happens.

I wipe another stream of rainwater from my brow just as an eleven year old boy from Lyre Rovers football club deftly controls a hoofed clearance on his thigh and sidles past a startled defender in one beautiful fluid movement. The young striker races clear and neatly side-steps the outrushing goalkeeper before nonchalantly rolling the ball into an empty net.

It is a marvellous piece of individual skill, the highlight of an otherwise dull afternoon’s play. The Rovers coach and subs punch the air in delight as the Lyre striker is swamped by his team-mates to celebrate a beautiful effort.

I smile and attempt to jot down the build-up and final execution of such a terrific goal. Those ten seconds of individual brilliance will light up what would have been an otherwise run of the mill match report. I can’t wait to type this up as it’s going to make a compelling piece for Wednesday’s Evening Echo.

Is there something wrong with me?

No. I just love what I do.

Extract taken from Ger McCarthy’s book entitled ‘Off Centre Circle’ a journey growing up, obsessing over, supporting and playing local junior (amateur) soccer.

2 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    asked for this book as a Christmas Pressie after seeing it on here. Just finished reading it…a nice wee nostalgic treat.

    I didn’t play in Cork. My football was playing in the Wicklow Leagues during the 80s and only for a few years, but many of the references were similar.

    Thanks for the heads up

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