Mind your house!

– Mind your house!

That wanker over there had been roaring that since the start of the match. He probably didn’t even know what it meant, the stupid oul’ bollix. The ball was down at the Barrytown goal, about the first time it had gone in that direction in the second half.

It was Saturday afternoon. Jimmy Sr was in St Anne’s Park, watching the Barrytown Utd Under 18s; watching Darren.

Five-nil for Barrytown was the score. The opposition were useless. Jimmy Sr couldn’t even remember what they were called. Darren didn’t bother dashing back to help defend, and he was dead right. The last time this shower had seen the net shake was when their keeper farted.

The sweeper was waiting for Darren. That was what he’d called himself; the sweeper. – We’re playin’ three central defenders, he’d told Darren in the first half. – Like Arsenal. He was waiting for Darren on the other side of a puddle, hunched as if he was going to dive into it. Kenny Smith was to Darren’s left, shouting for the ball. Darren lobbed the ball over the sweeper, ran around  him (- Yeow, Darren!) and dug the ball out of the muck with his toe and sent it over to Kenny, hard so it wouldn’t get stuck again.

– Good play, said the Sweeper; Jimmy Sr heard him.

Darren knew he’d be praised after the match for his unselfish play (- That’s the Liverpool way, lads) but he’d given the ball to Kenny because he couldn’t be bothered bringing it any further himself. He heard the ironic cheer. They’d scored again; an Anto Brennan header that he hadn’t really needed to dive for.

Roddy Doyle, The Van, 1992


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