Playing football in the local fields by James Reddiough

 In Feature

My mind goes back in time to the late 1980’s when Mayo were in the first All-Ireland since 1951 a- a total of 38 years. That year I was teaching as a trainee in Bofield School and I took the senior pupils and organised a match in one of the fields in Graffy with them. It was a good match and the local people said that they had not seen a match of this type in the fields for at least 40 – 50 years.

Yet at one time it was common for people to play football of the unofficial type in the local fields with stones or jackets for goal posts. These games would take place on a Sunday afternoon after the mass and the dinner were over. This was round 3pm and then they would spend the afternoon at the game and have the finest fun. Very often it was an opportunity for lads who would not make the parish team or else did not have time during the week for football due to farming work.

These fields were farm places so great care had to be taken with them. Indeed in the days before there were formal GAA pitches these fields were used for club matches farmers of the old stock and the ascendancy did not like to see matches and they would clear the players off the field but this was not so in the halcyon days of the 1960; s and the lads could play at their ease and not worry about being harassed by the powers that be.

The numbers on each side would vary with the size of the area and they were usually a few townland s from the district for example if we take Bonniconlon parish there would be three districts in the parish Bofield, Bonniconlon and Carra and this would be the basis for the leagues that were played in the 1960’s they were the parish leagues and later there would be school leagues for the three different schools. By the way this was the way that former county player Anthony Egan was introduced to football in Bonniconlon through being a pupil in Carra though he was not a native of Bonnconlon he played for Carra and this was where his talent was first spotted.

The games in the field were informal and there were no referees and the players kept the rules themselves and all passed in an amicable manner but if there were injuries they were tended to also. Some farmers would not let their children go and play football because they considered it a waste of time from all the farm work that had to be done and also they were afraid that they would be badly hurt so not everyone would be in favour of the games but by and large football games of this type were seen as recreation and a rest and respite from the work of the week and a good way of spending the Sabbath day.

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