I have just this minute looked up the word “impact” in the dictionary and found there are a number of interpretations. “The striking of one body against another in collision”; “The force or impetus transmitted by a collision”; “The power of making a strong immediate impression”; “To have an effect” or “Influence or effect.”
Giving all those examples of how the word can be correctly used, it is little wonder that it is one of the most used words in the English language.
In no other context does the word “impact” create a moving picture in the mind than when applied to sport. I refer to that not-unsung-hero; ‘the impact sub!’ He is planted there on the bench, springs tightly coiled and ready to spring at the nod from his manager.
Seamus Darby, in winning the All-Ireland for Offaly in 1982, turned the ‘impact sub’ from being a ‘fella not worth his place on the starting fifteen’ to being the saviour on which the victory dreams of team and supporters rest. ‘The bench’ is now scrutinised as much as the starting team in all big matches.
But, dear sportsmen and women, the GAA is blessed with another impact man whose calling is no less worthy. We need him now and he is ready. This is his time of year, when he dusts down his duds and ventures forth for his annual tryst into the realms of competitive sport.
The club championships has reached the semi-final stages in most counties around now and his hour has cometh round again; I give you the ‘Impact Supporter’.
This column in no way sets out to denigrate our ‘impact supporter’. He is as essential to the wellbeing of the GAA as is the score-board attendant or the guy who presses the button to play the CD of Amhrán Na Bhfiain.
Your typical impact supporter has a short lifespan. No travelling long journeys on wet Sundays for ‘only an oul league match’, no wasting of time in ‘round robins’ or the first round of the championship. No, this species of man does not thrive well in a cold or wet climate and he has an aversion to long journeys as well.
‘Impact supporter’ waits for the business end of the championship and comes out as soon as he believes his club needs him most. He won’t be found wanting and he will make an impact. Ok, so he makes a few mistakes during his first game … don’t we all. Names of players can be a problem but certainly not a deterrent. ‘Sure he’s years retired’ the supporter beside him advices Impact supporter after he wonders where is a former great player. ‘Impact’ recovers with, ‘well he’d still be a lot better than what I see out there today’.
He is nothing if not a fast reader of the game. Luckily there is a “Roarer” behind him lambasting every player who touches the ball, so soon he will become knowledgeable – and knowledge means vocal. In the centre of the pitch he is now looking at the worst performance he has ever seen in all his years attending matches; namely the referee.
Every time “Roarer” shouts a derogatory remark about the ref, ‘Impact Supporter’ is able to improve on it. The names of the “hatchet men” on the opposition are by now rolling off the tip of his tongue as easily as ordering a pint after the game.
Half time arrives and our man takes a slug of Lucozade from the screw-cap bottle in his pocket and looks around him – forever surprised at how many people he knows who are still going to matches.
The half-time draw is being announced. No way would he buy a ticket; no, they charged enough at the gate on the way in, so the ticket-sellers get a wide berth. He watches the guy beside him checking his numbers. As soon as ‘Impact’ sees that nobody around him has won the 200 Euro, he asks; ‘What is the GAA doing with all the money?
At the final whistle though, ‘Impact’ is a happy man – although he never lets on. His team won by a point He will have another day out and next time he will be able to spot his favourite players. In fact, he might take his twelve years old son to the final – in his new Man-U strip. ‘Not much soccer on TV during the summer and nothing for young lads to do around the place’.
But everyone likes to see ‘Impact Supporter.’ Like the cuckoo ‘he comes but once a year.’ His team needs him, the GAA needs him, and we all need him; and let’s hope he has a good final!
All men are born equal. The tough job is to outgrow it.