Frank Delaney, our local solicitor, was always a fan of the subtleties of language.
As a precocious minor player, he wrote himself into club lore thanks to an infamous exchange with a referee who he felt wasn’t giving us a fair shake.
“What would happen if I said you were a clown?” he asked.
“Well then I’d have to send you off for abuse of an official,” the ref replied.
“But what if I only thought you were a clown?” was the follow-up question.
“I can’t penalise your thoughts,” he tersely responded.
“Well then, I think you’re a clown,” Frank said.
Of course, the ref sent him off for that and Frank had to serve a suspension. Whether that incident was the key factor in him becoming a solicitor, one couldn’t say. Nevertheless, spells at University College Dublin and Blackhall Place saw him qualify and back up his sense of righteousness with the power of the law.
Timing stood to him – a few of the older guard were approaching retirement (allowing him to establish a strong client base), while the advent of divorce was a boon: “Marriage is grand, divorce is 25 grand,” was a favoured catchphrase.
Timing stood to him – a few of the older guard were approaching retirement (allowing him to establish a strong client base), while the advent of divorce was a boon
Not that he always used his legal expertise to the best effect. When he was in charge of our U21 team, he was issued with a three-month ban after a particularly bad-tempered championship defeat to our rivals, Garryndruig. The suspension was at a time of year when no games were held but, even so, he maintained his innocence and sought to take his case further.
When the county board and provincial council upheld the original sanction, he went as far as the GAA’s Disputes Resolution Authority (representing himself, of course). That venture was also unsuccessful and so much time had passed that he actually ended up having to serve his suspension during the next U21 championship.
Still, it didn’t erode his self-belief too much and he proved to be a useful asset to the club thanks to his nebulous use of important-sounding language. In the early 2000s, we made it to a county final, only to be lumbered with the despicable Bernie Cummins as referee. Now, Bernie absolutely hated us, ever since he’d been jilted by a girl from the area 30 years previously, and we knew he’d go out of his way to ref us off the pitch, so Frank penned a letter to the county board, congratulating them “on the appointment of such a progressive referee, whose equanimity we can be assured of on county final day, as a governing body as august as yours would not allow such a special occasion be sullied.”
The suspension was at a time of year when no games were held but, even so, he maintained his innocence and sought to take his case further
In addition to posting the letter, he leaked it to the local paper, ensuring that they raised questions of Bernie’s bias towards us.
As a pre-emptive shot across the bows, it worked – a different ref was appointed, but our lads still found a way to secure defeat.
Frank’s problem was that he always had to push things that little bit too far. A prime example was the time that he successfully argued in court that his client hadn’t received a fixed-charge notice for speeding, only to then mention how, if that hadn’t been accepted, he’d have pointed out how the motorist’s name was spelled incorrectly on the letter that supposedly hadn’t been delivered.
The club’s most significant legal involvement came a few years ago, with a case surrounding the sale of a parcel of land next to the pitch for housing and whether any undue influence had been applied. Hoping to play up the ‘true Gael’ angle, Frank suggested that all club members appearing as witnesses should give their testimony as Gaeilge, as was their right.
Unfortunately, as was often the case with teams, his coaching fell a bit short. When, under cross-examination, old Toddy Warren said: “Bhuail sé mé” (“he hit me”) rather than: “Bhuail sé liom” (“he met me”) – it implied that the club had been applying physical force on committee members in order to push things through.
The case was lost and the sale was delayed, meaning things got a bit hairy in terms of running the club for a while. Still, Frank did his bit – he only charged half his usual fee.