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Tue 03-Jun-2008 8:19
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The Squinting Eye
The Haunted Playing Field.
‘I wouldn’t like to the there on my own in the dead of night’
What about this for a ghostly tale! It’s well after midnight on a night in early June. It’s not completely dark, with a faint tint of light on the north-western horizon.
On the sideline of this playing pitch in Kilkenny, hunched in the shadows, are the club chairman, secretary and treasurer. They look into the gloom of the pitch watchfully. They only talk to one another in whispers.
Then, according to their testimony, from somewhere in the dark came a creaking sound. It seemed to move along the pitch, a metallic squealing sound echoing as if in a hallow. The sound died away and was heard no more. The three men were disturbed by this phenomenon.
On their way out of the ground they went over to a corner where lay an old hand-roller, brown with rust and age had settled into the grass. It was clear that it had not been moved at any time recently.
The three clubmen had agreed to tell nobody about their attempts to investigate a ghost story that had been going the rounds for a number of years. They didn’t want to look foolish in the eyes of many, have their investigations highlighted in the Kilkenny People.
‘We should have posted someone on the road outside,’ said the chairman later. ‘That squealing sound could have been Jackie Delaney coming home from the pub on that old bicycle of his that hasn’t seen a drop of oil this last ten years.’
This supposed ghostly event concerns a decent man, who was highly regarded in the club and the parish. For the sake of his family we will just call him Paddy the Roller. He was a dedicated follower of the club. For years he took on himself the task of rolling the playing pitch before big games in the club championship. He laboriously hauled that heavy roller back and forward over the field to eliminate any the kind of lumps or tufts that can deflect the bounce of the sliotar.
Then one Saturday night this good man had an unfortunate lapse. There had been a lot of rain during the week. Then there was a junior match on the Saturday evening that left the pitch with some lumps and clumps, especially round the goal areas.
On his way to the pitch to roll it carefully for the big game next day Paddy went into the pub for a single pint to fortify himself for the strenuous task ahead. Unfortunately some of his friends came in and a drinking session got under way. Paddy the Roller joined in the singing and story telling. It was only when the bar-man called closing time that he faced up to the hard job ahead of him.
He went to the playing field well after midnight and in the dark began to haul and drag the cumbersome roller. He managed to get about half the pitch done when he felt exhausted. He sat down with his back propped against the roller.
He was woken up next morning by one of the club members who had come to ready the grounds for the big event. Paddy was so full of aches and pains that he had to be helped from the field and taken home and put to bed.
Before the match began that afternoon the mentors from the opposing team complained to the referee about the state of one half of the pitch. He looked at it but decided that the game should go ahead.
As it happened, it was the home side that suffered most because of that pitch. Their goalkeeper had a ground ball well covered but at the last split second it bounced on a small lump of sod, hopped over his hurley and into the net. Near the end of the match, when Paddy’s team was only a point behind, the sliotar fell near the feet of the full forward. He pulled on it but hit a tuft of grass and hopped at an angle. He connected but the sliotar went centimetres wide.
There was quite a lot of criticism in the club about the state of the pitch in the days after the match had been lost. Nobody felt more upset than Paddy the Roller. Actually he did not rise again from his bed. The doctor said that Paddy fell victim to a bad dose of pneumonia but many kindly people said that he died of a broken heart.
From that time on it was rumoured that, around the anniversary of that unfortunate event, sometime after midnight a shadowy figure could be seen pulling the old roller up and down the pitch. Those who spoke about it wondered if it was the tormented ghost of Paddy the Roller trying to atone for his lapse.
One year the then parish priest was prevailed upon to accompany the chairman and a few others to the playing field after midnight around the time of year that the ghost was supposed to appear.
While he was laughed at their fears, he did intone some prayers that might help the troubled ghost of Paddy the Roller to be at rest. Unfortunately, in the semi-darkness he actually tripped over the old roller and knocked out a disc in his back.
‘Now he’s below in St Luke’s hospital cursing us club members as well as Paddy the Roller,’ said the chairman afterwards. ‘I’m sorry for him but you have to be careful not to laugh at ghosts or those who think they might be around’
It is still claimed by some that the ghost of Paddy the Roller, accompanied by the heavy metallic wailing, can be seen and heard each year on the anniversary of the event.
Are there other ghost stories associated with the GAA and the game of hurling? Let The Squinting Eye know.
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