BMJ 10 May 2003    Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1043

My native village of Rostrevor dates to pre-Christian times, and the Farrell clan have been here all along, a savage race as ancient and atavistic as the peat; to us the good old days means hunter-gathering, not poncing about in fake Victorian costumes. The ancestral Farrells used to own all the land, until it was stolen from us by the Druids.

Gaelic football is our passion; my son Jack now wears the same red and black worn by his father and his father’s father before him, and I am one of the team “mentors.” Mentor was Telemachus’s adviser during Ulysses’s suspiciously protracted return from Troy, and I am sure that if deep-browed Homer could have foreseen how Mentor’s name would be hijacked by a bunch of overweight balding men running up and down the touchline in unflattering pink lycra, he would have been both charmed and delighted.

The role of team doctor is a broad church. Of course I treat injuries and advise on fitness etc etc, but when the honour of the parish is at stake, the Hippocratic oath becomes but a trifling matter.

Last year our under-12 team reached the county final, and on the big day I introduced myself beforehand to the referee, assuring him that my medical skills were available to both sides if needed, thus “winning him with honest trifles to betrayals of deeper consequence.” It proved a wise investment.

Rostrevor was two points ahead with only minutes left, when one of the Twin Magees (still no idea which one) went down from an accidental boot to the ear. In emergency medicine every second counts, and I burst on to the field to gasps from the crowd.

Although I have not that strength that in elder days moved earth and heaven, by sprinting desperately, I arrived just in time; before the brat got up, that is, and I pushed him back down with one heavy hand while putting on a Robert Jones bandage with the other (this was a cunning and time-consuming choice).

Aware of the thin line between safely running down the clock and the referee smelling a rat, I timed it carefully. I tied the last knot with a flourish and seconds later the final whistle blew, the other mentors surged forward and carried me shoulder high on a glorious lap of honour, and we drank the blood of our enemies and exulted in the lamentations of their women.

“Let me have around me men that are fat,” I thought.



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