Liam Farrell: Gum shields, shin pads ... and rubber gloves

I was at a local Gaelic football match recently. These can be ferocious; the honour of the parish is at stake, the rivalry is ancient and atavistic as the peat, and we suffer none of the false bonhomie of rugby, i.e fighting during the match but best of buddies afterwards.

If we fight during the match, we fight after the match and at the next match and at the match after that and our cousins fight with their cousins and the feud goes on and on, gathering pace through seed, breed and generation even when the original cause of the dispute has long been lost in the mists of antiquity.

'More substance in our enmities/Than in our love,' wrote WB Yeats, who in between talking to the fairies and pouring out his unrequited love for Maud Gonne, had obviously been at a match or two in his time.

If any of our neighbouring clubs were playing the flesh-eating monsters from outer space, we'd be cheering on the aliens.

During the match a player went down with an injury. My cronies looked at me expectantly, hoping I might provide a diverting and potentially hilarious spectacle by sprinting onto the pitch to provide succour; they always enjoy a bit of drama. But my sprinting days are long over.

'He's fine,' I said to them, 'he's still moving.' They were visibly disappointed, but having to Break Bad News is just another part of the great tapestry of general practice.

The team physio (or bagman or trainer or waterboy) rushed out onto the field, stopping only to pull on a pair of rubber gloves although he had some difficulty with the thumbs.

This was all rather theatrical, I felt, but then rubber gloves are quite the fashion accessory.

The actual risk of a clean-limbed young gossoon from the bogs of Ireland having AIDS or hepatitis B, and also having an open wound, and the physio/bagman also having an open wound and thus the pair inadvertently sharing body fluids must be incredibly small, but hey, he'd seen it on TV so it must be right.

Has there ever been a reported case of a physio/bagman picking up a serious infectious disease from a player during a match? Rubber gloves, it seems, are the new black.

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