A high-profile undercover investigator has shattered an underground refereeing ring in Strabane where up to 30 Tyrone referees meet up weekly and laugh at some of the decisions they made and are going to make the following weekend. Joe Wheeler, the Welsh freelance TV reporter, pretended to show an interest in refereeing this coming season by getting himself into some shape and buying a shiny new whistle.
After an initial vetting service, Wheeler was asked along to the first meeting which was held in an underground bunker on the Urney Road.
“To be honest, the vetting process wasn’t too taxing. They just asked me to blow the whistle three times and point in various directions. That was it. I was in.”
Wheeler was told he’d probably referee a few U16 games in Ardboe to harden him up before embarking on Division Three of the Tyrone All County League.
“They reckoned a few underage games between Ardboe and Moortown would make a man of me. But it was what went on during the meeting that shocked me. All 30 refs took turns in telling yarns about the worst decisions they made last weekend and everyone was bent over laughing. The drink was flying but it was some craic to be fair. One ref said he deliberately turned a blind eye to a player getting the head battered off him because he remembered the lad’s father refused him access to a rampart years ago. They did some guffawing at that one.”
The Welsh reporter was even more astounded when matters turned to this weekend’s matches:
“Remarkably, as well as being given their fixtures to referee this weekend, they were also given a scoreline to work towards. There was a rollover jackpot with all men putting a fiver into the pot which now stood at £490. Anyone who got their score correctly won the dough. A bonus pot of £100 was also given every week to the ref who made the worst decision. This time a ref from Killyman won for sending off a Killeeshil player for wearing ankle socks.”
Wheeler reported that they all agreed to give the following teams ‘a bad touch’ this year: Owen Roes, The Rock, The Moy, Killyclogher, Dregish, Derrytresk, Carrickmore and Kildress.
The Tyrone Referees’ Association were unavailable for comment.
Recent ecclesiastical papers released under the 1500 year rule at Trinity College in Dublin have revealed that St Patrick admitted he had his work cut out making Tyrone natives to give up their Pagan ways and embrace Christianity, predominately in Newmills, Pomeroy and Brackaville.
Written in Latin, St Patrick penned a letter to a mate in Wales detailing his frustration and exasperation at the heathen way of life in and around Brackaville and at once stage remarked that it’d be ‘easier to take the wet from water than to get them boys to pray even for a second’. Latin expert, Dr Patrick Mossey, translated his first short letter in its entirety:
This is turning out to be some handling. Converting Ardboe was tough. They worshipped the pollan fish before I arrived. A man fired a dog at me through the window of a pub in Coagh. But none of that compares to the troubles I’m having in Brackaville. These people are something else, lad. Twice I’ve tried to preach from the hill on the Derryvale Road and it’d be going well initially. Then a shower of women from Edendork would arrive and the orgies would start. I’d be shouting over the mass of bare arses. Deadly annoying, Alad.
They still sacrifice things there y’know. Wolves, deer, Armagh people. I’m thinking of calling it a day and hoping the Coalisland ones marry into this area, bringing their more refined ways with them. Ach I’ll miss the craic a bit at Campbell’s shebeen but God didn’t send me to gulp down the black stuff in Brackaville.
Although little evidence remains in Brackaville of St Patrick’s failed attempt to Christianise the area, some of the older members of the community do remember something of a boy called Patrick who tried to do something here but admit that might have been the lignite man they ignored in 1984.