Only a Game? - I say ooh ahh, thanks McGrath

Paul McGrath.
Paul McGrath.

It’s not every day that one of your favourite footballers does you a favour.

In today’s world of petulant over-paid paid footballers and over-inflated egos it’s good to know that former footballers like Paul McGrath still have time for their fans.

A few years ago a close friend decided to pop the question to his girlfriend. She said yes and he asked me to be his best man. I was delighted.

The stag party was brilliant and it came and went without any of us losing limbs, lives or our dignity.

In the days leading up to his tying of the knot I put my brain into overdrive trying to come up with something special to send him off into the land of matrimony with.

You see, my friend is one of the most passionate, loyal and fervent supporters of the Republic of Ireland. He’s actually said that he would cut off his left hand if it meant that the Boys in Green would win the World Cup - and believe me, he’s serious.

After several failed attempts at other possibilities I managed to make contact with none other than former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland defender Paul McGrath. And yes you’ve guessed it, McGrath is actually one of my mates all-time favourite players, if not the favourite. I waited with anticipation for McGrath to get back to me and get back to me he did. Two days before the wedding I gave him my mobile number and gave him a bit of information about the wedding, my friend and the girl he was marrying.

It was like something out of a film because here I was chatting with Paul McGrath asking him if he would be so kind to phone my friend on the morning of his wedding to wish him good luck. McGrath agreed and told me that he would phone at 11am, sharp.

Whilst most best men are constantly checking to make sure they have the wedding rings, I was more concerned that my phone was fully charged and the ring tone was at its loudest.

We met up early on the Saturday morning. Sky Sports News acted as a calming influence in the background and it was time to put on our suits. Off we went to separate rooms to get changed and as I buttoned up my shirt something cut my eye. It was Paul McGrath’s autobiography - it had to be a sign I thought.

A few minutes later and we were all suited and booted but time was still ticking.

As 11am approached my phone almost became bionically attached to my right hand. The cars arrived to take us to the chapel and it was almost time to go.

The other two groomsmen made their way outside. I was still in the kitchen with my friend, his mother and his father when my phone rang.

“Hello, is that Andrew?,” said McGrath.

“Yes, thanks for phoning Paul, this is going to make his day,” I said.

I handed the phone to my friend and told him under no circumstances was he to hang up and explained to him that this was not a joke.

Paul McGrath spoke to my friend for a couple of minutes and wished him all the best. When it was over he handed the phone back to me and I thanked McGrath for ringing. He said he enjoyed the chat and said the he hoped we all had a nice day.

When I was young all I ever dreamed about was playing football like Paul McGrath. My father always would tell me that McGrath was “world class” on the pitch but to me he’s also world class off it.

His performance against Italy for Ireland at USA ‘94 is arguably one of the most heroic individual displays ever to be witnessed on the football field. Simply put, McGrath was a hero to many young boys of my generation and he always will be.