The following is an extract from Ger McCarthy’s book ‘Off Centre Circle’ about a life growing up dreaming, playing and eventually reitiring from football. This chapter deals with the author’s fascination with Subbutteo.

 “About a week ago I bought Nintendo Wii FIFA 08 for me and my son to play. It’s a brilliant game. I’ve bought a few computer football games in my time, but I’ve never played them like I used to play Subbuteo.”
David Baddiel (writer and comedian) from the book Teenage Flicks: Memories of the Sub-beautiful Game by Paul Willetts

In the late 1980’s I co-founded and helped the first Clonakilty Subbuteo league get off the ground. Subbuteo was, simply put, table football.

Eleven mini-plastic figurines of players in kits and team strips from every corner of the world were flicked around a felt pitch using your index finger. The players, complete with semi-spherical bases, were moved forward at mini-footballs around a green felt pitch with two plastic goals at either end.

Goalkeeper figurines were different in that they had a stick attached to the back of their base allowing them to move left or right to try and save any shots. There was even a rule book to govern the correct approach to playing the game:

“Flicking of Figures: Only the nail part of the forefinger or index finger shall be used to strike the base of the team figure. It is not allowed to flick any other part of the figure apart from the base.”


A Christmas television advertising campaign depicting two young boys playing Subbuteo with a full range of accessories caught the imagination of all the youths in the West Cork area in the late 1980’s.

The advert contained a stadium, floodlights and even an electronic scoreboard. This meant there would have to be yet another soccer related item on the McCarthy Christmas wish list.

The Subbuteo World Cup Box-Set Edition duly arrived on the morning of December 25th. The box-set displayed Brazilian international Zico curling a free kick over an Italian defensive wall from the 1982 World Cup in Spain. The box-set contained a scoreboard (not electronic though),  a surrounding fence for the felt pitch, the Mexican and Italian national teams as well as two tango world cup footballs.

I remember the excitement of trying to open my new Subbuteo set of teams and struggling to put the goals and fences together in a rush to begin flicking. One important point my brother and I had failed to consider before asking Santa for the Subbuteo set was the fact we didn’t have a hard surface big enough to attach the felt pitch to.

This meant curling up the four corners of the playing surface to accommodate the rest of our family and allow them to shuffle in and out of the living room on Christmas day. It quickly became apparent over the holiday period that many of my friends were also lucky enough to receive similar box-sets as Christmas presents.

It was decided at a hastily convened meeting to organise a local Subbuteo League and Cup competition.

I went on to claim a league and cup double in the inaugural season thanks to the many hours of practice on my home pitch ‘White Hot Lane’ which doubled as the mat in front of our living room fireplace.

The Subbuteo table football game provided countless hours of fun and enjoyment including travelling to away game at friend’s houses and Cup finals with crowds of up to ten to fifteen fans.

There were plenty of arguments in the opening Clonakilty Subbuteo season as individuals struggled to stick to the strict guidelines set out in the official rule-book. Appointed referees had a tough time judging what was a ‘push’ and what was a ‘flick’.

Another annoying tactic used by players in the inaugural season was to grab their goalkeeper (who unlike all the other figures had a long piece of plastic sticking out of his back) and throw the goal to one side just before his opponent was about to shoot for goal. Cue instant arguments and a penalty-flick being awarded to the attacking player.

Judging whether the goalkeeper moved before the penalty-flick had been taken resulted in volleys of abusive verbal’s between the two participants. Use of bad language and trying to put your opponent off became something of an art form:

Player1: “Ref he pushed that. No way was that a flick.”

Ref: “Play on.”

Player2:”Ah shut up will ya and get on with the game (lightly flicks a defending Subbuteo player with his baby finger.”

Player1: “REF? That’s a free-flick. For feck sake he can’t do that!”

Ref: “Play on.”


Player2: “Looks like your defenders are asleep today ha-ha I’m clean through on goal now sure.”

Player1: “Shut your hole. Go on take your best shot. You’ll miss anyway if you shoot like you do in training.”

 Player2: “This will be as easy as score as your sister.”

 Player1: “TAKE THAT BACK… Ref make him take that back.”

 Ref: “Play on.”


(Player2 shoots while Player1 remonstrates with the referee and scores).

 Ref: “Goal.”

 Player1: “WHAT? How can you allow that after what he said about my sister ya tool? (throws players, pitch and glass of water off the table in disgust).”

 Ref: “Game abandoned.”


The game of Subbuteo has evolved since its humble beginnings and you can now purchase playing pitches complete with crowd sound effects and even transferable faces of famous footballers. The McCarthy collection of Subbuteo teams grew over the years and thanks to the use of tipex my brother Aidan and I were able to doctor the Italian team to look like Blackburn, the Mexican team to look like Celtic and the Arsenal team to look like Charlton. (What Spurs fan would want an Arsenal Subbuteo team?)

Sellotape was also an essential item in any Subbuteo player’s kit bag. Years of wear and tear would result in arms and legs of the figurines cracking off. Even our dog would take to grinding its teeth on the heads of some unfortunate players which resulted in a small ball of sellotape replacing the skull of Argentina’s striker. He looked more like the Elephant man than Diego Maradonna but could still flick a decent shot at goal whenever called upon.

Nowadays children seem to spend more and more time playing computer-simulated soccer games offering realistic like movements of players and include crowd reactions and commentary. When we played Subbuteo my friends and I had to use our imagination and provide commentary and crowd effects as we went along.

It certainly provided a lot more laughs than sitting on a couch for five hours transfixed at a TV screen and moving only your thumbs.

Sometimes less is more.





Kinsale join the senior ranks

Kinsale’s elevation to the Cork ladies senior football ranks marks the culmination of many years hard work both on and off the pitch by the Carrigdhoun-based club wrties the Evening Echo’s Ger McCarthy.


Last weekend’s Cork Ladies IFC decider doubled as a West Cork senior final and saw Kinsale edge Rosscarbery in a thrilling encounter at Newcestown. The quality of football on display, a bumper attendance and hat-tricks from Kinsale’s Sadhbh O’Leary plus Ross’s Laura McMahon only served to underline the view that club football remains in a healthy state throughout the county.

From the newly crowned double-champions point of view, elevation to the senior ranks has been a gradual process. Yet, a cursory glance at Kinsale’s current playing numbers from U6 through to their first team shows that ladies football has never been more popular within the progressive club.

Kinsale ladies GAA club was set up back in 2001 and has grown steadily over the past 16 years. Beginning with U12 and U14 teams, Kinsale now cater for girls as young as U6 right up to the senior squad. 2012 proved a memorable year with Kinsale claiming the U12, U14 and U16 West Cork championships before the U14’s rounded off a productive campaign by adding the county title.

The following year proved an equally important period in the fledgling club’s history with four girls making it on to Cork inter-county teams. Orla Finn became a mainstay with the Cork seniors; Joan Tyner made her debut for the Cork minors while Sadhbh O’Leary and Georgia Gould togged out for the Cork U14’s.

For Kinsale’s younger playing members, having the likes of Cork inter-county stars Sadhbh O’Leary and Orla Finn to look up to has been an added bonus in recent times.

Amongst all the accolades Finn has enjoyed whilst wearing the red jersey of Cork, her joy at playing a part in Kinsale’s recent double-victory and attaining seniors status was apparent immediately after the final whistle.

“We are absolutely delighted with that result (against Rosscarbery) and becoming a senior club, it is unbelievable,” Finn stated.

“We made hard work of it even though we were well ahead at the start of the second half before Ross came back into it again. They got a few goals and we were guilty of dropping the pace for a little bit too.

“Thankfully, in the end, Sadhbh got a third and vital goal; she scored all three on the night so fair play to her. She was outstanding and has always been fantastic for us but the whole team deserves credit for helping get such an important win tonight.

“Becoming a senior ladies football club is absolutely unbelievable. To go from junior to senior in just over a year is a great feeling for everyone involved. Looking ahead, it will be a fantastic boost for the club to be involved in competitive senior matches next year.

“We have reached the top level of ladies football in Cork now and even though we are a very young bunch of players, the experience will be vital for all the younger girls coming through.

“Things are going really well within the club right now and we have girls representing Cork at U14, U16 and minor. I’m sure some of those girls will make it on to the senior squad in the coming years and it is just great to see them coming through.”

Manager Eugene O’Callaghan echoed the sentiments of his inter-county forward in the immediate aftermath of Kinsale’s Cork ladies IFC triumph. Aided by a backroom team comprising of Michael O’Connor, Siobhan Ní Núnáin, Ger Finn and Chris Cronin, O’Callaghan was thrilled to see his players’ hard work rewarded with a deserved county final win.

“It is teamwork, from start to finish, that has gotten us here,” Eugene O’Callaghan commented.

“This means so much because we have so many young girls coming up who want to play football for Kinsale and now we are able to provide them with a senior club setup. I can tell you that we have some very talented girls in our underage ranks and when you consider our youngest player in the victory over Rosscarbery was Faye Ahern, is just 15 years, then the future is bright.”


5 West Cork League Things To Look Forward To

5 West Cork League Things To Look Forward To
By Ger McCarthy




1. Will Drinagh heap further misery on Clonakilty AFC?

Contrasting fortunes for Clonakilty AFC and Drinagh Rangers following the first weekend of WCL Premier Division fixtures with the former suffering a hiding at Ballydehob while the latter got their campaign off to a winning start at the expense of Spartak Mossgrove.

To be fair to Clon, they always put it up to Drinagh, home and away, each season but require a full-strength line-up to prevent the visitors from making it maximum points after two games in Inchydoney this weekend.

A fixture that regularly produces plenty of goals is unlikely to disappoint on Sunday but Rangers’ ominous early season form gives the Canon Crowley Park side an excellent chance of widening the gap to the chasing pack after only two rounds of games.



2. Can Togher and Spartak get off the mark?

Newly promoted Spartak Mossgrove gave a fine account of themselves before going down 3-0 to Drinagh last Saturday and will hope home advantage is enough to see off Togher Celtic this weekend.

On the same weekend, their upcoming opponents came out the wrong end of a 2-1 result at home to Riverside, heightening the necessity to get their season up and running as soon as possible.

Neither club will want to face into round three of the Premier Division without having put some points on the board so an entertaining and open game is expected in the Convent Grounds, Bandon. If Spartak are to realise their potential as a challenger rather than a promoted team avoiding relegation then defeating an established Premier club like Togher would represent an important step in the right direction.




3. Will Dunmanway get that elusive first win?

It’s not been the start the defending 2017 Premier Division champions would have wished for, losing the Michael Cronin Cup final to Drinagh on penalties before being held to a 1-1 draw by newly promoted Lyre Rovers in their league opener earlier in the week.

Avoiding defeat away to Riverside Athletic is essential on Sunday otherwise Dunmanway could find themselves playing catchup to the early season pacesetters just two weeks into the new campaign.

Sunday week’s Keane’s Jewellers League Champions first round tie away to Doolans Cow means Dunmanway will fall another game behind their title rivals so although it is early in the season, any kind of victory away to Riverside would represent a welcome boost for the Mohona side.

A word too for Lyre, who showed what they are capable of at the top level by holding champions Dunmanway Town to a draw. Rovers’ ability to pick up points against established title-challengers such as Dunmanway will go a long way to delivering a positive first season back in the top flight. Could Lyre and not fellow promoted side Spartak Mossgrove be the surprise package of 2018?




4. Are Bunratty United the real deal?

Bunratty’s relegation from the Premier Division came as little surprise following the Town Park side’s poor record of one win from sixteen league games plus the worst defence in the top flight (conceding 56 goals) during 2016-17′.

Yet, United’s superb underage structure has delivered multiple successes at Schoolboys and U18 level over the past three years and some of those graduates have since emerged onto the first team, giving hope of a brighter future at junior level.

To underline that point, Bunratty made a clear statement of intent on the opening weekend of the new Division 1 season by firing seven past Durrus. A reversal of last weekend’s fixture gives an emerging United team every chance of registering another three points on Sunday. Momentum is building down in Schull.



5. Will Division 2 top of the table clashes deliver potential title-challengers?

Granted, it’s early days but the outcome of Sunday’s Sullane versus Drinagh Rangers B meeting in Coolea could yet have a big influence on the final Division 2 League standings at the end of the season.

Both sides got off to positive starts with Sullane firing six past Courtmacsherry on the same day Rangers B edged Castletown Celtic 5-4. Scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem for either side so the outcome of Sunday’s top of the table clash may depend on whoever puts in the best defensive display. A cracking game is anticipated where home advantage might edge the result in Sullane’s favour.

Aultagh Celtic and Baltimore are two other Division 2 clubs harbouring promotion aspirations and both will be eager to maintain their winning starts. Celtic defeated Castlelack last weekend while the Crabs proved too strong for Dunmanway Town B. The opportunity to accrue six points from their opening two games should guarantee an exciting encounter.





Sunday, September 3rd 2017 Premier Division
Clonakilty AFC v Drinagh Rangers at 11am
Riverside Athletic v Dunmanway Town at 11am
Leeside v Ballydehob at 2pm
Spartak Mossgrove v Togher Celtic at 2pm Division 1
Durrus v Bunratty United at 11am
Bantry Bay Rovers v Mizen AFC at2.30pm
Crookstown v Skibbereen at 2.30pm

West Cork League Division 2
Ardfield v Lyre Rovers B in Carrigroe at 11am
Aultagh Celtic v Baltimore at 11am
Castlelack v Castletown Celtic at 11am
Sullane v Drinagh Rangers B at 11am
Courtmacsherry v Dunmanway Town B at 2.30pm

West Cork League Weekend Wrap

West Cork League – Weekend Wrap
By Ger McCarthy


The opening weekend of the new West Cork League season threw up some interesting results and a whopping 49 goals. Here are the main talking points from across the region’s three divisions.


Same old Drinagh
With defending Premier Division champions Dunmanway Town’s home game with Lyre Rovers rescheduled for next Tuesday night, the onus fell on Drinagh Rangers to get their title-challenge up and running at home to newcomers Spartak Mossgrove on Saturday afternoon.

Despite a spirited display and missed opportunities, Mossgrove came out the wrong side of a 3-0 loss – Tomas Connolly, Keith Jagoe and Barry O’Driscoll (H) all scoring – with Rangers using all their experience to claim a first home win of the season. Making Canon Crowley Park a fortress will be crucial to Drinagh’s title challenge over the coming months and an opening-day victory represented the best possible start.


The Hob shock the AFC
The most eye-catching Premier Division result of the weekend saw last season’s relegation survivors Ballydehob hammer Clonakilty AFC 9-2. Granted, the Inchydoney-based side were missing a plethora of first-team regulars but a such a morale-boosting score might work wonders for a Ballydehob side expected to struggle at the bottom of the table this term.

Ryan O’Neill netted five goals and an influx of youth may yet turn the Hob’s fortunes around. As for Clonakilty, getting their missing personnel back as quickly as possible will be paramount to moving up the table and recovering from such a heavy loss.


Athletic off the mark
It is two seasons since Riverside Athletic won the Premier Division title without losing a game. Their following (2017) campaign was a big disappointment so getting off the mark at the expense of Togher Celtic was a welcome boost this past weekend. Mike Murphy and Ciaran Everard found the net in a 2-1 triumph and an ability to take points off the top dogs could yet result in a top-four finish.


Division 1 hotting up
Dropping down a division following relegation from the top flight is never easy and there is always a danger that losing games becomes a bad habit. Credit to Bunratty United then for starting life in the middle tier of the West Cork League with a thumping 7-1 win at home to Durrus. A youthful line-up saw Danny McSweeney and Cathal Newman get their names on the scoresheet but Sean Evans’ four-goal salvo will make the headlines.

Clonakilty Town won last season’s Division 2 title and made the step up to a new division with ease following a straightforward 3-0 victory over 2017 Beamish Cup runners-up Bantry Bay Rovers. A Sam Kingston hat-trick bodes well for Town’s championship aspirations.


Division 2 will be some craic this season
One weekend down and already the 2017-18 Division 2 title-race looks like it could be the most the open for years. Aultagh Celtic, Drinagh Rangers B, Sullane and Baltimore registered opening day wins.

Yet, Aultagh had too dig deep to overcome Castlelack 3-1, Rangers B edged Castletown Celtic 5-4 following a nine-goal thriller and Baltimore didn’t have it all their own way overcoming Dunmanway Town B 2-0. More of the same next and every weekend please!

7 WCL things to look forward to

7 West Cork League things to look forward to this weekend
By Ger McCarthy


  1. Football is back

A new West Cork League season begins this weekend with all three divisions packed full of intriguing matchups, none more so than in the Premier Division where defending champions Dunmanway Town face an early test of their credentials at home to Lyre Rovers.

Winning one title is difficult enough but defending that championship is even harder and Town will need to hit the ground running considering the wealth of talent amongst the top tier this season. Much will depend on Mark Buckley’s scoring ability but Dunmanway start as favourites.


  1. Drinagh begin their title challenge

One of the most decorated clubs in the WCL welcome Spartak Mossgrove to Canon Crowley Park on Sunday, eager to start their campaign in the best possible fashion.

Rangers have already claimed the Michael Cronin Cup following a penalty shootout victory over arch rivals Dunmanway but a sustained Premier Division title challenge requires a positive start. A big question heading into the 2017-18 season is can Drinagh turn Beamish and Parkway Cup successes into another league triumph?


  1. New boys first taste of top tier action

Spartak Mossgrove and Lyre Rovers make their 2017 Premier Division debuts away from home this weekend having both come up through Divisions 1 and 2 over the past couple of years.

Spartak have shown, in cup competitions at least, that they can challenge the established Premier clubs while Lyre possesses an emerging squad that will not be overawed by competing in the top tier.

It will be fascinating to see how both clubs fare over the next nine months and any points picked up away from home would be a welcome morale-boost on Sunday.


  1. Leeside’s greatest challenge

One of the West Cork League’s longest serving clubs face into another Premier Division campaign as one of the favourites to go down. Leeside have specialised in avoiding the drop over the past number of years but news that their Inchigeela home ground is no longer available to them comes as a serious blow on the eve of the new season. Not playing this weekend, Leeside need all the help they can get before a ball is kicked.


  1. Can ‘the dependables’ step up to the plate?

Togher Celtic and Riverside Athletics’ opening-day meeting brings together two of the Premier Division’s most consistent and dependable clubs, the former having won last season’s Premier Cup and the latter only two seasons removed from winning the championship without losing a game.

Both sides will be without players that lined out in the previous campaign and it is a big ask for Togher and Riverside to step up and challenge the Dunmanway and Drinagh’s of the top tier. Yet, neither Celtic nor Athletic should fear anyone on their home grounds and are capable of pushing the top two before seasons end.


  1. Division 1 title-race could be the best of the lot

Gaining promotion to the promised land of the Premier will be on the minds of the West Cork League’s middle tier Division 1 league clubs who start their respective campaigns this weekend.

Bantry Bay Rovers lost their top flight status following a play-off loss to Ballydehob at the tail-end of last season but a Beamish Cup final appearance at Turner’s Cross suggests the Kealkil club are capable of bouncing straight back.

Bunratty United were also relegated last term and Gabriel Rangers GAA successes has hit the Town Park club’s aspirations hard. Yet, United will still be in the mix for promotion along with a resurgent Clonakilty Town plus Skibbereen, Crookstown and Durrus sides eager for their chance to move up to the top division.

  1. Another Division 2 dogfight on the horizon

Division 2 of the WCL remains the toughest and most unpredictable league in the region. Sullane and Baltimore begin life in the bottom tier having been relegated last season and both will be anxious to go straight back up.

A victory over Courtmacsherry would represent the perfect start for the Coolea club  as would a win for the Crabs at home to Dunmanway B on Sunday. Castletown Celtic, Castlelack, Ardfield and Drinagh Rangers B are all capable of taking points off the Division 2 favourites in  another promotion race that looks like it will go right to the wire.

Baltimore FC



Confederations Cup winners and losers

The following article was published in the Irish Examiner following Germany’s 1-0 win over Chile in the 2017 Confederations Cup decider in Russia. Published Mon July 3rd 2017. – Enjoy, Ger McCarthy.




Germany’s conveyor belt of talent

Two statistics dominated social media following Germany’s Confederations Cup final victory over Chile last night. First, the average age of Joachim Low’s starting team was 24 years and 244 days. Second and in close comparison, the German’s recent U21 European Championship final winning side’s average was 22 years and 275 days, underlining the view that a potentially dominant young squad is evolving following on from the 2014 World Cup winners’ triumph in Brazil.


Chilean fire

Although they came up short in the decider, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Chilean side lit up this summer’s pre-World Cup tournament with their intricate passing, rapier-like counter-attacking and sometimes fiery reactions to match officials. 2015 and 2016 Copa America successes were built around the combined talents of Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas but an ageing Chile squad possesses enough bite to make an impact in Russia once again next year.



The conclusion to one of the most remarkable seasons in Cristiano Ronaldo’s distinguished career did not include a Confederations Cup medal. Instead, the Portuguese international had to be content with La Liga, Champions League, World Club Championship and European Championship successes plus the Ballon d’Or.Ronaldo still had time to help Portugal to a third-place finish in Russia before jetting off to the United States to greet the arrival of his new-born twins.




The Russian national team

Despite running a well organised tournament, a 2-0 victory over New Zealand is all Russia’s international team had to show during an otherwise uninspiring Confederations Cup. Add to that, an ongoing FIFA investigation into allegations that Russia’s entire squad were doping at the 2014 World Cup and next year’s showpiece global event cannot come quickly enough for the host nation.


VAR confusion

The decision to trial FIFA’s video assistant referee technology at the Confederations Cup led to many confusing moments. Giving a referee the option to consult a VAR official or look at footage of an incident on a screen on the side of the pitch makes perfect sense, in theory. Yet, the long delays and inability of supporters or TV viewers to understand what’s going on during the decision-making process has instead, painted VAR in a negative light.

September Signs – Munster SFC final

The following article was published in the Irish Examiner following Kerry’s facile Munster GAA senior football championship final victory over Cork on Mon July 3rd 2017. – Enjoy, Ger McCarthy.




Midfield experience points Kerry to victory

Colm Cooper stated in Saturday’s Irish Examiner that ‘When Kerry hum, it’s because they have a key platform from the middle of the field to put the foot down and drive on’. How prophetic the former All-Ireland winner’s words proved to be.

David Moran issued an immediate statement of intent by winning the throw-in and setting up Kerry’s first score. True, Cork won their fair share of possession in the middle third, but over the hour, Moran and Anthony Maher underlined their importance to Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s setup with a commanding air display that tipped the balance in Kerry’s favour.

Add in Kieran Donaghy’s ability to drift out from the square and the Kingdom possesses three primary ball-winners capable of mixing it with Dublin or Tyrone later this year.



Cork, God help us

Another year and another route through the qualifiers beckon for the rebels. Erratic shooting, an unwillingness to push up on the Kerry kick outs allied with Cork’s failure to raise their game meant there was only ever going to be one result.

The gulf in class between a team challenging for the Sam Maguire and one still struggling to find its identity under their current management setup was never more apparent.

Defeat to Kerry was not unexpected but the lack of passion and intensity in Cork’s display meant this was one of Cork’s most underwhelming visits to Killarney for a Munster final.



Kerry’s ruthless efficiency

There were 41 minutes on the clock and sixteen points on the scoreboard before James O’Donoghue kicked Kerry’s first wide of the Munster final.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side’s 79th provincial title was achieved without ever needing to move into top gear, an indictment of both their opponents’ failings and Kerry’s own ruthless efficiency. Tougher tests lay ahead yet the movement and accuracy of Kerry’s forwards suggests they are capable of unlocking the stingiest of defences.

No doubt, Fitzmaurice would have preferred a tougher test before heading to Croke Park but right now, Kerry are Dublin’s only serious challengers for this year’s All-Ireland.