Football

11 Of The Most Memorable On-Pitch Conversations In Sporting History

11 Of The Most Memorable On-Pitch Conversations In Sporting History

Football pitches are not commonly regarded as places to have a natter but every now and again some famous words have been uttered, and confidences shared, between teammates and competitors. We have decided to come up with a rundown of some of the more memorable and interesting on-pitch conversations in sporting history.

Many of these reported quotes are extremely unreliable and appear to have been subject to at best embellishment. Where this is the case, we will point it out.

1.  Simon Geoghegan to Tony Underwood

England v Ireland, Twickenham, 1994

Whenever Rory or Tony Underwood used to run in a try for England in Twickenham in the late 80s and early 90s, the camera used to flash to their Malaysian-born mother in the crowd who would be clapping furiously. Well, according to BBC Northern Ireland's rugby commentator Jim Neilly in this video, when Simon Geoghegan burned Tony for pace for the famous and decisive try in '94, the blond winger celebrated by whipping around to the younger Underwood and saying, "I hope your mother was watching that."

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Veracity: Highly dubious The footage of the try appears to flatly contradict this story, unless Geoghegan managed to get the sentence out in the 0.05 seconds while he was lying on the ground having touched down and Underwood dejectedly breezed past.

 

 2. Kieran Delahunty to Anthony Daly

Munster hurling semi-final, 1992

A famous one here that was later quoted from the steps of the Hogan Stand in September. It frames the opening of Denis Walsh's majestic book on the hurling in the 1990s, 'Hurling: The Revolution Years'.

Clare were playing Waterford in front of a hardcore of 8,000 people in Thurles in the Munster hurling semi-final in late May 1992. Waterford's corner forward Kieran Delahunty scored a late a free to secure a draw for Waterford. As he walked back into his marker, a youthful Anthony Daly, he quipped to him that Clare should "stick to the traditional music."

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Waterford won the replay by two points seven days later.

Veracity: Highly reliable.

3. Matthew Symonds to Eric Cantona

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Selhurst Park, 1995

Not an on-pitch encounter but close enough.

Matthew Symonds told the Sun that he ran the length of the Selhurst Park Stand to shout at the recently sent-off Cantona, "Off you go Cantona, its an early bath for you!", a formulation which made him sound like a jovial Match of the Day commentator rather a bog-standard football hooligan.

Veracity: Doubtful. Those nearby suggested that words bore closer resemblance to something along the lines of "‘Fuck off, you motherfucking French bastard." From the evidence of his facial complexion, we cannot determine which of the two versions is closer to the truth.

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4. Sylvie Linnane to Nicky English

All-Ireland hurling final, 1988

Galway hurling's biggest cult hero was in the thick of one the sport's biggest grudge matches in the late 80s. Galway were playing Tipp in the 1988 All-Ireland.

In a tight, relatively low-scoring game, Noel Lane's goal put the Westerners five points ahead with minutes remaining. In the final minute, with Tipp attacking frantically, the ref blew for a free-in. Marquee forward Nicky English stood over the free. Looking up at the clock and seeing Tipp trailing by five points, he somewhat pleadingly asked the ref "How long's left?"

Interjecting, Sylvie answered the question for the ref. "You've 12 months now"

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Disconsolately, English blasted the ball over the bar, pointlessly reducing Tipp's arrears to four points. The ref blew up.

Veracity: Pete Finnerty has testified to its viability on Laochra Gael and that'll do for us.

5. Peter Canavan to Colm Parkinson

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International Rules series, 1998

During a break in play in the 1998 Compromise Rules series, Peter Canavan called Colm Parkinson over for a word. Parkinson was just a year out of minor, having played in Laois' All-Ireland winning side of '97.

Canavan was already a legendary forward. The young Laois player was overawed at having an on-pitch word with one of his idols. As he went over, he readied himself to listen attentively to some tactical pointers or advice on dealing with the rough-housing Aussies. When he got over, Canavan leant in and told him "Cover me, while I go for a piss."

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6. Moss Keane to all those around him

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Munster v New Zealand, 1978

The landscape of the Irish after-dinner circuit would look remarkably different if the late Moss Keane had never existed. He was single handedly responsible for about 50% of the witticisms ever relayed at an after-dinner speeches in Ireland. And most of the funny things ever said by Irish rugby players will at some stage be (mis)attributed to Moss.

Nonetheless, Moss Keane was a sharp, witty, thoughtful, much-beloved guy. Here is New Zealand's legendary, and sometimes controversial, lock Andy Haden on the Munster-All Black game of 1978.

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7. Robbie Fowler v Graeme Le Saux

Stamford Bridge, 1999

A highly disputed one this. Robbie Fowler famously attempted to humiliate Graeme Le Saux about the gay rumours that had swirled around him ever since misguidedly came out about as a Guardian reader.

(Where was Le Saux's agent when he came out with this bombshell, I hear you ask. Interestingly, while they were both at Chelsea, Andy Townsend once asked for a loan of the newspaper Le Saux was reading, and after leafing through it briskly, he theatrically tossed it back it back to Le Saux, announcing "There's no sport in there" to gales of laughter.)

Anyway, after Fowler performed his very public homophobic gesture towards Le Saux, he claimed that the full back came up to him and said "I'm married." Robbie, according to his own account coolly retorted "So was Elton John, mate."

Veracity: Graeme Le Saux has written of Robbie's purported 'Elton John' response.

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It is a nice line and makes him look funny, which is the most important thing to him, but he used dramatic licence. He did not say that.

Fowler's actual reply, according to Le Saux, was "Bollocks to your family," a somewhat more mundane, bog standard reply. Certainly, the response that Fowler claims to have come up sounds like classic football autobiography banter that was thought up in the few years after the event.

 

8. Jason McAteer to Roy Keane

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Giants Stadium, 1994 and Stadium of Light, 2002

Roy Keane has been involved in many thoughtful discussions on pitches down the years. Remember him whispering sweet nothings into his old sparring partner Alf Inge Haaland's ear in 2001, or his encounters with Gazza in the early 90s, when the young Gascoigne was keen to remind Keane that he was an Irish wanker who couldn't fucking play.

Well, McAteer and Keane have had many loaded conversations on football pitches over the years.

McAteer's editorial notes to Roy Keane, kindly relayed to the Manchester United midfielder on the Stadium of Light pitch was big news at the time. Referee Uriah Rennie somehow determined that McAteer's hacking down of Keane wasn't worthy of a booking. Rennie spent so much time trying to stop Keane retaliating that he seemed to forget that McAteer surely deserved a card. McAteer told Keane to "put it in your next book."

We all know the Giants Stadium one. Despite Keane's claims that he was as 'Jack-the-lad' as anyone back in the day, McAteer adjudged that Roy didn't want to hear about massive Norwegian tits before a World Cup match.

Veracity: We can definitely vouch for the Stadium of Light one, alright, accompanied as it was by McAteer miming the act of writing afterwards.

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9. Kevin Garnett to Carmelo Anthony

Wife comments can cause big aggro. When West Indian cricketer Ramnawesh Sarwan and Aussie fast bowler Glenn McGrath were sledging back and forth, the West Indian (with the Indian name) made the mistake of referencing McGrath's cancer suffering wife, Jane. "If you ever fucking mention my wife again I'll fucking rip your fucking throat out!" was McGrath's considered response.

However, the most surreal wife reference was the Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett's jibe to the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony that his wife Lala, "tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios."

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The comment, one of the more imaginative wife slags on a pitch/court, offended Anthony, who was having marital problems and caused an on-court ruckus.

Veracity: Lala Vasquez, the wife and reality star, disputes that Garnett said this, though we have to question whether she is best placed to confirm this given that she was not on the court at the time.

10. Michael Judge to Pat Spillane 

Galway v Kerry League match, sometime in the 80s

This little anecdote is from 'A History of Galway Football', a grainy video released in the aftermath of Galway's last All-Ireland win. It's the kind of video that has advertisements for butchers in Corofin and car dealerships in Tuam halfway through it.

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This story is told by Galway's wing back between the mid 1970s and the late 80s, Seamus McHugh. It focuses on an encounter between Galway full back Mike Judge and Kerry legend Pat Spillane.

There was an inch of snow on the ground. Mike Judge was on Pat Spillane that day. You could pick better spots on a day like that than in on Mike. Anyhow, the ball kept going in. Mike kept coming out with it. Pat was making out that Mike wasn't winning it fairly. Well, it was late in the game and I think we were winning by a couple of points and the ball went in between the two of them. Mike came out with ball, Pat ended up on the ground and the referee blew for a free out. Pat was at ten on the richter scale now. He started complaining to the ref, moaning to the ref, and even shouting out to him. Mike went in to take the free and gently moved Pat out of the way, and said if he didn't stop complaining, Santy wouldn't come to him.

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11. Marco Matterazzi to Zinedine Zidane

World Cup Final 2006

The most famous on-pitch conversation of all time. It's never been formally agreed upon what Materazzi actually said to provoke Zidane into headbutting him. Materazzi was one of the finest exponents of the art of jersey pulling in European football. It is generally agreed that Zidane said, in reaction to Matterazzi's grabbing a fistful of his jersey at a corner, "If you want my shirt, I'll give it to you at the end." What Matterazzi replied with is not fully known but he sure did provoke a reaction.

 

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