With the new Premier League season just days away, Balls have signed Bridesmaids and Moone Boy actor Chris O'Dowd on a Bosman to act as our fantasy football adviser for 2016/17.
Former Roscommon goalkeeper O'Dowd has teamed up with Balls to run a free-to-enter fantasy league in aid of The Male Cancer Awareness Campaign, with a metric ton of prizes up for grabs throughout the season. Details on how to enter that league - which will also include some of Ireland's top sports stars and media personalities - can be found here.
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) August 10, 2016
We spoke to former IT Crowd star O'Dowd about the new Premier League season, and he was more than willing to reveal his outrageous hope - nay, premonition - ahead of kick-off this weekend:
I'm really hoping Guardiola hires Eva Carneiro and makes a whole show of what a brilliant physio she is when they go to Old Trafford. And he behaves like a real old school gent. Like, he puts down his coat for her when he sees a puddle and stuff.
He also predicted Liverpool would win the league, which speaks to just how seriously he took our request for 'an outrageous prediction'.
The Boyle talisman, however, was far more serious when discussing the matter at hand - fantasy football, and his approach to fantasy management...
When did you start playing fantasy football, and who were your first star men?
I started playing fantasy football back when David Baddiel & Frank Skinner did that show. Back when every kid with glasses in school was re-nicknamed Statto overnight. We used to have an auction above a shop in Boyle and there were probably a dozen of us, all around 14 i suppose. I remember paying over the odds for John Scales and Julian Dicks. I had a penchant for collecting ex members of the crazy gang. It was not a fruitful habit.
Who is the first name on your team this year?
I've gone for Aguero with the hope his recurring ankle/back/throat/carpal tunnel injuries hold off for a few weeks. It's a big price, but, ya know, captain bonus.
How long did you spend thinking of your team name and how happy are you with it?
I reckon, with training, negotiations and acquisitions, I put my team together in around 8 minutes. I'm not happy with it to be honest. Eight of them are playing away from home in the first week, and six of them are Capricorns, who, as we all know, are fundamentally untrustworthy.
Do you try and get an Irish player in there just because?
I like picking lads who used to play GAA. I've gone for Shane Long initially, I'm sure Coleman will get a look in at some stage, and DJ Carey has banging on about his exclusion from the squad already.
Which player is your 'dark horse' that you think everyone else is overlooking?
I think Andros Townsend will do well. And Max Gradel could come strong. It helps that he sounds like a toy Doll for Baby Formula 1 drivers.
Have you got a set for formation? Or... Philosophy, as it were?
Three up front. Three at the back. I'd like them to play direct football and I refuse to allow them to shake hands with the opposition at any point.
Are there any players you really don't like having in your team but can't avoid?
David De Gea. But Jose is gonna park the bus the first month.
Which player in your time playing fantasy football did you become most personally attached to?
My friend Jamie and I have a text message chain going back 3 years about what to do with Robert Huth. It usually goes something like this:
Jamie - Just got an angry text from Bobby H.
Chris - Really, what's his beef?
Jamie - Not happy I dropped for the weekend.
Chris - To be fair, he got an assist against Spurs.
Jamie - Yeah, but then he took a shit in the showers.
Chris - Not cool.
Jamie - The man's a disciplinary liability, Chris.
Chris - I bet Crouch thought it was funny though.
Jamie - Obvs.
Other than yourself who is your favourite goalkeeper?
I still don't understand why we sold Pepe Reina. And Shay Given will always have a place in my heart, and my bed.
O'Dowd's loyalty to his footballing compatriots sets an example for us all; a blind dedication to GAA, even where it carries no real relevance at all, will surely see him falter this season.
Those shouts for Andros Townsend and Max Gradel, though, make a real statement. Mr. O'Dowd has clearly been reading Balls.ie, for one thing, but he's also got his eye on a bargain - just in case there was any doubt that he hails from Roscommon.
A reminder that you can take on Chris, along with names such as Kevin Doyle, Anthony Stokes, Richie Sadlier, Diarmuid 'The Rock' O'Sullivan, Matt Cooper and David McWilliams - soon to be followed by many more - in The Balls.ie Invitational fantasy league.
A reminder, too, that it's all in aid of The Male Cancer Awareness Campaign - and you can get involved by filling out the form below: