Every tooth in my mouth shook and the blood that escaped from my body could have been used to save many lives. My nose felt as if it had been relocated and a drum solo was playing in my ears. I was sent home for treatment and knew my rugby career was over.
It had nothing to do with my ability or lack of it.
When I was a young teenager, I decided to try my hand at rugby. I was always tall for my age and I thought that this was a game that might suit me.
I had an Irish rugby jersey that I used to wear when I was messing around with the lads on the green. I could see myself wearing the real thing and getting lots of caps for Ireland and probably a place on the Lions team as well.
So, I took myself off to the local rugby club to give them the benefit of my expertise. I put on my boots and took to the pitch.
There was a guy running away from me with the ball under his arm so I decided to take it from him. I dived at him with the intention of catching him around the hips but I was a bit late and missed. As I went down, his heel came up and caught me straight in the mouth.
Every tooth in my mouth shook and the blood that escaped from my body could have been used to save many lives. My nose felt as if it had been relocated and a drum solo was playing in my ears.
I was sent home for treatment and I knew, there and then, that my rugby career was over. I had no intention of becoming disfigured for the sake of a game of football so I threw in the towel.
I tried my hand at Gaelic football as well and I enjoyed that. The only difficulty I had was that I never really knew what to do when I had the ball. There was never any shortage of experts on the side-line shouting pearls of wisdom, but it got complicated when all the instructions contradicted each other and, no matter what I did with the ball, I was always upsetting someone. Eventually, I had had enough of it.
I also had an interest in soccer and I followed Leeds United. My bedroom walls were covered with photos of the players that I had cut from Shoot magazine. As far as I was concerned, it was only a matter of time before I began my playing career in England.
My parents would have to get used to the fact that I was going to be living in Yorkshire but the huge amounts of money I would be sending home would make up for that.
But that never happened because, in spite of the ability I was convinced I had, the talent scouts that came to see the youngsters in local clubs and street leagues didn’t do their jobs right and they never spotted me.
The clubs didn’t want me either, so they too had a problem with recognising talent.
But I was never one to be down- hearted so, with my football career in tatters, I turned my attention to tennis. I always had a huge interest in Wimbledon and I used to sit in front of the telly for the two weeks of that tournament and watch it all day.
I was also in love with Chris Evert and I knew it was only a matter of time until we were playing side by side in a mixed doubles event.
So, in 1972, I bought myself a timber racquet and off I went to the local tennis club. With my natural ability and athletic prowess, it wasn’t going to take me long to hit the professional circuit.
It soon became obvious, though, that the other players in the club were holding me back. There was no other explanation for my lack of progress.
I had to act fast because Chrissie was running out of patience. I got some coaching but the coach told me that I would never be a professional tennis player. I was gutted and I had to break it to Chrissie that her dream of us playing together would never materialise. I’m sure she was devastated. I’ve never actually spoken to her but she must have been distraught.
Once again, like a phoenix, I rose to the challenge. I bought a set of golf clubs, joined a club and off I went to set about getting on the Ryder Cup team.
For some strange reason, while I played tennis with my right hand, I played golf with my left. There were some who suggested that I played golf as if I was using the wrong hand, but that was probably just jealousy.
More obstacles were put in my way. Course designers put trees in the very places that I used to put my ball and the holes on the greens never suited my style, so I gave up.
So, as you can see, I have been dogged with bad luck and poor management throughout my playing career in every sport I have been involved in. But all that is about to change. Recently, I had my first game of croquet.
If you’re not familiar with this game let me explain. It’s played on a green and it involves hitting a ball through a series of hoops using a timber mallet.
This suits my aggressive and competitive nature and I’m certain that it’s only a matter of time until I am recognised as one of the greatest players of all time.
My first outing was a bit of a disappointment though, but that was only because the green was uneven, I had a bad mallet, the ball wasn’t great and it was windy. It wasn’t my fault.