my goal is to gen up on football rules

Good luck to the Northern Ireland team for Euro 2016 in France
Good luck to the Northern Ireland team for Euro 2016 in France

Like thousands of Ulster Rugby fans, I’m really looking forward to this Sunday’s World Cup quarter final game between Ireland and Argentina.

A significant number of Ulstermen are in the squad; the same fearless warriors who regularly line up to compete against the players of the other three provinces of Ireland, now join together with them to serve as one team on international duty.

It is my team sport of choice. I love the variety of play - rucking, the scrum, lineouts, tries and conversions – and the roughness of it all.

In comparison I will be forever puzzled as to why some premiership soccer players, supposedly at the peak of fitness, take a ‘dive’, falling over and rolling around apparently in agony, their faces wretched with pain, clutching a part of their body.

A few seconds later, they make a Lazarus-like recovery, leaping to their feet and continuing to play a full and active role in the game. Honestly, some of them should seriously consider a career in acting. After all, Vinny Jones managed to carve out a whole new career in it, didn’t he?

But before I am bombarded with abuse from fans of ‘the beautiful game’, I have to acknowledge the brilliant achievement of our own Northern Ireland footballers. For all their hard work they’re now top of their group and well on the road to France.

A credit to the team and also to manager Michael O’Neill, a gentleman if ever there was one, and I say this from the experience of meeting him and watching him interact with the public and particularly with young people.

The Green and White Army head off to France for the European Championships which starts in June next year – and that gives me a good bit of time to swot up on the game of football, in particular the offside rule – always a difficult one. With that in mind, I share this helpful story I heard once. Women seem to get it, but when I tried explaining to my football crazy son, he looked at me like I’d gone mad. See what you think:

Imagine you’re in a shoe shop, second in the queue, waiting to pay for a fabulous pair of shoes. Behind the shop assistant on the till is a handbag you’ve spotted and which you absolutely must have.

The woman in front of you in the queue has also spotted the bag and she’s eyeing it up. But both you and this woman have forgotten your purses. Now, it would be plain rude to push in front of the first woman if you had no money to pay for the handbag, wouldn’t it? The shop assistant remains at the till waiting.

But you’re in luck, because your friend, who’s shopping with you, sees your dilemma from the back of the shop where she’s been trying on a pair of shoes. She prepares to throw her purse to you so you can pay for the bag.

If she does so, you can catch the purse, then walk round the other shopper and buy that bag. Or, she could throw the purse to a point just ahead of the other shopper and “whilst it is in flight” you could nip around the other woman, catch the purse and buy the bag!

But, the important thing is that until the purse has actually been thrown, it would be plain rude for you to be in front of the other shopper and you would, therefore, be offside. Simples.