AS the old saying goes - behind every good man is a great woman.
Anthony’s other half.
The woman, one of many in Kildare and all over the country, that played second fiddle to football for many years.
In this case 14 years.
Last year, however, that came to end when Kildare’s longest serving player ever decided to hang up his boots. Just his inter county boots though. Niamh had her husband back all to herself ... or so she thought!
Straight away though he was installed as a selector with the Kildare Under 21 team and he’s now doing the statistics for the senior team. The status quo has been restored but Niamh wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I never see him; well I very rarely see him except for maybe during the day. He’s away with the Under 21s I’d say five nights a week and he’s now doing the stats for the Kildare senior team. They’re looking at different software packages for that so he’s training himself and doing it with a girl from Donegal, so that’s taking up an awful lot of time as well. So, I don’t see anymore of him now that he’s retired from playing! We’re used to it and even Max says ’goodbye dada, good luck at training’, “ said the Kerdifftown native.
An abrupt halt, says Niamh, would not have suited her husband. Football has been his life for so long, it has been part of her life since meeting Rainbow in a now defunct Naas nightclub back in 1997, it’s second nature.
“Now looking back it makes you think how players just stop and do nothing after they retire. A lot of my friends said he should do nothing for a year at least but that’s not Anthony. He needs to be kept busy the whole time. He enjoys it and the fact that he’s gone straight back in to it, even for us here, suits. I think if he had stopped altogether it would have been very difficult to get used to. Number one it would drive me mad having him here every night!
Secondly it would be very hard to see what he would do with his time. There’s literally not enough days in the week for him to do stuff,” she explained.
Complaining doesn’t appear to be in her nature, however, looking from the outside in it would be easy to complain. Training, more training, games, more training, the county team, the club team, medal presentations, did one mention training?
“There are sacrifices, maybe compromise is a better word but I have nothing bad to say about it. I’ve made great friends because of it and there are huge rewards as well. There’s a great social scene with the people that are involved outside the actual training and games. I’m very friendly with the other wives and girlfriends and we have great nights out,” admitted the amiable Niamh.
“I’ve been extremely lucky because I’ve also been away on a good few holidays because of football, not so much in recent times.
“We met in 1997 in Naas and I was very fortunate because that year was the year of the three Meath matches and the following January I got to go to Lanzarote. I was one of the younger girls at the time and we had such fun. The integration between young and old is great and always has been.
“Back then Sheena (Davy Dalton’s wife), Colette, who’s Sos Dowling’s wife and Maureen Crofton were all the men of today but we all got on famously.
In ‘98 after the All Ireland we got to South Africa, in January 2001 we got to Thailand so there’s not too much to complain about,” she added.
Her husband was already in the thick of inter county action when they met, so as she explains, she knows no different. What you don’t know you can’t miss is Niamh attitude.
“Of course there are sacrifices. You sometimes go to weddings on your own, you go to parties on your own, go to family occasions on your own but nothing more than that. At the end of the day if people know Anthony they know that’s what keeps him happy.
“I was big in to travelling before I met Anthony because I worked in travel but that just quickly stopped so not being able to organise a summer holiday together was hard to get used to.
“You get used to not being able to go away together in the summer months but now as soon as the county side of things is finished it’s straight in to club commitments. There’s no let up but I wasn’t frustrated by it but it just meant you couldn’t even go on holiday in September or October.
“I went on girly holidays during football season instead. Even last year myself, Linda (Damien Hendy’s wife) and Michelle (Niall Carew’s wife) went away for a week in March. I think it’s only a problem if you make it a problem,” explained the mother of two.
Even their 2005 wedding was planned around football. The couple married on New Year’s Day and generally, says Niamh, most players plan their nuptials around the game.
“The wedding was planned around football so that there would be no complications with dates. Generally you will find that even when you go to weddings, if it’s anything to do with football, they’re usually on between October and Christmas. You’d very rarely have a summer wedding and if you did they would be nobody drinking and people would go home early,” she explained.
Fast forward on five years and her husband had decided to call in a day. Antony Rainbow was and is one of the most respected inter county footballers of all time. One of life’s gentlemen. Friendly and obliging and his tribute game late last year showed just how respected he was.
“His tribute game was absolutely fantastic. There was so much organisation involved in it and on the day there were so many lads from other counties, which was great for Anthony because he wouldn’t get to see them as often. So it was lovely to see so many of them travelling as well. He’s very modest but he enjoyed it. It was a terrific send off and not something that happens that often. After 20 years service it was lovely to see it because you see too many players just going with no thanks,” said Niamh.
Naturally adjustment from playing to managing is a difficult one and it’s a work in progress for a man who gave 20 years of service to his county.
“I think he misses the dressing room but the lads are all still in touch and the fact that he is involved makes it easier. When the lads were going back training in the New Year you could see he missed it. Anthony never complained about training, it was never an issue with him and it was never a chore for him even in the depths of winter,” she remarked.
Anthony Rainbow has plenty of football activities to keep him busy still. He also has two beautiful children at home. The newest addition Robyn and toddler Max, who is already a familiar face, almost a household name at Kildare games.
“Max is not happy unless he has a football or is at a football game. There’s high expectations for him already. Genuinely though, he’s not happy if there isn’t a football or a rugby ball or a golf club around. My dad plays a lot of golf and it’s rubbing off on Max. He’s also obsessed with Johnny Doyle too and he loves Dermot (Earley) and Roli (Sweeney) too. He’s been brought up with it and knows no difference. He was in Croke Park when he was two weeks old so hopefully he’ll stay interested,” Niamh said.
Juggling family life, work and football seems to come easy for Niamh Rainbow. Inter county players deserve a lot of respect for the commitment they give to football and hurling but so too to their respective others.