Not a good night, but a great night for football legend
Published 05/11/2010 | 05:00
IT wasn't a good sing-song. It was a great sing-song.
Eamon Dunphy warbling 'Send in the Clowns'; singer Sonny Knowles promising to "take care of your cares for you".
It was a fitting curtain-raiser to celebrate the 70th birthday of the man they came to pay tribute to -- John Giles.
What began as the official launch of the soccer pundit and football legend's autobiography 'A Football Man' soon turned into an impromptu sing-song as a huge crowd turned out for the event at the Aviva Stadium.
The guests included former England and Manchester United great -- and Giles's brother-in-law -- Nobby Stiles, golfer Paul McGinley, singer Rebecca Storm and former Irish goalkeeping hero Packie Bonner.
"I didn't expect such a big crowd," a slightly taken aback Giles remarked, but it didn't stop the TV pundit from turning master of ceremonies as he encouraged some of the guests -- including Eoin Hand -- to come to the microphone.
It was a night of emotional tributes and 'salty' soccer tales to mark another milestone in Giles's long career as his book was officially launched by RTE broadcaster Bill Herlihy and fellow soccer pundit Eamon Dunphy.
In the book, Giles tells the story of a dream achieved beyond his wildest dreams, beginning with his early days in Ormond Square in inner city Dublin in the 1940s and rising to the dizzy heights of playing for Manchester United, Leeds United, and Ireland.
It also deals with his challenge to the portrayal of himself and Brian Clough in the novel, 'The Damned United', and his role on RTE's football panel.
"He was a legend on the streets as I was growing up and he became something very rare -- a prodigy who goes on to achieve greatness as a footballer," an emotional Dunphy said.
"As long as football is played in this country, he'll be remembered. He's a great man, not a good man," he said.
Fellow pundit and former player Liam Brady turned down Giles' invitation to sing.
"I don't sing. Sometimes I do, but not tonight," said Brady.
"Let's not forget what a great footballer he was. There has always been a debate about who was the best footballer.
"For me he was head and shoulders above anybody who played for the Republic of Ireland."
"I was very privileged to be able to play and do some of the things I wanted to do from the time I was a schoolboy," Giles said.
"I had a terrific career and enjoyed every moment of it."