Joe Brolly: Some Kerry folk would steal a worm off a blind hen
I was in Owen Mulligan's bar for the first time on Friday night. Ever see the Bacardi Breezer ads? Well, Bacardi Breezer ads with a twist. Amidst the throngs, there was a booth full of ravaged-looking older men playing cards.
"Hardcore," said Mugsy, "that's the hardcore, Joe. They come in every Friday evening." "How long will they play for?" I asked."Until 8 o'clock on Sunday night," he said.
Kieran Donaghy was there to sell his book What Do You Think of That?. He is lucky I haven't (yet) chosen to sue him for part of the royalties. Those Kerry boys are hungry hoors.
As John Keenan once said of a notoriously money-orientated manager on the club circuit: "The hoor would steal a worm off a blind hen." A Kerryman has no sooner taken his boots off for the last time than an autobiography is in the pipeline.
You'd swear the ghost writer was sitting in the changing room waiting for them with his dictaphone running. I think Pat Spillane has already written around four, including Shooting from the Hip, which is currently ranked 1,669,933 in the book sales chart on Amazon. That high?
Star arrived in the bar with a pair of pink ladies' pants in his pocket. Turns out he had asked Mulligan if he could get him a pair of shorts as he wanted to train in the Glenavon Hotel's gym. The pink silk underwear had duly been delivered to his hotel room.
"Look what this bollocks sent to my room," the big Kerryman said, waving them in the air. It was the starting gun for a truly hilarious night. By about half ten I was getting a stitch.
I don't charge a fee for GAA stuff. The Donaghy and Mulligan family finances are a constant source of worry to me, often keeping me up late into the night, so I was glad to do it. But I had one condition. I wanted to relax and have a few pints after a long week.
Mulligan was delighted and texted me to say: "The chat won't start until around 8.30. We'll lift u around 7."
"Great," I texted back, "looking forward to it." On the Friday I got back from court late and was rushing to get my Sunday piece finished. When I had written the last line and pressed send, relaxation swept through me. I felt almost excited about the night ahead. Just about then, I got another text from the blond one.
"Joe, where will this man lift u?" "In Belfast. Does he know his way around?" "Belfast? Oh ffs I thought u lived in Bellaghy. He can't lift u up there. You may drive down." "Seriously?" Turns out he was being serious, and that he really thought I played for Bellaghy. Is it any wonder he drove Mickey Harte mad?
The pile of books quickly disappeared. Joe Canavan's wife and two other girls manned the table, selling them throughout the night. A classic example of the generosity of GAA folk. Tyrone women always say the same thing when they come up for a selfie.
"I'm only doing this to annoy the husband", they say. Or else: "The boyfriend hates you - this'll drive him mad."
"This'll drive my Joe mad," said Mrs Canavan as she took her selfie, beaming from ear to ear. "He's sitting down there, he'll be raging."
"This place is a howl, boyo," said Star as the three of us took our seats on stage for the chat. Owen had decided to MC it himself and it was a bit like the ill-fated Barry McGuigan chat show, though he was better than the year when Spillane (pictured above) was the host of The Sunday Game. I checked the date on Wikipedia and the relevant entry reads: "For a brief time Spillane presented The Sunday Game highlights programme during the summer months in 2009. In this new role he developed a reputation for asking an analyst a question and interrupting them before they had a chance to finish their reply, a circumstance which many viewers found irritating."
The big crowd roared with laughter as the chat unfolded. A sample . . .
Member of the audience: There's another book out at the minute by a Tyrone man - what does the panel think of it?
Me: As your lawyer I'd advise you not to answer that question, lads.
Mugsy (dying to say something but not sure now): Ah f*** it, I better say nothing.
Star: No comment.
Star had a few jars as the night went on, and some of the audience were struggling to understand the Kerry brogue.
Audience member: Could you not get that man an interpreter?
Mugsy: Don't worry, I can't understand him either.
At one point, Conor Gormley was invited up onto the stage.
Mugsy: Joe, what did you think of Conor as a player?
Me: (slowly) A bad hoor.
When the audience had calmed down . . .
Mugsy: Star, the same question for you.
Star: I agree with Joe.
I left at around midnight, but it was clear things were only getting started. The bar was now so packed you couldn't see the length of it. As I crossed the street to the car, Star came running out after me.
"I can't thank you enough, Joe. It was a brilliant night. Do you want a copy of the book?"
"I'd like that, Kieran."
"That'll be 20 quid, boyo."
Sunday Indo Sport