Even Cowen a fan of Mickey's ballad

IT'S the song about our recent economic 'betrayal' by 'deceitful and greedy' leaders that even former Taoiseach Brian Cowen couldn't resist!

IT'S the song about our recent economic 'betrayal' by 'deceitful and greedy' leaders that even former Taoiseach Brian Cowen couldn't resist!

But the song goes beyond politics and economics – it's also a touching tribute to the bygone Dublin of the mother of one of north Kerry's most famous adopted sons.

'Monica's Song', penned by Listowel's Mickey McConnell, has to be among the most treasured gifts ever given to former Republic of Ireland manager and Moyvane resident Eoin Hand.

It was his written by his close friend Mickey in a memorial to Eoin's mother, Monica, who was once the landlady at Ireland's oldest public house, The Brazen Head in Dublin.

Mickey's sums up three centuries of Irish public life in Monica's Song; from Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmets' nights in The Brazen Head to an Ireland in recession, denuded of sovereignty and justice.

It ends on a hopeful note, however, in a work that has touched hearts wherever Eoin sang it – not least in a crowded Dingle bar last year with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen present.

"I always loved Mickey's work and never forget singing 'Only Our Rivers Run Free' years ago in a bar in Bray where I had brought the Huddersfield Town team that I was managing at the time," Eoin told The Kerryman.

"Our captain was ex British Army and started shepherding the younger players out of the bar while I was singing so I went up to him and asked him what he was doing. 'I'm loyal to the queen and I'm not going to be listening to these songs and the young lads shouldn't be either', he told me. I got him on the transfer list and sold him about a week later! Mickey got a great kick out of thinking one of his songs got a player sacked from Huddersfield Town," Eoin laughed.

The Dublin native – who is starring in the Lartigue Theatre's Man from Clare in St John's this week – moved to Moyvane with wife Pauline in 2002 and the pair promptly went native. "I finally got to know Mickey really well after moving down and he came up with the idea of writing the song after a music session in The Brazen Head some time ago."

It's been touching the hearts of listeners wherever Eoin has sung it since – not least at a Páidí O Sé memorial fundraiser last year, which was attended by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen – who is known to have a fondness for ballads himself.

"Ogie Moran was after me to sing it, but I was a bit hesitant as I didn't want to embarrass Cowen. But Ogie insisted so I launched into it. About five minutes later Cowen came over and said, 'can I have a word with you?'

"I though 'uh-oh, here we go', but he just said 'Jaysus, that's a great song!'"

Monica's Song, on CD, will be launched at John B Keane's bar in Listowel at 9pm on Friday next, March 7.