Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 11 December 2017

Nemo lost amid kitchen floods

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

This is a postcard from the edge of Niagara Falls. The water is pouring down through the ceiling into the kitchen. There are buckets everywhere. Plumber Joe O'Riordan is on his way, but the road is treacherous.

I got a call from the Indo office just a few minutes ago. The Crokes-Nemo game has been called off. The piece I did before the milkman got up is as redundant as an economic forecast.

Ah, but it was very good.

I even found an old line about the Gooch after some team tried to kill him. It went something like: "The Gooch was hit so hard he was giving out fifties instead of tenners at AIB Killarney."

Joe the Plumber and his family, the O'Riordans, had a football feud with the Keanes for years. Hardly a game went by that there wasn't a fight. Indeed, my beloved brother Conor, then a dashing double Kerry minor, had his nose broken in one such battle.


Strange now, that Joe should be riding to the rescue. Strange, too, that his sister Phil helps out in the pub. She brings her own sunshine to work every day.

I search for something to turn off or on. I'm that useless at DIY, I can barely stick the plug in the bath. Meanwhile, the water meter is running like an IMF ledger and there's a strange smell.

Ah feckit, but I know Nemo better than any Kerryman, from the time I did Billy Morgan's book. Even played against them for UCC. Even went off the beer for fully 36 hours before the game. Even missed a date with lovely Carol, who wore bright woolly jumpers with trees on the front and spray-on Levis, and a smile, even at exam time.

I was to be marking Frank Cogan, the finest corner-back of his generation, but probably a little bit past it. The father was fierce excited when I told him whom I was marking from a Barrack Street phone box that smelt of stale urine and coffin-nail Woodbines.

I ran all around the pitch like one of those northern, manic work-rate corner-forwards with a name like Mickey MacInpaddlingpool. Frank didn't bother to follow, but the ball seemed to fall into his arms every time.

Back to the phone box. "Reverse charges Listowel 21127 please." I get through an hour later. That was the way it was back then.

"Well how did you get on?" asked my father, hoping I had scored 1-5 off play and was fouled for a penalty.

"I held him scoreless, Dad."

Joe is here. He's searching for the leak. I look up at the ceiling. Joe looks up too. It's Joe's problem now.

"Have to go Joe. Deadlines."

"You wouldn't call that work," responds Joe. Every man's job is easy except his own.

I had to take to the bed. The heating is gone and there's more feeling in Tutankhamun's fingers. Moscow might have landed the World Cup, but we're a shoo-in for the Winter Olympics.

Joe starts to hum. I was thinking of kicking the stepladder out from under him. What's this Confucius says? 'Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.'

Joe puts the flood down to a frozen tank. Stalingrad revisited. The mother says another leak is geysering through a wall.

The mobile sings 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'. The result of the call is I have to drive a long journey tomorrow. It means we might have to miss Emmets and Senan's in the North Kerry Championship. Emmets are called after a martyr and Senan's a saint. I'm both. Senan's have the best facilities of any country club in Ireland. They are very much on the up and up. I'm badly needed to roar on the Emmets.

The only consolation is Brian Carty might be doing a game on the radio. He's like one of those holiday programmes. His commentaries make you wish you were there. Carty is kind to players and respectful, too, but you always know from his call who is playing well and who is playing badly.

Joe opens the door and then knocks. "I need you. There could be a sewage problem."

That cursed snow and ice. It's no wonder the Scandinavians are the biggest alcoholics in Europe -- other than ourselves that is. It was grand for a while last year. Snowmen and photos of lovely mountains and lakes and kids on home-made sleighs. Now I'm rightly sick of it.

The smell is of stale fish, which it is. I got a present of a box of mackerel from a pal and used the box to stop leaking water, but there was a hole in the bucket, so the mother's kitchen smells worse than that phone box in Barrack Street.

These last few days have been spent looking up weather forecasts and at ceilings and skies.

I often wonder whether the light hanging out in the sky over the trees to the south of our house is a star or a satellite. Last night, the light revolved anti-clockwise and I thought it might be a UFO. It could have been Ballinaspittle Syndrome. There was no sign of any wise men. We are short on those at the moment. Maybe a saviour will be born in the boarded-up ghost estate under the shiny light to the south. God knows we need one.

In the meantime, we have Nemo, Senan's, Crokes and above all Emmets. Not forgetting Joe.

Irish Independent

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