Wednesday 25 April 2018

Billy Keane: long good Friday makes no sense

They're crucifying the publicans of Limerick. Ripley wouldn't even believe this one -- 25,000 people in Thomond on Good Friday for the Somme re-enactment between Munster and Leinster and not a pub open. That's the law. And there are those who say the power of the church is all but gone.

I'll be closed myself for Good Friday. If we open, half our holidays for the year are gone. Pubs are closed only two days in the year. Christmas Day is the other.

I'll still go in to work, though, to have a look out at The Yearning Toper. Every year he spots me looking out at him over at McKenna's Corner and he taps a plaintive requiem for the redeemer on the front window. He only knocks on Good Friday and you wouldn't see him for the rest of the year.

I always answer the rat-a--tat-tat.

"Can I help you?" I ask, like one of those snotty receptionists who really mean 'don't be annoying me'.

"Any chance of a drink?"

"No," I say. "But we'll be open tomorrow at 11."

"Ah gwan, gwan, just da wan?"


And I always give him the same reply. "It would be more in your line to go down to the church and kiss the cross."

And The Yearning Toper always gives me the same reply, the second part of which is 'off.'

It's nearly worth closing up to annoy him. And come Good Friday he'll be a rugby fan, full of phrases like 'hard yards.'

The very thought of him sitting up at the counter, contradicting real fans with a drip attached to his pint and every ring of lacing around the inner trunk of his glass counting up to an hour is enough to send you to the auctioneers.

We only get €3.75 to listen to him. The shrinks are on 80 bills an hour. Publicans should be paid by the VHI. It's no wonder so many of us take to the drink. I'll close and for a day gladly, but my colleagues in Limerick will lose out on a fortune. Think about it: 52 pubs closed for good in Limerick city and county in the last year or so. More will follow.

But €12m will be lost to the city this Easter and the curious thing is that Magners, who trade in this country as Bulmers, sponsor the league. What was going through their heads? And it's not just Limerick. Pubs generally will lose out in times when most are barely surviving.

It costs to show Sky Sports, Setanta, Racing UK and At The Races. That's roughly 13,000 more pints that have to be sold, just to cover the companies without even making a penny profit.

Then some fella will ask you to switch on Darlington and Scunthorpe in the Autoglass Trophy. You and your punters are forced to watch that rubbish just because your man had a liaison with some slapper in Darlington when he was over for the auntie's cremation. If you refuse he'll go elsewhere, in times when three in a pub is a crowd.

I don't have any of those channels. Couldn't take 'higherin it' or 'switch to the 3.30 at Bath'. I'm a barman, not a zapper. And I felt us smaller bar--owners were being ripped off by the TV companies. "What can we do but pay up when the pub next door is showing the game?" was their take.

I opted out. Not having the channels has its advantages. A TV can be very annoying when you're trying to conduct a conversation. Even if the sound is turned down, you are looking over someone's shoulder as if under a spell from the magic box in the corner.


But the big TV companies are in a dominant position. Setanta own the rights to show the Magners League. They rely on the pubs to pay their wages, yet they put on one of the biggest games of the year on a day when the pubs are closed.

Was it an act of piety? An offer-it-up gesture for the sins of the world? Will Magners sponsor the Matt Talbot Cup?

The fact is many people in private houses cannot afford to pay the subscription charges and the only way they can get to watch the game is by going to the pub.

The game is sold out and there's good news for those with tickets. You can get strong drink at the match. It seems the ghost of Archbishop McQuaid paid a visit to our legislators and told them there was a difference between Catholics who go matches and those who go into pubs.

It makes no sense. In fairness to the Mayor of Limerick, he had a right go. Limerick is a special place on match days. Many stay the night and the city does its level best to make up for those who tarnish its good name.

There are compensations. Ard Scoil Ris of Limerick play my friends from Thurles CBS in the replayed Harty Cup final today in Nenagh. It promises to be another cracker.

And John Leahy, formerly of Causeway Comprehensive here in Kerry, tells me his old school are playing the might of Loughrea in the U-16 hurling final in Kilmallock this afternoon. Good luck to Causeway in their historic bid to win two-in-a-row.

And do you know what was going through my head just as I was about to send this piece off? Will the 25,000 at the Munster-Leinster match be allowed to eat meat on Good Friday?

Irish Independent

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