Sunday 25 February 2018

Billy Keane: Lifting of Billy Goat Curse makes me wonder what we did to upset Kiwis

It helps that Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi. We are blessed he stayed on as our coach. Joe will have a plan and it will be a good plan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
It helps that Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi. We are blessed he stayed on as our coach. Joe will have a plan and it will be a good plan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

My friend Eoin Moriarty, who celebrates his 60th today, pointed over to Lake Michigan and stated "you could put the whole of Ireland in to that lake and you wouldn't spill a drop".

Chicago is built along the lake, and the city is famous for sporting hoodoos and massacres. Let's hope that tonight in Soldier Field when Ireland play the All Blacks, there will be none of neither.

I gave a good bit of the day in the Billy Goat pub researching this piece, about ten years ago. The custom there was for the barman to buy the customer a free drink if he bought three. I hope it never takes on here but you would be inclined to stay on for the free one, so I spent a lot of time researching.

The barman told me all about the Curse of the Billy Goat. It seems the pub, the Billy Goat Tavern, brought a goat to Soldier Field for a Chicago Cubs baseball game.

The goat was a mascot but he was asked to leave because it was alleged Murphy was too smelly. Murphy was the goat's name, so he was obviously an Irish goat.

His owner William Sianis is reported to have passed a remark to the effect that the Cubs wouldn't win a World Series - a baseball All-Ireland- ever again.

That was back in 1945, and so Mayo have at worst only eight more years to wait. I don't believe in curses, and so it was that this week the Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908.

Now that just has to be an omen for Ireland, who have never beaten the All Blacks - and I wonder exactly what it was we did to them that put the hex on us.

Did we ask a sheep to leave Lansdowne Road? The place has more than too many boring old geezers in sheepskin coats as it is but tonight in Soldier Field it will be more olé, olé than 'jolly good show'.

Ireland have more than curses to contend with. The All Blacks are unbeaten in 18 games, but we are playing at home, 5,000 miles away.

Soldier Field is sold out. This is the greatest mass transportation of Irish to Chicago since the famine.

The South side of Chicago has more Irish living there than the south side of Dublin. They are truly Irish, more so than many of our own. The atmosphere will be the close to one of our big soccer games out foreign - and whatever ye do, don't bring a goat.

I don't believe in curses but it must be noted that the Chicago Cubs won their first title since 1945 on the anniversary of William's death. I think they still keep a goat.

Chicago is also famous for journalism and Mike Royko, the legendary Chicago columnist, reported that William said a goat was a better pet than a dog as you couldn't milk a dog. Seems pretty flawless logic to me. Although a hungry goat would eat yourself or your underwear even.

Our party piece back in student days was 'The Night the Goat Broke Loose on the Grand Parade'. The Cork anthem includes the rhyming lines "now poor Mary Anne Fitzgibbons got her knickers torn to ribbons", which sort of proves what I was saying about goats being fond of lingerie.

And you can also make bodhráns from the goat, but only after he's dead. Anyway, after all that goat lore, the curse which I did not believe in is officially lifted. So maybe it's our turn now.

We had better introduce a note of reality. The bookies have The All Blacks at -22 which means they expect the New Zealanders to win by 22 points. We have had only six days to prepare and the All Blacks have been together for months.

The Cubs hadn't won since 1908. The All Blacks are beating us since 1905. Although we did draw once.

There is a possibility then that St Valentine's Day might fall in November this year.

I took a trip to the scene of the massacre. Chicago is also famous for meat, just like Mullingar, and a street vendor was selling sausages dripping with blood-red jalapeño relish which he called Al Capone dogs.

The All Blacks destroyed South Africa, Argentina and Australia. But I do think we will go close if we can keep them quiet on the outside lanes, which unlike the M50 are the passing out lanes. The Blacks are very fast and play the game at a furious pace.

We do have a coach, who more than anybody else, anywhere, understands the way the All Blacks play.

It helps that Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi. We are blessed he stayed on as our coach. Joe will have a plan and it will be a good plan.

The All Blacks are missing both front-line second-rows and the third choice pulled out during the week. Rugby is more structured than most other games. There are lineout calls and all kinds of pre-planned plays, maybe too many. It could be the All Blacks' set-piece will be targeted by us.So there, we do have chance.

Hello to all the Moriartys and to Black Dave Cahill, not be confused with Red Dave Cahill.

I just stuck that in to save me the price of a Thanksgiving Card. Thanksgiving is the day when Americans eat the turkey.

And I have no doubt that if we win tonight the Fifth of November will be forever known as Thanksgiving Day in this country.

Immortality awaits for Ireland and in 50 or 60 years' time, old men who are small boys now will be able to name the team as easily as if they were reciting two-times tables.

PS Eamon 'The Bomber' O'Connor passed away this week. He was a gallant Listowel Emmets man who minded all of us young lads.

The Bomber was a natural full-back who beat the county men without much fuss and plenty know-how.

The Bomber and his wife Mary looked after the kids' coaching every Saturday morning for years and years.

His pub Mike the Pies was always a haven of hospitality and full of the best of fun. Good luck to you, Bomber.

Irish Independent

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