Thursday 22 August 2019

Billy Keane - Toiling through a triple shift in womb cocoon of the couch

Ireland’s Rhys Ruddock on his way to scoring a try against South Africa. Photo: PA
Ireland’s Rhys Ruddock on his way to scoring a try against South Africa. Photo: PA
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

I was that long up on the couch yesterday, Herself was going to send for the fire brigade to bring me down. Like as in if a cat got stuck up a tree.

I am a victim of my own versatility. Today's reportage is really a three-game reflection on a day when our rugby, soccer and GAA international teams won one, drew one and lost one.

I'm going to put in for treble time and disturbance money.

The whole of the soccer game wasn't reported on from the couch. I had to go down to work in the pub for the second half. It was double-jobbing and I hadn't a minute's peace.

Roisin Meaney, who is one of our own, was giving a reading in Lizzie's Little Café, just down the street from John B's. Roisin's books have been translated in to eight languages, while mine probably need to be translated in to English.

Some of the people who were at the reading, which I heard was excellent, weren't really in to sport. My nephew Bill and myself were trying to watch the game and sometimes the service was slow, like as in when Darren Randolph made that famous double save.

There was that other great save by Darren very near the end when he tipped the ball over the bar for a '45'. I missed it live. I was interrupted by a very literary but ever so slightly annoying person who asked for a change of glass, just as the game was coming up to closing time and we were all scared Denmark would score a last-gasp winner.


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"Right," says I, trying desperately hard to multi-task and wondering if some disseminator of everyone else's business would post a pic of yours truly pulling pints when I was supposed to be working for the Irish Independent.

The person who wanted the change of glass was drinking gin. The country is gone mad on gin. Gin is the new vodka. There are some nights when we can hardly keep the ball pucked out to the gin drinkers.

Gin is now served in big round glass chalices, but as I was in a hurry to get back to watching the game, I gave the person who requested the change of glass an ordinary straight glass known in the trade as a Slim Jim.

I have to say, the gin drinker who was asking for the big roundy glass was annoying me. How could you go asking a man for a change of glass in the final play of a crucial World Cup play-off?

And those of us who are obsessed with sport cannot fathom that when Ireland are playing a big game, a sizable portion of the population have no idea what all the fuss is about.

So I pretend I don't hear a word in the hope the man will just shut up and be glad I didn't put the gin in to a jam jar. What the feck difference does this glass fad mean to anyone anyway?

"Excuse me" he says indignantly, "did you hear me?" So then I smile and dump the gin in to one of the giant pot-bellied glasses.

"Sir," I say, "there's a free gold fish with every glass."

There was a time when I could insult the customers and get away with it but now with Facebook, and TripAdvisor and Twitter we have to be nice to people who ask for a change of glass during the final minutes of a World Cup play-off, when I'm trying to double-job, and my nerves are gone.

I was looking over his head at the TV. So to make up for the sarcastic goldfish comment, I ask if he's enjoying the game. "Who's playing?" he asks.

So I'm thinking if I'm had up for murdering him on the spot, in the mitigating circumstances that pertain, I'll be told to put a tenner in the Poor Box and will be warned never do it again .

The next time I'm on the couch it will be in a shrink's office.

The final whistle blows. There's a huge cheer. I'm happy for Martin O'Neill. He's a good man who has values and brains. He and Roy 'You'll never beat the Keanes' have founded a team of scrappers.

And wasn't it a huge win over South Africa with genius Joe Schmidt bringing in young Jacob Stockdale, who could be the next Shane Horgan?


Jonathan Sexton was awarded man of the match by Donal Lenihan, whose father is from Listowel. Sexton's dad is also from Listowel. But there can be no charge of nepotism. Sexton is by some way the smartest and bravest rugby player in the world.

Bundee Aki played like the Connacht man he is and always will be. Bundee has earned the right to play for this country. He has given a ceaseless commitment to the cause of Connacht. It doesn't matter if you are here for three years or 20 years.

The definition of what make us Irish is about the love of home, a new home, for the new Irish who are more Irish than the Irish themselves. Welcome to you Bundee boy. Irish is as Irish does.

CJ Stander sang both the South African and the Irish anthems. He is no gallowglass or passing mercenary. All you have to do is watch CJ play. CJ, from now on you will be known as Seasamh. You have always stood your ground, whether it be in the red of Munster or the green of Ireland.

As for the compromise rules, I can't really say too much. It was back to the couch with the blanket thrown over me, while over in Oz they were roasting with the heat.

I am now a part of the couch. The couch is part of me. The couch enveloped this tired body. I am Billy, the lotus eater of the new womb. The couch is my sun and I am the couch's son. I am the couch's moon and the couch is my cocoon.

In other words, I fell asleep on the job.

Irish Independent

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