Dalymount proves a banker bet after Gold Cup hell
Vinny’s loyalties are divided as punters go to war on Boru Betting . . . and Angie
FROM his front row seat in the Jodi Stand, Vinny Fitzpatrick had a worm’s eye view of the rutty surface of Dalymount Park as the players warmed up on a bitterly cold Bank Holiday lunchtime. He was appalled at what he saw.
The pristine emerald baize of summers past, and winters too, resembled an upturned egg carton, more suited for bog-snorkelling than football.
As he watched Premier Division players take two and three touches to get the ball under control, his heart sank.
Even his Bohs heroes, Turly O’Connor and Jackie Jameson, the two finest “Dalyer” pressionists of Vinny’s past, would struggle to leave an imprint of their excellence on this crater-like canvass.
He’d seen Turly walk by the Jodi paddocks a few minutes before and noted the Silver Fox, now in his mid-60s, looked as lean and light-footed as ever. The thought struck him that a 15-minute Turly cameo would not go amiss given the paperweights in the current Bohs attack.
As for genial Jackie, sadly he was no longer around to light up grey afternoons like he did in the ’80s but Vinny would nod in homage to the Great Man’s image which lit up the bar named after him.
The child of ’57, the most skilful Gypsy of them all, had been stolen far too soon but Vinny, like his fellow Bohs diehards, would never forget Jackie’s genius.
He strongly suspected he would forget the opening skirmish of the season between his beloved Bohs and the reviled Rovers. He predicted a scrap low on quality and even lower on goals. With that in mind, Vinny took out his mobile, logged on to his Paddy Power account and placed €20 on the game yielding less than 2.5 goals at even money.
It was, he felt, the greatest certainty since Willie Mullins was priced by Boru Betting at 9 to 4 to finish as leading trainer at Cheltenham.
At the thought of Mullins, Vinny flinched. The Festival had been a runaway hit for the most outstanding National Hunt trainer of his generation with five winners, two of them Grade Ones, including the Champion Hurdle and Supreme Novices Hurdle.
Mullins had been slavishly followed by the Boru Betting punters, both regular and irregular. And Angie had stood her ground, offering above the odds on Mullins runners, while her losses mounted. fter opening day wins for Champagne Fever, Hurricane Fly and Quevega, Angie’s was down a hefty five-figure sum.
The second day had unfolded like a war zone as punters, flushed with euro, tore into anything and everything from the ‘WP Mullins’ yard. Yet Angie remained defiant on Boru Betting’s burning bridge. After Back In Focus, the heavily-backed favourite, clawed back five lengths from the last to win the National Hunt Chase for PW Mullins, the little shop had erupted but Angie didn’t flinch. She gaily tossed her mane of dark hair to one side, beamed her Colgate smile, and thrust wads of cash into the greasy palms of the dream-catchers.
Vinny turned to his comrade in betting slips, The Reverend, and asked for his observations. With his patrician air, grey trench coat and mahogany cane, The Reverend carried an air of intellect and wealth about his person – few in Boru Betting, apart from Vinny, knew he was a shelf-stacker in Tesco in Artane Castle.
“Vincent, my good fellow,” he intoned. “Your fine brood mare is, I suspect, in denial of events. She is, if I am not mistaken, living a lie, and will continue to do until Cheltenham has run its course. Best leave her be. Now, if I may, the time is ripe to plunge on Pont Alexandre in the next.”
Vinny had been so deflated that he’d refrained from having a bet, which was just as well as the Mullins hot-pot was turned over. That defeat marked a turning point in the providence of the all-conquering County Carlow yard and, by extension, Boru Betting.
From then on, fence by fence, hurdle by hurdle, the momentum gradually began to swing from punter towards layer. Not even the shock win of Briar Hill at 25/1 for Mullins in the Bumper had taken Angie down as most of her liabilities were on the two other Mullins horses.
Over the final two days, Mullins kept hitting the crossbar, if not the winning post, and his fans sighed. He had two seconds, a third and two fourths. Each time Mullins missed the target, Boru Betting dodged a bullet.
The final load of buckshot had been on Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup. Angie had stood firm, offering 6 to 1 against the Mullins fancy when no more than 4 to 1 was available anywhere else.
The price had sparked one last hurrah from the Boru Betting brigade and Vinny winced as lorry-loads of cash were stacked on Sir Des Champs to win. Every dog and devil in the shop was on, influenced, no doubt, by the late booking of AP McCoy.
The liabilities were colossal and Vinny knew this was one financial cannonball Angie could not sidestep. Her reputation and her business were on the line. For the first time in his life, Vinny couldn’t bear to watch the Gold Cup. He went outside, took in the sea air, and waited.
Staring at a point above Howth Head, he heard snatches of the commentary, “It’s Long Run leading from Sir Des Champs…..Long Run, The Giant Bolster, Sir Des Champs….Now Sir Des Champs makes his move….” After that, there was bedlam.
After a few moments, the doors of Boru Betting opened and the first of the punters emerged. It was Big Dave. “Well?” Vinny enquired. “Did you collect your few bobs worth?” Big Dave stopped. “Did I heck? I was on bloody Sir Des Champs and got nothing. He ran out of legs up the hill and (Barry) Geraghty flew past.”
Three days on at icy Dalymount, the thought recurred to Vinny that just as some horses struggle to perform on rain-drenched turf, so footballers can’t give their best either on a bog.
For the former, he was eternally grateful, as was Angie. With that, he zipped his fleece up and pulled his tea-cosy hat over his flabby ears. The next 90 minutes would be grim but not a patch on seven minutes of sheer Gold Cup hell.