Genial Con would drink a toast to success of Maria McCambridge and Rose-Anne Galligan
Two dedicated Irish athletes have deservedly qualified for the World Championships in Moscow next week
Marathon runner Maria McCambridge has booked her ticket to the World Championships in Moscow next week. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
They were out of Steinlager in O’Briens in Carrickmines on Thursday night so we picked up two bottles of Yellow Tail instead and drove straight back to Luggala for the first anniversary toast to Con Houlihan.
Not many people still claim Steinlager to be their absolute favourite beer, but Con always did, at least when he was drinking outside of Belgium – where he liked to remind me they had more breweries than dairies. He’d first tasted it in New Zealand, when he was down there for the 1987 Rugby World Cup, falling in love with the place, and the beer, describing it as “easily drinkable”, which believe me it most certainly is.
Con also introduced me to Yellow Tail, and when it came to wine he always had a preference for a relatively cheap Australian red. They sold it in the Spar just around the corner from his beautiful harbour in Portobello, and he always insisted on paying for the two bottles, pulling out an old €20 note from under the telephone next to his soft white chair.
He did, occasionally, call for an intermission and served up mugs of Barry’s tea or small thimbles of Courvoisier cognac, but the two bottles would soon disappear and he’d call it a night, promising the ghost of John Millington Synge would steer me safely back to the Dublin Mountains.
Another reason he liked Yellow Tail so much is explained by the little label on the back, which reads “best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire”. No mention at all of a saucy steak or spicy cheese.
It was perfect for Thursday night too given the misty rain and smell of the wet mountains prompted the lighting of the wood burning stove for the first time all summer, in front of which the two bottles soon disappeared.
Like Yellow Tail, most of Con’s favourite things were “not fashionable”, as he’d say himself, and obviously not just in the dress sense. In the calm wonder of where the year had gone since his final journey home came the memory of how much he loved distance running, long before that ever became fashionable.
Indeed Con had a special love for women’s distance running, long before that became fashionable at all. He used to say the only women he ever saw running around the streets of Dublin in his heyday were either Americans or would-be-Goddesses from Scandinavia.
“Both species,” he reckoned, “were of course over here to do a thesis on Finnegan’s Wake. Now all, all is changed – an alarming beauty is born. The Women of Ireland are running and you know neither the day nor the hour when as you turn a corner you’ll be trampled all over by dainty feet.”
Con gladly championed all these women when the late lamented Evening Press come on board as sponsors of the Women’s Mini Marathon, and he also stood up for Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan during their first small steps onto the world stage. One of the last chats we had, before the London Olympics, was about the team of Irish athletes being sent, and he still couldn’t figure out why they didn’t select Maria McCambridge in the women’s marathon.