Sometimes life’s a beach before you strike out
Vinnie’s efforts on Dollymount Strand are overshadowed by some grim news
Dollymount Strand made a fine venue for the 33rd staging of the Banana Cup. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / THE IRISH TIMES
The Banana Cup battle had been lost but for Vinny Fitzpatrick, the non-playing captain of the host garage, the “War on the Shore” experiment had been an unqualified success.
The sun shone relentlessly, the craic was mighty, and the beach games were keenly contested, even if Vinny’s Clontarf yeomen struggled to raise a gallop.
In other years, Vinny would have been rightly miffed at his under-achieving troops but on this glorious 12th of July, he was as happy as a sand boy.
As the MC for the 2013 staging of the inter-garage sportsday, it was Vinny’s innovative call to decamp to the beach for the first time in the 33-year history of the annual gathering – not one of which Vinny had missed.
With a little help from his friends in the Dublin City Council, a section of “Dollyer” had been cordoned off for the day, at the Sutton end of the shore, which was generally the quietest.
There, for four fun-filled hours, the drivers of Dublin’s steeds of the roads buried their cross-city prejudices as they contested a competition named in honour of those buses who arrived at stops in bunches. The 16 route, which ran from Ballinteer to Dublin Airport, remained peerless in this regard and Vinny, a stickler for doing things right, winced as he heard drivers giggle about being stacked four-strong at the lights at Whitehall.
As he surveyed the lively scene, Vinny felt the day had ticked most of the boxes.
The bone-hard beach had been ideal for the three disciplines, beach soccer, baseball and, for the first time, badminton, which had been great gas, even if nearly everyone insisted on pronouncing it “badmington”.
Vinny had kept a watching brief as he patrolled the beach, ensuring the games were running on time and keeping tabs on the scores.
It was clear from early on that the demons of Donnybrook were going to walk away with the Banana Cup, which they usually did.
The south city Leviathans were a sporty lot, at times bordering on the über aggressive. As Donnybrook smashed their way to maximum points, Clontarf had sand kicked in their faces.
Ahead of their final baseball game, against the champions-elect, Vinny’s crew were locked in a grim basement battle with Ringsend for the lantern rouge award, which was presented to the garage who trailed in last.
Vinny, who was desperate to avoid such ignominy, felt his boys had two chances – none, and none at all.
As Donnybrook’s Babe Ruth sluggers warmed up, Vinny was approached by Miles Long, a freckle-faced Clontarf lifer, who informed him that two of the team had “done a runner” back to Foley’s and the team was now a man short.
Despite his better judgement, Vinny agreed to step into the breach. It was a selfless action, which he was regarded for, especially when a driver called in sick at short notice. But this was different. He was in his mid-50s, out of condition and facing a team hell bent on pressing his nose into the shingle.
Improbably, victory dangled before Vinny when he waddled to the plate to face the final pitch of the day.