The night Dougal belted out the Rose in Dungannon
John Hoyne and James Ryall were freewheeling spirits who enjoyed their view from the back seats as Brian Cody drove Kilkenny to glory, writes PM O'SULLIVAN
JAMES RYALL is a natural born storyteller and one of his best involves the time John Hoyne and himself got waylaid by Ulster hospitality in Dungannon.
It was January 2003, the Saturday before the Walsh Cup final against Dublin in Parnell Park. It was Ryall’s first start as a Kilkenny senior. Brian Cody had signed off on the trip, instructing them to make the Burlington Hotel for Sunday noon.
Strikingly reminiscent of Spud Murphy, Ewen Bremner’s character in Trainspotting (1996), Ryall snorts as he recalls how his comrade had “only a banger of a car at the time”. Bald front tyres were replaced and the two of them, tight friends as well as Graigue-Ballycallan clubmen, headed away.
Up grand and they spun through some drills in the afternoon. Afterwards they were to present medals to youngsters, the usual story, and it stayed standard when Ryall, pulling off his boots, turned to Hoyne and cocked an eye.
Reply came phlegmatic, Dougal to a tee: “We were never going to come up here and not have a few pints”.
The nickname hopped courtesy of the Father Ted character. Hoyne, before the bar, has a genius repertoire of gags, mimicry and oneliners and is, as they say, a panic. I have been in his company on such an evening and I wish it could be printed, because Dougal is savage goodnatured. But it cannot, because John Hoyne is a rifle.
That Tyrone night, the same pair ended up in a hall dropped from the sky in the middle of nowhere. The medals were presented.
People started lashing down drink in front of them, the Kilkenny lads good enough to come up the day before they had to play Dublin.
Pints, shorts, vodka and Red Bull, all the shades of alcohols rainbow.
Through the warm blur at the counter, the mid-Ulster accents shouting and carousing, after the hours softened at the edges and started making for the centre, Ryall turned at the sound of an odd accent in the throes of song.
Dougal was up on stage, letting loose The Rose of Mooncoin.
“It must have been three or four o’clock in the morning,” Ryall says. “And we didn’t head off any time soon either . . .”
Eventually they were deposited in a guesthouse as night crept away.
Ryall, wildly ambitious, set his mobile for eight o’clock. Next thing Hoyne was sticking his head in the door and telling him take a look: ‘eleven o’clock!’.
They jumped, heads sticky, realising they would have to ring their manager and come some way clean.
Then James Ryall remembered the purchase.
Out on the road, John Hoyne rang Brian Cody and told him their front tyres had been slashed, Free State registration and all that. Phenomenal hard to get a garage open on a Sunday morning up here. Burlington is out.
Okay, said Cody, nothing like as severe in private as his public image suggests and probably undeceived in any case. Head straight to Parnell Park. ‘Be as quick as ye can’.
They belted down at a ferocious slant and closed in on Donnycarney.
“Not a scrap to eat,” Ryall laughs, shaking his head. “Just a bottle of Lucozade between us.”
He makes it cinematic, pure point of view:
“We came in heads down, naturally enough. All you could see was a row of Kilkenny socks, togged out.”
They got sat, conscious of knowing looks along the wall, got stripped fair quick.
Cody was over to Ryall with his jersey, telling him ‘you have it now and you should keep it’ and James Ryall was rummaging in his kitbag, getting as frantic as he ever gets, which is not frantic at all. Then it dawned.
Taking off his boots while sussing Dougal’s intentions, he had missed on landing them into the bag and now would have to get them from the car.
Kid Adrenalin took over. He sprinted back, barely, to line out. How did it go? “I hurled well,” replies Ryall, still a bit in wonder at that version of himself. “I was substituted near the end, but I must have done enough, because I held my place that year.”