Vinnie has Georgia and heroes of old on his mind
The lads in Foley’s rake their studs over the Republic of Ireland’s reputation
Aiden McGeady: “While he vividly recalled McGeady’s wonder goal against Georgia a year ago, few other imprints sprang to mind.” Photograph: Inpho.
Not since snowy-haired Giovanni Trapattoni sailed up the Vistula in the summer of 2012, had the Irish football team gotten such an airing in Foley’s.
Then again, there hadn’t been much reason for discussion.
After the pain of Poland, Trap was tossed overboard by the FAI and the lads reckoned not a lot of progress had been made since, either forwards or backwards, under Martin O’Neill.
On Sunday night, as the news credits rolled and shots of O’Neill and Roy Keane at Croke Park flashed up on RTÉ, a soccer pulse stirred among the common low class Gaels of Clontarf.
“Would you look at those two? Isn’t it well for them that they’ve nothing better to do the day before a big game?” observed Brennie. “Ye’d think they’d be poring over a DVD of the Georgians or working on set-pieces with the lads. That’s what Trap did. Little details, and all that.”
Fran wasn’t so sure. “I dunno. Could you be bothered to stick around the team hotel of a Sunday afternoon? They must be bored out of their tree out in Castleknock. No more walks by the sea, like Portmarnock.”
Vinny, as was often his wont, kept his powder dry.
For while Foley’s was a fervent Dubs den, and still abuzz following the tumultuous events of Saturday tea-time, the burly busman had a long attachment to the garrison game.
He had grown up in awe of his neighbour Tommy Eglinton, a wing wizard, handy golfer, and an absolute gent. Vinny had been a Dalyer regular and had marvelled at the feats of John Giles, Liam Brady, and the under-appreciated Frank Stapleton.
He was also a signed-up member of the Boys In Green brigade at Euro ’88 and Italia ’90, and had returned as a Dad’s Army vet for the invasion of Poland three years ago.
Harboured dreamsAs a roly–poly right-back with Clontarf Swifts in the Churches League, Vinny had once harboured dreams of playing at a decent level. At 21, however, he’d been taken to one side by Buster Bagster, his coach, who suggested he might find something better to do of a Saturday afternoon, like drive a bus.
He loved Bohs, Everton and Ireland and was reluctant to put the boot into O’Neill and Keane for a part of him hankered for the glory days of Big Jack and Little Eamo when no other sport got a look-in.
These days it was more about the GAA than the Garrison; the Dubs had taken over as the big crowd puller, the hurling wasn’t far behind and the rugger boys had got their act together too – Foley’s was plastered with posters pushing the Rugby World Cup.
Right now, Vinny was unsure where Irish football was headed, and whether decent folk wanted to be part of the bockety bandwagon.
O’Neill and Keane were fine football men, who knew the game inside out, and who had been hired (at a considerable cost) to deliver success. Two years in, Ireland had not beaten a team of note and were headed for a play-off for the Euro 2016 finals, expanded to 24 teams from 16, which was just as well as Ireland were goosed otherwise.
As O’Neill and Keane muttered about a dearth of quality players and lacking creativity, Vinny didn’t buy the excuses. Not when Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were doing so well in the qualifiers with similarly stretched resources.
While Gareth Bale was an exception, Vinny refused to accept that any of the three Celtic neighbours were better than Ireland.
Lacked soulVinny recalled how folk like Davey Langan, Tony Grealish and Tony Galvin morphed into Supermen when that green jersey was draped across their back.
He thought of his own Everton heroes Séamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady, also a right-back, midfielder and winger, and felt their contributions lacked soul, Coleman excepted.
He’d read somewhere that wee McGeady had almost 80 caps. Eighty – that was 20 more appearances than Giles, and more than Brady and Stapleton too. While he vividly recalled McGeady’s wonder goal against Georgia a year ago, few other imprints sprang to mind.
Vinny felt for Robbie Keane who’d started playing for Ireland as a teenager and would carry on until he was 40, if picked.
Who would take the torch when Robbie could no longer rage against the dying of the laugh? What then, for Ireland, he wondered?
As the studs were raked over the Republic of Ireland’s reputation, the lounge door to Foley’s opened and a seductive whiff of perfume carried to the lads’ corner. Vinny was familiar with the scent; it was Angie.
Word of their reunion had spread like wildfire in Clontarf and all the lads were made up for their pudgy pal. They were aware of the trials of the Ashley Madison temptation and had forgiven Angie her ‘own goal’ with Rodger The Dodger.
Angie was looking a million dollars. She’d let her blonde tresses tumble and her figure remained willowy and toned. With a Colgate smile, she’d pass for 39, not 49.
“I never thought I’d find you in here,” she winked as he planted a kiss on Vinny’s bristly cheek. “I won’t delay. Just thought you might want to go to the Ireland match tomorrow. I was given a couple of comps earlier.”
With that, Angie placed two tickets for the West Lower Stand on the upturned barrel which served as a table. Then, she was gone, leaving a sensual scent in the air.
Almost two hours later, the tickets were left untouched as the lads filtered out into the dark, for a chat outside over curried chips.
The last to leave, Vinny, reached out a surreptitious paw and casually scooped the tickets into his mitt. He was humming an old Hoagy Carmichael tune, for he had Georgia on his mind.