Vinny dreams of Brady as Norman makes a conquest
Against the Odds:The Aviva Stadium was bathed in jade and the pitch glistened like a shimmering outdoor pool. As Vinny Fitzpatrick squinted towards the Havelock Square End, he could imagine Liam Brady, ball glued to toe, slaloming, Franz Klammer-like, through the France defence in a World Cup qualifier all those years ago.
Brady was his all-time favourite Irish footballer, even if he couldn’t quite relate the swivel-hipped, tousle-haired smiling star of the 70s and 80s, with the thickened, slightly crabby, figure on TV today.
He’d heard the lads in the depot talking about the top 50 Irish footballers of the last 50 years which appeared in one of the papers. Roy Keane had been first, John Giles second, Brady third. Vinny said nothing but felt the rankings were a travesty. Brady was not only the most naturally gifted footballer of the trio, he was the only one to play abroad in his peak years in a top league for a top club, winning two Italian titles with Juventus. In contrast, Keane played half a season at Celtic in his dotage, while Giles popped up at Philadelphia.
In Vinny’s view, Brady was also far more committed to playing for the Republic of Ireland than either Keane or Giles. When Brady moved to Italy, he insisted every contract allowed his release for all Ireland games.
Giles had been picky when it came to Ireland, as his record of 59 caps over 21 years showed – he only played three times in three years in his prime. Keane would never be forgiven by Vinny for his hissy fit in Saipan.
As far as Vinny was concerned, Whitehall native Chippy Brady, in action and attitude, was Ireland’s greatest footballer ever.
Behind him, the Dublin Bus Christmas party was in top gear as 200 drivers from the seven city garages enjoyed the annual knees-up.
This year the Dublin Bus suits had gone the extra mile, as so many of their drivers did, and hired the swish Aviva for the night.
Vinny had been in two minds about going but Socket Twomey, the Clontarf depot controller, had twisted his arm. “You’re getting a citation for your work on the real-time timetables; you and Shanghai”, he said.
That clinched the deal for Vinny, who’d become misty-eyed when a clip of himself and the late Shanghai Jimmy, taken in Foleys, was projected on to a screen.
The applause had been genuine; even the Donnybrook lads joined in. Vinny had enjoyed working on the real-time gig, and got a huge kick out of knowing that bus stops on routes served by the Clontarf depot were the first to carry the times of the approaching chariots.
The real-time award apart, Donnybrook won more gongs than any garage in 2012. Driver of the Year; Employee of the Year; Controller of the Year; Banana Cup and the highly-coveted Garage of the Year.
After congratulating two old Banana Cup foes, Lofty Peake and Sundance Ellis, Vinny slipped away. He’d found an open door and steps leading past rows of seats toward pitch-side.
As he sniffed the chill air and wiped a blob of snot from his nose, he thought back to the old ramshackle Lansdowne Road, which he loved, even the open bits in the corners where the wind cut through you like a knife and the view was dreadful.