Vinny left bereft of bottle for rerun of Brian Boru’s finest battle moments
Since Vinny Fitzpatrick first wore short trousers, a thanksgiving Mass was held in St John’s Church, Clontarf on Good Friday to mark the anniversary of Brian Boru running the Vikings into the Irish Sea.
Vinny had never attended for the reason he had nothing against the Vikings; in fact, he had a lot of time for the Danes’ greater legacies, including their smorgasbord and pastries. Then there was Viking Flagship, which won a Champion Chase; the Minnesota Vikings, who hardly ever won anything, and, more recently, splendid Danish crime drama such as Borgen and, Vinny’s favourite The Bridge .
There was also the Tony Grealish connection. “The Irish Viking” gave a decade of selfless service in the green jersey before being carried out to sea on his long boat far too early.
As a rule, Vinny wouldn’t hear a bad word against the Vikings even though he was in the opposite corner for the millennium re-enactment of the most famous battle fought on Irish soil – a claim disputed by Boynesiders.
Cast as the bould Brian for the grandly-titled Clontarf 2014 mid-summer renewal on the Bull Island, Vinny had begun rehearsals for a project which, he noted, was taking a few liberties with history.
For starters, there was the selection of the Bull Island as the battlefield. In 1014, the great low-lying slice of links land, home to two fine golf courses, a bird sanctuary, and the most famous beach on the north side, didn’t exist.
It only took shape when the great North Wall was built in the 19th century on the orders of Capt William Mutiny on the Bounty Bligh himself.
Phibsboro command post
Another historical quirk for the midsummer skirmish would be the presence of Brian
on the field of play. Back in 1014, King Brian conducted his army from high ground near Cross Guns Bridge in Phibsboro, where he met his end in his tent, long after the tide of battle had turned his army’s way.
On this showery Saturday evening – the first possible day for Easter Sunday – a cluster of attentive parties gathered in the parochial hall beside St John’s for a battle-plan update.
As the lead actor, Vinny was required chiefly for cosmetic purposes. The veteran bus driver expected the summit to run late but was consoled by the fact that he was only 200 yards from Foley’s.
Inside, a motley crew assembled. There was a cluster of councillors, the civic guard chief, chair of Clontarf commerce, and a knot of Bull Islanders, a local conservation crew.
Calling the cast to order was the Clontarf 2014 director, Stephen Spellman – Vinny had to check himself not to call him Mr Spielberg.
“Gentlemen, and ladies, thank you for coming this evening for the update on Clontarf 2014 ,” began Spellman. “Rehearsals are under way and we will have no shortage of volunteers for our public presentation thanks to the support of the local GAA clubs, in particular Dollymount Gaels,” he said, nodding deferentially at Vinny.
Spellman pointed out how access to and from the Bull Island would be via the main causeway while the low tide meant they could map out a battleground roughly 300m long by 100m wide.
There would, he said, be some skirmishing in the dunes – “to get the wind up the public” – and he predicted the combat would last for no more than 40 minutes. The decisive moment would be the arrival of a battalion of Dalcassions from the east end of the Bull who would encircle and seal the Vikings’ fate.
There were murmurs of approval, even from the Bull Islanders, who usually argued over the time of the day when, all of a sudden, the door to the parish hall burst open and a menacing figure appeared in silhouette against the light.
Instantly, Vinny’s heart sank as he could tell from the sticky-out ears that Lugs O’Leary, the most fearsome critter in Clontarf, had gate-crashed the party.
“So this is where Brian Boru and his eco-warriors have been hiding?” growled Lugs as he advanced to the table, swaying slightly.
“Alright Lugs, what brings you here,” said Vinny.
Lugs’ bloodshot eyes widened as he focused on Vinny, whom he’d been picking on since they were kids.
Lugs flourished a stumpy dagger which he drew back and thrust downwards into the table.
“Do I have everyone’s attention?” he said in a mocking tone. Good, now let me explain . . . why there’s been a change in your script . . . Whatever about Mr Blobby here as Brian Boru what about his Viking nemesis, Sitrig? It was Sitrig who instigated the Battle of Clontarf and unlike our precious Brian he lived to fight many another day. If you want this gig of yours to be accurate, you need someone to play Sitrig. That someone is me. And if anyone has any objections, I’d like to hear them. As they say, ‘I’m all ears.’ ”
Lugs reached for the dagger on the table and wrenched it clear with impressive strength.As Lugs ran a finger across the blade of the knife, all eyes were fixed on the giant.
“You know where the burning long boat is pushed out to sea, supposedly carrying its war dead? I think we can twist that slightly, to make it look . . . authentic.
“Hold that thought, in particular you, Brian.”
As a leering Lugs stomped towards the exit, Vinny slouched low in his seat, seriously doubting if he had the bottle for this Clontarf battle.
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