In a Word ... Fans

Ever seen the largest self-supporting Mickey in the whole of the United States?

Following the death of Jack Charlton last month I was happily reminded of a hilarious piece by writer Joe O'Connor from the 1994 US World Cup diary he wrote for the Sunday Tribune newspaper.

It was read by him at a special fund-raiser I helped organise for Irish Press colleagues in 1995 at the Gate Theatre in Dublin involving some of Ireland’s leading actors. He did so, deadpan, and as he finished that evening at the Gate, his audience was in hysterics.

It recounted a visit with Irish soccer fans to Disneyland in Florida. In Orlando, which he pointed out, was the name of a city, not a Dublin fan.

Readers of a refined sensibility should probably be warned to go no further but, rather, seek solace further up this page.

In Orlando tour guide Wanda assured the fans “we have big rides, small rides, scary rides, happy rides, whatever kind of ride you like you can find here at The Magic Kingdom”. The fans fell about the place.

"Here at Disney we're constantly looking at ways to make the rides more exciting," she continued. At which some fans were now "slapping their thighs and guffawing".

One asked Wanda: “Tell us, do you like the odd ride yourself?” To which she responded, “Yes, of course.” Asked how many a day, she said, “I dunno, three or four, I guess.” Some of the fans were by then “actually sobbing with laughter”.

Donald Duck wandered over. "A hearty chant soon begins, the scheme of which is based on the considerable rhyming potential of the words Donald Duck. What a talent for poetry the Irish have!" suggested the impressed Joe.

Things get worse/better. Wanda pointed to an enormous Mickey Mouse. "Guys, you know what, that's the largest self-supporting Mickey in the whole of the United States. " It seemed some fans would "soon need medical attention".

Then “the Seven Dwarfs saunter past us, pursued by the Mad Hatter, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Queen of Hearts and various assorted fluffy tigers holding hands”. All while the Irish fans chanted “You’ll never beat the Irish”.

O’Connor wondered just how much you’d have to spend on drugs to get a similar effect.

That's Ireland and America – two countries separated by a common language.

Fan, from Latin fanaticus `mad, enthusiastic, inspired by a god'.

inaword@irishtimes.com