Subscriber OnlyPeople

Six Irish cultural touchstones for Barry Keoghan’s popstar girlfriend Sabrina Carpenter

The singer needs to be educated in the ways of Mattress Mick, stone-age election recounts and keeping corpses company before the big day

Barry Keoghan and Sabrina Carpenter at the 2024 Met Gala. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/MG24

Barry Keoghan and singer girlfriend Sabrina Carpenter have gone one step further than “Instagram official”. They star together in the Bonnie and Clyde-esque music video for her new song Please, Please, Please in which she begs her lover not to embarrass her. “I tell them it’s just your culture and everyone rolls their eyes ...” she sings.

We don’t know yet what aspects of Irish culture Barry has exposed Sabrina to but here are some topliners to start her off.

1. Mattress Mick

Soft landing: Mattress Mick shows off his wares. Photograph: Dave Meehan

It’s truly a privilege to live in a world where pop princess Sabrina Carpenter and mattress tycoon Michael “Mattress Mick” Flynn coexist. The former shot to fame on the Disney Channel before joining Taylor Swift as the opening act on her Eras tour. The latter shot to fame when “Back with a Bang”, a pop song promoting his mattress business, spearheaded a guerrilla marketing campaign.

To my knowledge, the United States doesn’t really have a celebrity mattress magnate and Mattress Mick would likely blow Sabrina’s mind. And even, even if Sabrina does have a local mattress baron to compare to our own Mick, it’s unlikely she’s ever seen him interviewed on national television and witnessed the host calling him by his first name, which is obviously “Mattress”. Then we must show her the YouTube video of Pat Kenny doing just that on Virgin Media One in 2019.


‘Everybody has to go to bed’: the life and philosophy of Mattress MickOpens in new window ]

2. That ‘the neck’ voicemail

In 2018 Conor McGregor’s sister Aoife gifted us an oral artefact that immediately became part of the country’s cultural fabric. Through her WhatsApp voice notes to her dog groomer our delivery of “the neck of you” was changed, changed utterly, and a terrible beauty was born. Not since Twink’s “Zip up your mickey” has the spoken word been so wonderfully employed to deliver boiling rage.

3 Where’s Me Jumper?

Sabrina Carpenter’s biggest hit to date is the catchiest tune of 2024, Espresso. The song’s seemingly nonsensical chorus goes, “ ... say you can’t sleep, baby, I know, that’s that me espresso”. It’s unclear if she’s referring to herself as an espresso, or if she’s invoking the Irish possessive “me” à la the Sultans of Ping iconic 1992 hit Where’s Me Jumper? Either way the Cork band’s standout hit deserves to make it into Carpenter’s ears and possibly on to her set list.


The height of democracy? Rory Hogan of Fianna Fáil after being elected in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

I cut my teeth in journalism the traditional way – working in local media where tallymen, county councillors and death notices (more on them later) reign supreme. I remember being sent out, green as moss, to cover local elections for KFM Radio and told to “find a tallyman” and stick to them like glue. What followed was a crash course in the Irish voting system of proportional representation-single transferable vote.

First past the post and machine and computer-aided vote counting is all Sabrina Carpenter has ever known. In 2016, aged just 17, she watched Hillary Clinton win the popular vote but lose the electoral college. She was only a baby during the great Florida “hanging chad” fiasco of the 2000 election. Maybe, once she hears about our nail-biting recounts she’ll write a pop banger about the manual democratic process. I’m picturing a music video filmed in a dusty community hall where Sabrina is held aloft like a newly minted county councillor. She’d probably wear a glitzy little dress and be less red in the face, though.

5. Death notices

Wakes and funerals in Ireland are steeped in culture and lore. We visit the body, keep it company, gather for days to share stories and provide comfort to the family. Every rural village comes through with a wake kit of black traffic cones, giant tea urns and solemn but practical hi-vis vests.

Mourning in Ireland has also moved with the times though, from live-streaming funerals during Covid to a website dedicated to the death notices. One of our richest bereavement traditions though is the radio death notices, as regular on local broadcasts as the weather and the news. Sabrina should be primed to potentially hear some regional deaths sandwiched between her pop hits.

6. Coddle

Coddle: 'The pink, floating, boiled sausages might be the biggest culture shock of all'

Many American tourists to Dublin seek out Irish stew or shepherd’s pie as a traditional Irish meal, but when Barry brings Sabrina to his hometown he should go the whole hog (sorry) with a hearty bowl of coddle. The pink, floating, boiled sausages might be the biggest culture shock of all, and that’s just the big Irish heads on the last few remaining election posters. Am I right?