Against The Odds: The umpire strikes back with ‘where there’s life there’s hope’

It struck Vinny that the politicos might have missed a trick with the Gaels


Of all the inconsequential roles Vinny Fitzpatrick performed in his long association with Dollymount Gaels, filling in as umpire on a morning so blowy the gulls were grounded was one of them.

It was Sunday, and Vinny was leaning against an upright in Ellenfield Park as his beloved Gaels were given a pistol-whipping by the wizards from Whitehall. The play was so one-sided that Vinny had yet to raise a finger, signal a wide, or scurry about in the bushes for a sliotar.

He felt for the “chicks with sticks”, as the GAA once coined camogie players, in the blue and yellow garb of the Gaels. Their spirit was willing but their dexterity with the hurl was weak.

What made it worse was they were playing with the wind.

It struck Vinny that the politicos on the general election trail might have missed a trick with the name, and colours, of the Gaels.

With three candidates in Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael could have launched a billboard campaign around St Anne’s Park with Bruton, Ó Muirí and Regan togged out in Gaels gear – a perfect fit for the Blueshirts.

“Making Their Point” was surely a catchphrase worth a few first preferences, he reckoned.

Vinny wouldn’t be voting on Friday, for the first time since turning 18, and with fair reason. That morning he was headed to the northwest of America.

Against the odds, Angie had been accepted by the Seattle hospital with a dazzling record in ground-breaking cancer treatment. The costs involved were scary, but Vinny would worry about all that later.

For the minute all that mattered was Angie’s care.


A new drug, Sedonase, had worked wonders in trials, and Angie had agreed to give it a go on the persuasive advice of her doc, Prof Rooney.

It was thanks to the Prof’s connections that the Seattle specialists had found a slot for Angie. In his time at Trinity the Prof rowed with a gifted post-grad student from Washington University, who became a good pal – the same boffin now headed up the Seattle cancer facility.

“If anyone can plot a course to safety for Angie, it’s Smokin’ Joe Morris,” said the Prof, whose cheery optimism through the dark times had impressed Vinny.

Had things been different Vinny would have nominated the Prof to stand as an Independent candidate in Dublin Bay North, on the condition he was his campaign manager.

The new five-seater, a merger of Dublin North Central and Dublin North East, had drawn an eclectic field of 20 runners, some more quixotic than others. It had been labelled the “Group of Death” as five sitting TDs were in the firing line from the Soldiers of Destiny, the Shinners, the Greens and a clatter of solo runners.

Vinny’s eye, if not his ear, had been caught by one of them, Averil Power, whose multicoloured posters were the talk of de Northside.

While candidates with established parties stuck to the one colour, Power had daubed every lampposts and traffic light in Dublin Bay North with a kingfisher’s gloss.

Driving up from Clontarf that morning, Vinny observed a Power-play palette of assorted green, pink, mauve, red and blue posters on a single hundred-yard stretch in Skellys Lane.

“If we ever have a rainbow government, she’s a cert for a Merc,” he thought.


As the half-time whistle peeped, Vinny stayed put at his glue-pot sentry post. He was sopping wet and would have murdered a hot brew and fistful of Jaffas.

“The lads on duty at Nowlan Park today in the National Hurling League don’t know how lucky they are,” he thought.

To the north Vinny spied planes emerging from the gloom as they completed their jerky descent to Dublin Airport. Quite a number were propeller jobs, he noted, which appeared to shake, rattle and roll ahead of landing. “Those pilots are earning their whack today,” he mused.

Far-off place

Deep down he accepted the odds were stacked against his beloved wife pulling through but where there was life there was always hope.

The girls of Dollymount Gaels weren’t giving up the fight either despite their difficult position.

He thought of the French general, Ferdinand Foch, who found himself on the back foot in a first World War battle and uttered a rallying order to his subordinates: “My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent. I am attacking.”

As the second half got under way, and the gusts freshened, Vinny shifted his feet. “C’mon on Gaels, we can win this,” he cried.


1pt each-way Kevin Kisner in Honda Classic (40/1, Ladbrokes) 2pts Liverpool to beat Manchester City in League Cup final (2/1, Coral)


2pts Lay Ireland to beat England in Six Nations (3/1, Betway, liability 6pts)

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