Banger Rossi a real belter - but so is daddy Vinny
Against the Odds
As he waited for Fr Leo Lavelle to emerge from the sacristy of St Gabriel’s Church in Dollymount, Vinny Fitzpatrick was subconsciously tip-tapping his left foot, a clear sign he was agitated.
The burly bus driver had allowed a 30-minute turnaround for the christening of his grandson, Little Vinny, in between two live Premier League games on Sky Sports and was anxious to return to his favoured armchair for Spurs against Manchester United.
(That he had invested €20 at 16 to 1 on Robin Van Persie to score first in a drawn game was something he wouldn’t admit to his daughter Niamh, a sports reporter with the Manchester Evening News and ardent Manchester City fan.)
Niamh, the product of a one-night stand in Rathmines in January 1982 and who Vinny hadn’t known of until two years ago, had flown in that morning with Little Vinny and her partner, Roberto Rossi, an ex-pro with Bury, Accrington and Morecambe, now with the PFA.
On Vinny’s instructions, Roberto had brought a pair of all-weather sports shoes with him. The third Sunday in January coincided with the Capricorn Cup, a seven-a-side football event between the Bar Flies of Foley’s and the Lounge Lizards.
It was played on the all-weather pitches beside Clontarf Road railway station and traditionally marked the end of purgatory for those who’d given up the jar for the New Year as it preceded a right knees-up in Foley’s.
As player-manager of the Bar Flies, who’d lost the previous three years, Vinny hadn’t thought twice about smuggling in a banger.
As the tall ex-pro from Calabria flanked Niamh in the church, Vinny felt were there shades of Andrea Pirlo about him, with his long flowing locks and designer stubble.
At last, Leo Lavelle appeared. He had two altar boys following him, one of whom was Brennie’s son, Benny, who was as daft about Manchester United as his old man.
The service should have been over in a jiffy but Leo droned on about the importance of renewal and the purifying waters of life.
Little Vinny played a blinder. He was as quiet as a church mouse, even when Vinny, as godfather, accidentally whacked his noggin off the marble baptismal font.
Vinny, a huge softie, allowed himself a tear or two as he posed for a family snap afterwards, holding little Vinny, flanked by Angie, her daughter Emma, their smartly-dressed twins, Oisín and Aoife, and his stunning grown-up daughter, Niamh.
As they left St Gabriel’s, Vinny took care to give the altar boys, standing sentry at the doors, a fiver each.
His mood, already sunny, was helped when Benny whispered to him. “United, one-nil. Van Persie.”
Vinny nodded in approval; the day was getting better.
Indeed it was. Some two hours later, Vinny was €320 to the good and the Bar Flies were cruising towards Capricorn Cup glory with Roberto Rossi in a starring role.
In his mid-30s and in fair nick, Roberto was like a thoroughbred among a field of drays. He covered every inch of the park, didn’t put a pass astray and chipped in with two goals and two assists.
So superior were the Bar Flies that Vinny even allowed himself a late cameo as fly-keeper.
Near the end, he played a one-two with Rossi, surged into the territory of the Lounge Lizards and let rip with a right-foot thunderbolt that narrowly missed the target.
It took him an age to shuffle back into position but he was exhilarated and enjoyed a high five with a smiling Roberto.
He was 55 but felt 30 years younger.
At the final whistle, Vinny and Roberto jointly lifted the Capricorn Cup high into sleety skies and Roberto was given the “Man of the Match” voucher for €50 worth of gargle in Foley’s.
The night was a blast. With Emma minding little Vinny and the twins at home, Vinny, Angie, Niamh and Roberto were joined by the lads for a feed of Foley’s finest.
The talk flowed of football, always close to the lads’ hearts. Niamh felt Roberto Mancini was skating on thin ice at City after successive Champions League bomb-outs, and that he badly needed to ship out Mario Balotelli by the end of the transfer window.
“If he can get a few bob for Mario and somehow win the Premier League, he will survive. If not, watch for Jose Mourinho arriving on a white steed to annoy the hell out of Fergie this summer,” she said.
When the final glass was drained, and hot bags of curried chips from the Capri were tucked safely under oxters, Vinny and Angie walked Niamh and Roberto back to Causeway Avenue – empty again after the Christmas visitors.
The old Fitzpatrick family home would soon be let out, complete with extended kitchen, downstairs loo and new en-suite upstairs. As Angie and Roberto got the late night cuppas ready, Vinny gave Niamh a quick guided tour.
As they were leaving the master bedroom, Niamh yawned and stretched. As she did, Vinny noticed a mark on the inside of her forearm, below her elbow. “What’s that love?” he asked. Niamh reddened. “It’s nothing Vinny, nothing at all.”
Vinny’s antennae twitched. He closed the door behind him. “Show me, please,” he said, reaching out a pudgy hand to his daughter, who was looking tearful.
Vinny studied the blemish. It was small, circular and brownish. His blood froze. He recognised the mark, it was one he had first seen at school over 40 years ago, and he knew what caused it.
Instinctively, he gently took Niamh’s other arm and drew the sleeve back. Below the elbow was another browny-blotch. “The fecker,” he said softly.
Niamh shook her head. “Please, Vinny, he doesn’t mean it. It only happens when he gets angry. We’re fine, honest, we’re fine.”
But Vinny wasn’t listening. He quickly went downstairs and pushed open the kitchen door. Roberto turned, a steaming mug of coffee to hand. “Ciao, Vinny. What are you having?” he smiled.
“You, ye b*****d,” said Vinny, as he planted a right hook firmly to the chiselled jaw of his startled guest.
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