Fourball one down coming to last orders


AGAINST THE ODDS:Fire rescue hero’s pals can’t really savour Europe’s Ryder miracle while their friend’s life hangs in the balance, writes RODDY L'ESTRANGE

THE MIDDLE-aged fourball in Foley’s should have been whoopin’ and a hollerin’ at the miracles of Medinah, but instead they sat quietly, sipping pints and staring rather vacuously at the telly. There wasn’t a fist pump between them.

From behind the taps, Dial-A-Smile, that most cheerless of bartenders, was reminded of the touching scene near the end of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where the little men gathered around the stricken heroine, heads bowed, tearful.

Dial-A-Smile knew the quartet intimately, Macker, Fran, Brennie and Kojak; knew their preferred drinks, pace of swallow, and their cussed ways when he stopped serving at closing time, which was his right.

He also knew why each they wore a sepulchral air on this gripping Ryder Cup Sunday.

It was all Vinny Fitzpatrick’s fault. The fat bus driver with the fatty heart was hooked up on life support in Beaumont Hospital with the words “have-a-go-hero” stencilled on his chest after putting his life at risk to save others.

“Vinny, you’re a right gobshite,” said Dial-A-Smile aloud as a tear threatened to crack his pitiless heart.

It had been the longest of weeks in Clontarf parish, thought Dial-A-Smile, as he dried a glass with all the deliberation of Jim Furyk over a putt.

News had filtered into the bar on Monday, as all stories do, about the fire in the old Fitzpatrick family home of Causeway Avenue the night before.

With each arrival, more and more pieces were added to the jigsaw so that by early afternoon, after Big Dave, a fireman and Foley’s regular, had dropped in for a cure, Dial-A-Smile had a graphic picture of the dramatic events.

The conflagration had begun in the kitchen around half two in the morning after some eejit dropped a smouldering cigar into a bin, and it was Vinny who’d raised the alarm, running from room to room like Wee Willie Winkie.

According to Big Dave, Vinny played a blinder, rousing bleary-eyed Donegal fans from a drink-induced slumber as the flames licked about and smoke was inhaled by unsuspecting lungs.

By the time the fire brigade arrived, Vinny had herded everyone out into in the street, coughing and spluttering, but alive nonetheless.

Vinny had been double-checking that all were present and correct when, all of a sudden, a tall lad called Kevin said something about a girl, Mairéad, being missing.

“Vinny immediately shot across the road and although one of our lads tried to grab him, Vinny threw a punch and ducked into the house. The house was half-engulfed in smoke and our boys went in with oxygen masks; Vinny had nothing,” reported Big Dave.

This version of events was corroborated by Two-Mile Boris, Foley’s resident chess grandmaster from Russia, who rented a room in Causeway Avenue and was drawn outside by the commotion.

“It was like an inferno,” he recalled.

“Flames and smoke was everywhere. I could not believe it when I heard the firemen had gone into the house. When someone said Vinny was inside too, I got on my knees and prayed.”

It had taken several minutes, Dial-A-Smile wasn’t sure how long, before the top window upstairs had been shattered out and Vinny’s blackened face appeared among the flames.

He had found Mairéad under a bed in the back room, unconscious but breathing.

Vinny had called on the big lad, Kevin, to get his “arse in gear”, according to Two-Mile, and get over to the kerb.

“Then, he pushed the girl through the window opening and, holding her by the arms, leaned down as far as he could before letting her drop into the arms of the giant.

“After the girl was safe, the giant called for Vinny to jump. I thought he would but then it all went red and black at the window and we couldn’t see him.”

Dial-A-Smile tried to imagine what it must have been like for Vinny at that moment, in the room where he was born, petrified and alone, gulping toxic fumes in a fireball. He tried and failed.

“When our lads got to Vinny and dragged him out they thought he was a goner. He’d no vital signs for a while and a priest was called for,” said Big Dave.

It was almost a week since Vinny had been rushed to Beaumont’s ICU. Against the odds, he’d continued to hang in there, comatose.

No one knew the extent of the damage, not even Vinny’s four big mates in the corner. All they knew, because Dial-A-Smile had heard them talking earlier, was Angie, Vinny’s wife, had been summoned to the hospital that evening at short notice.

She would, according to Macker, text with any news.

It was almost a quarter past eleven and Dial-A-Smile had sneakily placed towels over the taps when he saw Macker reach for his phone as it beeped.

At the same time, Martin Kaymer stood over a putt on the 18th green in Medinah to retain the Ryder Cup for Europe. All was silent in Foley’s.

Kaymer’s stroke was sure and straight and as his par putt dipped under Illinois soil, the little pub erupted while, in one corner, four middle-aged men shouted loudest and longest, hugging each other as tears of joy streamed down their cheeks.

The news on Vinny, thought Dial-A-Smile, was clearly upbeat. “Thank God,” he whispered, before casually removing the towels. On this night of nights there would be time, after all, for a late one.

Bets of the week

1pt (each-way) Pádraig Harrington in Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (20/1, William Hil l)

Vinny's Bismarck

2.5pts (lay Munster to beat Leinster in RaboDirect Pro 12 (12/5, Boylesports, liability 6pts)

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