Gaels hit jackpot as news of Lotto win brings a smile


AGAINST THE ODDS:The pacing in Foley’s began in earnest just after half past one on Sunday. Grown men, some carrying scars of GAA battles past, snarled at one another in between glancing at watches and double-checking the giant clock behind the bar which, as usual, was a few minutes fast.

“Mother of Divine Aunt. The suspense is killing me. Is there no way we can speed this up?” barked Lugs O’Leary to no one in particular. Even Vinny Fitzpatrick was feeling jiggy, which was odd as he could usually be relied upon to stay unflustered in the eye of a storm.

But on this day of days, when the sports grants were about to be handed out, he couldn’t relax either. So much was riding on the spin of Michael Ring’s lottery wheel for Dollymount Gaels.

Easing himself off his customary stool, Vinny waddled out to the rear of the pub for a blast of fresh air and to clear his thoughts.

The smoking gazebo was empty but for Dial-A-Smile, who was having a sneaky puff in the corner. It crossed Vinny’s mind Dublin’s most indolent barman should be indoors pulling pints and serving hot toddies but he wasn’t in the mood for a verbal exchange with the briar-like taverner.

Like Lugs, Vinny was consumed by the countdown to the grants disclosures. Dollymount Gaels were among the 2,170 applicants desperate for a sliver of the Government cake.

That the Gaels, small and imperfectly formed, had dared apply was due to a break of the ball in the form of an inheritance from the club’s founding father and former chairman, Redser McHugh.

The late Redser had run a dairy farm for years at the rear of St Gabriel’s Church. In his will, he’d left the acreage – sizeable by Dollymount green belt standards – to the club he served for 50 years.

An application for development had been submitted by the Gaels and the cost of laying down a full-size pitch was €200,000 – a fair whack for an impecunious club working off an overdraft.

Undeterred, the Gaels had lobbed in their tu’penny worth to the Ring-master, or rather more, as they were seeking €100,000. In the great scheme of things, Vinny didn’t think it was an unreasonable sum – he reckoned it was one 260th of what was in the kitty.

But if they were overlooked, the Gaels’ dream of having a pitch to call their own after 60 undistinguished years in the junior ranks would turn as sour as the last of the milk in old Redser’s dairy. “We’re a longer shot than Wimbledon to win the FA Cup,” he muttered aloud.

From across the shelter, Dial-A-Smile jeered: “Shush talking to yourself, Big Fella. It’s the first sign of madness, you know?”

Vinny raised his eyes and nodded. “Alright, Dial-A-Smile. You seem chirpy for a Sunday.” The spindly-framed barman stubbed his butt into an ashtray, clapped his hands together and beamed: “Never better, Vincenzo, never better. Only an hour till my next fag break.”

With that Dial-A-Smile headed back indoors, and Vinny swore he could hear the bartender whistle. “Whatever next?” he thought to himself.

Inside the bar, the tension was now unbearable. The Gaels had dispatched Nobby Stokes to Kildare Street as point to grab an official copy of the breakdown. Other lads had their mobiles at the ready, and had tapped into the sports department’s website, desperate for the first sighting of the €26m handout.

At a minute past two, Lugs’ phone rang. “It’s Nobby!” he cried. “Stall the digger, lads. Stall the digger,” he commanded. Lugs pressed the answer button. “Well? Give it to us with both barrels,” he barked.

There was a silence, for no more than five seconds but it seemed longer. Then, Lugs threw his phone aloft and roared at the top of his lungs.

“We got the whole damned lot. A hundred bloody grand! A hundred bloody grand!”

It was the cue for bedlam by Bull Island as cheers rang out across the bay, there were hugs and tears, Gaels of laughter and even a high five between Vinny and his hulking nemesis, Lugs.

Against the odds, Dial-A-Smile caught the mood. “I think we have cause for celebration. The drinks, and I mean one per man, are on the house. Well done, lads. As I always say, if you’re not in, you can’t win.”

Vinny did a double-take at Dial-A-Smile’s gesture, which was out of keeping with Foley’s stingy policy of refusing as much as a Christmas glass of punch for its loyal customers. Still, he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Pint of stout for me please, Dialler,” he said.

It was the first of many, each one as majestic as the one which preceded it. Right through the cards at Fairyhouse and Leicester, the club GAA and the Premier League footie at Carrow Road, the pints flowed as the Gaels plotted a brighter future.

Only it wasn’t all so bright. It was Nipper Normanton, a lively corner forward in his prime, who pointed out that the hard work was only starting. “We guaranteed in our application to match the sum we were looking for. Where in the name of the Seven Sinbads are we going to find €100,000?

“And even if we found a Fairy Godmother, we’d still need another 50 grand on top of that for dressing rooms and some parking space. Considering we don’t have a tin pot to pee in, I’d say the chances of us cashing in the sports grant cheque are somewhere between slim and none.”

There was a silence as Nipper’s caution was absorbed. As a sobering mood descended on the diehard Gaels, the door burst open and Nobby Stokes dashed in. “Have yiz heard, lads?”

Vinny frowned. “Of course we have, sure you told us,” he said. “Not that news,” said Nobby. “The news from the Spar around the corner. A winning Lottery ticket was sold there last night for a half share in a €2.5m jackpot. Someone around here is wearing a very big smile.”

As the lads shook their head at the improbability of it all, Vinny stroked his fleshy chins. He had an inkling whose smile he should be looking out for.

Bets of the week

1pt each-way Hello Bud in Becher Chase (16/1, Boylesports)

2pts Ballymun Kickhams to beat Portlaoise in Leinster SFC Club final by 1-3 pts (5/2, Paddy Power)

Vinny's Bismark

2pts Lay Celtic to beat Spartak Moscow in Champions League (1/2, Bluesquare, liability 3pts)

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