'Euro 2016, " a member of the association staff said in the bar the other night, "is a bit like that Game of Thrones , isn't it? There's hundreds of sides in it and you can't keep track of who's who?"
“I’m just trying to keep track of whose round it is,” the officer of the association said. “I’m empty here.”
“It’s mine,” I said, even though I hadn’t even touched the one in front of me.
“What’s up with you tonight?” the officer wanted to know.
“You’re fierce quiet.”
"One of his neighbours," the staff member said, "asked him could he get Roy Keane's autograph for the young lad. Of course, Mr Big Shot FAI Man couldn't tell him that Roy Keane can't stand the sight of him."
“That’s all fixed now,” I said. “No, these days, me and Roy are like that,” and I crossed my fingers.
“Then why haven’t you asked him for the autograph? You were going to do it at the airport and you bottled it. Then the other night in the lobby – same thing. You’re running out of time – we could be home in a week.”
“I’ll do it for you,” the officer said.
“What,” I said, “ask him for the autograph?”
He was peeling the paper off a Kronenbourg 1664 beer mat. “No,” he said, “I’ll sign it for you. People are always annoying me, asking me can I get Roy Keane’s autograph? I’ve done hundreds of them.”
He took a pen out of his blazer pocket, scribbled something on the clear side of the bar mat, then handed it to me.
“You’ve spelt it wrong,” I said. “There’s an e at the end of Keane.”
“There’s not – didn’t I just say I’ve done hundreds of them?”
“I don’t care how many you’ve done. There should be an e at the end.”
“We’ll agree to differ.”
The member of staff laughed.
“Here,” he said, “I’ve had an idea. When you’re getting him to sign his new contract, you could slip a sheet of carbon paper underneath it, then a photograph of Roy underneath that!”
We all had a good laugh at that.
I got the round in, then shortly afterwards I decided to call it a night. I walked back to the hotel in the lashings of rain, but the air did me a power of good because I started to think about the words of the great Derek Warfield: "Though we've had our troubles now and then, now is the time to make them up again."
Just because he plays the banjo, it doesn’t make him any less of a philosopher.
My mind was made up in that moment. I was going to Roy’s room to ask him straight out for the autograph.
Five minutes later, I was standing outside his door, my hand poised to give it a rap. And that’s when the door suddenly flew open – before my courage was properly up. I could feel the colour draining from my face, because Roy was standing in front of me with that mad look in his eyes.
His opening line threw me.
“Is it the turndown service?” he asked – and I realised instantly that he had mistaken me for some kind of lowly paid but well-dressed member of the hotel house staff.
Now, I had two choices in that moment. One, I could remind him who I really was and we could laugh about the whole thing. Or, two, I could go along with the idea that I was there to turn down his bed sheets.
I looked into his eyes and I said, “Yes, Meester Kin – I em here for ze turndown serveez.”
Roy laughed but in a bitter way. “I said it to the girl last night,” he said. “I’m obviously capable of turning down my own bed sheets, to be fair.”
“Ferry gute, Meester Kin,” I said. “In zat case, I wheel say gute nat to you.”
Jesus, I sounded like Peter Sellers in one of the Pink Panther movies.
“As I said before,” he went on, “it’s not good enough. You’re on about running a top, top hotel – and in fairness, the food, the facilities, no complaints – but people don’t want to be disturbed by people obviously knocking on their doors, saying, ‘Do you want me to open your bed for you?’ or, ‘Do you want me to open a can of Coke for you?’”
“Yes, Meester Kin,” I said, then I turned to leave.
“Do you know anything about the air conditioning?” he asked.
"Excusez moi? "
“The air conditioning. It’s got something obviously rattling around inside it.”
He opened the door wider to invite me in. So in I went. He hit the switch and I found myself standing next to him, staring up at a metal grille on the wall, just below the ceiling.
“Can you hear the rattling?” he asked. “It’s just not good enough at this level.”
“I wheel tray to feex for you,” I said.
Roy disappeared into the bathroom then, muttering under his breath: “You’re on about obviously being at a major finals – these are the basics.”
I climbed up on his bedside locker and started into the grille. I have to admit, I had a little chuckle to myself. Roy has said a lot of nasty things about me publicly, but I always wondered did he actually know me? Could he pick me out of a line-up, or was I just a name he associated with his pain?
I gave the grille a belt with the heel of my hand and the rattling stopped immediately. Roy came running out of the bathroom. “What did you do,” he said, “to be fair?”
“You haff to haff ze knack,” I answered. “Is all in ze wrist movement.”
“You’re a genius,” he said.
It was so nice to hear, I almost asked him to repeat it.
I jumped down off the bedside locker. And then I realised something – there was never going to be a better time to ask him for his autograph.
"Ken I ask some zing from you?" I said.
Roy nodded, then walked over to the desk. “I’ve no notes,” he said, as he swept a handful of loose change into the palm of his hand. “But you’ve earned this, to be fair to you.”
Ten seconds later, I was out in the corridor again, with no autograph, but seven euro and 57 cents swelling my fist.
Oh, well, I thought, it’ll pay for a nightcap.