Watching the Tour de France survivors snake their way through the Pyrenees, it struck Vinny Fitzpatrick he would get juicy odds on Oisín, his brawny bairn, ever wearing the yellow jersey up the Champs Elysees.
Unlike Gerry McIlroy, who identified greatness in Wee Rory from the time he was a toddler, Oisín Finbarr Fitzpatrick, aged four and a half, had yet to indicate he was destined for sporting immortality.
He hadn’t picked up a hurl in anger, couldn’t ride his trike without assistance, was noticeably sluggish, and still unsure if he was right-footed or left-footed.
It probably didn’t help Oisin’s prospects of Olympic gold in 2034 that he carried a few kilos more on his backside than most kids of his age and was a first class grubber.
Lifting his own hefty frame from his favourite armchair, Vinny decided nonetheless to follow the McIlroy lead and place a few bob on Oisin turning heads in sport by the time he was a full-grown oak
As popping into Boru Betting for the long-range flutters wasn’t a runner due to the family connection, Vinny ambled across a verdant St Anne’s Park to The Track bookies in Raheny.
The Track was close to the summer nursery where Oisín spent three mornings a week getting ready for “big school”, Belgrove NS, in September.
Vinny was startled to see a few renegades from Boru Betting in position, following the dogs, among them The Reverend and Charlie Vernon.
As they scribbled down fancies for the 1.12pm at Perry Barr, and handed over their cash, it was a reminder that the gambling hook was deeply imbedded.
Even if Vinny’s own impulses didn’t extend to lunch time hare-chasing of a quiet Tuesday, he was still prepared to part with hard-earned cash on the longest of long shots – the sporting prowess of his son.
“Alright, lads,” he said, before finding a quiet corner and fishing out a betting slip and biro.
He had decided to play six bets, of a score each, on the assumption Oisín would morph into Daley Thompson by the time he was 25.
After taking care to ensure his selections were legible, he went over to the counter and asked for the best price possible from the pretty, if bored-looking, girl in her 20s.
“You want quotes on these?” she said, briefly turning her attention away from the screen towards Vinny. “I’ll have to ask Alf.”
Alf was the nickname of the long-serving boss, a curmudgeon in his 60s, coming from the "Tough of the Track", Alf Tupper, the working-class athletics hero in The Victor comic.
Wiry Alf appeared, cleaning his glasses as he studied Vinny’s bets.
“A fool and his money are easily parted,” he chuckled.
Vinny wasn’t to be put off. “Aye up, Alf, just you wait and see. In 20 years, I’ll be back in here cleaning you out,” he smiled.
Alf peered over his glasses. “Give over, son. In 20 years’ time, we’ll both be pushing up daisies in Balgriffin,” he said before disappearing back into his office.
A few minutes later, he returned and handed Vinny back the chit. “That’s the best I can do,” he said sharply.
The slip read: “I, Vinny Fitzpatrick, place €20 each on the following sporting feats to be achieved by my son, Oisín Fitzpatrick, aged four and a half, by the time he is 25”.
The bets, and prices were: To win an Olympic medal (250/1); to play for The Dubs at senior level (50/1); to win an All-Ireland (66/1); to play for Everton in the Premier League (250/1); to play for the Republic of Ireland (100/1); to play for Bohemians in the League of Ireland (16/1).
Of the six, Vinny felt his best bet was the final one as any dog and devil, it seemed, was getting a game in Dalyer on Friday nights.
As for Olympic glory, Alf could have stuck another zero at the end of the bet and it wouldn’t make any odds.
After saying farewell to The Reverend and Charlie Vernon, who were studying the form at Crayford, Vinny headed around to “Little Chisellers” nursery on All Saints Road.
He was a few minutes early and lounged against the pillar as the “Yummy Mummies” arrived in their flash cars before engaging in noisy chit-chat.
Vinny was allowing himself a few carnal thoughts when the first of the pre-schoolers emerged, clutching a white sheet of paper.
"We had painting today. Look what I did, Mummy," said a ringer for Shirley Temple.
One by one, the rookie Rembrandts appeared, until Vinny found himself as the last man, even woman, standing.
He approached the hall door where the proprietor, beanpole spinster Ms
, was holding the bould Oisín with one hand, and a rolled up piece of paper with the other.
‘Mr Fitzpatrick, we allowed the children to watch a few minutes of the Tour de France on TV this morning. We then asked them to paint what they saw. You might want to look at this,’ said Ms Mannering.
As he rolled open his kid’s canvass, Vinny’s jaw dropped. From the shiny river floor and winding emerald forests, to the sugar-topped mountains and azure skies, Oisí had captured the topography of the Pyrenees superbly.
In the middle of the artwork, were a cluster of bikes and a blaze of colours, including a single blob of gold in the middle, which designated the race leader.
Vinny took his slightly bewildered son by the hand, and walked, head held high, back to “The Track”..
There, he marched inside and said aloud: ‘This is Oisín Fitzpatrick, my son.’
With that, he filled in one more betting slip and was quite pleased Alf gave him 100s against Oisí ever having a painting on display in the National Gallery before he was 25.
As he carefully folded the docket in his pocket, Vinny gave Oisí a bear hug.
“Right Rembrandt, it’s time for the chipper.”