Vinny dreams of Brady as Norman makes a conquest
Against the Odds:The Aviva Stadium was bathed in jade and the pitch glistened like a shimmering outdoor pool. As Vinny Fitzpatrick squinted towards the Havelock Square End, he could imagine Liam Brady, ball glued to toe, slaloming, Franz Klammer-like, through the France defence in a World Cup qualifier all those years ago.
Brady was his all-time favourite Irish footballer, even if he couldn’t quite relate the swivel-hipped, tousle-haired smiling star of the 70s and 80s, with the thickened, slightly crabby, figure on TV today.
He’d heard the lads in the depot talking about the top 50 Irish footballers of the last 50 years which appeared in one of the papers. Roy Keane had been first, John Giles second, Brady third. Vinny said nothing but felt the rankings were a travesty. Brady was not only the most naturally gifted footballer of the trio, he was the only one to play abroad in his peak years in a top league for a top club, winning two Italian titles with Juventus. In contrast, Keane played half a season at Celtic in his dotage, while Giles popped up at Philadelphia.
In Vinny’s view, Brady was also far more committed to playing for the Republic of Ireland than either Keane or Giles. When Brady moved to Italy, he insisted every contract allowed his release for all Ireland games.
Giles had been picky when it came to Ireland, as his record of 59 caps over 21 years showed – he only played three times in three years in his prime. Keane would never be forgiven by Vinny for his hissy fit in Saipan.
As far as Vinny was concerned, Whitehall native Chippy Brady, in action and attitude, was Ireland’s greatest footballer ever.
Behind him, the Dublin Bus Christmas party was in top gear as 200 drivers from the seven city garages enjoyed the annual knees-up.
This year the Dublin Bus suits had gone the extra mile, as so many of their drivers did, and hired the swish Aviva for the night.
Vinny had been in two minds about going but Socket Twomey, the Clontarf depot controller, had twisted his arm. “You’re getting a citation for your work on the real-time timetables; you and Shanghai”, he said.
That clinched the deal for Vinny, who’d become misty-eyed when a clip of himself and the late Shanghai Jimmy, taken in Foleys, was projected on to a screen.
The applause had been genuine; even the Donnybrook lads joined in. Vinny had enjoyed working on the real-time gig, and got a huge kick out of knowing that bus stops on routes served by the Clontarf depot were the first to carry the times of the approaching chariots.
The real-time award apart, Donnybrook won more gongs than any garage in 2012. Driver of the Year; Employee of the Year; Controller of the Year; Banana Cup and the highly-coveted Garage of the Year.
After congratulating two old Banana Cup foes, Lofty Peake and Sundance Ellis, Vinny slipped away. He’d found an open door and steps leading past rows of seats toward pitch-side.
As he sniffed the chill air and wiped a blob of snot from his nose, he thought back to the old ramshackle Lansdowne Road, which he loved, even the open bits in the corners where the wind cut through you like a knife and the view was dreadful.
Looking around, he wasn’t so sure about the glitzy glass replacement that resembled Skylab. He’d only been to a couple of games – the last the 2011 FAI Cup final – and felt the new version of Lansdowne Road lacked the gritty soul of its predecessor.
Teams weren’t intimidated coming here any more. And the record of the Ireland team seemed to bear that out. Not one decent side under Giovanni Trapattoni had been put to the sword in the Aviva.
After reminiscing about Giles, Brady and Keane, Vinny headed back up to join the revelry. There were a few lights on in the premium level which meant more than one Christmas party was in full spate. He joked to himself there was probably more folk in the stadium than there would be in February for the Poland game.
When he reached the top of the steps, he found a door. It was locked. Wrong door. About 20 paces on, there was another door which, thankfully, was ajar. Vinny found himself in a dimly-lit corridor, and could just make out a sign for the Gents toilet, which reminded him he’d over-indulged in the beef stroganoff earlier.
He had just settled into trap six and reached into his inside pocket to study his Christmas work schedule, when he was aware of activity in a nearby cubicle. He twitched his antennae as he heard a voice he thought he recognised: “I’ve been trying to get you on my own all night.”
Vinny smiled to himself, cocksure a colleague had pulled one of the few female drivers in the force. He went evens it was dazzling Daneka, the platinum blonde from Leipzig, who drove the 13A. Seconds later, he got his answer and was stunned.
The second occupant of the adjacent stall wasn’t Daneka, or any of the few other young fillies in Dublin Bus. “I know you have, that’s why I’ve been avoiding you. I don’t want people to know about us”, said a voice most assuredly male.
Vinny froze. As a betting man, he’d lump all he lost on Daneka on the probability his cosy neighbours were Dastardly Dick Delamere, head honcho at Donnybrook Garage and “Stormin” Norman Fagan, reviled captain of the depot’s all-conquering Banana Cup team.
It was time to act before things, literally, got out of hand. With a deliberate rustle of his work roster and a loud harrumph, Vinny got to his feet and energetically flushed the toilet.
Aware that silence had descended on the adjacent stall, he washed his hands vigorously and began whistling It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, with more enthusiasm than was needed, before beating a hasty retreat from the restroom.
Sometimes, Vinny acknowledged on his return to the partying, a little knowledge was a dangerous thing.
Bets of the week
2ptswin Sir Des Champs in King George VI Chase (28/1, Betfair)
1ptLeinster and Clermont Auvergne to draw in Heineken Cup (22/1, Paddy Power)
1ptLay Newcastle United to beat Manchester City in Premier League (4/1, general, liability 4pts)