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The Croke Park Trilogy – Part One

Jesus, said Wrinkly Paddy. This place is full of Northsiders.

True, I replied, but imagine how they feel. Their streets are full of Southsiders, Culchies and filthy garlic-eating surrender-monkeys.

God, he shuddered. Give me out that hip-flask quick.

Not fifteen minutes earlier, we had abandoned the safe and familiar shabbiness of Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street and now we were trudging through the grim faded grandeur of Georgian Dublin. The once-fashionable Northside, street upon street of magnificent but crumbling mansions, was abandoned by the gentry when the Earl of Kildare built his stately pile in Merrion Square. All the fawning sycophants followed him in the great movement of the rich across the river, or The Flight of the Knob-heads, as it came to be known. These were the wealthy merchants, the minor aristocracy. The fox-hunting classes. (In a charming echo of days gone by, today’s Northsiders also have horses, though they prefer to keep them on their balconies).

Paddy and I were not well men. On Saturday night, the Wrinkly Romeos had a gig in some pub in the vast suburban sprawl of West Dublin, and I, of course had travelled early and parked the Bockmobile outside his house in the hope of a lift to the gig. I wanted to be there so that I could ignore them just like all the other patrons.

I have a bit of a problem with the car, Paddy confided as we set off.


It’s haunted.


It seems to know when it’s on the M50. You’ll see for yourself in a minute.

And sure enough, when we headed down the ramp, a horrible, screeching, howling noise seemed to come from somewhere very far away. An ugly, personal, soul-offending noise, from a filthy and very ugly parallel universe. From a vile and murky sink ruled over by the Lord Yog-Sotthoth, Master of all that is repulsive and inhuman.

Christ, I gasped. It sounds like Brian Kennedy!

Ah no, said Paddy. It isn’t that bad, but I can’t get rid of it.

You can’t?

No, said Paddy. I even had it exorcised by a big international brotherhood of priest-mechanics. I’m trading it in next week before it tries to murder me.

Good plan, I said. Where’s this pub?

Well now, Paddy shifted uncomfortably. You see, about the pub. It’s just that this place is a bit, you know?

A bit what?

A bit rough.

Like how rough. Blues Brothers rough? Are you playing inside a cage?

You’ll see for yourself.

It turned out to be a perfectly normal, soul-less Dublin suburban drinking factory called Bar, with the usual bored, uninterested, surly unionised Dublin bar staff, full of young fellows with weak moustaches and ear-jewellery.

The Wrinklies couldn’t drink, because they were driving, but that didn’t prevent me from swallowing half a dozen of the finest Guinness’s porter, while never ceasing from reciting melodious Gaelic nor from playing chess, nor from the studious ignoring of the thing called Band, that which everyone else likewise ignored.

Once, I foolishly tried to engage a fellow-customer in conversation. What about the match tomorrow, then – have you a ticket?

Ya wha’?

The rugby match, in Croke Park, you know – tomorrow?

Ya fookin wha’?

Ireland versus France. In Croker.

Ah, roigh’. Bleedin Croker, yeah roigh’! Deadly. Come on ye Dubs!!

So are you going?

Ya wha’?

To the rugby match?

Wha’s staaary Bud? Croker’s naw fookin rubby fookin ground. Ya know warra mean, like? Bleedin spasser!

And he walked away, turning back a couple of times to shake his head with contempt.

Apart from that, it was a great night, and, by the standards of Bar, a huge artistic success. Nobody was killed. It was great and I departed the place slightly steamed after my six of the best.

Now, says Paddy, when we got home. What’ll you have?

I’ll have a night in bed, I replied.

Ya will like fuck, he said. I’ve been on the dry all night.

And that’s how I came to wake up at eleven in the morning with six pints of Guinness and half a bottle of whiskey inside me, and Paddy shaking me. Come on. We have a lift to Mulligan’s. I’ve never been quite sure of the correct pronunciation of Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhh!!!! but anyhow, as I said at the start, Paddy and I were not well men as we shuffled towards the turnstiles in Croke Park.

Part Six
Part Five
Part Four

Part Three
Part Two

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