Sport Stories


I was hoping to bring some kind of semi-coherent report of the Wales trip, but to be completely honest with you, I’m still shattered from it, emotionally and physically.

I’m exhausted.


I don’t know why.

Yes, we did have to get up at half past three in the morning, which is a bit of a conundrum in itself. What’s the best thing to do: get up or stay up? And yes, we did have a three-hour drive to Rosslare. Six of us in Paulie’s big fuck-off new jeep-thing with a talking GPS thing called Mary that speaks to you in American. Take a left! And yes, the boat journey did involve gallons of beer, bad burgers, mescaline, Bourbon whiskey and the holy game of poker. Yes indeed, and also forays out on deck to machine-gun seagulls, which was tiring. Then of course, there was more drinkahol and brown acid, but you’d expect that.

It isn’t as if I went out on the town after the game like the other drunken swine we travelled with. How could I? What kind of monster would send the poor little Bullet back to a silent hotel room alone in a taxi? No, not I. While my fellow travellers wandered the mean streets in search of new ways to sate their jaded old desires, I was back in the Hotel Bland, watching shite on Sky TV and drinking watery beer in the Bland Bar.

Come on, Bullet, I said. Now that we’ve come back here to this ridiculous hotel where the staff speak only Russian, let’s have a real good father-and-son time, especially since I’ve given up a rockin’ night on the town because of you. Son.

Ah, I think I’ll just go to bed, replied Bullet, who wandered off to the room to practise cool blues licks and generally lounge around being a lot cooler than me.

Excellent. Well then, I’ll just sit here in this horrible anonymous hotel bar with these sad old businessmen and their nineteen-year-old hooker girlfriends. What a great idea!

So, I reckon the exhaustion is probably due to emotional stress and extreme envy at the drunken fuckers being out on the town while I share a warm beer with pathetic old red-nosed businessmen and extremely stupid young hookers.

Did I mention we got stuffed? Yes. Hammered. Llanelli had their homework done. Do you know something really rotten? Will I tell you? What’s really rotten is walking through some town in your team colours after they’ve beaten the shit out of you, and it’s really hard to do that bloodied-but-unbowed thing like in the movies. Spartacus I ain’t. The Llanelli people, being what they are, like Munster people, come over and shake your hand and they say Hard luck, you’ll be back next year and you know they mean it. You know it’s intended with respect, and you want to take it like that, so you reach out and shake their hand and say Well done. Great performance. But what you really want to say is Fuck off! Don’t tell me hard luck!! Can’t you see I have enough problems?

I have no idea what kind of town Llanelli is, because I didn’t see much of it, apart from a pub called the Sandpiper, where we went before the match. I do know, however, from past experience, what decent and friendly folk the Llanelli people are. They have often visited us here in Limerick for Heineken Cup and Celtic League matches, and I’ve always found them great company.

It would have been nice, after the game, to visit one or two of the local hostelries, but it wasn’t ever going to happen. For one thing, some of our people were so disgusted by the result that they just wanted out of the place. Besides that, Dickler in his infinite wisdom, had booked a hotel in Swansea. Which is not Llanelli. The Hotel Bland, in an industrial estate in Swansea. I hope he isn’t reading this. (Ssshh! Next year, if we play them, I’m going to stay in Llanelli in a bed-and-breakfast and find out what it’s like. I’ll even drink beer in their pubs and talk to the locals, and I bet they don’t have two heads or anything).

Did I mention Cardiff?


Well, the last time I was in Cardiff, it was also in the company of the Bullet, and it was in May 2006. On that occasion, however, we were at the Millennium Stadium to win the European Rugby Cup. Jesus, how the mighty are fallen. This time, it was to watch Cardiff play Sunderland, Roy Keane’s team. Now, I have to tell you a little bit about the gang I was with. To a man, they are dyed-in-the-wool, muck-savage country-boys who never played anything but hurling and rugby. None of them had ever been at a soccer match in their lives, and therefore it was a little embarrassing to note the police paddy-wagons lined up beside the stadium. They’re all looking at me because they’ve decided I’m the soccer expert.

Me? I say. Do you really believe that supporting Scunthorpe makes me an expert?

No, they say, but at least you’ve been to a game. And then they gesture towards the paddy-wagons. What’s the story, Boss?

I can understand their perplexity. Last night, we were mixed in with the Llanelli people, shaking hands and laughing. (Well, maybe not exactly laughing, but you know – that sort of thing). Today, we have a phalanx of riot police separating the supporters. This aspect of soccer I will never understand.

I shrug. Keep the heads down and the mouths shut.

They all frown and nod.

We enter the ground two hours early and get stuck into their beer, their hot-dogs, their chips, their pie-things and more of their beer. We enter the ground and we sit down (being seated). The match kicks off and it is truly shite, as many games often are, but then, without warning, a commanding figure emerges from his dug-out. A man among men. A mighty human being, a true king of sporting kings. Who is that man in black? That’s Montgomery Clift Roy Keane, Honey!

Bestriding the world like a Colossus.

Great, says Dickler, and swings his camera into position, a very nice Canon EOS and tripod. Quick as a flash, a squat lady with a specially-coloured steward’s jacket approaches. This is an important jacket. Better than the other stewards. They only have yellow, but this jacket has blue patches on the shoulders and a bit that says Team Leader. Oh dear Jesus, spare us from Team Leaders.

You can’t use that camera.

Why not?

It’s a professional camera. You can’t use it.

It’s an ordinary camera.

No. It’s professional.

What’s professional about it?

It just is.

This woman’s experience of cameras clearly involves buying a disposable for a week in Marbella. In this Team Leader’s world, any other kind of camera must be professional. In this Team Leader’s experience, there’s nothing like a bit of power. This Team Leader is not to be denied. Fuck it, we all think, what a life. You’re such a sad individual that this is your world: you get to direct people at a football match and then you go home to your four obese children and your Dutch-Gold-addicted husband. Why wouldn’t you enjoy a few minutes power? Suddenly, we’re all consumed by righteous anger. Jesus, Dickler, let the poor woman alone, for fucksake!

Dickler cringes and and puts away the camera.

And that’s why we didn’t get a shot of Roy.

We go on to experience the most painful 105 minutes I have ever known. A display of pure boredom such as I have never experienced at the worst soccer match I have seen since the age of five. Karma. The four muck-savage rugby players declare to a man Never again, Boss.

And we all fuck off, back to the Hotel Bland, for more mescaline, Bourbon Whiskey and brown acid.

Til next year, then. Did I mention we got stuffed?

kick it on


Munster vs Llanelli

Munster play Llanelli tomorrow evening in the quarter final of the European Rugby Cup.

We’re going by road, which means that Bullet and myself have to get up at four in the morning to catch the Rosslare ferry. Christ Almighty.

The game is at 7.30 tomorrow evening and on Saturday we’re going to watch Sunderland playing Cardiff.

Don’t expect too many posts here for the next day or two.


And I’m there, like, totally Munster?

Just like me, you probably went apeshit watching Munster beating Leicester by two points following a simply wonderful 50-metre penalty from Ronan O’Gara. As you know, Bock has soldiered in this campaign, and was at the Millennium Stadium along with his son, the Bullet, on that unforgettable day back in May.

So what’s all this shit about England from O’Gara? I didn’t hear it. Did he really say I’m just like, Oh my God?

Please tell me he didn’t say that. It’s supposed to be Rodge, ok? Not fucking Ross.

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Limehouse Dick

The dying rays of a perfect May sunset streamed through the bow window, silhouetting the pensive figure who gazed out across the lawns of the great castle. As Bock, deep in thought, scanned the horizon of his vast estate, the light caressed his face, illuminating his fine features and revealing the faintest flicker of secret anxiety on his manly brow. His magnificent physique suggested an almost feral strength and yet his deep clear gaze spoke of a fine intellect and deep sensitivity. As he followed the sun’s declining disc, he gently tapped out a tune on the marimba- a primitive African xylophone. Then suddenly and with great force, he flung the marimba to the floor, smashing it in a thousand shards.

Where is he? Bock murmured. Where the devil can he be?

With a discreet knock, a wizened butler entered. It was Scrotum, a wrinkled old retainer.

Pardon me for interrupting, Sir. Despite his 183 years, Scrotum’s voice was strong and confident. That- he paused and began again, That person is at the door.

Bock spun around to face him. The devil you say! So he came after all, did he?

Scrotum, with barely-hidden distaste, raised an eyebrow. I take it you do not wish me to eject this person, Sir?

Bock laughed a great hearty bellow. Oh my dearest Scrotum. What ever should I do without you? No indeed: show the rascal up, will you? There’s a good chap.

Very good Sir.

As Scrotum silently withdrew, Bock took a leather-bound volume from his escritoire. It was a first edition of his celebrated research into the Titius-Bode Law of Planetary distances in which he proved that both Newton and Einstein were totally wrong. On some matters, Bock cared not a jot, but on others his enthusiasm knew no containment, and as always, when he pondered the unbounded universe, Bock became lost. But still, even as he read, he became aware of a presence behind him, and by the stench of cheap scent mingled with the tang of armpit sweat, he knew at once who it was.

So, he said without turning, have you brought them, Limehouse Dick?

The man he addressed was a great hairy shuffling brute, with a shifty sideways glance and an evil-looking scar from the corner of his eye to the base of his ape-like chin. His cauliflower ears told of many an angry struggle and his ham-like fists hinted at a life spent fighting in the mud.

Brought them, Guv? echoed Limehouse Dick. I brought one for yourself, Guv, and it cost me deep in purse.

Bock wheeled to confront him. One? he demanded. One is no use, you fool. I said two and I meant two, dammit. D’you understand me, Sir?

Limehouse Dick recoiled as if struck.

Steady on Bock, me old mate. No need to get all shirty on me. With a sly grin, he tapped his breast pocket. Maybe a little persuasion might be –

But he got no further, as Bock sprang forward and caught him by the throat. By God, Sir, Bock hissed, do not trifle with me, or I’ll thrash you within a metric inch of your life. You mistake me for another if you fancy I will stand for it.

Limehouse Dick did not know it, but Bock held him in a secret grip, learned long ago from a dying Porroh man on the lagoon river behind the Turner Peninsula. The slightest pressure could kill a buffalo. Though he was unable to move a single muscle, the fear in Limehouse Dick’s eyes told Bock he was a defeated man, and he pushed the unfortunate fellow away, with a soft sigh of regret. He took down a didgeridoo and began to play a soft, haunting monotone melody in time with Limehouse Dick’s sobbing. Only two men have ever mastered the art of playing the didgeridoo and talking at the same time. One is long dead and the other is Bock.

Don’t take it to heart, my dear fellow, he chuckled, expertly kicking a bottle of fine brandy to Dick. Have a drink and compose yourself. Now, come show me what you’ve brought.

A trembling Limehouse Dick fumbled inside his grubby jerkin and pulled out two tattered pieces of light cardboard. One for yourself, Guv, he muttered resentfully.

And the other? prompted Bock.

Dick shifted uneasily. The other ticket for young Master Bullet.

Bock snatched the two tickets from Dick’s hand and quickly secreted them between the covers of the leather-bound book.

Get on with you, Limehouse Dick, he laughed, and have Scrotum give you fifty guineas on your way out. You old rascal! Oh, and tell him to ready the Bentley. We’re going to Cardiff for the week-end.

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Carer wanted

Kind, reliable person required to look after small city for weekend.

Light duties only: closing curtains etc.

Apply to Bock for details.

There’s a medium-sized chance that there will be tickets to the match for both the Bullet and myself, but no certainty yet: we probably won’t find out until Monday or Tuesday. Bullet knows that I booked our flights three weeks ago, but I haven’t said anything yet about going to the game. All I said was that we have the flights because they were cheap and I’m prepared to write off the cost if we don’t get tickets. Just assume we’re watching it in Limerick. He’s a laid-back little fucker anyway and he’ll go with the flow no matter what happens so he doesn’t mind too much if we watch it in Limerick.

Anyway, Limerick might well be the coolest place on earth to watch the game. I hear they’re setting up the biggest screen in Europe on O’Connell Street. Imagine! The biggest screen in Europe. It reminds me of that great line by John Prine: the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel. Fuck it, as we’re on a digression (when are we not on a digression?), here’s a nice link I found about Muhlenberg County. Those who know what I’m talking about will understand, and I can only ask the rest to forgive.

As I said, I haven’t told the Bullet yet that we might well be Cardiff-bound, along with about fifty thousand other pilgrims just like us. It would be wrong to raise his hopes yet, and that reminds me of yet another story, which isn’t quite as bad a non sequitur as my previous digression.

Three years ago, we headed into town for a game at Thomond Park against Gloucester. I didn’t want the Bullet to be disappointed, so I said something like this: Now look here, Bullet. This crowd are the best team in England. They’re top of the English league. We have to beat them by 27 points, and we need to score at least four tries doing it, so don’t get your hopes up. Ok, fella?

Right. So, the game progressed and, as the Bullet was shifted back and forth between my shoulders and the rather heftier ones of Dickler, he was the only one of the three of us who could actually see the game, and therefore it fell to an eleven-year-old to tell us what was happening. Penalty to O’Gara. 3-0. Oh dear God. Penalty to them. Shit. 3-3. Try for Kelly. Oh Jesus Christ!!! Madness. 8-3. Penalty for them. 8-6. Oh noooooo! Penalty for O’Gara. 11-6. Could we be pulling away? Surely not. Try for Mossie Lawlor!!! What?? Oh Jesus Jumping Christ. 16-6. Lunacy!! Penalty for O’Gara. 19-6. Total drooling frothing insanity in the ground. And then, unbelievably, a try for O’Driscoll. What? What?? Oh leaping Jesus on a bicycle!! That’s 24-6 Crowd need an ambulance for mass heart attack. Conversion: 26-6. Complete gibbering idiocy! Strangers hugging each other. But the time is up. We’re in injury time. The clock is running down but this is Thomond Park and there goes the great John Kelly, over the line for the fourth try in the last second of the game, but its not enough. It’s too late. It’s only 31-6, and we need 33. If O’Gara misses this conversion it’s all over. The ref will blow and we’re gone. We’re out and it’s not an easy kick from this angle, but still . . , but still . . . and as O’Gara lines himself up for a difficult conversion from the sideline, I feel a gentle tug on my shoulder from the Bullet: Is it ok if I get my hopes up?

I nod, squeeze his hand, Ronan slots the conversion and the whistle blows. All of Limerick, Cork and Fethard, it seems, are in Thomond Park, and every one of them has lost his mind. Sane people are running around like fucking lunatics, screaming and hugging each other. We’re through and the best team in England are out. (You couldn’t write the script, could you, but see also, Munster v Gloucester II, Munster v Sale, Munster v Leinster.)

I made a little extra act of belief today by hiring a car. It seems like a better option than pissing around on trains, wouldn’t you agree, and we can pick it up at the airport. I haven’t worked out the itinerary yet, but I’m hoping everything will be ok, and I’ll tell the kid on Tuesday if we get the tickets. “Bullet“, I’ll say, “Bullet, have your red shirt washed and packed for Thursday. We’re goin’ a-huntin’!”



Limehouse Dick