Youre late! What kept you? said Joe. Do you
know what Im goin to tell you? said Frank as
he climbed onto the bar stool. Them supermarkets are
the worst invention on Gods earth.
And why is that now? asked Joe.
Before Frank could reply Joe was calling to Eugene behind
the bar for The usual for his nibs.
Eugene had already anticipated the call to action. The Pint
of Guinness was three quarter way complete. He took pleasure
in serving them. They were two of his oldest customers.
The Muppets as he called them, added to the
ambience of his establishment. They reminded him of Stephen
and Dinny in Glenroe and could often
be just as entertaining.
Frank and Joe were creatures of habit. They sat perched
on the same stools every Wednesday and Saturday night. If
they appeared on a Monday night, it would be to carry out
the post-mortem on whatever football match they had become
emotionally involved in on the previous day. Experience
had taught them that post-mortems had to be delayed for
at least twenty-four hours. Then, everything could be discussed
calmly and dispassionately.
It never worked out like that of course. In a matter of
minutes the muppets would be arguing with one another or
with some other customer and it was always powerful entertainment.
Id a bin here long ago only I went into that
damn supermarket moaned Frank
Ah sure them auld supermarkets are always packed
No it wasnt packed at all.
So, what happened?
I went into buy the Anglo Celt. I went
up to the checkout and there was only one customer in front
of me. Great says I. Ill be out
of here in no time. The problem was that the customer in
front of me was a woman with a trolly and it full to the
brim. As I arrived and took my place behind her she hadnt
even started to unpack the damn thing. Then she turned around.
She stared at me as I stood behind her with nothing to declare
but the Anglo Celt.
And did she not? Asked Joe as he took a sip
out of his pint.
Indeed she did not. Far from it! She gave me a look
that made me feel as if I was Celtic supporter that had
strayed on to the Shankill Road. Then she turned her back
and proceeded to empty the trolley item by item. To make
matters worse the young one at the cash register took up
each item and started jabbing it up against a gadget that
flashed a red light. It wouldnt be so bad if she only
made one jab at it. But no, she had to keep on jabbing at
it until the gadget gave a click.
She has to do that to get the price of the item,
Dont I know that. Do you think Im stupid
So whats your point?
My point is that the small shopkeeper years ago would
know all the prices in his head and would be ten times faster
than that auld gadget up in the Supermarket.
Thats progress for you, said Joe taking
another sip of his pint.
Anyway, there I was standing there and your woman
in front of me sticking her arse into me face every time
she bent down to take something out of the trolley. Miss
Pony Tail behind the checkout continued to jab away at the
gadget like someone caught up in a demented fencing match.
Eventually your woman, who had brought enough to feed an
army, trolleyed off out to the car park. I handed the Celt
to Miss Pony Tail and you wouldnt believe what happened
She ran out of change, shouted Eugene from the
far end of the bar.
No she did not retorted Frank like a schoolteacher
addressing a child who had given a ridiculous answer.
She started to read the Dobally News laughed
one of the regulars who had just tuned in.
Tell us for Gods sake, cried Joe.
I dont know whether I will or not said
Frank, seeing as youre all so smart.
Dont mind them Frank, said Eugene, You
just fire away with your story.
Frank however decided that he would make the smart alecks
suffer. He slowly picked up his pint, took a sip, and put
it back on the counter. He then took out his pipe and proceeded
to slowly pack it with tobacco. He struck a match and then
started the process of lighting the pipe. He took several
pulls out of the pipe before eventually giving out a sigh
of satisfaction. By now Joe was fit to explode. He could
contain himself no longer.
Ah for Gods sake will you ...
She started jabbing the Celt at the gadget
said Frank, totalling ignoring his frustrated friend and
no matter what way she did it there was neither kick nor
click out of it. By now the queue behind me had started
to build up and Miss Pony Tail was beginning to get addled.
She turned the paper upside down and inside out and there
still wasnt a sound out of the gadget. She called
for a supervisor. I could sense the impatience that was
beginning to pervade the atmosphere behind me. Enter Miss
Supervisor and she only brimming with confidence. She stood
there facing us. Dont worry folks Ill
have everything sorted out in a jiffy, she announced.
Then she started jabbing the paper up against the gadget.
No use! She went through all the same contortions as Miss
Pony Tail. Nothing happened. Puzzled by her lack of success
she stood back and shook her head. Then the verdict was
pronounced. Its something to do with this damn
She just kept on staring at the front page and suddenly
she let out an unmerciful shriek. For one mad moment I thought
that maybe the Celt had gone pornographic. The
audience behind me held its collective breath.
Its got no bar code! she cried.
No bar code! repeated Miss Pony Tail incredulously.
I thought she was going to faint. This was terrible
news. A newspaper with no bar code. Talk about being caught
with your trousers down. If these damsels had their way
Johnny O Hanlon would end up in jail for five years,
And thats what kept you late, observed
Now you have it. I was late because the Anglo
Celt has no bar code.
Its a bit like the football isnt it Frank?
said Eugene and he winking at the young stranger with the
long hair who was drinking from a bottle at the far end
of the counter.
These days they seem to think that everything is better
because its bigger. I mean a big supermarket doesnt
mean youll get quicker service.
Isnt that just what Im saying, said
Frank. Just because football grounds are bigger doesnt
mean that better football is being played. You never
said a truer word Eugene, said Joe. If you ask
me the state of Gaelic football has never been worse.
Thats a load of crap muttered Long Hair
into the neck of his bottle.
You could hear a pin drop as heads were raised and glasses
lowered. The sound of creaking of stools jarred through
the silence as the elderly duo swung around to face the-lad-from-God-knows-where.
Sure what would you know about it anyway?, said Frank.
You werent even born when the great Cavan teams
were around, added Joe.
Thanks be to God! responded Long Hair.
Uhh... went the astonished onlookers.
The young stranger was living dangerously. To make matters
worse he persisted in the same vein. As bad as the
present team is, theyd run some of the so-called great
Cavan teams off the pitch. Theyre faster, fitter and
much better athletes.
At first the top tipplers were tongue-tied. They had never
encountered such downright insolence. Their collective blood
pressures rose to record readings. Then the dam burst.
Better athletes! Better athletes! Their united
cry of incredulity reverberated around the pub.
Running on race-tracks they should be, roared
Frank because they know nothing about playing football.
A roar of support from the audience greeted this remark.
A goal up for the muppets! Eugene chuckled contentedly.
Long Hair mimicked moodiness.
Are you trying to tell us that the likes of McCabe
and Graham and Jason Reilly would be able to compete with
Higgins, the Gunner, or Tony Tighe? added Joe.
This was more like it. Let him answer that now.
Damn sure I am muttered the longhaired one.
Uhh! went the crowd again.
They do more training. They play on bigger pitches
and they use a gymnasium. Sure that auld Polo Grounds was
no bigger than our backyard.
This was pure unadulterated heresy.
They play intelligent football nowadays. No lobbing
big hay-makers up the pitch and hoping that one of your
own team will catch it.
The young fellow was a gutsy performer. You had to give
him that much. But as far as the muppets were concerned
hed has his innings. Enough was enough, time to bury
him once and for all.
Did yiz hear that? shouted Frank as he turned
and addressed the captivated audience.
Did yiz ever hear such a load of balderdash in your
wholelife? Intelligent football me arse!
A groan of pleasure rose up from the crowd. Now were
thrashing. They dont play football at all these
days. Its shaggin basketball they play, said
The crowd cheered. Two up for the muppets! They were really
getting into their stride now. The youngster was definitely
weakening in the face of this onslaught. He made a lame
and half-hearted attempt to fight back.
Its an attractive passing game they play nowadays
Oh aye, its fierce attractive all right, watching
them passing the ball back to the goalkeeper, shouted
Another cheer from the crowd! It was all one way traffic
The next thing well have is own goals
in gaelic football, added Joe.
Three nil for the muppets! This was total destruction. They
moved in for the kill. The crowd smelt blood. Glasses were
drained in anxious anticipation. Eugene was pouring pints
to his hearts content.
Ill bet you never kicked a football in your
life young fella, said Joe.
The boot was going in now. They were going for the man instead
of the ball. Time for the referee to intervene.
Ah now thats not fair lads, shouted Eugene.
You dont know that. For all we know this young
fella could be ...
In our day cut in Frank we played the
game for the love of it. We had no heated dressing rooms.
It was no bother to us to ...
... change at the side of a ditch, muttered
long hair into his bottle.
The slightly-deaf-in-one-ear-Joe continued on with ... change
at the side of a ditch.
He heard the roar that went up from the crowd and realised
that he had walked into it. Goal to Long Hair! Long hair
now spotted the weakness in the opposing defence. More of
the same was needed. Mimicry of the muppets was now added
to his arsenal.
We had to walk miles to play matches, he said
and youd swear it was Joe who had said it. We
had to walk miles to play matches, echoed The slightly-deaf-in-one-ear-Joe.
Another cheer from the crowd! Now only one goal separated
the combatants. The referee was letting the play flow freely
hoping that this would be to the advantage of the muppets.
They played tough back then, prompted Eugene.
There was no stopping Long Hair now though.
It wasnt tough it was downright dirty,
He was gaining the support of the neutrals in the crowd.
The muppets realised that they would have to call on all
their experience now.
Hard knocks were given and taken, said Joe.
Aye, and now neither of the two can walk properly,
retorted Long Hair.
Shut up you long-haired lout. Go home and get your
Ooh! .... went the audience.
Long Hair winced. That was a dirty tackle. He downed whatever
remained in the bottle, gave a shake of his lengthy locks
and climbed off his stool. For a moment he stood gazing
menacingly at the muppets. The crowd went silent. The elderly
duo shifted uncomfortably on their stools. Then suddenly
he smiled and said Im sorry chaps, much as Id
like to oblige, I cant get it cut. You see we have
a gig tonight. A gig repeated Joe.
Im the lead singer in a group and long hair
is part of our image.
Well I hope you know more about music than you do
about football, said Frank.
Maybe we should be lookin for your autograph,
So tell us, whats your name son, said
My name is Gallagher, Liam Gallagher, he answered.
My brother Noel and I specialise in playing Indy music.
The confusion that registered on the faces of the muppets
brought a ripple of laughter from the crowd. The young lad
was selling dummies all over the place with all this talk
of gigs and Indy music. The muppets
were looking distinctly uncomfortable. They were being brought
out onto the wings and he was much too fast for them out
there. Time to get the ball back to the centre of the field.
You say you name is Gallagher, shouted Joe.
Theres no Gallaghers living around these parts.
Oh Im not for these parts, said Long Hair.
Im from Cootehill. Ah well that
explains it, remarked Frank. Sure they never
knew anything about football in Cootehill.
They roared laughing but the crowd didnt laugh with
them. There was a feeling in the air that the end was nigh.
Long Hair was setting them up for the coups de grace.
Sure even your pair must have heard of my uncle. He
used to play for Cootehill.
Franks mouth opened as he prepared to utter a response.
A collective look of panic appeared on the faces of the
muppet supporters. It was a look that willed him to be silent.
Dont ask! Dont ask! What was
his name? Too late! The young fella swung round and
with a look of triumph shouted ...
Back o the net!
Taken from Breffni Blue