Sunday, December 20, 2009

A bridge too far

When Shels overreached
And were brusquely impeached,
The delight down in Cork was incredible.
They greeted our troubles
By ord’ring large doubles
With a joy that was very near edible.

So, I vowed there and then
If there came a time when
They had spent all the cash in their kitty,
They would quite understand
If I could not command
Any semblance of pity for City.

Revenge, I’ve been told,
Is a dish best served cold
And now Cork are immersed in the doo-doo.
And I’ve laughed at their plight
Every day, every night.
Ah, come on now, me boys, what would you do?

But now comes a rumour
That’s stopped my good humour
And frozen my bones to the marrow.
And my laughter’s been stilled
And my blood has been chilled
As the news hits my brain like an arrow.

Cork have got their desserts,
They’ve been hit where it hurts,
But I’d wish this foul turn on nobody –
A bridge much too far
If the Villagers are
To be further subjected to Roddy.
Just when you think things can't get any worse...
Cork City, massively in debt, their chairman suspended for a year for bringing the game into disrepute, only 5 players on the books, possibly about to be thrown out of next years Europa League and demoted (if the FAI follow the same sanctions they applied to Shelbourne) now find that the ultimate spoofer Roddy Collins has left his job in Malta to come home hoping to take over the reins.
May the Lord have mercy on their souls.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gloom upon gloom

Snatching defeat out of victory’s jaws,
We threw it away once again.
Draws became losses and wins became draws
And all we have left is the pain.

We thought for a while we’d get out on parole
And walk out, head high, from this jail.
But promotion remains an impossible goal
And suddenly we’re looking frail.

Condemned once again to spend twelve months or more
In this cold and despicable prison,
Staring at walls and the cold concrete floor,
While others in here have arisen.

Conditions down here defy human rights,
The rations decidedly meagre
The minutes tick slow in this cold, lonely nights,
When you’re sentenced to be a low-leaguer.
Another season and we lost out on promotion by a whisker again. Its like Captain Scott waiting for the ice to melt so the Terra Firma can sail home only it doesn't and they're forced top spend another winter on the Antarctic ice shelf.

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Epilogue – Where are they now?

Since I finally put the lurid events of the Tolka Murder Mystery down on paper two, nay, three weeks ago, I have been stopped thousands of time both in the street and in my bedroom and asked what became of the main perpetrators of this case that held a nation captivated for six months.
In order to finally lay the matter to rest, I have decided that I shall reveal all. After this, I have taken a solemn oath that never more will talk of these foul deeds pass my lips, though it might of course decide to pass my nose instead.
Dean Delaney, one time suspect for the first two murders, is still under house arrest at Tolka Park for fear that he might be poached by a top Italian club.
Lionel Edward (L.E.) Mentary, the greatest detective in the world who was absolutely no help to DI McBiscuit during the course of the case, is currently on the trail of a missing tiger that was last seen jumping off Rosslare Pier shouting “Sod this for a game of soldiers!” His mission is to recapture the tiger and bring him back to Ireland but the initial prognosis does not look good.
The three victims in the case, John Clapper, Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy and Miroslav Kampanolojyzt, are still dead, though O’Shaughnessy is showing definite signs of improvement. John Clapper’s last request to “bury me not at Wounded Knee” was adhered to by his tearful family and his body was laid to rest in a brown wheelie bin. A bronze plaque erected to the memory of the three men never came to fruition as the money was spent on a trip to Finn Harps instead.
Commissioner Salami, McBiscuit’s superior, received a knighthood for his hand in the case, although he is still trying to attach it to his knight-jacket. It would be unfair to say the award has gone to his head, but he now sits on a solid gold throne and demands to be addressed as ‘Your Excellency.’
John Delaney, who was arrested for the grisly murders, was acquitted on a technicality (lack of evidence) However, the judge in the case sentenced him to between six months and three years (whichever came first) for his haircut.
Liam Buckley, also an initial suspect in the case due to his admission that he gets his hair cut by Stephen Kenny’s ma, is still manager of Lokomotiv Fingal.
Roddy Collins is running a highly profitable painting and decorating business in Bugibba.
Pat Dolan, the underworld mastermind, went on the run after the case. He shed several stone and led reporters on a wild goose chase to Argentina. At first rumours came through that he was lying low in the fields of Athenry but it has since emerged that he may be working for Setanta Sports.
Mrs. Groundsman, wife of the unfortunate suicide victim, lay on her front porch with an arrow in her throat for several weeks until the ambulance came. She was treated for a hernia and discharged. She has since fully recovered and nowadays leads a normal life, though the arrow still hampers her when she goes ducking for apples.
Alan Kelly, who was implicated in the murders because he had a beard, was last heard of running a bed and breakfast in Alicante.
The constable in the case, who infiltrated the club during the investigation, was transferred to Bray Wanderers, where he was voted player of the season by a section of the club’s supporters, despite the fact that he never actually made an appearance. He has currently on trial with Neil Trebble for impersonating a footballer.
As for DI McBiscuit, he got promoted to the rank of Detective Inspector, until they found out that that was what the DI stood for. On the back of the Tolka Murder Mystery, he was called in to help in the Arsenal FC fire tragedy, where he told the press that he suspected it was Arsene. Last seen battening down the hatches of an old suitcase, gasping “Ah, the case is closed.”

Like the poem below, this was produced for the 2nd play off game that never happened, as we lost the first play off game!

The poem that might never be read

Frank’s been told he must put out
A poem for the Friday bout,
Though how is he to know at all
That we’ll get through against Fingal?
The march of time, alas, can’t wait,
Although it seems like tempting fate
To spend time on poetic labours
Before we’ve even played our neighbours.
Logistically, we must assume
We’ve banished our post-season gloom
By raining on Fingal’s parade
(Before the game is even played.)

In order that we get this straight,
I think I should elaborate.
The printer needs the copy quite
A few days prior to Friday night.
You cannot simply send it them
At one or maybe two pm
And hope that they will turn it round
Before the first fan’s in the ground.

So Frank has asked that we should write
Our bits before the Tuesday night,
Though as he says with some dismay,
They might not see the light of day.
So, if anybody’s reading this,
Then Tuesday night was full of bliss
And it’s to our untold delight
We have this match on Friday night.

However, if we lost instead,
This poem will remain unread
And, like a tree that makes no sound
When falling, and no-one around,
It will not matter if it scans
Or rhymes or has metaphors or any of the other things so beloved by poetry fans.
As it happened, Frank never had to produce a programme. Shels lost 2-0 at home to Sporting Fingal in the play offs

A Tolka Murder Mystery

Chapter 13 – The murderer is revealed

“You want to know why I have gathered you all here together?” announced McBiscuit when the puzzled assembly had taken their places in the bar of Tolka Park. “It is simply this, my friends. I intend to reveal the identity of the fiendish murderer who perpetrated these...these...fiendish murders.”
There was an audible gasp of breath from the people sitting at the tables, followed closely by an audible exhalation of breath. Then there was another gasp of breath. This could have gone on all night but McBiscuit held up a restraining hand.
“Murder number one,” he announced. “John Clapper found beneath the roller at Tolka Park. Murder number two, Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy force fed lumps of gravel. Murder number four...”
“Three, sir,” whispered the constable at his side.
“Thank you, constable,” purred the detective, producing a ruler and measuring the constable’s height. “I just wanted to make sure you were on your toes. Murder number three, Miroslav Kampanolojyzt, skewered through the heart by a corner flag. One anonymous letter. One dead groundsman. Now gentlemen, what does all this add up to?”
Slowly, at the back of the room, a hand went up.
“Er, five?” said a hesitant voice.
“Exactly!” continued McBiscuit. All eyes were on him. He looks like a peacock, thought the constable idly, doing a quick piece of embroidery.
“It is clear to me,” went on McBiscuit, clasping his room behind his back and pacing his hands, “that somebody has a grudge against Shelbourne Football Club, a grudge so bitter and so deep that they were prepared to commit three murders, drive a groundsman to suicide and cut up an edition of Nuts. Now, I asked myself, who could possibly bear a grudge so deep that they would be prepared to desecrate a fine cultural magazine simply to try and destroy a football club?”
Among the assembly, eyes darted sideways until they got fed up and returned to their rightful owners. Liam Buckley combed his hair nervously; Pat Dolan studied the bar menu intently; Roddie Collins tried to work out how many tins of matt vinyl it would take to do one wall; Trevor Molloy tried to concentrate on his disallowed goal against Hibernians of Malta (a thought that never ceased to warm his heart); the population of Limerick made sure their knives were in their inside pockets.
McBiscuit stopped in front of a man wearing a false nose, glasses and a dark curly wig. “You, sir,” he cooed. “You have an interest in this case, no?”
In response, the man jumped up and made a dash for the exit but he was intercepted by a plain clothes policeman and a fancy clothes policeman. McBiscuit strode up to him and tore off the wig and dark glasses.
“Ow! That’s my real nose!” he wailed.
There were more gasps of astonishment from the assembled crowd as the familiar face glared angrily around the room.
“Drat! I’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky kids,” he spat, a remark which caused a lot of bewilderment in the room.
“John Delaney, I am arresting you for crimes against hairdressing,” cautioned McBiscuit. “You don’t have to say anything but we’ll be writing your confession anyway, so it doesn’t really matter one way or the other.”
“You’ll never take me alive, copper,” came the growled answer which, again, caused a lot of consternation among the gathering
“How did you ascertain that the suspect was indeed the perpetrator of these effusive, nay, choreographed homicides, detective inspector?” asked an anonymous former Shelbourne manager after the Waterford serial killer had been led away.
“It was simple,” replied McBiscuit. “One only had to see the punishment meted out to Shels for financial shortcomings and then compare them to the leniency shown to other clubs subsequently. It was clear to me, right from the very start that there was an orchestrated campaign to destroy Shelbourne Football Club and it came from the very top.”
“Three cheers for DI McBiscuit!” shouted somebody and the place erupted in a maelstrom of flag-waving and badger baiting. They hoisted the policeman onto their shoulders until they remembered his flatulence problem and put him down again very quickly.
Standing at the back of the room, unimpressed by the unconfined joy all around him, the constable glanced morosely at the League table.
“Now, if we could only get out of this bloody division,” he muttered.

Red red chains

We’re still not certain where next year will find us,
Though probably we won’t be out of debt.
A topsy turvy season lies behind us
And heaven knows, it isn’t over yet.
Will Mother Tolka soon be up to let?
Will we move up to Phibsboro with our minders?
Whatever. We’ll walk on without regret,
United in these red red chains that bind us.

They say that God is very fond of triers,
So why, then, is he not too fond of us?
It seems to be his mission to defy us –
Thwarting must be all he ever does.
His vengeance though will not succeed becuzz
There’s higher things to which this club aspires.
We’ll face the future with the same old buzz,
United in these red red chains that tie us.

Little men queued up with glee and told us
They’ll relish our eventual demise.
Beset by all the debt that did enfold us,
‘Twas hard to separate the truth from lies.
They swarmed around our broken flesh like flies.
Instead of throwing money, they threw boulders.
But slowly and determinedly we’ll rise
United in these red red chains that hold us.

A Tolka Murder Mystery

Chapter 12 – The net closes

It was clear that the groundsman had been so afraid that he had preferred to throw himself in front of a moving train than to reveal the sinister figure behind the three murders. The question, put very succinctly by a passing owl, was Who?
“He’d been acting very strangely of late, as if he were afraid of someone,” said Mrs. Groundsman when DI McBiscuit went around to tell her of her husband’s unfortunate death. “Would you like another bourbon cream?”
McBiscuit leaned forwards. Then he leaned sideways. “Do you know who he was afraid of?” he asked.
“I never saw him,” came the reply. “My husband did however mention a name. He said this person was the most sinister and evil demon one could ever imagine and that I should never utter his name again, not even in a game of charades. His name was aaaaarrrggghhh!”
“Aaaaarrrggghhh!” wrote down McBiscuit assiduously. “Sounds Eastern European. Well thank you, Mrs Groundsman, you’ve been most helpful.” And he stepped over her now lifeless body and the arrow protruding from her throat and marched out of the door.

“Three murders and one suicide,” said McBiscuit, back in his office. “How many games until the end of the season?”
“Five,” answered the constable. “Starting with the game against Athlone on Friday night. Win every match and we get promoted.”
“We must find the murderer before the season ends,” murmured McBiscuit. “Once the season ends, the whole transfer merry-go-round begins again and the trail may go cold.”
“How about a reward for information?” suggested the constable. “Anybody who has any information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrator can pay the police €5,000.” As he finished speaking, he picked up a thumb tack from the floor and looked at it curiously.
“That’s one tack,” replied McBiscuit. “You’re a famous landscape artist, constable. You design the posters.” He looked at the two bits of haddock in his shopping bag. “I, on the other hand, have other fish to fry,” he added mysteriously.

As McBiscuit watched from the stand at Morton Stadium, he noted down two very significant facts. Number one, the Fingal goalkeeper Quigley seemed to be very nervous about his presence and, in fact, allowed a speculative shot from Giller to slip through his arms and into the net, as he scanned the stands to locate the detective. And secondly, there was the curious case of the mysterious disappearance of the ball boys when Fingal were leading.
The constable’s idea of reward posters seemed to bear fruit too, when a large quantity of grapefruit and rhubarb arrived at the station. McBiscuit chewed on his pencil late into the night, digesting these salient facts and indeed the pencil, ceasing only when he had to be taken to the Mater with cramps in his stomach.
“I feel we are near to a resolution,” he said to the constable the following morning.
“Its not New Year already, is it?” asked the constable in alarm. “Don’t tell me I missed Christmas?”
“I want every available man in the force to be in Tolka Park for the Athlone match,” went on McBiscuit briskly. “Let them dress up as Athlone supporters and mingle through both stands.”
“Won’t a large number of Athlone supporters at a Shels match arouse some suspicion, sir?” asked the constable, who was more worldly in the ways of League of Ireland football than his superior.
“Constable, we can’t go on together with suspicion minds. I want you to pack the stands out with blue and black.”
“Yes sir. And will they have to shout for Athlone in strange midlands accents too, sir?”
“Absolutely, constable. I place the diction coach at your disposal.”

The day of the Athlone match dawned, as days have a habit of doing. McBiscuit stretched out in bed as the early morning sunlight flooded in through the window like sunlight flooding in through a window.
“Today’s the day we catch a murderer,” he remarked grimly to the inert figure beside him. “He may think he’s got one over on us but I’ll get two over on him. Maybe even three. They don’t call me Detective Inspector McBiscuit for nothing, you know.”
Beside him, his teddy bear contemplated this last remark but decided not to comment.

Out of the wilderness

Oh Lord, if you’re listening,
Look down with good grace.
The teardrops are glistening
Upon my sad face.
Our enemies may chide us
For dreams built on sand
But Lord, won’t you guide us
To more fruitful land?

My ribcage is bony,
I’ve gotten so thin.
The pathway is stony
And punctures my skin.
There’s nothing to feed us,
My blood runs so hot,
So Lord, won’t you lead us
From this desolate spot?

No water sustains us,
The stomach ache pains us,
The burning sun drains us
Throughout the long day.
In our minds, we are hearing
The promised land cheering
But oh, is it nearing
Or fading away?

We’re punished enough, Lord,
Can’t take any more.
Our feet were once tough, Lord,
But now they’re just sore.
Oh do not forsake us,
Look down on our plight,
Oh Lord, won’t you take us
Back into the light?

A Tolka Murder Mystery

Chapter 11 – A tragic turn of events

The familiar figure of Pat Dolan elbowed aside Hank Marvin and stepped out of the shadows. A sinister leer stretched across his face, skirted his ear and disappeared down his neck.
“How did you get in here?” demanded DI McBiscuit, thoroughly shaken by the sudden appearance of his Number One suspect in his office.
“I am everything and I am nothing,” replied the menacing figure with a laugh that seemed to have started in the bowels of Hell itself. “I am light and dark, ancient and re-born, here and not here...” He stopped as he caught sight of the detective’s raised eyebrow. “Up the back stairs,” he finished lamely.
“Where we you on the nights of the three murders in Tolka Park, Mr. Dolan?” demanded McBiscuit, reaching under the desk for a box of safety pins.
“You can’t pin anything on me,” came the reply. “I was live on Setanta Sports on each occasion.”
“Okay,” growled McBiscuit curtly. “You’re free to go. And put down that pie.”

Commissioner Salami had given DI McBiscuit until the end of the league season to bring the murderer to book and with only nine games to go and a roaring fire in the grate, McBiscuit was beginning to feel the heat.
“I believe we can get this wrapped up before the end of the season,” he told his constable at the morning briefing.
“So do I, sir, providing McAllister doesn’t get injured in the near future,” replied the constable, a remark that McBiscuit brooded upon for several days. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. The constable opened the door and was somewhat startled to find a trouser press sitting in the corridor.
“It’s the press, sir,” he called out.
“Tell them that we expect to make an arrest in the next day or two,” remarked McBiscuit grimly.

A steely look of determination on his boots, McBiscuit strode down Richmond Rd, while the constable skipped along behind, singing “We’re going to make an arre-est, We’re going to make an arre-est.”
“Tell the groundsman I want to see him again,” said McBiscuit. “I’m sure there’s something he isn’t telling us.”
The groundsman, Quasimodo O’Regan, who had been sound asleep since Chapter Five. appeared somewhat annoyed at being woken up and gave McBiscuit dagger looks.
“Thank you, these dagger looks will go very nicely in my herbaceous border,” replied McBiscuit, gathering them up and dropping them carefully into a polythene bag.
“What’s all this about?” said the groundsman. “I’ve a pitch to roll before the UCD game and you know how fussy those students can be. Two inches of grass and they’re claiming subterfuge.”
“I believe there’s something you are not telling us,” answered McBiscuit.
“There’s a lot of things I’m not telling you,” replied O’Regan. “There’s a slight chance that the planet Titan may supoport an oxygen-based atmosphere. Adolf Hitler was a Pats supporter and indeed wrote their theme song. Luke from Bros is currently working as a bus conductor....”
“I mean, about the murders,” interrupted McBiscuit. “Three murders take place under your very nose...No, I don’t mean that literally, you buffoon... and you claim that you know nothing. Well, you don’t fool me. I think we ought to have a little chat down at the station.”

“Why are we here?” asked the groundsman worriedly, as the station master announced the imminent arrival of the express train to Maynooth.
“It bothers you that you have to answer questions on a platform?” shot back McBiscuit craftily.
The groundsman recovered his composure and threw it around his shoulders. “Not at all,” he answered. “It just seems like a dessert with the cream on the bottom and the jelly on the top.”
“A trifle unconventional, you mean?”
“Exactly. But I’ll never tell you anything, despite these surreal surroundings. It’s more than my life’s worth, you see, copper.”
“We can protect you,” said McBiscuit. “We can give you a new identity. Two new identities, even. Set you up in a safe house, even.”
“I’ve seen those safe houses,” growled the groundsman. “You have to remember the combination and they don’t have any windows.”
And jumping up, he shook off McBiscuit’s restraining hand and threw himself in front of the approaching express train.
“I suppose you could say he expressed himself very well,” giggled the constable, as they scraped the remains of the groundsman off the tracks.

The call of promotion

Come all of ye faithful and lets raise the roof,
Don’t sit on your hands and pretend you’re aloof.
Lets cheer on the lads to win ten on the hoof,
And keep the momentum from falling.
Just glance at the table for obvious proof
That promotion is definitely calling.

Come former supporters throughout this fair land,
We need your attendance to pack out the stand.
Help us to generate confidence and
Dispel the dark fears that come crawling.
Don’t sit in your armchair, a beer in your hand
For the voice of promotion is calling.

Come mothers and fathers and set your kids free
From all of that Premiership codology.
Bring them to Tolka and help them to see
That football in Ireland’s enthralling.
Lets hear their young voices cry out joyously
That they feel that promotion is calling.

Come all of ye oul’ lads we hold in esteem
And give up the way that you gripe at the team.
We need to rise up to the top like the cream,
No more to go Sporting Fingalling.
For all of us share the one ultimate dream
And promotion, promotion is calling

A Tolka Murder Mystery

Chapter 10 – A new suspect looms large

After five months, the Tolka Park serial killer still had not been apprehended and the press were having a field day. The Irish Times won the javelin and the shot putt while the man from the Roscommon Herald won the 4 x 400m relay on his own.
DI McBiscuit’s boss, Commissioner Salami was not a happy bunny. In fact he was not a bunny at all, as rabbits have little prospect of rising to any position of eminence in the Garda Siochana.
“Five months!” he yelled, pointing at his egg timer to emphasise the passage of time. “Three murders in five months and we don’t even have a suspect! The press are making us out to look like fools.”
McBiscuit shifted his dunce’s cap nervously. “But sir...” he began.
“I want the murderer behind bars by the end of November,” snapped the Commissioner. “Now, take off that suit and tie and put on these more casual clothes.”

“I’ve just received a dressing down from the Commissioner,” related McBiscuit later. “He says we have until the end of the League Season to find the murderer.”
The constable glanced at the suitcase, hidden in the darkness of the alcove. “L.E. Mentary couldn’t shed any light on the case then, sir?” he sympathised. McBiscuit merely snorted in reply. Then he sneezed.
“Stop that!” he told the constable, who was busy spraying himself with disinfectant. “Can’t a man snort and sneeze these days without people coming over all Howard Hughesy?”
“I’ve been leafing through the files, sir,” said the constable beneath his face mask. “There is one man who hates Shels more than anyone in the whole wide world. And he hasn’t even figured in our investigations yet.”
“Who is it? John Delaney? Bohs till I die? George O’Callaghan?”
“No, sir, even worse.” And he held up a large sinister photograph.
“Urrgghh! That’s horrible, constable. Put it away, immediately. Who is this fiendish ghoul?”
“More of a ghoulish fiend than a fiendish ghoul,” replied the constable. “His name’s Dolan. Pat Dolan.”

“My God! Has this man no morals?” exclaimed McBiscuit, reading the file closely. “He actually tried to pin the blame on a fine upstanding institution like the Post Office? What a cad!”
“Ten years ago, an eminent psychologist described him as a sad man who was perplexed by Shels,” nodded the constable. “Matters came to a head with a vicious attack on him at Tolka Park when he claimed his trousers got splashed with water. There were other incidents. He once tried to kick Owen Heary on the studs while the latter was taking a throw-in. And he nearly broke Pat Fenlon’s leg down in Turners Cross before a match.”
“And why has this man never come on the radar, constable? He seems like a prime suspect to me.”
“Probably too big to fit on the radar, sir. That and the fact that a rumour went around that he had become the coach of Argentinian side Boca Juniors and had left these shores for good.”
After McBiscuit had picked himself up off the floor and wiped the tears from his eyes, he said, “Hmm. Rather like a man leaving his clothes on the beach and pretending he’s committed suicide, eh?”
“Yes sir. We did in fact find his clothes off Bray Head being worn by a sartorial hump back whale. But we have reason to believe that he has changed his appearance radically. He is now the new slimline Pat Dolan, back to almost the same physique as in his playing days. And we believe he is still in the country. Rumour has it that his spirit still stalks the land waiting for vengeance on Shels.”
“Constable, I have lost every wristwatch I own. There is no time to lose. Watch the ports and airports. Watch the bus stops. I want this Dolan alive or dead, whichever is the better for questioning him.”

That night, thousands of “Wanted – dead or alive” posters were put up all across the country. Interpol were contacted as well as MI5, the CIA, Mossad and the Association of Nantucket Lighthouse keepers. Pat Dolan’s image flashed across television screens with the warning not to approach him, particularly if you happened to be carrying pies. Parents of traumatised children complained to RTE when images of him appeared before the watershed.
Alone in a darkened office, McBiscuit clasped the most recent photograph and spoke to it. “Where are you Dolan?” he snorted. Then he sneezed again.
“Will you ever use a tissue, McBiscuit?” came a sinister voice behind him.

Many a slip

There’s many a slip
‘Twixt the cup and the lip,
Though it isn’t the Cup we’re concerned with.
Instead, it’s the League,
And bad luck and fatigue
Are the matches we’re scared to get burned with.

Last year we were flying
And raucously crying
That promotion was ours for the taking.
At the end, though, the sound
That rang out cross the ground
Was the sound of a thousand hearts breaking.

Oh yes, there’ll exist
Doubtless many a twist
‘Ere the fate of the title’s decided.
Last year I was sure,
But ‘twas too premature,
So don’t make the same mistake I did.

Yes there’s many a slip
‘Twixt the League and the lip,
There’s four sides still very much in it.
Of course, we might go
For an nine in a row,
But I don’t believe that for a minute.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Tolka Murder Mystery

Chapter 9 – McBiscuit enlists some help

“What evidence do we have that Sporting Fingal is the murderer?” said D.I. McBiscuit, lighting his sixth cigarette of the morning and placing it in his mouth, alongside the other five.
The constable took out his notebook from his breast pocket and began to read. “Eyebrows too close together, he looks like a murderer and we don’t have anybody else, sir” he said.
In reply, McBiscuit kicked his cardboard suitcase across the room until it fell apart.
“Hardly the strongest case we’ve ever had,” he mused. “Constable, get me Lionel Edmund Mentary on the phone.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“L.E. Mentary, my dear constable. Ireland’s most famous private eye and a pretty well-known public one too. He has the brain the size of a planet and a backside of similar proportions.” He glanced over at his suitcase, half-hidden in the shadows. “Maybe he can throw some new light on this case.”

“That’s not quite what I meant,” said McBiscuit, as Lionel Mentary trained a spotlight on the suitcase. The great detective was something of an enigma, tall but short of stature, dark skinned and pale, anorexicallly overweight.
“Have you taken his fingerprints?” he asked in a voice that was both loud and soft.
“Yes but we had to give them back,” replied McBiscuit moodily. “The European Court of Human Rights ruled that he was entitled to them.
“I see,” said Mentary. He sat back and closed his eyes and pressed his fingers together. Then he closed his fingers and pressed his eyes together. Eventually he spoke. “Three murders, you say, and yet you do not have a single clue. Does that not strike you as odd?”
“We do have a clue,” said Mentary, producing a plastic bag from his inside pocket.
“Good Lord, what is it?”
“It’s a plastic bag,” replied McBiscuit impatiently. “However, look what’s inside it.”
“Mon Dieu, is that..?”
“Correct. It’s a blade of grass. We found it on the Tolka Park pitch shortly after the third murder.”
“And its significance?”
“Not sure yet. But as clues go, I think it’s a pretty good one.”
“Very well!” cried the great detective. “I think we must go down and view the crime of the scene!”
“The, erm, scene of the crime?”
“Yes, that too!” He slapped McBiscuit gently on the ear. He looked at the big rip in the side of McBiscuit’s suitcase. “Do not worry, my friend,” he said cajolingly. “Lionel Mentary will have this case sewn up before you can translate the books of the Old Testament into Cornish.”

At Tolka Park, Mentary did some more pressing and closing, while McBiscuit got cracking on Genesis. Eventually the two met up outside the tunnel.
“The pitch is in great shape,” said Mentary. “Rectangle. I like that. Tell me, has anyone disturbed the crime scene area since the last murder.”
“Only the players, I think. And the groundsman, the physio, the manager, the backroom staff, the players of Millwall, Leeds, Sporting Fingal and Finn Harps, referees and assistant referees. Other than that, no-one.”
“Excellent,” replied Mentary. “And you say the first victim was found beneath the roller over there. The second victim was found hanging from the goalpost over there. And the third was found beneath the corner flag over there.”
“You have it,” said McBiscuit. “Is that important?”
“But of course, my friend. Do you not see? The three bodies form a triangle.”
McBiscuit slapped his forehead. Then he slapped Mentary’s forehead. “Of course!” he said. “Why did I not see that?” And he leapt high in the air and jumped down on top of himself.
“You should not come down so hard on yourself, my friend,” said Mentary. “It is not for nothing that I am known as the Greatest Detective in Ireland. Now, you say the first murder took place in March, the second in May and the third in July?”
“Yes,” said McBiscuit excitedly.
“Then I think you should have the bodies removed,” said Mentary, sniffing the air like a bloodhound. “They are starting to smell a bit. Besides, I hear the body dangling from the crossbar stopped a Bisto lob against Finn Harps. That could prove vital at the end of the season.”
“And the murderer? Who do you think it is?”
In reply, the great detective removed the sheaf of papers from McBiscuit’s hand and leafed through them. “Not so fast, my good friend,” he said eventually. “Firstly, you have only got as far as Deuteronomy. And secondly, I think you may have made an error with the past participle of the verb ‘to catch someone offside.’”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We’re papering over the cracks

We’re papering over the cracks,
Absolving undisciplined backs.
We’re blaming the ref in
An orgy of effin’
And turning the vol to the max.

We failed to demolish Athlone
Because we are accident-prone.
But to that, we’re quite deaf,
We’ll just blame the damned ref
And hide our faults under a stone.

Decisions square out in the end.
On that, every fan can depend.
But we’ll play the poor victim
And the ref? We’ll depict him
As someone who’s not a true friend.

We’ll pretend we should win every game
If the ref treats the two sides the same.
But if things turn out wrong,
Sure it won’t be too long
‘Ere we single him out for the blame.

Yes, we’re papering over the cracks
With loud, vitriolic attacks
Let’s hope our myopia
Doesn’t get too much ropier
Or we’ll certainly come off the tracks.

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter Eight – A deadly foe

“Read all about it! Read all about it! Another murder at Tolka!” yelled the lovable barefooted street urchin.
D.I. McBiscuit fished deep in the inside pocket of his diving suit and handed the boy a euro.
“Thanks, guv, you can read all about it on the internet.”
Commissioner Salami was waiting in McBiscuit’s office, when the latter arrived, an open copy of a newspaper sprawled out on the desk. “I see you’ve eaten my fish and chips, sir,” said McBiscuit. “I hope it was nice.”
“Never mind the fish and chips,” said Salami, his lips wafer-thin. “What’s this about another murder at Tolka Park? This is beginning to look like an epidemic.”
In reply, McBiscuit hopped up onto a battered old suitcase in the corner of the room. “A forty year old male Caucasian,” he said. “At the moment we’re trying to trace his relatives in Caucasia. Early reports suggest he may have been a vegetarian, so we’re checking with the foreign office in Vegetaria too.”
“D.I. Mc Biscuit, sir?” came the puzzled reply. “Don’t you remember me? I accidentally threw up over your wife at the office party.”
“Listen laddie,” said Salami, standing in the fireplace. “I’m starting to feel the heat. If you don’t solve this soon, I’m taking you off the case.”
“Oh please don’t sir. I like it up here.”

At the scene of the crime, the constable professed he couldn’t bear to look and turned away to finish his slice of chocolate cake. Skewered through the heart by a corner flag, the late Miroslav Kampanolojyzt lay motionless, as dead men often do, inside the corner quadrant at the Ballybough end of the ground.
“Kampanolojyzt? That name seems to ring a bell,” mused McBiscuit. “My, look at his sharp pointed side teeth and his Transylvanian passport.” He picked up a herring, lying beside the body.
“This looks fishy,” he said. “Constable, take this away for fingerprints.” He pointed at an old trouser press standing in the six yard box. “And keep the press away,” he added.
“Three murders at Tolka Park,” he said to himself. “John Clapper, Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy, Miroslav Kampanolojyzt. What is the connection between them?”
“Sure beats the hell out of me,” he answered. “What do you reckon yourself?”
“Well,” he countered. “They all died gruesomely.”
“My aunt died gruesomely,” interrupted the constable. “She was strangled by two Amazonian Tree Creepers. She’d never had tree creepers before and I suppose it was her own fault that she gruesome.”
“Who stands to gain from these deaths?” persevered McBiscuit.
“Sporting Fingal, sir,” replied the constable with alacrity.
“Put that alacrity away, constable,” said McBiscuit sternly. “This is no time for soft-boiled sweets. Now, why do you say this Fingal person stands to gain from these deaths?”
“Oh, he’s not a person, sir,” replied the constable with venom. “He’s a franchise. A menacing, shadowy figure that stalks the land putting the fear of death into the ordinary football supporter.”
“Good God, he sounds a sinister figure. Where does he live?”
“Live?” shrieked the constable and was convulsed by hysterical laughter. “Live? He doesn’t live anywhere? He is a child of the night, flitting from one dark alley to the next. Some say he never sleeps for his soul cannot be at rest until he has crushed every other football club out of existence. They seek him here, they seek... Er, Santry, sir.”
DI McBiscuit poured a packet of salt and vinegar over his head. “Very good,” he said crisply. “Then we will go to Santry.”

“I know nothing, I tell you,” said Sporting Fingal gruffly, as he bent over the wash hand basin, washing the blood off his hands. “And kindly remove that safety pin and piece of paper. You can’t pin anything on me.”
McBiscuit paced the floor. Then he paced the wall. “Do the names John Clapper, Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy and Miroslav Kampanolojyzt mean anything to you, sir?”
“The names all ring a bell,” replied the franchise warily. “Why what have they done?”
“They’ve all been murdered, that’s what they’ve done,” replied McBiscuit. “Where were you on the night in question?”
“What’s the night in question?” came back the reply.
“Oh you’re good,” purred McBiscuit. “But we’ll have you, Fingal. Mark my words, we’ll have you.”
Sporting Fingal marked McBiscuit’s words with a big black marker but fell silent. Then he got up again silent. Finally he spoke.
“There are people behind me,” he whispered. “No, not literally, you idiot. I’m advising you to back off. For your own good.” And he took a custard cream from the packet and crushed it in his fist.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In search of the perfect ten

As almost every Shels fan owns,
We don’t know much ‘bout Bray Unknowns.
Unknown by nature and by name,
To Shelbourne fans, their only fame
Is that we stuffed them once nine - nil,
A score that’s on our records still.
And though the years have flown since then,
We’ve never notched a perfect ten.

But recently we thought at last
That nine – nil score would be surpassed,
When Mervue came to Tolka Park
And Shels ran riot in the dark.
Six – nil up on fifty eight,
We thought our eighty three year wait
To see a wondrous tenth recorded
Was finally to be rewarded.

But no, the record petered out,
Becoming just a sev’n goal rout
And Mervue lost their chance to be
A part of Shelbourne’s history.
But deep down, I’m quite pleased that Bray
Unknowns will fight another day,
For, when the record’s overthrown,
They really will become unknown.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The rare oul’ times

Raised on songs and stories,
Heroes of renown,
The passing tales and glories
Before we were struck down.
We can’t afford detergents
To spray the terrace weeds,
But still we crave resurgence
For Shelbourne and for Leeds.

Weekly pantomimes
I remember Leeds and Shelbourne
In the rare oul’ times.

Oh where did Eddie Gray go,
Paul Reaney and Mick Bates?
And Sheridan and Geogho,
Along with Stephen Yeates?
The older fans remember
And whisper mighty deeds
Of Bobby Browne and Bremner
For Shelbourne and for Leeds.

Weekly pantomimes
I remember Leeds and Shelbourne
In the rare oul’ times.

Clarke and Jones play nightly
When Elland Road is dark.
Ben Hannigan looks spritely
And glides ‘cross Tolka Park.
The prayer-books need re-braiding,
Replace those worry beads,
For the ghosts are slowly fading
At Shelbourne and at Leeds.

Weekly pantomimes
I remember Leeds and Shelbourne
In the rare oul’ times.

The years have made me bitter
But still I come as planned
And watch the wind-strewn litter
That blows across the stand.
I watch the clubs endeavour
To nurture fertile seeds
And yes, I’ll cheer forever
For Shelbourne and for Leeds.

Weekly pantomimes
I remember Leeds and Shelbourne
In the rare oul’ times.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter Seven – McBiscuit sets a trap

With a legal zeal that would have had the late Ollie Byrne drooling in admiration, Shelbourne’s solicitors quickly secured the release of goalkeeper Dean Delaney, arguing that the police had not a shred of evidence to link the giant goalkeeper to the double murder.
The move did not go down well with DI McBiscuit, who was now back to square one. Broodingly, he handed the stone to his constable who immediately threw it onto square nine and hopped and scotched up to that number with whoops of delight.
“Constable, I want you to conduct door to door enquiries of every road in the neighbourhood,” said McBiscuit decisively. “And don’t just ask the doors – ask the people behind them too. Somebody must have seen something.”
“Right away, sir,” replied the constable. “Can I go for the ten now, sir?”
While the constable was away, McBiscuit leaned back in his chair and chewed his pencil thoughtfully. When this didn’t work, he leaned back in his pencil and chewed his chair. He closed his eyes to concentrate his thoughts and promptly fell asleep.
“Nothing to report, sir,” said the constable, entering the office several hours later. “Not one hall door saw anything. You had any luck, sir?”
“I have been using the little grey cells,” replied the DI enigmatically.
“You mean, the ones we keep our suspects in, sir?”
“No, you fool. The grey cells of the mind. I think in order to catch our murderer, we have to set a little trap.”
“Not allowed to do that anymore, sir. The animal rights people won’t allow it. They say it’s inhumane.”
“But we’re the police,” said McBiscuit. “We’re allowed to do anything we like, aren’t we?”
McBiscuit had his way and at the next Shelbourne home game, which happened to be against a team called Crumlin United, a posse of crack undercover police officers mingled unobtrusively with the home supporters in the two stands. A discerning eye might have noticed their police helmets bulging beneath their red and white bobble hats and the smell of eau-de-Bridewell aftershave was quite overpowering for some but any suspicion they aroused was immediately dispelled by their loud comments that the team should keep the ball on the ground and that Bisto would probably get a hat-trick.
McBiscuit walked around the two sides of the pitch, a posse of armed police in his wake. Occasionally he talked into his sleeve and seemed quite surprised when his sleeve answered back. When the teams came out onto the pitch, he ostentatiously turned to face the crowd, his shrewd eyes scanning the faces before him for any trace of panic, his nose alert to the smell of fear, the hairs on his chin bristling like antennae.
The first half came and went, as first halves often do. “When are we going to spring the trap, sir?” asked the constable, practising beating people with his truncheon.
“We’ll leave the stew simmering for a while longer,” replied McBiscuit briskly, licking the wooden spoon and adding a handful of chives.
As the second half began, McBiscuit’s razor sharp instincts could feel the nervousness in the crowd begin to grow until it became a NERVOUSNESS. He smiled, yet it was a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, mainly because he couldn’t get his lips up that far. “Just a while longer,” he muttered to himself. “Don’t leave it too long,” advised his sleeve.
Halfway through the second half, McBiscuit decided the time was ripe. He pointed an accusatory finger at his earlobe, the pre-arranged signal to the PA announcer, and informed his sleeve to keep a watch out for anybody leaving the ground in a hurry.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” intoned the PA, during the next break in play. “A bloodstained knife has been found in the ground. Will the owner please pick it up from in front of the new stand?”
A hush went through the ground. McBiscuit’s head swivelled right and left. Curiously his body stayed where it was. A man rose in the new stand; a family started to come down the steps in Section A; a whole gang of oul’ fellers started trooping out of Section D muttering about Ben Hannigan.
McBiscuit’s sleeve breathlessly reported that at least a hundred people were heading towards the exit and wanted to know what to do. His head swam, first the crawl, then flipping over and doing the backstroke.
“Constable!” he yelled. “What is happening? Are they all in it together?”
“They’re in it right enough, sir,” replied the constable. “Crumlin have just scored.”

Taking it on the chin

When you lose a game that’s easier to win,
When the underdogs wipe off your foolish grin,
You wish that you possessed a thicker skin,
But have to take it staunchly on the chin.

Undone by one small lapse in discipline
That sees the ball despairingly roll in.
As, all around, detractors make a din,
There’s naught to do but take it on the chin.

The final whistle puts you in a spin,
The yan is ripped asunder from the yin.
You think you might become a Capuchin.
No hiding place – just take it on the chin.

The doubts about reality begin,
The line ‘twixt black and white grows pencil thin,
The punishment, it seems, outweighs the sin –
Sometimes its hard to take it on the chin.

The gutter ball has sailed past every pin
And dreams of gold have turned too rusty tin
By one false bounce that ricocheted off shin.
What else to do but take it on the chin?

Betting slips despatched unto the bin
And, serving you another shot of gin,
The barman asks you for your next of kin.
But no.
You simply take it on the chin.

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter Six – McBiscuit makes an arrest

DI McBiscuit’s cunning plan to have his constable infiltrate Shelbourne Football Club disguised as Neil Dubble, a recent signing from St. Albans, seemed to be bearing, not only fruit, but some vegetables and dairy products too.
McBiscuit had been afraid that the constable, the possessor of two size thirteen left feet, might not have pulled it off as a semi-professional footballer, but he slotted into the back four quite nicely and even made the sub’s bench on a couple of occasions.
Inside the dressing room, the constable kept his ear to the ground until people told him to get up. He would pretend to be tying his bootlace when other people were talking on the phone. Sometimes, for a bit of variation, he would pretend to be talking on the phone when other people were tying their bootlaces.
“I want you to watch everyone like a hawk,” McBiscuit had instructed him and the constable took him at his word, sitting on the lampshade for hours with a mouse between his toes.
Naturally, talk of the two murders at the club was rife with many of the players speculating as to the murderer’s identity. For some reason, goalkeeper Dean Delaney had been singled out as the most likely suspect, after Mark O’Brien had commented on his “big strangling hands.”
During training one morning, the constable suddenly clutched his calf muscle in apparent agony and limped off painfully in the direction of the dressing rooms.
“Brilliant ruse,” thought McBiscuit, watching from Section E through a pair of binoculars. “That boy’s going to go far.”
Once inside the dressing room, the constable’s limp miraculously disappeared and he felt under the bench for Dean Delaney’s kit bag. Hurriedly, he pulled open the zip, took one look at the contents and closed it up again.
“I think you’d better come and have a look at this, sir,” he said through the tiny microphone strapped to his left nipple. “And bring some back up.”
Seconds later, seventeen combat vehicles burst through the Tolka Park gates, discharging almost two hundred highly-trained marines onto the playing surface. As the players made a run for the tunnel, the sky grew black with paratroopers descending from unseen aircraft and an aircraft carrier positioned itself behind the Riverside Stand to cut off any means of escape.
“Would you mind opening your kitbag, sir?” McBiscuit asked the tall goalkeeper in the comparative quiet of the dressing room. There was a quiet menace in his eyes and a definite sense of threat in his left ear.
Dean Delaney bit his lip nervously. Then he chewed his nose. Suddenly, and with a sense of defiance, he strode over to his kit bag, yanked open the zip and stood back.
Like a cat circling a trapped mouse, McBiscuit slowly meandered over to the kit bag, thrust his hand inside and pulled out a potted geranium. There were loud gasps of astonishment from all present and even from some who weren’t.
“It’s a plant, I tell you!” the goalkeeper yelled. He tried to make a run for it but Daisy Hedderman slid in recklessly and sent him flying. The constable whipped out some thread and a needle and meticulously sewed the keeper’s arms behind his back.
“You’ve stitched me up good and proper,” snarled the net minder savagely.
“Take him away,” said McBiscuit, almost purring. Then he lifted up his leg and licked himself gratifyingly.
“I don’t get it sir,” said the constable afterwards over a large blackcurrant on the rocks. “What was his motive?”
“What’s a motive?” asked McBiscuit cautiously.
“The reason why he did it, sir. You need to prove he had a motive.”
“I do?” said McBiscuit blankly. “When did that rule come in? Surely the geranium is all the proof we need?”
“Don’t think so, sir. How exactly does the geranium prove his guilt anyway?”
“Oh, I suppose we need to prove his guilt now?” shot back the DI. “Take my word; he’s as guilty as hell. But just to be on the safe side, you’d better get back inside the dressing room and see if you can get me the proof.”
“Sorry, sir. Can’t do that, sir,” said the constable. “The manager’s after transferring me to Bray Wanderers.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Losing to Bohs

It isn’t quite the deepest of our woes,
It’s somewhat untraumatic, I suppose,
To lose a League Cup fixture to the Bohs.

At other times we’ve writhed in fevered throes,
Shivering from our temples to our toes,
Assailed by hosts of bitter-minded foes
Like ghoulish rooks and sombre hooded crows,
That from the seeds of jealousy arose
When we were overstretched. And goodness knows,
Within the scheme of things, defeat to Bohs
Just merits one small line of sorry prose
Upon the tide of fortune’s ebbs and flows.
Sometimes you lose. And that’s the way it goes
And, beaten in the League Cup by a nose
Won’t count as one of Shelbourne’s deepest lows,
For, though we’re feeling somewhat bellicose
That things did not turn out the way we chose,
We shouldn’t stir unduly in repose,
But lie abed, at peace and comatose,
Saving stress for far more fiercer blows
Than losing in the League Cup versus Bohs.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter Five

“Let us recap, constable,” said DI McBiscuit. “Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy and John Clapper were both murdered in Tolka Park. Now what is the connection between the two?”
“They’re both dead, sir,” replied the constable smartly.
McBiscuit knitted his eyebrows. Then he crocheted his moustache and wove his nasal hair.
“It’s a very violent underworld that we find ourselves in, constable,” he said. “There’s plenty of attacking football, killing the game off, stabbing balls home, shooting on sight, fighting to the death, burying the ball in the back of the net and murdering a pint. It’s a wonder there aren’t more fatalities.”
Suddenly the phone rang. The constable picked it up, listened for a few seconds and then handed it to McBiscuit. “It’s for you, sir,” he said.
“Thank you, constable,” said the DI, stuffing the phone into his pocket. “Now let’s get down to Tolka and see if we can nab ourselves a suspect.”

The groundsman was clearly puzzled. “I am clearly puzzled,” he said, removing his cap and scratching the back of his head.
“Is that better?” asked McBiscuit, scratching the parts of his head that the old man couldn’t reach.
“Thank you, officer. It’s all much clearer now.”
Forensics had come up with the conclusion that the latest murder victim, Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy, far from having been hung, drawn and watered, as initial examinations had suggested, had died from being force fed shovelfuls of gravel. And then hung, drawn and watered.
“So you are saying there was a pile of gravel here a few days ago?” queried McBiscuit, pointing down at a particularly gravel-free piece of concrete by the side of the New Stand.
“Yes, sir,” said the groundsman. “Can’t fathom it?”
“Maybe the victim was made to swallow all of it?” suggested the constable.
“I don’t think so,” murmured McBiscuit. “He’d have been too heavy to hang from the crossbar. Besides the chief pathologist said there was only enough gravel in his stomach to build a small path from his patio to the shed.”
“Maybe there was some more lodged in his… What’s the name of that canal that goes right through your stomach, sir?”
“Alimentary, my dear constable. No there was none found there.”
“But why would anyone want to steal a mound of gravel, sir?”
“To hide the evidence, of course. The question is – where would they hide it?”
“Maybe they scattered it all over the pitch, sir?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, constable. This is the League of Ireland. Nobody would dream of spreading gravel over a football pitch.”

“We have one victim flattened by a roller and another one force fed small stones, constable. What does that tell us about our murderer?”
“That he’s a member of the Rolling Stones, sir?”
“Too easy, constable. Though it could be someone is trying to frame a member of the band. Find out where Charlie Watts was last Friday, will you?” McBiscuit placed a suitcase on a chair and then squatted down in the corner of the room, staring at it intently.
“We need to look at this case from a different perspective, constable,” he continued. “I think we need to call the manager in for questioning.”
“Surely you don’t suspect him, sir?”
“Listen, constable. Has he, or has he not, got a gravelly voice?”
“So has Rod Stewart, sir. And Bonnie Tyler.”
“Then bring them all in for questioning, constable. Let’s see what they’ve got to say for themselves.”
Although she had no alibi, Bonnie Tyler’s assertion that she was lost in France at the time of the first murder was accepted by McBiscuit. Similarly, Rod Stewart’s defence that he had been off sailing seemed to be verified when he produced a mackerel from his trouser pocket.
And despite the constable’s suggestion that they might all be “in it together,” the manager’s blunt statement that he had thirty witnesses to the fact that he was on the team bus to Galway at the time of the second murder seemed to make further questioning unnecessary.
“Who shall I call in next, sir?” queried the constable. “BB King? Bryan Adams? Maybe Janis Joplin?”
In reply, the DI jumped off the merry-go-round. “We’re just going around in circles, constable,” he stated impatiently. He pushed a thumb tack into the wall and watched it fall out again. “I think we ought to try a new tack, constable,” he said. “I want you to go to Tolka Park and pretend to be a new player recently signed from St. Albans or somewhere like that. I want you to be my eyes and ears inside that football club.
“And, while you’re at it, give yourself a ridiculous name. How about Neil Dubble?”

Of football pitches and gravel

In life, there’s things,
Like Lords and Rings,
That seem to go together.
Wingers, crosses,
Foul mouths, bosses,
Bank Holidays, crap weather.
Whiskey, soda,
Shoes and odour,
A district judge and gavel,
But two distinct
Things are not linked –
A football pitch and gravel.

Columbus sailed,
His ship prevailed,
But nowhere could he berth it.
Poor Scott toiled on
Till hope was gone –
The journey wasn’t worth it.
Useless trips
On skis, on ships –
But who would think to travel
To Donegal
To watch a ball
Get punctured on the gravel?

A dead-eyed sleuth
Seeks out the truth
And clears up any mystery.
From Holmes to Morse,
They oft recourse
To precedents in history.
But no event
Or incident
Can help us to unravel
The clue that showed
Why someone sowed
A football pitch with gravel.

From RTE Sport 1st May 2009

"Finn Harps' home fixture with Shelbourne was postponed tonight after match referee Tommy Connolly deemed the Finn Park playing surface too dangerous.
Connolly conducted his pre-match pitch inspection in the company of his assistants Terence Moyne and Pat McLaughlin, and after mulling over the state of the pitch for 25 minutes, decided that 'in the best interests of the safety of both sets of players it was not safe to play the game'.
In an attempt to dry out their muddy playing surface, in the fortnight between their last home game against Waterford United game and tonight's visit of Shelbourne, Harps officials spiked 80 tonnes of sand into the pitch.
On his inspection, Connolly was unhappy with small gravel-type stones that were mixed into the sand, and after consulting with his assistants and making a call to the league authorities, postponed the game an hour before kick-off.
No date for the rescheduled fixture has been decided on."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Horribly wrong

The oasis has shrunk as the sand dunes encroach.
The nomads move on with no word of reproach.
The farmers still struggle to till the dry land
But can’t call a halt to the onrushing sand.

The night has extinguished the clear light of day.
The walls of the temple begin to decay.
The firm fleshy tubers lie blackened and dry
Upon the proud furrows that plead with the sky.

Suddenly all has gone horribly wrong,
Since two weeks ago when the Reds were on song.
The summer rain flees from the drought from the north
And from top position, we’ve now slipped to fourth.

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter 4 – Of murder and marmalade
Even a hardened detective like McBiscuit was so upset at the sight that greeted their eyes in Tolka Park that he could barely finish his third packet of Hunky Dory’s.
From the crossbar at the Ballybough end dangled the lifeless body of a man (“between twenty and ninety” noted McBiscuit carefully), a taut Shels scarf from the Deportivo era wound around his neck. Beneath him lay a puddle of water, drops still cascading off the ends of his trousers. A watering can lay in the vicinity like a nearby watering can. On the penalty spot stood an easel.
McBiscuit glanced at the sheet of paper on the easel. It was a charcoal and pen drawing of the scene, composed of bold strokes that hinted at authority yet captured pithily the pathos of the scene with its undercurrents of social exclusion and otherness.
“What are your thoughts, constable?” said McBiscuit with a sharp intake of breath.
“They mainly revolve around a Swedish air hostess and a jar of marmalade, sir,” responded the constable warily, with a sharp out-take of breath, which McBiscuit in-took quickly.
“Do we know who the dead man is?”
“Yes, sir. He’s the victim.”
The D.I. felt the dead man’s wrist. “I’m sure there was no dead body here at the last home match,” he mused wistfully. “The assistant referee would surely have noticed it when the netting was checked. I therefore deduce that the crime was committed since then.”
“But the watering can, sir?” asked the constable. “And the charcoal and pen drawing of the scene, composed of bold strokes that hint at authority yet capture pithily the pathos of the scene with its undercurrents of social exclusion and otherness?”
McBiscuit stroked his chin. Then he stroked the constable’s chin. He moved to the edge of the penalty area and squatted down, holding his arm out in front of him like an amateur golfer pretending to know what he is doing. Then with a triumphant “Aha!” he whipped the unabridged copy of the Encyclopaedia Hibernica out of his inside pocket and leafed excitedly through volume eighteen.
“Got it!” he yelled, his finger pressed to the page. “The easel. The watering can. This explains everything. Constable, it appears our man here is the first recorded case in four hundred years of somebody who has been hung, drawn and watered.”

The dead man was eventually named as Quasimodo O’Shaughnessy. “Bit late in the day to be naming him,” spat McBiscuit caustically. “That should have been done when he was born. Imagine the poor chap going through life without a name.”
“Quasimodo?” mused the constable. “That name seems to ring a bell.”
McBiscuit strode to the filing cabinet and pulled out a file. Carefully he manicured his finger nails with it.
“Seems he was a bit of a Shels groupie,” he said. “Always hanging around Tolka Park. Bit of a hanger-on. Used to phone up the club and then hang up. Used to hang out in a hangar out in Baldonnell, eating hang sandwiches. I can’t help thinking that somewhere there’s a connection between his lifestyle and the way that he died.”
“I’ve taken statements from everyone at the club as you instructed,” said the constable, whipping out his notebook.
“Anything curious?” answered McBiscuit, sitting up, all ears.
“Well, just one thing,” said the constable, glancing nervously at the vast collection of ears in front of him. “It appears that many people think that peanut butter would spread better than marmalade.”
“I see, constable,” pondered the D.I. doubtfully. “And the case?”
The constable glanced down at the suitcase he was standing on.
“I’m on it, sir,” he announced.

“Another Murder at Tolka!” trumpeted the headline in the Independent. “What is McBiscuit doing?” clarinetted the Irish Daily Mail. “Playboy Sex-Swap Pig Farmer was my Gay Lover!” glockenspieled the Sun.
The newspapers lay on the desk of Commissioner Salami. In front of him, McBiscuit stood in an old shirt and work trousers, having been given a good dressing down. Commissioner Salami scrunched up the newspapers and flung them on the fire. The flames soared.
“You may call me Kildare County. I need results!” he hissed at McBiscuit. “I’m beginning to feel the heat.”
“Yes sir. We are following a definite line of enquiry, sir.”
“And what might that be?”
“We are asking everybody if they committed the murders and watching their eyes carefully, sir.” Suddenly McBiscuit let his suitcase slip but managed to catch it before it hit the ground.
The Commissioner appeared mollified. “Very well. You appear to have the case under control. Carry on.”
As McBiscuit turned to go, the Commissioner added, “And tell your constable that I’m partial to a bit of apricot jam myself.”

Mrs Ingle, please pray tell

Mrs Ingle, please pray tell
(For my nerves are shot to hell)
Tell me how young Wesley’s doing over there?
Is he pining for his home
Far away o’er sea and foam?
Is he getting any tender loving care?

There were times he seemed so small,
Defenders shrugged him off the ball,
Maternal instincts flared with every foul
And the day he went away
We begged him on our knees to stay,
As his forlorn figure chilled us to the bowel.

Up to Livingstone he went,
Where the poor wee wretch then spent
A lot of time out injured eating porridge.
Then to Blackpool where his skill
Mesmerised the fans until
Money talked and off he went to Norwich.

We had heard that your last coach
Utilised the wrong approach
To get the best from players such as Wes.
But it seems our darling son
Is now on something of a run,
At least that’s what a friend in Wymondham says.

Yes we miss him very much,
Miss that feint and great first touch.
Since he went away we haven’t been the same.
And of course we wish him well
But Mrs. Ingle, please pray tell
Do you think that he will make it in the game?
(The following reply was received by Norwich City poet SB Ingle on the website)

Greeting Pete: Carrow Road: Chez Wes


Hoolahan could be a hero

A fans favourite elsewhere

He's been slow to settle in

But now he's reaching for fifth gear

Wes is only five foot six

We play "little man - little man"

Strike force rubbish aerially

We need a cunning plan

Cureton is five foot eight

Our attack is lacking height

We need a leg-up to climb the league

The bottom rungs in sight!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter 3 – The Murderer Strikes Again

The discovery of the body of football triallist John Clapper beneath the roller at Tolka Park had caused quite a stir at Shelbourne Football Club. This was never more apparent than in the game against Limerick FC, when DI McBiscuit insisted that the murder scene remain cordoned off and the players were told to avoid the ten yard square area of pitch at the Ballybough end.
The receipt of a sick letter from the murderer had given McBiscuit a lead but unfortunately when he followed it up there was a vicious Jack Russell on the other end of it and he had to run into the local Spar to evade its snapping jaws.
Back in the office, the constable patiently explained to McBiscuit that the phrase “being on trial at Shels” did not have criminal implications.
Somewhere over the city, a clock struck ten times.
“I have a feeling he will strike again,” said McBiscuit.
“No, sir,” said the constable, checking his watch. “It’s only ten o’clock.”
“No, the murderer, I mean. I have a definite hunch.”
“Oh, it’s not so bad when you stand in profile, sir,” offered the constable.
McBiscuit suddenly strode over to the fridge, flung open the door and pulled out a battered old suitcase. He felt it carefully. “The case is growing cold, constable,” he announced mournfully.
“Yes, sir. What we really need is another murder, I suppose.”

It was a glorious sunny day as the squad car drove through the town of Athenry, heading westwards.
“Look at the way those free birds are flying,” murmured McBiscuit. “Curious, eh?”
“It’s a result of the prevailing geographical phenomena, sir,” answered the constable. “They’ve no need to fly particularly high because, as you see, the surrounding fields lie very low.”
The journey had begun earlier in the day when, as a result of secret surveillance, several of the major suspects of the murder had been seen to board the same bus in Dublin.
“Maybe they are all in it together?” surmised McBiscuit, as the bus left the Pale. “Did you ever see Murder on the Orient Express?”
“Or maybe it’s the team bus and the players are on their way to Terryland Park to play Mervue United,” replied the constable, a remark which had the DI brooding darkly for an hour or more until he found that brooding lightly was more comfortable.
The constable’s suggestion proved correct and the bus disgorged its plethora of players outside the revamped Terryland. McBiscuit watched them closely as they alighted but was disappointed that none wore the tell-tale signs of a murderer, except perhaps Alan Keely, whose beard immediately marked him out as a person of ill repute.
“Just a moment, driver,” said McBiscuit curtly, flashing his wallet as he ascended the steps.
“Your Dunnes Stores Club card?” replied the driver evenly.
McBiscuit flicked his wallet open again and this time proffered his police badge. The driver shrugged and the two men walked down the bus.
“What are we looking for exactly, sir?” asked the constable.
“Clues, constable, clues!” came the curt rejoinder. “Honestly we’ll never make a detective out of you.”
He stopped suddenly and bent down and picked up a copy of Nuts from the coach floor. “A forestry magazine,” he said, reading the title. He flicked through a few pages. “Good Lord, constable!” he uttered. “What do you make of this?”
Pages six and seven were full of holes as though somebody had cut letters out of the articles in order to compose an anonymous letter.
Before the constable could answer, McBiscuit’s phone rang. He answered it and listened as an excited voice on the other end relayed some urgent information. Then he said “Right!” and thrust his phone back in his pocket.
“What is it, sir?” asked the constable.
“It’s a phone,” explained McBiscuit. “A device for communicating with people who would ordinarily be out of earshot. Come on, back to the car!”
They jumped down from the bus and sprinted over to their car like a police constable and his superior officer.
“Where to, sir?” cried the constable, starting the engine.
“Back to Dublin!” responded the DI. “There’s been another murder!”
Leaning back, he pulled his battered old suitcase off the back shelf, where it had been sitting in the sun. He felt it carefully.
“Do you know, constable,” he said at last. “I do believe this case is hotting up at last.”

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Slow start to the season for Ghent?

Chilling words

When you plummet from the summit
To the bottom of the hill
And your body’s lying, badly bruised and broken,
There are words, once for the birds,
That send your blood into a chill –
Words you never dreamed you might hear spoken.

“There’s quite a crowd,” you say out loud,
When the numbers reach four figures.
“It’s really great to see a large attendance.”
“Brilliant play!” you’re heard to say
(As the Bohs supporter sniggers)
At three passes you’ll recount to your descendants.

The perspective is subjective,
Things are diff’rent looking up –
The same events but viewed from a new angle.
A single win can now begin
To be “a good run in the Cup.”
The draw to play Dundalk makes nerve-ends jangle.

But last week, ‘twas more oblique.
And they cut me long and deep,
Recurring words that haunt me constantly.
It’s a phrase that doth amaze
And it’s caused me loss of sleep –
“Next week the Big One – versus UCD.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter Two – The Murderer Sends a Letter

“Any man that chooses to dress entirely in black has to arouse suspicions,” remarked Detective Inspector McBiscuit to the constable at his side. “I wouldn’t be surprised if his name was Genghis or Grizzly Pete. Find out who he is and tell him I want a word with him.”
“That’s the referee, sir,” replied the constable, who was well up on the ways of football. “I can’t really haul him in for questioning during the match, particularly after Bisto’s goal. We’d have a riot on our hands.”
“The Referee, eh?” said McBiscuit. “Is that some kind of criminal code-name like The Viper or The Squirrel?”
It had been several days since John Clapper’s body had been found beneath the roller at Tolka Park and McBiscuit was no nearer to solving the case. Forensics had examined the pitch with a fine toothcomb and then with a pair of nail scissors and some tweezers. Specially trained sniffer dogs had merely sniffed haughtily and urinated over the roller. The state pathologist had come up with a theory that the victim had been drowned, though McBiscuit suspected she was a pathological liar.
Acting on McBiscuit’s assertion that the murderer always returns to the scene of the crime, the D.I. and the constable had taken their places in Row D as the crowd started to come in for the game against Wexford Youths.
“Suspect everyone and suspect no-one,” whispered McBiscuit, as the place started to fill up.
“Erm, what exactly are we looking for, sir?” asked the constable.
“Watch their faces, laddie. Anyone who looks guilty or has a bloodstained shirt.”
Despite scrutinising the crowd, players and match officials intently, McBiscuit admitted at the end of the game that the exercise had been worthless, (“apart from the three points of course, sir.”) As they left the ground, several reporters moved forward and climbed onto the D.I’s brawny shoulders.
“The press are really on my back now,” gasped McBiscuit.

There was another murder committed the following morning but it was only on The Marino Waltz. “It’s no use, constable,” said McBiscuit, laying down his violin and pacing the floor intently.
Keeping out of his superior’s way, the constable paced the ceiling intently and said nothing.
McBiscuit produced a door handle from his trousers pocket and tried to screw it onto his suitcase. After as minute or two he gave up.
“I can’t seem to get a handle on this case at all,” he said forlornly.
Suddenly, the door opened and the postman handed the D.I. a letter.
“What is it, sir?” asked the constable curiously.
“It’s a letter, constable,” answered McBiscuit, eying the other suspiciously. He laid it down on the table. “Open up! This is the police!” he shouted through a megaphone.
After several minutes crouched behind his computer, he straightened up, marched over to the letter and slit it open with a flamboyant swish of the letter knife. Quickly he unfolded it and began to read.
“Good Lord, sir, is that blood?” remarked the constable.
“It is, constable,” answered McBiscuit drily. “I appear to have sliced my thumb off. Kindly call forensics and get someone up here with a needle and thread immediately.”
As the constable reached for the phone, McBiscuit re-read the letter. “You’ll never catch me McBiskit he he he,” he read out loud. “Clapper was a fool and deserved to die. The next one will join him soon.” Beneath the writing was a picture of a packet of Coco Pops with a knife stuck through it.
“Good God, constable. We’re looking for a cereal killer,” he exclaimed. “One with fairly atrocious handwriting too.”
“I think you’ll find he’s cut the letters out of magazines, sir,” replied the constable.
“The fiend!” yelled McBiscuit. “The next person who wants to read it will have terrible trouble. Is there any other clue to this murderous magazine mutilator’s identity.”
“Just one, sir,” said the constable. “He seems to have inadvertently signed his name and address at the bottom.”
“I knew it!” declared the D.I. “They think they’re so clever but they always make one small mistake. Come on, constable. I think we ought to pay this Mister Red Herring a little visit. Let’s go and catch us a murderer.”
“Where to, sir?”
McBiscuit unfolded the letter again. “Number 32, Tony Sheridan Gardens,” he yelled, and promptly passed out through loss of blood.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Table

I once had a bedside table
Which came all the way from Rome.
It was owned by Betty Grable
So I’m told.
And I miss our gate-leg table
That stood proudly in our home,
The one my sister Mabel
Went and sold.

That full-sized snooker table
Was my father’s pride and joy.
It was kept inside the stable
Where we’d play.
And my uncle’s coffee table,
Built when Adam was a boy,
It propped up the Tower of Babel,
So they say.

Yes, my granny’s drop-leaf table
Under which her gin was hid –
It became the stuff of fable
In our school.
And the periodic table
Always stumped me as a kid.
Perhaps that’s why folk label
Me a fool.

My old television table
Which was painted brilliant white –
It would hide the TV cable
And its strands.
But I don’t think I am able
To recall a finer sight
Than the First Division table
As it stands.

Starting off the season with a win

Photo by Maurice Frazer (Ringsendred)

It’s not a thing we do with regularity.
In fact, it’s more exception than the norm.
To start the season off with more than parity
Ain’t typical of Shelbourne’s normal form.
In years gone by, we’ve ladled out the charity.
Our first opponents go home with a grin,
So it was a first day peculiarity
To start a brand new season with a win.

Against the Youths, our game showed much diversity.
‘Twas short and sharp, or hoofball o’er the top.
You don’t need to have been to university
To know that’s how to catch teams on the hop.
With spirit we won out against adversity
And took their equaliser on the chin.
And when the whistle blew, through sheer perversity,
We’d started off the season with a win.

A decent start is always a priority,
Though it’s not happened much down through the years.
A few games we have won, but the majority
Of first day matches often end in tears.
And I have been informed on good authority
That this is how a good team should begin.
So thankfully the Reds’ superiority
Has started off the season with a win.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Tolka Murder Mystery by Christie Agatha

Chapter One – Murder by Death
The police constable pulled the roller off the flattened figure on the pitch, and Detective Inspector McBiscuit reached down and removed a wallet from the breast pocket.
“Hmm,” he mused, and scratched his nose thoughtfully. When this didn’t work, he scratched the constable’s nose thoughtfully. “John Clapper,” he said. “Clapper? Clapper? That name rings a bell…..”
“On trial with Shels,” volunteered the constable. “Or, rather, he was…”
“Thank you, constable,” remarked McBiscuit. “Are you any relation to the famous landscape artist of the nineteenth century, by the way? Never mind. Now, does anything strike you as remarkable about the body?”
“You mean, apart from the fact that he’s twelve feet long, eight feet wide, but only an eighth of an inch thick, sir?”
“Yes, constable. Look – he was found beneath a roller. Does it not strike you as suspicious that there should be a roller here, on the pitch in Tolka Park?”
“They use it to roll the pitch with, sir,” replied the constable, eying his superior with a puzzled expression
“Exactly, constable. I’m starting to smell a rat.”
“Yes, sir, they come up out of the river, sir.”
“No, no, you misunderstand me, you buffoon. I mean that I am starting to suspect that something may be afoot.”
“That big pink thing there,” pointed the constable. “I think that’s a foot. God, what a mess!”
“Foul play!” continued McBiscuit unperturbed. He removed a packet of walrus flavoured pretzels from the pocket of his trench coat and offered one to the constable. As the latter put out a hand, McBiscuit quickly withdrew the packet and sniggered. “I suspect foul play, constable.”
“At Tolka, sir?” replied the constable. “The season hasn’t even started yet and Longford aren’t due to play here until May 8th.”
“I believe this was the perfect crime,” continued McBiscuit. “What a fiendishly clever place to hide the body! Beneath a roller on a football pitch in the close season. It could have lain here until...until...”
“Friday, sir. Season starts on Friday. Playing Wexford Youths.”
“Really, constable? What’s that stuff I see on television?”
“That’s called the Premier League, sir. Soap operas for men. Doesn’t really exist. Only actors, sir.”
“Is that so?” mused McBiscuit. “I never knew that. Tell forensics to get cracking. I see some footprints all around the body. We are looking for a murderer with very small circular feet.”
“They’re football studs, sir.”
“I knew that,” retorted the D.I. sharply. “A footballer, eh?”
“Yes, sir. Almost as implausible as the roller, what?”
McBiscuit removed the pipe from his mouth. Strangely enough, it was three feet long and made of galvanised steel. He idly wondered why he’d had it in his mouth in the first place. Suddenly, he got down on all fours and began examining something in the grass through a magnifying glass. After about five minutes, he beckoned the constable down beside him.
“What do you think this is?” he asked, handing him the magnifying glass.
“It’s a magnifying glass, sir,” replied the other.
“Thank you, constable,” replied McBiscuit, straightening up. “Just as I suspected. Now, tell me, who found the body?”
“The groundsman, sir. Quasimodo O’Reagan.”
“Quasimodo? Quasimodo? That name rings a bell. Bring him to me. I want to question him.”
As the constable disappeared, McBiscuit paced the touchline with a frown. Then he sent the frown away and paced the touchline with a grin. Finally he tried it with a frown and a grin at the same time.
At length, the constable approached with a wizened old man. “Quasimodo O’Reagan, sir,” he announced.
“No, I’m D.I.McBiscuit, constable. Try and remember that. Who’s this?”
“Er, the groundsman, sir. You wanted to see him.”
“I know that.” McBiscuit then turned to the old man in front of him and opened his notebook. “You are Quasimodo O’Reagan?”
“I know.”
“First name?”
“So far so good. Now Mr. O’Reagan, can you tell me where exactly you were on the night in question?”
“I can do better than that, officer,” responded the old man. “I wrote it all down for you.” And from a pocket, he produced a crumpled paper handkerchief, covered in writing. “I hadn’t got any proper paper, see,” he added, offering the object to the D.I.
McBiscuit took it and scanned it quickly. Then he held the offending article up. “I put it to you, Mr. O’Reagan,” he announced dramatically. “that this is a tissue of lies.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Do we want to do it all again?

Oh do we want to do it all again
And suffer all the darts that lie in store
As part and parcel of the new campaign?

Oh do we want to risk such dreadful pain
As that we felt ‘pon Lim’rick’s seismic score,
When emptiness was all that did remain?

Oh would it not be wiser to refrain
From hope that leads you glibly to the door
Then slams it shut with cavalier disdain?

Oh must we ever bear the mark of Cain
Occasioned by events three years before
Condemned to linger on this barren plain?

What oracle exists that can explain
Why Tolka’s floodlights should be such a draw
On filthy nights of cold and constant rain?

Oh why should we subsist on this terrain
Where earth is hard and nutrients are poor
And break our backs for very little gain?

Oh is it right for hopeful men to deign
To suffer angst, yet still come back for more
When hope runs out and light begins to wane?

Oh yes.
Can’t wait to do it all again.
New season upon us. Here we go again