Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Limerick at home

I’m a wild, roving spirit, I’m free as the birds,
I greet the whole world with a wave,
But whenever I hear those three little words,
It’s like footsteps walk over my grave.

Little Miss Muffet was eating her curds
And was lurrying into her whey,
When a spider came whispering three little words
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

The nomadic tribesman lays down with his herds
And drinks from a bottle of wine,
But high on the plateau, he hears those three words
And a shiver runs right down his spine.

The Turkish commander is hunting down Kurds
To inflict an impressive defeat,
But in Morse Code a message transmits those three words
And he gives the command to retreat.

Unemployment, they tell me, is up by two-thirds,
The heartache is dreadful to watch
But whenever one mentions those three little words,
The country slips down one more notch.

Shels heroes of yesteryear - No 12

An unreliable sporting history of the Reds
The Maharishi Yogi
Gerry Doyle’s young charges burst onto the football scene in the early sixties, sweeping all before them, particularly when the caretaker went on strike. They won the League, they won the Cup, they were in Europe and not just for holidays. These clean-cut fun-loving ordinary lads struck a chord (reputed to be C sharp) with the ordinary public and attendances at Shels matches soon passed the million mark.
This was verily the golden age of Shelbourne football with success not to be equaled for another thirty years. And then, one day, Freddie Strahan met the Maharishi Yogi coming out of a fish shop in Fairview.
“It was, like, mystical, maaaan,” Freddie recalled later. “He showed me there was more to life than football. That football was just a part of the whole thing, y’know?”
The Maharishi Yogi (born Matthew Cooney) at the time had been trying to convert English pop personalities to his transcendental meditation programme, with limited success. Along with his side-kick, Boo-Boo, they had become an integral part of the flower power movement in youth culture, a movement that advocating handing over world government to tulips and daffodils.
Freddie became entranced by the personality of the Maharishi and others followed. Gannon, Hannigan, Barber and others all flew to India for pre-season training, and returned with long hair, moustaches and a more laid-back attitude. The middle-aged housewives of Ireland were appalled but the youth stuck with them and attendances rose even further.
Some argued though that their more laid-back attitude (Eric Barber spent much of every match in bed) was a contributory factor in their ultimate demise. Certainly John Hevey’s attempt at levitating to save a penalty in a Cup Match against Cork Imponderables in 1965 was unsuccessful and the team was fast being overtaken by a Waaaaterford side that went on to dominate during the latter half of the sixties.
Ben Hannigan’s assertion to the press in 1966 that Shelbourne ‘were now more popular than deValera’ caused outrage in staunch Fianna Fail homes around the country and there were furious demands that ordinary people boycott the Reds. In Newcastlewest there was a mass burning of Shelbourne match day programmes and Hannigan was obliged to spend part of the season on loan to Ujpest Dozja to escape the furore.
Meanwhile the Maharishi continued to wield his influence. Even manager Gerry Doyle would turn up at the ground with a garland of flowers in his hair and tell everybody how much he loved them before proceeding with his team talk.
Under the Maharishi’s influence, the team gave up touring Europe and concentrated on playing ‘studio’ matches in Ireland. The match day programmes became more and more psychedelic and a certain amount of controversy was raised when Jimmy Dunne appeared naked on the cover of a programme against Cork Despicables with his wife Betty.
Despite the Maharishi’s concepts of peace, love and understanding (choose any two out of three) it became clear toward the end of the sixties that a certain amount of friction was developing among the members of the team. Hannigan wanted to go away and play football on his own for a while as Barber desperately tried to hold the team together. In the end, A refused to speak to B, a row that developed even further when B refused to divulge his full name.
On the pitch, the football became more and more experimental. In one game against Thurles Town, the Shels players decided they would only use their knees to pass the ball. It was not an unqualified success. In a Leinster Senior Cup match against Bray Undecipherables, Ben Hannigan assumed the lotus position near the penalty spot and didn’t move for the entire match, scoring twice.
By 1970, the writing was on the wall and Gerry Doyle ordered that it be rubbed off. The Maharishi was thanked for his services, given a couple of season tickets and shown the door.
Was he a good influence on Shels or not? The jury is still out and hasn’t been seen by their families for many years. Maybe they’ve absconded? What is perhaps telling is that, when the Maharishi died in 2008, not one former Shelbourne player attended his funeral.

Who would you follow?

Last night, as I lay in my bed,
Awaiting sleep’s delicious call,
A question popped into my head.

“Just suppose,” this small voice said
“That Shelbourne did go to the wall.
What team would you support instead?”

“Dunno,” I answered, full of dread.
“Why would you ask me that at all,
A loyal and devoted Red?”

“Just answer!” (I will call him Fred,
This voice that through my mind did crawl)
“Would you frequent the Richmond shed?”

“I think I would be better dead!
The thought does verily appal!”
I answered, as fence-sitting fled.

Rovers? Bohs? The panic spread.
Cork or Derry? Bray? Fingal?
Not one, I thought, from A to Zed.

But then, as I lay in my bed,
Still waiting sleep’s delicious call,
The answer popped into my head.

“The Mons!” I yelled, “though they’ve no ped-
-Igree, nor any trophy haul,
And I’m not Ulster-born nor bred,

They’re who I’d support instead,
If mighty Shels should ever fall.
Now, go and get some shut-eye, Fred.”

Shels heroes of yesteryear No.11

An unreliable sporting history of the Reds
‘Lardy’ Lar Hennessy
Outside of a small band of statisticians – a word, incidentally, that is impossible to say elegantly while eating a boiled egg – there are very few people who have heard of Lar Hennessy. Even his mother didn’t know who he was despite the fact that he was the size of a small elephant at eight years old, or maybe, like someone going overboard in Egypt, she was merely in denial.
Lar grew up in Fenian Street – not in a house, in the street itself, as doorways were a lot narrower in those days. As such, he soon became very street-wise, being able to recognise telegraph poles and cars from an early age.
Because of his gargantuan size, he became a goalkeeper for Pearse Rangers before joining the mighty Reds in 1961 as understudy to the great John Heavey. What Lar lacked in agility, he made up for in corpulence and opposition forwards often found it difficult to find a gap to shoot at. Despite this, such was the proficiency of the aforementioned Mr. Heavey, that the Buddah-esque Lars never actually appeared between the sticks in a first team game for Shels.
Lar however can lay claim to being a true Shels legend thanks to a report in the Irish Times of January 1963 of a Cup game against Jacobs.
“There was pandemonium at Tolka Park last night as Shelbourne eased comfortably through to the next round of the Cup,” ran the report. “The real drama however came at half-time, when Shelbourne’s reserve team goalkeeper Lars Hennessy, was found to be wedged in the doorway of the away team dressing room, thus preventing Jacobs from gaining entrance.
“By the time a large pick-up truck and a tow-rope had been requisitioned, the second half had started, much to the disgust of the Jacobs’ players, who seemed to lose all interest in the game.”
A subsequent League of Ireland investigation into the matter brought further facts to light, which were gleefully relayed around the terraces at the next home game.
Being such a large person (I would say ‘fat hape’ but you’re not allowed to in these police constable times) Lars was constantly hungry and, as he passed by Jacob’s dressing room door on the way out to the tunnel, he saw the table laden with Kimberley Mikados and coconut cremes which the away team habitually feasted on at half-time due to their links with the company. Shels, as was the habit at the time, dished out a quarter of an orange to everyone.
Midway through the first half, Lars got up off the bench (causing the manager and half the backroom staff to be catapulted twenty feet into the air) and indicated he needed to going to see Mrs. Murphy, a euphemism for going to see Mrs. O’Driscoll.
Naturally, he made a bee-line for Jacob’s dressing-room and scoffed the entire lot, except for one custard cream which he left on the plate, so nobody would know he’d been in there. Unfortunately, in his haste, he tried to exit the dressing room fronton and became securely wedged.
Trooping off at half-time, the Jacobs’ players’ elation at having held Shels scoreless at half time evaporated when they realised their usual mid-match feast would not take place. For some of the team, the regular supply of fig rolls and other delicacies was the reason they had joined the club in the first place, rather than, say, Manchester United or Wolverhampton Wanderers, who both swore by citrus fruit. Finding they were to be denied their traditional perk, heads dropped, stomachs rumbled and Shels ran out clear winners.
History will show that a rampant Shels went on to beat Drums, Rovers and Cork Hibs to claim their second FAI Cup in four years. In the dressing room after the Final, Gerry Doyle, the manager, apparently, filled up the Cup not with champagne, but with chocolate kimberleys and then watched in horror as Lar swallowed them down in one.

Butch Cassidy and Giller the Killer

The deputy ordered a dry bourbon, neat,
Tumbleweed rolled in great balls down the street.
The bartender took all his shot glasses down
When Giller and Casso came riding to town.

“Its Giller the Killer, with Butch at his side,”
The whispers flew round as folk hurried inside.
The only sound heard was the noose support swinging,
Even the very old church bell stopped ringing.

The horses were tethered, the drawn shutters twitched,
Casso’s right finger compulsively itched
Beyond in the shadows, they heard a soft click
But Casso was deadly and Giller was quick.

The tension was thick as they glanced round the village,
The locals suspected they’d just come to pillage.
The sheriff approached them, his guts in a knot
But fell in the dust after Giller’s swift shot.

They stood in the door of the busy saloon,
The honky-tonk medley was halted mid-tune.
The pianist upped and ran swiftly away,
They all looked at Casso but he couldn’t play.

They joined in the poker, downed whiskey and rye
The chips were all down but the stakes were quite high.
Casso was gunning with no cause to grieve,
For Giller had all of the cards up his sleeve.

And so they rode off in a red, setting sun,
Their mission accomplished, the bounty well won.
Back to the desert they chose to skedaddle,
The three points securely attached to the saddle.

Shels heroes of yesteryear - No 10

An unreliable sporting history of the Reds
Cristo (surname unknown)
The early 1960s was the first golden age of Shelbourne football as any oul’ feller in Section D with twelve hours on his hands will tell you. Gerry Doyle’s young charges were Ireland’s Busby babes and many like Strahan, Dunne, Barber and Flood would go on to become household names, particularly in their own households.
In 1961-62 (the League of Ireland only adopted the Gregorian calendar in 2004) the mighty Reds clinched the league championship with a 1-0 victory over Cork Unpredictables and were thus eagerly anticipating their first foray into Europe in September of the latter year.
Drawn against Sporting Lisbon – so called because they always wished the opposition good luck prior to a game, before running off sniggering - a 2-0 home defeat in front of ‘nearly a million people’ (source: the oul’ lad with the red nose who always sits in the middle of the third row ) did not dampen the spirits of the small contingent of Shels fans who set sail from Queenstown on a coffin ship bound for the great maritime port of Lisbon.
Most of course had never been abroad before and there was much wailing and fluttering of handkerchiefs as the ship pulled away from the quay, and that was just the captain. In the early sixties, the only Irish people who ventured abroad were missionaries or emigrants and knowledge of foreign climes was decidedly limited. Many didn’t even know what a clime was.
Arriving in the bustling Portuguese capital, the pioneering band immediately sought out some Guinness to quell their seasickness. Sadly Arthur had not become the worldwide phenomenon it is today and so they were forced to sit down to enjoy several pints of the local brew (port) in a local hostelry before the match.
After the game, the desire to celebrate Jackie Hennessy’s brilliant strike (sandwiched, as it was, between five offside and / or handball goals from their opponents) led them back to the same bar and they obligingly drank it dry.
Now, among the coterie, were a married couple Bert and Cinta, both in their fifties, good devout Catholics. Cinta was horrified to wake up in her hotel the following morning to find a dashing and strapping young Portuguese stud in her bed, rather than her balding and paunchy husband. Bert similarly awoke, straddling a lithe and attractive senorita in a strange apartment.
To cut a short story even shorter, after the initial shock had worn off, both decided to run with the new situation. Bert stayed on in Portugal with Isabella, while Cristiano sailed back to Ireland with Cinta, who successfully convinced the customs officials of the poor quality of Irish passport photographs. It was apparently a little more difficult convincing their ten children that their father had benefited from the European sunshine to such an extent that he had grown six inches, lost six stones and his hair had grown back.
Cristiano – or Cristo has he became fondly known on the terraces – naturally became a big Shels fan, though he had some trouble learning the words of some of the songs. He would also sing “We’re not Barcelona but at least we’re not Belenenses” to the consternation of those around him. At away games, he would be introduced to opposition supporters as ‘a representative of our Portuguese fan club’ and he would frequently bamboozle the play-it-down-the-line brigade by exhorting the fullback to ‘slip it to the defensive midfielder and show for the return.’
Cristo would probably be in Tolka Park still if it were not for the fickle finger of fate – and probably the rest of its body too – that saw the Redsmen drawn against the aforementioned Belenenses in the Cup Winners Cup two years later. Naturally, Cinta and Cristo could not miss such an important tie and sailed from Galway with much the same army of Reds fans as two years previously.
Unfortunately, this time they were met on the quays by an irate Bert. Isabella had turned out to be Rodrigo, a docker from Porto, and despite a close and loving relationship for almost a year, eventually the magic died when Rodrigo met a sheep from Albufeira called Simon.
Bert threatened to pull the plug on Cristo’s passport deception unless Cinta took him back and after several pints of port, she eventually agreed. How they explained the further vagaries of the Portuguese climate to their children on Bert’s return is lost to history.
It is said that a lovelorn figure still stalks the Lisbon quays waiting for his ‘darling Irish chrysanthemum’ to return, but that is another feller altogether and has nothing to do with this story.

Too busy blowing my vuvuzela

Too busy blowing my vuvuzela
That I ain’t got time to cheer the team.

They say that it takes all the breath in your lung
To blow out that monotone note.
Whoever invented the thing should be hung
And his body parts fed to a goat.
I hope to dear God it does not catch on here,
Brought home by irresponsible sailors.
Fans in the stands can’t be bothered to cheer,
Cos they’re blowing their damned vuvuzelas.

They say they can’t ban them, although they’re absurd
And have gained quite a worldwide abhorrence.
Trapattoni won’t be able to make himself heard
When he’s shouting instructions to Lawrence.
FIFA has said we should show some respect
For their music trasdition (I quote)
Music? Forgive my minute intellect
But does that not need more than one note?

Oh Lord don’t diminish the roar of the crowd,
The shouting and chanting and singing.
Let hundreds join in in a chorus so loud
It’ll set local fire alarms ringing.
Don’t let human voices become so subsumed
By a swarm of wasps with a loud-hailer.
I pray that its future in Tolka is doomed –
Yes, death to the damned vuvuzela.

Too busy blowing my vuvuzela
That I ain’t got time to cheer the team.

Shels heroes of yesteryear No 9

An unreliable sporting history of the Reds
Percy Bysse Kelley
It is, I suppose, a debatable point whether Shelbourne’s legendary chant composer, Percy Kelly is truly a legend or not. Can one be a legend if nobody has heard of you? Yet to all the tens of thousands that crowd the new stand every fortnight and roar on the team, his legacy lives on.
For example, that famous chant that has rung out at grounds from Croatia to Iceland and all places in between – ‘Shelbourne, Shelbourne, Shelbourne, Shelbourne’ – how many of today’s fans know that was a Percy Kelly original? Borrowing the melody from an old Doris Day B-side, (‘Show me your Colt 45, cowboy, and I’ll be up in the saddle tonight’) he crafted lyrics to represent the very essence of the club, writing and rewriting for months until he came up with the words we know today.
Percy Kelly was born some time between 1932 and 1934 (experts tend to go for 1933), a stone’s throw from Shelbourne Park, providing the stone was smaller than your hand. (And bigger than a grain of sand. The size of a hard boiled egg, that kind of area.)
From an early age, he decided to become a poet and deliberately developed consumption to aid him in his career. He bought an attic and struggled in it on a daily basis but the big break did not come, except for one poem about what he did on his holidays that was published in Ireland’s Own.
At the end of the fifties, when many people were wondering which decade would come next, Percy turned his quite inconsiderable talents to penning football chants for junior side Young Boys of Berne, including the now universal ‘Come and have a go if you think your hard enough’ and the not-quite-so-well-known ‘It’s certainly possible that if you persist in such loutish behaviour, you might sustain a serious head injury,’ which was later made into a film starring Burt Lancaster.
Naturally, such poetic talents did not go unnoticed and after a fierce bidding war involving Cork Inexcusables, Waterford and Estudiantes, Kelly was signed by Shelbourne for £5 and one of those pens that writes four different colours.
The ten years that Kelly spent with Shels, between 1959 and 1962, was a veritable golden age of football chanting in Ireland. Alfred Lord Dennison was working with Bohemians; Sam the Sham Beckett was at Milltown and Sir John Betjeman was whipping up the crowds at Athlone. The four of them used to meet up in McDaid’s until a nasty altercation over who had first come up with Shelbourne/Rovers/Bowez/Athlone –clap, clap, clap.
Within six weeks of arriving at the club, Kelly had written the somewhat esoteric lyrics to ‘We are Shels,’ still heard at matches today. “I agonised over the last line for a fortnight,” he confessed to Hello magazine later. “Should I go for three ‘We are Shels’ or only two? In the end, he phoned Cole Porter, who advised him to go with the latter.
He is credited also with the Indian war chant, though a Nahavo Indian in Flagstaff, Arizona, who coincidentally was Kelly’s life partner at the time, (even though the two had never met) attempted to get a court order against its use. “It was the only chant I could never put decent lyrics to,” Kelly once confided to marinologist Jacques Cousteau, who simply raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
Of course, there were many Kelly blueprints that never saw the light of day. ‘We’re not Barcelona and we’re not Athletico Madrid neither’ was one that singularly failed to spark the imagination of the Shels faithful. ‘When Jayo went to Poland’ was deemed by the literary critic section of the crowd to be too far ahead of its time and was dropped for 45 years until circumstances allowed it to be resurrected. And for some strange reason, ‘We quite admire you, Shelbourne, we do’ – now deemed by experts to be a minor classic of the genre – was dropped after one airing against Cork Crustaceans.
Kelly died in 1966, three years after he was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. The simple headstone is inscribed with words from another of his songs that never quite made it – ‘I lay, I lay, I lay.’

One rule for one...

The bankers were too reckless,
Far too greedy and too feckless
And led us down the road to rack and ruin.
They banjaxed our economy
And international bonhomie,
And all the while they knew what they were doin’.

To the end, they kept on lending
With financial meltdown pending,
The golden boys who sent a country crashing.
If they’d lived in other cultures,
They’d have gone to feed the vultures –
At best they would receive a damn good thrashing.

But how were they rewarded
For their errors gross and sordid?
Given golden handshakes and big bonuses!
Despite irregularities
And huge peculiarities,
It’s easy to discern just where the onus is.

So to put aside frivolity
And tackle inequality,
I think that we should get in touch with Brian,
Pointing out how much we’ve suffered
As our debts remain unbuffered,
While the handouts to the banks are multiplyin’.

Come on, Brian, show awareness
Of this manifest unfairness,
A drop is all we need from your vast ocean.
Won’t you give us several billions
To acquire a few Brazilians
And maybe then, we’ll challenge for promotion.