Brolly’s Bites - ‘I must have booze’ initiative is much more appealing!

Mick O'Dwyer gives his last few words to the press as Wicklow manager after the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers (Round 2) match in Aughrim on Saturday night (Photo - Dave Barrett)
Mick O'Dwyer gives his last few words to the press as Wicklow manager after the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers (Round 2) match in Aughrim on Saturday night (Photo - Dave Barrett)

On Miriam O’Callaghan’s radio program on Monday, Mick O’Dwyer said he couldn’t rule out a return to inter-county management in 2013, explaining that football is ‘like a drug’ for him.

“People like drugs and drink and cigarettes, the whole lot, but football to me is the real drug and I just can’t get away from it.”

It’s obvious Micko never took drugs. If he had spent a day/night/day/night/day at Club Amnesia in Ibiza as a young man, he would never have dreamt of going to Wicklow to get his kicks.

In 1989, the great Willie Joe Padden was the guest of honour at the Swatragh juvenile night. The formal part of the evening took place in the main hall downstairs.

In the crowd was a fresh faced Anthony Tohill, fresh from his All-Ireland minor success. After the meal, the men adjourned upstairs to the bar and gathered round Willie Joe.

One of the juvenile coaches, having got the great man’s autograph, asked him if he had any advice for young players. He paused for a moment, swigged down the remains of his stout and said; “Never forget the creamy bit at the bottom of the pint.”

Two months ago, Bryan Cullen stood in the Hogan Stand, shouted; “See you all in Coppers” and raised Sam Maguire aloft.

Most of the Dublin supporters seem to have taken up his invitation over the following fortnight. Why wouldn’t they? Who could resist Bernard Brogan, stripped to his glorious waist in Copperface Jacks, twirling his Dublin tee shirt over his head, like an imaginary lasso. Not that the boys in blue will ever need a lasso again.

Last week, the GAA president Christy Cooney launched an initiative at Croke Park called “Off the Booze and On the Ball.” The aim is for GAA members to abstain from alcohol throughout January. Minister Shortall said at the launch that “Alcohol abuse presents one of the greatest challenges our country faces and I am delighted to see an organisation as renowned and respected as the GAA take a lead on this issue.”

Our teetotal president smiled proudly and added a few words of his own, encouraging participants to be designated drivers during the month of abstinence. It was a nice, politically correct moment, but nothing more.

Human beings enjoy alcohol. Sportsmen and women are no different. Addiction is a very different matter. It has very complex causes and affects only a tiny proportion of the population.

For the rest of us, alcohol is a gift. The warm glow, the release of tension, the sheer pleasure. The revered Benedictine Monks make fortunes out of the stuff. The clergy drink it every day at Mass and often in between times. Jesus himself disliked water so much, he was known to turn it into wine. Not Buckfast, Burgundy.

Sports teams are no different. They have always and will always enjoy a drink when the occasion permits.

I loved those times when we gathered together and drank till dawn. We did it when we beat Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final in 1993. It obviously did us no harm, since we did it again three weeks later when we won the final.

We did it for the last time when Eamonn Coleman died. Like his son Gary, Eamonn was a teetotaller, but he was smiling down on us that night. He never had a problem with alcohol. Nor did we. He said once to Johnny McGurk (all 5’ 6” and nine stone of him) in the changing room at Owenbeg; “I can’t understand how a wee man like you can drink big pints of Guinness.”

For those readers from West Tyrone, David Boon is an Australian Cricketer who remains an icon in his home country for his drinking performance on the 1989 Ashes flight from Sidney to London, when he set a ‘world record’ with 52 cans of full strength beer.

Fellow batsman Dean Jones sat beside him on the flight. “Having just finished our 22nd can of beer” Jones later wrote,” I fell asleep, waking later to tumultuous applause, when the captain of the plane announced that Boon had consumed 52 beers.”

Boon led his country to a 4-0 whitewash in that Ashes series, scoring almost 500 runs at an average of 55. He went on to score 7,000 first class runs. When Boon, a Tasmanian, finally retired from international cricket, a member of parliament proposed that the Tasmanian speed limit be lowered to 52 kmph in honour of his achievement.

In May this year, he became an International Cricket Council match referee. The odd binge is simply part of growing up.

Last week, Bord Bia announced ‘Jamieson’s’ whiskey as the winner of their most prestigious annual award. Jamieson’s owner Irish Distiller sold 36 million bottles of the good stuff in 142 countries in 2010.

Irish government officials hailed the achievement as a welcome good news story in the teeth of the recession.

When Barack Obama visited us last year, he drank stout wherever he went. Pictures of Barack and Brian Cowen happily downing porter dominated the front pages of newspapers around the world.

When Queen Elizabeth arrived on the old sod, the first thing she did was hightail it to the Guinness Brewery, where with a bevy of government ministers she supped the life-giving, Willie Joe’s advice ringing in her ears.

A fortnight before the Ulster semi-final this year, Derry and Armagh ended up staying at the same hotel in Navan. Colm O’Rourke gave the Derry lads a pep talk. When it was over, Derry manager John Brennan asked the Meath legend how the team should spend the night. “Go out for a right good lash” said O’Rourke.

While the Armagh boys slept soundly, the Derrymen drank, fought, threw large dwarves and smashed their empty glasses down. A few weeks later, bruises healed and hangovers gone, they dismantled Armagh in Clones. Barry Dillon, Brennan’s right hand man, told me that night out in Navan sent morale soaring.

For 16 consecutive years since 1995, the GAA has enthusiastically embraced Guinness’ millions in return for their sponsorship of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship. In that same period, Croke Park has been jam-packed with bars. The ‘Off the Booze’ campaign is an inexpensive hypocrisy. It couldn’t be more phoney if it were sponsored by Guinness.

If, however, any of you are still interested in being a designated driver in January, send your details in to the editor and I will be in touch. How could anyone watch a McKenna Cup game sober?