Frank Brandon column

Big Jack lifted the spirits of an entire nation, made millionaires out of lots of publicans, and made farmers out of lads who lived in high rise flats in Ballymun…

It’s Monday morning, and there’s only one story on the national papers – and that is the passing of our favourite Englishman, Jack Charlton. For all of us who were lucky enough to live through the most wonderful period of Irish football during the late 1980s and early 90’s, his death transports us back in time to those glorious days and nights of seemingly neverending partying.

It is well documented elsewhere, but from the time we qualified for the first ever Euros in 1988, to the World Cup in America in 1994, this country went bananas, and everyone joined in. The credit unions were literally cleaned out, and lads that never had a cow or a ewe – or even a goat – suddenly owned great big farms of land, and all needed term loans to keep them stocked up.

Even the banks (hard to believe it now) joined in the fun. I remember a good banking friend of mine telling me of a mutual acquaintance whom he knew well to have no assets of any kind. Yet, on his loan application he was the miraculous owner of a 70-acre farm. Despite knowing there was no such property, my friend approved the loan, and the money was handed over, and – even more amazing – was actually paid back.

The iconic images of cars decked out in Irish flags flying up and down our streets with lads drinking cans of cider hanging out of windows. Car horns being blown at all hours of the day and night, the famous ‘Davy Keogh says hello’ flag, and Joxer goes to Stuttgart are all memories from that never to be forgotten era, and as he left this earth last week there can be no doubt that Jack Charlton gave the Irish a decade of giddiness and happiness and excitement the likes of which we had never seen before, and most likely never will again.

The reception the team got on their return from Italia ‘90 was the most extraordinary event in Irish sporting history as more than 500,000 people turned up to welcome the team home. As Kevin Moran said later, the Irish team had lost in the quarter-finals, while our neighbours, England, had only lost in the semi-final (on penalties), yet half a million Irish fans turned up to welcome them home, while about half a dozen came to welcome England home.

Jack himself couldn’t get over the reception and wondered out loud as to what it would have been like if we actually won it. I would say the party would still be going on!

The other thing that made Jack Charlton so popular with the Irish people was his down-to-earth approach to life. The son of a miner, Jack grew up in a house with no running water or bathroom, where the four brothers shared a bed because money was so tight. He grew up with a love of fishing and other outdoor pastimes. Even in later years, his biggest enjoyment was to head to the Moy and do a bit of salmon fishing.

And so, as we bid farewell to Big Jack, all I can say is thanks for the memories. There is no doubt that for 10 years he, and his team, lifted the spirits of an entire nation, made millionaires out of lots of publicans, and made farmers out of lads who lived in high rise flats in Ballymun. May he rest in peace.


A return to the pub…

On Sunday evening, exactly four calendar months to the day since I was last in a public house, or even had a drop of Guinness, I made my much-anticipated comeback when a family group of five went to Dolan’s in Creggs for a pre-booked visit at 7 o’clock.

Now I am the first to admit that I had some concerns that the country was opening up too fast, that Covid-19 regulations might not be adhered to, that all precautions might not be in place. As a man who must be in the red zone when it comes to risk assessment for getting the disease, I assumed that I would be uncomfortable – and maybe even feel unsafe – in the new and unusual environment. The great news is that all my fears were unfounded.

We had our own designated table, there was a charming security man on the door (that’ll be a pint, Alfie), we all had to sign in and get tagged as we entered (a bit like being in hospital). All social distancing was properly observed, there was proper discipline and controls in place, the food was lovely, and all told it was a delightful (and much longed for) experience. Just in case I forget – the Guinness was like new milk, and I took to it as if I had never been away.

The most important thing that the experience showed was that with the right mentality – on both the publican’s and the customer’s part – there is no reason why our public houses cannot reopen as presently scheduled on Monday next.

Of course it was a different experience, but in ways it was even better than before, and we just have to get used to the new way of doing things. If everyone does it as well as Joe Dolan did last Sunday, we will have no problems.

Please God we don’t get this dreaded second wave, and we can, in a different form, go back to having the odd night out in our precious local pubs. This piece is being written before the next announcement re: the 4th phase, so I only hope there are no new changes to the present plans. Anyway, all I can say is I enjoyed my first night back, and here’s to many more. Cheers.


And finally…

Finally for this week…every year by now I would be telling you about our annual fundraising dance which we have been holding for Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund. This year’s dance was scheduled to be held in Dowd’s, Glinsk, on Saturday night, the 26th of September.

Jimmy Kearney and The Lancers were to have supplied the usual excellent music, but realistically, looking at the situation now, it’s almost certainly not going to go ahead this time around. Ever-optimistic, we won’t officially pull the plug for another week or two.

However, the truth is that it’s pretty sure to be a non-runner. So, for the first time in fifteen or sixteen years, it looks like you won’t have us calling to your doors with our tickets. There’s always a silver lining.