Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Christmas altercation

If Blanchardstown City were the Rolls Royce of European Football, then Roy Neake was the engine. Or maybe the glove compartment. Suffice to say he was a vital cog in the machine that had purred to the European Cup Final the previous year, scoring the goal that had knocked out arch-rivals Sporting Fingal FC in the semi-finals.
They said Roy was the complete footballer, having all the attributes that a top class footballer needs, namely good vision, a full complement of legs and the ability to cram at least four clich├ęs into every interview.
However, like every tragic hero of history, he had one fault in his character that was liable to be his undoing. In his case, it was anger. With the other six deadly sins, he held no truck. He wasn’t avaricious, although he had no idea what the word meant. Sloth he associated with a tree-hugging mammal from South America. Even lust never crossed his mind, which gave rise to the sarcastic nickname “Stud” amongst his team-mates.
But the red mist had always been his bugbear. He had missed the FAI Cup Final of 2019 when he decapitated an opponent for looking at him sideways. He had been suspended for one match by UEFA for taking a hatchet to a Romanian opponent who had been smirking at him. And even this season, a match against Tralee FC had to be abandoned when Roy kicked down a goalpost when a penalty decision didn’t go for him.
It didn’t help that the team had not been firing on all cylinders since their European exploits. Their form had slumped and manager Lee Sammy was not a happy bunny.
Not that Lee was the master of jollity at the best of times. He was a big, brooding Sligo man with a face that seemed to have been carved out of Ben Bulben itself and then gone to work on by a drunken builder with a Kango hammer.
They said the only time Lee was happy was at his recently purchased farm in Kildare. Despite his rural upbringing, he knew little about farming but had found a certain happiness whilst shearing his cows and leaving his fields fallow.
That happiness was little in evidence after Blanchardstown City’s home game against Shannonside Invincibles at the end of November. As the team trooped off dejectedly after a 2-0 defeat (Richie L, 47, and Neake, 89 (o.g)), Lee Sammy was already waiting for them in the dressing room.
“Ye bunch of useless pansies!” he yelled furiously, turning the key in the lock as the last mud-bespattered player trooped in. “Ye couldn’t get stuck in to a bowl of porridge! I’ve seen more grit and determination at the local apathetic society!”
After these sympathetic words of welcome, he then went through the team individually, singling out each player for individual censure in a hairdryer of a rant that lasted ninety minutes.
“Safe Hands” Molloy, the keeper, was like Dracula – he was afraid of crosses. Gary Byrne, the right back, had as much timing as a broken Rolex, Gary O’Brien, the left back, should apply for a monthly ticket on the 39 bus, he was that much of a passenger. And so it went on. And on.
Observers said later that Roy was not particularly singled out for special blame, despite his thunderbolt back pass to the keeper from thirty yards in the last minute of the match. However, he did not escape the manager’s ire either, with Lee accusing him of both greed and sloth, which left the midfielder scratching his head in puzzlement. His team-mates looked on aghast, as they all knew that Roy’s only sin was anger.
Roy however did not react in his normal Tasmanian-Devil way to the insults. Slowly and calmly and still wearing his football kit, he walked over to the dressing room door, unlocked it and went out. A few people who noticed him climbing into his Porsche in the car park of the Lenihan Stadium (named after Dublin 15’s most generous benefactor, Lenihan Stadium) described his face as “steely and determined” and his legs as “muddy.”
Roy drove down the back roads to Leixlip and then on to the outskirts of Celbridge. He pulled in to Lee Sammy’s farm, waved genially to Lee Sammy’s wife who was watering the chickens, and climbed on to a tractor that was conveniently parked next to an outhouse. Slamming the tractor in gear, he performed a 180 degree handbrake turn and roared forward to the nearest barn.
Lee Sammy’s wife looked on in horror as the tractor ploughed through the gable-end wall of the barn, sending newly-sheared and shivering Jersey cows running for cover. The structure came crashing down, a mass of twisted aluminium, but the tractor didn’t stop. It continued on its destructive odyssey, gathering hay bales and a rather sleepy-eyed Friesian before exiting the far end of the barn in similar fashion.
Then Roy calmly stepped down from the vehicle, surveyed the carnage with a satisfied grin, stepped back into his Porsche and drove off.
Of course, when the press got a hold of the story, news of Roy’s retribution was spread across the world, with many papers making much of Lee Sammy’s sarcastic jibe that Roy couldn’t hit a barn door with a tractor. It seemed that Roy’s days at City were not only numbered but lettered too and many fans were found disconsolately wandering around the Shopping Centre after dark bemoaning the impending transfer of their star player.
Lee Sammy however knew which side his bread was buttered on as he had once worked in O’Brien’s sandwich emporium. Though furious about the destruction of his barn, he told the Board that he would not insist on Roy’s transfer. If some sort of agreement, some sort of compensation, could be reached, Roy could remain at City.
The solicitors and agents got to work but it was a long, slow job, as they were working on an hourly wage. December came and with it the first cries of a disorientated cuckoo. Santa’s elves grumbled constantly about their hours. The gridlock around Blanchardstown Centre grew steadily worse and two emaciated bodies were found in a Corolla on the Snugborough Road junction.
But still no news of a breakthrough in “Roy-gate” as the papers unimaginatively called it. City fans were glued to Blanch TV, hoping for breaking news but none came. They feared the worst and many had already called the Joe Duffy Show to voice their despair at the situation. It was the Saipan of their generation and divided whole communities.
But at last on Christmas morning itself, the news broke. Not, as it happened, through the usual media of television or radio, but by carol singers. A compromise had been reached and the club, in recognisance of the day that was in it, sent out teams of woolly-scarved carol singers to the furthest reaches of Hansfield, Porterstown and Tyrrelstown to convey the good news to the citizens of Dublin 15.
Thus it was that many people awoke that bright and sunny morning to the sound of angelic voices proclaiming the good news outside their windows:
“One-sin Roy’ll stay with City –
Stud’ll owe Lee cattle-shed.”