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18 June 2009 Edition

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More than a game By Gael Gan Náire





The Grateful Dead in a Gaelic mist

THE Jackeen is on holidays again. Sure, life is one long bloody holiday to the Jackeen and he’s probably claimed some social welfare allowance for to pay for the tickets. Them fellas don’t know the meaning of the word work. I was with them over in New York in the ‘60s on the buildings and sure they spent the whole time whingeing and crying about the weather: either it was too cold or too hot. 
And they know nothing about the world beyond Ballyfermot or Finglas. One time we were in a diner on Columbus Avenue and one of the Jackeens asks for steak.
“Would you like it medium or rare?” asks the busboy.
“Medium or rare?” says your man, but sure you might as well have asked him to translate the fecking Gnostic Gospels.
“Yes,” says the busboy again. “Medium or rare? Which way would you like your steak cooked, sir?
“I don’t know,”says the Dub. “The way me Ma cooks them.”
No word of a fecking lie. ‘The way me Ma cooks them.’ May the Lord save us!
Some of them used to play in Gaelic Park as well. Teddy Boys. Greasy oul hair on them and running here and there like bloody Heffo instead of standing their ground like a man and taking a fair belt. Jaysus, a lad couldn’t be expected to hare off after them after a hard week’s work and maybe a skinful of porter on Saturday. And maybe Friday.
That’s the thing I don’t like about the modern football that the Jackeen brought in in the ‘50s as an excuse to let them run away from real men who stood there, caught the ball, gave a damn good kick in the right direction, and a damn good shoulder to their immediate opponent. Too much running around like jackanapes for my fancy. To hell with that. Stand still like a man and take your medicine.

OH, we had some glorious Sundays above in Gaelic Park.
We’d jump on the 1 train in 96th Street and all the way up through the Bronx for a great gathering of the Gaels. Fine men and women, young and old, from every corner of the country. And the Jackeen. The bloody cuckoo in the nest. 
But the worst day of all was back in August 1971.
A blazing hot day the like of which you would never get here, thank God. And mind there was no air conditioning on the trains and no bottled water in them days. Did you ever hear the like for gobaloons to be walking around with? I tell you, the day I buy a bottle of water is the day I will have a good long look at myself. T’would be only a short step from that to joining the Green Party and stopping good men building houses for their children on their own land.
This day, didn’t one of the Jackeens on the site tell me that there was to be a concert in the park that night, a Thursday it was, as I recall, because I was after getting a cake in the post that morning from the married sister as I did the last Thursday of every month.
Well, I was in the high spirits to begin with, what with the cake and everything, and I was even inclined to be friendly towards the Jackeen who also, to be fair to him, had lifted a bit of stuff out of a construction tunnel to be sent home to the lads above in the North. But that’s neither here nor there.

I WAS thinking the concert might have been maybe the Kilfenora over for a tour of the Irish centres, or maybe even one of them new-fangled groups like the Emmet Spiceland so I was more than happy to head up.
So didn’t I arrange to meet your man the Jackeen above in Randall Óg’s on 161st Street. Well, by gob, didn’t I get a land. There was himself now, all dressed in purple trousers and a pink shirt and some class of a hanky around his head and sunglasses. Lucky enough I spotted him heading into the bar so – before anyone would see me with him and think I was some class of a nancy boy  – I turned on my heel and back onto the train and away up to the park.
But sure wasn’t the train full of the same carry-on. Feckin hippies! And didn’t they all get off at 242nd Street. Hold on, says I to myself, what in the name of God is going on here. Well, to cut a long story short, wasn’t there a pop group called The Grateful Dead (where do they get the names at all?) playing in the park. And me like an eejit didn’t I go in anyway.
Now I declare to God I don’t remember much of what happened afterwards. Them fellas were singing some terrible stuff, a big mad yoke with a bushy beard, but didn’t in fairness one of the lads beside me keep giving me one of his fags. A big mad cigarette. And sure very little can I recall after that other than someone the other side of me started to puck me in the shoulder and accuse me of ruining his ‘vibe’. Go away and get your own fags, mister, says I to myself.
Oh, sure, they weren’t a bad crowd, I suppose. That was the last time I was in the park. Wouldn’t it be nice to be heading up there of a Sunday now and watching some nice crowd of country lads kick the living bejaysus out of the Jackeen. That would make a lad’s weekend now.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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