Every now and again, I get the chance to go to a lunch which I hope will never end. I was having so much fun at a charity event the other week at the Aviva Stadium that I thought my sides would split with all the laughter.
Former Dublin star Bernard Brogan’s company – Legacy Communications – had organised the gig for the Irish Grocers’ Benevolent Fund, with Roy Keane and Stephanie Roche and myself the three special guests for the occasion.
You couldn’t have wished for two better companions; not only had they amazing tales to tell but they were also really entertaining story tellers.
I think we all have got used to seeing Roy on Sky TV and know he is as fascinating with a mic in his hand as he was brilliant with a ball at his feet for Manchester United and Ireland all those years ago.
Quite simply, he had the audience in the palm of his hand as he told story after story that had us all spellbound.
I could tell he empathised with Stephanie’s story of how the women had to fight for recognition from the authorities for such basics as showers, gear and means of transport during her time as an Irish international.
As I looked across, I said to myself: “Here are two people who have campaigned for their respective teams and ensured that the next generation of players will be properly looked after.”
Aside from both being great players, I thought: “What a great legacy to give long after you hang up your boots.” And yes, I know, Stephanie is still playing.
Stephanie’s horror stories made you almost pinch yourself to see if those women had to live through Dickensian times while trying to represent their country.
We all know the way Roy got the so-called “suits” to see sense when it came to travel and accommodation but it was his yarns about his fellow players that had those in attendance rolling in the aisles.
Two of his stories concerned what the lads would get up to while at World Cups or at home for big football occasions. One of the pranks was to drop something into a player’s drink when he went to the toilet.
Normally the prop would be a golf ball which would remain unseen in the pint of Guinness until the unsuspecting player took his last slug of the drink. Then invariably he would spew the drink all over the place with the shock of having the golf ball hitting his lips.
The scariest one of those was when a famous ex-player used to take out his false front teeth and slip them into another player’s drink when his back was turned. When the fangs followed gravity and tried to leave the glass, there was always consternation… despite this the player playing the prank always seemed to get his molars back in working order.
followed gravity and tried to leave the glass, there was always consternation… despite this the player playing the prank always seemed to get his molars back in working order.
When it came to my turn, I had to try and trump some of those great tales so I recalled one time meeting Roy with a few of my mates down in the Silver Spring’s Hotel in Cork. After chatting him for a few minutes, I said: “We’re going into Riordans pub in town a little later, maybe we’ll meet you there?” to which Roy replied: “Nay, I’m barred from that place.”
“Well then,” I added hastily, “What about ‘Sidetracks’ it’s supposed to be pretty good,” and he looked up at me with a smile on his face and said: “Barred from there as well.”
Roy is a once-off and arguably the best ever player in the history of the Premier League. His popularity was such that he was signing autographs, doing photos and selfies all afternoon, almost until it was time for him to drive to the boat for his journey back across the water.
Stephanie had been due to go earlier to Electric Picnic but like me, we squeezed the last ounce out of having Keano as a companion. What’s seldom was truly wonderful.
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