By D.B. Flynn (from our All Ireland Finals Annual)
Seanie shuffled himself on to his stool at the bar and with a knowing nod to Turlough, the barman, ordered the usual. While the head on his pint of plain settled, Turlough inched closer to him, and leaned in.
“Did you make a decision on that All-Ireland ticket yet?”
“I didn’t,” said Seanie, knowing full well the reason why his ears had been red for that past twenty-four hours.
“Only, a good few of them in here are interested in it,” Turlough informed him, “you could make a right few bob.”
Seanie manouvered himself into a more comfortable position on the stool. “Sure if they are interested, let them come and tell me they are interested,” he said quietly.
Turlough shook his head in amusement, readied Seanie’s pint, took for it, and left his octogenarian regular to sup in peace.
Seanie had been drinking in Coleman’s for longer than Turlough could remember. Long before he had taken over the place after his father passed away, and that was going back thirty-five years now. He was a quiet man, who generally kept himself to himself, yet could be quite cordial if you approached him in the proper manner. He was a man of the land, who had never married. He had the one brother, who died a few years back.
Farming, GAA, Mass and a few pints on a few nights of the week – they were the pillars of Seanie’s life these days. And he seemed contented with as much.
“Excuse me, hi Seanie, isn’t it, how are things?”
Seanie was a little startled, as he turned to see who was addressing him.
“I’m Neil Brady, a son of Donal’s. Sure I think you know my father.”
“I do indeed,” replied Seanie, knowing well what was coming next.
“I hear you have a spare ticket for the All-Ireland final. Is that right?”
“Well I’d be very interested in taking it off your hands. There’s a gang of us heading to Dublin for it, and there’s only one lad who hasn’t a ticket.”
Seanie took a good long sup of his pint, but was slow to reply. Neil, the stereotypical country boy who had come good in the city and yet still came home with the bags of washing at the weekends for someone else to take care of, had expected the transaction to be a straightforward one, and was slightly taken aback by the old man’s frostiness. He decided to play hardball.
“I’ll pay face value plus VAT, if you know what I mean, Seanie,” he said in a hushed tone.
Seanie rested his pint on the bar, and turned to face his young proposition-maker.
“A few people have enquired about the ticket alright,” he said, “I’ll make a decision on it at the end of the night and I’ll let you know.”
Neil, not used to being told no, felt like telling him what he could do with his ticket, but he kept his cool. With his winning smile that had served him so well in the world of city banking, he said, “Good man Seanie, well we’re sitting over by the fire, sure if you let us know what you decide that would be great.”
Then he marched, with a step that betrayed his agitation, back to his group of pals who had been watching on with amusement.
Turlough had been watching developments with intrigue too. He knew Seanie was not the type to be pushed around, and that his mind had hidden depths.
“Ah now Seanie,” he said, “are you playing hard to get with that young fella?”
“Throw me on another there, good man,” replied Seanie.
The sounds of a tin whistle, guitar and fiddle fired up from another corner of the pub, and just as Seanie was losing himself in the enchanting melody of the Marino Waltz, he had another pair of visitors.
“Hi Seanie, how are things?”
It was Mary McHugh, and her shifty looking husband, whose name Seanie had never found out, or had any inclination to. He was one of those men who kept eye contact to a minimum when he met you on the street. Seanie had never known a man with such a fixation with his own shoes!
“Howya, Mary,” said Seanie.
He knew Mary simply because she was the proprietor of the local corner store. And the local gossip-monger, which wasn’t really a failing on her part. To run a successful country shop in Ireland, being a commentator on the goings-on of the village was a pre-requisite. Seanie bought the groceries off her once a week, but told her little of himself, and asked even less of her.
“Ah sure I’m not so bad, Seanie. Tell me, I heard you might have a ticket for the big match, is it true? Only Brian here and myself would love to go. I have a ticket, a very kind sales rep dropped one into the shop, but poor old Brian has none. Would you have any interest in selling it?”
Seanie picked up his pipe, tapped its side twice on the counter, and climbed down from his stool.
“I’m going out for a smoke Mary, but I’ll be making a decision on it later. There’s a few people interested. Sure I’ll let you know the story before I go home tonight.”
“That’d be great, thanks Seanie,” chirped Mary, as she nudged her predictably belligerent husband.
“Oh yeah, thanks for that, Seanie,” mumbled Brian, as Seanie passed him, making his way out to the street for a smoke.
It was an early autumn evening in the tranquil village, and Seanie loved this time of year. It was the first time the county had made it to the All-Ireland Hurling Final in over twenty years, and he understood why so many people wanted to get their hands on his spare ticket. He couldn’t wait to go himself.
As he stood there, puffing plumes of smoke into the still night, a young man approached him from the darkness. Seanie knew his face to see, but had no idea what stock he was from. “How’s it going,” he said, “not a bad evening.” Then he stopped to chat.
Inside the pub, there were many curious faces looking out the window at Seanie, wondering who the stranger was that he was talking to.
They were a good twenty minutes outside, and from Neil to Brian and Mary, and Turlough to about another dozen or so characters sipping pints, they were all waiting to find out who Seanie was going to give the coveted ticket to. Finally, Seanie finished his conversation with the young man, and returned to his stool at the bar.
“Will you do me a favour, Turlough?” he said after a few minutes of deep contemplation.
“I will,” said Turlough.
“I’m going to slip out the back door. When I’m gone home will you tell the lot of them that the ticket is gone.”
“I will,” replied Turlough, “did you give it to the young fella outside?”
“I did,” said Seanie.
“Between yourself and myself, do you mind me asking why?”
Seanie leaned in closer to Turlough.
“Sure I didn’t want any money for the ticket,” he said. “All I wanted was to be able to sit beside someone I could have a decent chat to at the match.
“That young fellow outside didn’t know I had any ticket and he had a longer conversation with me than any of the punters in here have had with me in the last ten years. As he was walking off I asked him if he would be interested in the ticket, and he was delighted with himself. Sure he even offered me a lift up to the match and back.”
With that, Seanie put on his overcoat and made his way out of the back of the pub.
Turlough watched his frail frame as he disappeared through the door, and thought he couldn’t have many All-Ireland Finals left in him. He couldn’t help but feel pangs of sadness, and respect, for the man.
Then, with a touch of satisfaction, he turned to break the news to his customers.