Monday, 16 December 2013

The ‘real’ in the flickering light

Back in the hungry 50’s, one of my brothers and his red-headed friend would ‘borrow’ a donkey and stand on the side of the road, just outside of Killarney. Before long the coaches would arrive, full of Irish-American tourists. The lads would stand in their best ‘John Hinde’ poses, the coaches would stop and the tourists would pour out with cameras ready to capture this moment of pure Irishism! The redhead would stand with the donkey while my brother charmed for loose change. They always did very well.

By the 1970’s, I could be found among the hoard of shaggy musicians who were more than happy to hang around the pubs of Dublin with instruments ready. As soon as the tourists came in an impromptu music sessions would break out – as if by magic. Free drinks were the oil that kept the craic flowing and, with the right crowd, the session could last all night.

It was contrived to be sure, but then again it was the ‘tourist trade’ which is always a reflection of what people want to see. I doubt there were many tourists who wanted to see beyond the veil where poverty and despair haunted the lives of so many of us. 

Real Irish national identity has never been a simple thing to describe. Like all societies we have similar characteristics that can easily become stereo types but few of us actually wear green bowlers, carry shillelaghs and smoke cob pipes. Even less of us have actually seen leprechauns though, after a few drinks, many of us can tell you where you might find one!

Nor were we all the good pious Catholics the powers up in Maynooth tried to portray. Sure, we observed the bare minimum of required observance but at heart we were always pagans full of pishogueriesthose rites and rituals to ward off the evil spirits. 

That all changed when the Celtic Tiger arrived. I wasn’t there for that, having fled to Canada on a whim, but for years I watched with pride as my wee nation rose from the economic quagmire. The young no longer had to scatter across the world as good work could be found at home. 

Before long I could see huge differences. Each time I went back I could sense a growth in confidence—the Irish were no longer putting on the poor mouth—(“an béal bocht a chur ort”) and were proudly stepping forward to claim their place as a shining example of economic miracle.
At the height of the Tiger, we became aficionados of French Cuisine and fine wines. We took holidays on the continent, skiing in the Alps in the winter and escaping the rain in Portugal where our fistfuls of freshly minted Euros could buy large amounts of everything. In time we lost sight of ourselves and, as is always the case, got lost. 

From the beginning, I feared that much that was of value might get lost along the way. Yes, I was glad to see us end our years of subservience but what about all of those things that made us distinct? 

Once the economic pain has subsided, and all the dust of recrimination has settled, a New Ireland will emerge—a wiser Ireland that will be more balanced. We have had centuries of good and bad and we know that each one comes and goes, regardless. We indulge in the good and learn to laugh at the bad—what else can we do? 

That is something that Ireland has rediscovered after a few decades of taking things far too seriously—the ability to laugh at the ways of the world. This is what Flann O’Brien was trying to tell us. Maybe now we can all go back to the wisdom of before, the poems of Austin Clarke and Paddy Kavanagh, the rapier wit of Oscar Wilde and the day-to-day sanguinity of Roddy Doyle because the world would be a much sadder place without the Irish for all their follies and foibles.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

A ‘mad’ ramble about Mental Health


Thankfully issues around mental health are bubbling up across the popular discourse. It’s still a stigma for too many, but we are inching towards new understandings. I follow along with a keen interest because I, too, have suffered periods of terrible darkness. Many times in my life, I have hovered near the brink of the abyss—often enough to realise that, as I often heard growing up, “it could happen a bishop.”

In fact, I’m coming to the point where I become suspicious of anyone who does not suffer real depression from time to time. And no, I’m not being sarcastic, or cynical. We live in an awful mess of a place and most of the things we do just make it worse—like aspiring to be well-adjusted to the unmanageability we have created. And suppressing all efforts to be really honest about it.

You know, sometimes, no matter what marketing would have us believe, the glass is half-empty and, sometimes, we lack the where-with-all to replenish it. (In these times, I have always found it best to linger over the glass in the hope that something would show up before I reach the bottom. It always does, even if sometimes it is only the insistence that I buy another or leave. Other times, a friendly face would arrive and sit down beside me and buy me another.)

I speak, of course, about the days when I was a debauched alcoholic around the town—or, as I now like to call it, when my mental health issues were on steroids. And for the record, it’s been a very long time since my last drink, decades in fact, but the rest of it stays with me and affords me enough insight to relate. You see, drunks are among the most despised of the mentally/emotionally challenged and with very good cause. Drunken manifestations of all that is wrong inside are usually horrendous and often involve the terrorising of all who are close to the sufferer. Efforts to help are rarely rewarded with anything other than utter frustration. Drunks thrive on denial and become incomprehensible to those who don’t. I know all this because, as a child, I suffered the alcoholism of others and, as a young adult, still became all that I loathed. (Predestination: you’re a heartless old hag!) I used to feel a bit sorry for myself but that was just stacking fuel for future fires so I avoid that now.

But what has this to do with the Mental Health discussion? Well, I’ll tell you. Alcoholism is on the cutting edge of mental disorder in a number of ways. It’s where depression is jagged and quilt and remorse wait by the bedside every morning—or afternoon. It’s where paranoia becomes so real that you shake and shiver. It’s the awful essence of chronic disorder with bells and whistles that guarantees all kinds of unwanted attention. It’s like preforming a bad play naked on a very unforgiving stage.

But in so many ways, it’s not the worst of it. It has made its way into modern culture and the problem, and solutions, are now widely known and accepted. In fact one can now be admired for admitting to it, and dealing with it.

All fine and dandy unto itself, but what about the rest? What about all those people whose disorders are not so easy to diagnose. You know, all those people who get told to ‘snap out of it.’ People who cannot go along with all of the little white lies of existence and spend their lives staring into dark mirrors; people who sit beside you on subways and buses with their hearts bleeding; people we fear because we don’t want to catch whatever is bothering them. Depression is still seen as contagious, especially by those who run around trying to distract themselves.

And the solution? Well, beyond making the world a better place where everyone, regardless of colour, creed, and cult, can live freely and not be imposed upon by other people’s tyranny, I would suggest that we embrace disorder—or as we used to call it, madness.

All of the best people used to be mad and were considered ‘the best’ because they had learned to celebrate it. They learned to turn all that churned in side of them into gripping and provoking views of the real madness we are supposed to conform to. Writers, musicianers, and especially painters—and poets I suppose, if we have to be inclusive—have crafted ‘madness’ into some of the best expressions about life; far and away better than the spin of politicos and business-y types; far and away better than trying to conform to lies and distortions.

You see, I have come to believe that Art is a key to unlock so many doors. Good or bad (Art), it is the greatest outlet. Emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, (enough of the time), it lets us comment on the three-ringed circuses we live in. It has a proven track record in helping victims of trauma come to terms with unimaginable horror and it has allowed those who have fallen from the path, find their way to a better place.

It will not solve everything and for those who subsist in the shadows beyond my tongue-in-cheek generalisations, let’s get real about getting a little closer to a better understanding. Let’s do what we did with alcoholism and recognise it for what it is—a very common and costly problem that robs from us all. Let’s spend money, time, and energy trying to manage it a little better.

Let’s start making a little more room in the world for the wackos and winos, as we have done with all the other things that make us different. And for the love of live, let’s steer some resources towards those who have lost the struggle to cope with this mad, mad, mad, world.

And you know, if we tear down a few more curtains, and see how shabby we have made the world, we might start to fix it up a bit. Anything else would be insanity.


First appeared on The Story Plant Blog, for more please see:

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Novelist as the Advocatus Diaboli


In my humble and distorted view, there is one role that a novelist is best suited too; the role of Devil’s Advocate.
And for anyone who might be thinking Satanism, the Devil’s Advocate was the popular term for the Promoter of the Faith, Promotor Fidei, a Canon lawyer appointed by the Catholic Church to argue with God's Advocate, the Promoter of the Cause, Advocatus Dei, in the matter of canonizing saints.
Skepticism and the ability to poke holes in what passed for conventional wisdom were the key characteristics of a good Devil’s Advocate and, I believe, a good novelist. And in both cases, the more successful risked having their arguments confused with their real and private views.
In the case of writers, it’s understandable when you consider how many books are nothing more than thinly veiled prolongations of the writer’s agenda, be it political, cultural, social or religious.
In this, non-fiction often leads the way. Books that claim to be factual are often little more than the carefully selected arguments that support only one point of view. To my mind, that is an absurd way of looking at things and calls to mind the words of Jules H. Poincare: “To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.”
There is, was, and always will be, two sides to every story and even the devil himself must be afforded his say. As does the novelists who presents a view that is, at the same time, encouraging and despondent, insightful and vague . . . you get the picture.
And good novels will always leave their authors open to misinterpretation. Was Jane Austin really a misandrist? Was James Joyce anti-Semitic? Was Kafka just a bored bureaucrat? Does any of it really matter? These are points for the Devil’s Advocate in all of us.
What does matter is that throughout the history of novels, and indeed story-telling itself, the writer/teller can present an ‘argument’ that sets conventional wisdom on its proverbial ass. That so many of these ‘tellings’ have been banned, burned, shunned and derided is but the testament to their effect.
Most people that read novels have had that moment when a book spoke to them so loudly and clearly that it changed their lives. For me, there were a few but then again I am a bit of a gypsy at heart—with a pagan soul.
One novel that stands among the greats for me, was 1984 which I first read at the outset of adolescence. It confirmed everything I was beginning to feel about the world around me and now, 40 years later, has been proven. (And those of you who still accept the idea that it was Orwell’s rejection of Socialism should read it again.) It was, as a recent wag noted: “A warning—not a handbook.”
Shortly after that I read Demian, by Hesse, and life was never the same, but then again it never was and, if I am to understand what novelists suggest, never should be. And while these moments of epiphany are never forgotten, there are often too harsh and too painful to relive, over and over.
For this we have writings like: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; a wonderfully simple tale of tilting with all that destroyed Andalusia. Read it again and marvel at how different it is from what you remembered. And take a moment to peep behind the veils that confuse poor Quijano but not Panza, bearing in mind the words of Edith Grossman who was tasked with translating it:
"The question is that Quixote has multiple interpretations... and how do I deal with that in my translation. I'm going to answer your question by avoiding it... so when I first started reading the Quixote I thought it was the most tragic book in the world, and I would read it and weep... As I grew skin grew thicker... and so when I was working on the translation I was actually sitting at my computer and laughing out loud. This is done... as Cervantes did it... by never letting the reader rest. You are never certain that you truly got it. Because as soon as you think you understand something, Cervantes introduces something that contradicts your premise."
And after you’ve reread it, pick any good book you read many years ago and look at how far you have come since. (And, if you haven’t come as far as you wished—then simply read more books.) Look at all the writer alludes to in the spaces between the words and see how much you have been able to fill in on your own.
While you’re at it, take a chance on something new and different, too, so your mind does not become one of those dusty old places where the voice of the Devil’s Advocate can no longer be heard.
First appeared on The Story Plant Blog:

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


The Informed Voter is the Sword of Democracy. Grand words, if they were true, but the reality is most voters are nothing more than the bludgeon of the tyranny of the majority. We are not informed; we are indoctrinated. And before you say “Not me,” just sit down and actually listen to what our elected representatives say. Can you imagine behaving like that in your own workplace?

“Mr. Murphy, could you update us on your project’s progress?”

“I’ve already answered that.”

“I see. Well maybe you could give us a recap?”

“I’m still cleaning up the mess the last guy left.”

“Even after seven years?”

“Action plan, action plan, action plan.”

“What exactly does that mean?”

“The media is out to get me.”


“The Liberals are just going along with the status quo.”

“What does that have to do with anything? Are you on crack?”

“Fiscal responsibility.”

“What has that got to do with the question?”

“Ask me properly.”


“Action plan, gravy train, jobs and prosperity for all.”

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The more things change . . .


For the last three years I have been chronicling the life and times of Danny Boyle, a most unfortunate individual of my own creation. Life & Times will see the light of day as three books, Born & Bred, In Exile, and All Roads . . .,  all of which will be available from The Story Plant in the not too distant future.

Spanning a 50 year period, which just happens to be the bulk of my life, I wanted the backdrop of Danny’s life to reflect what was going on in the world and while doing the research, reaffirmed what my wise old Irish mother used to say when she wasn’t chiding me for the length of my hair and shabbiness of my jeans, and my taste in modern music: “None of us are islands despite all the time and effort we spend trying to insulate ourselves.”

 She was right, nothing is free of the past, not Danny, and certainly not the world he and we live in. The past, even the distortions we have made of it, still lives in us and shapes the now and the future of individuals and nations. This is particularly true in Ireland where Danny’s story began. There, in 1970’s Dublin, his troubles were easily woven into the turbulences and ramifications of a thousand years of strife. And, to get the details right, I had to dig down, beyond the headlines and those moments remembered, to find the threads that bind us all for good or bad.

At times I felt like one of the old Medieval Chroniclers, the bloggers of yore, scratching away through days and nights, only taking time to eat, smoke and walk the dogs. I slept, too, but was often roused by those magic moments when the swirling mists of the past formed into shapes and meanings that were so germane to what was evolving.

It helped that part of my life was spent troubadouring, keeping alive the truths hidden in the simple songs of the long dead. And spending hours in smoky bars listening to the old people telling the true, and not so true, stories of their days. “You learn nothing from headlines,” my mother often said with her academic disdain and she has often been proven right, especially now in the age of sound bites and staying on message. But none of these things are new, politicians and their spin-machines have been distorting our view of the world around us since before Genesis.

 It also help that I evolved from skeptical youth, through total despondency and disillusionment, and through the moderation that parenthood demands, to that calmer place where you begin to grasp the truths about life. They truly fascinate once you try to stop taking them personally—one of the greatest liberties that books allow the reader and writer alike.

Books reassure us that then, as in the pages of history, and as now, the hurly-burly every day, we ride the waves of war and peace, of gain and loss, of restrictions and freedoms, and as long as we don’t let ourselves get too bogged down in what we accept as true and what we reject as false, it’s a great ride.

And Danny? Well, he was never going to be one of those who get to live happily ever after. Who does? No, Danny has a much more interesting path through it all. He follows in the footsteps of the millions who set off for a better life in the New World. But even there, raising a family with his sweetheart, he cannot free himself of the past and suffers loss and pain and does what we all do in such trials: he seeks solace and comfort in things that often turn against him. He rationalizes and he twists truth to match his purpose. He hurts those he should love and, when cut off like an island, cries into the great abyss of extreme and utter loneliness. But, just like the rest of us, his life is a thread in the greater tapestry that is always there, even when we try to ignore it. And, just like the rest of us, he is never really as alone as he seems.

And, as I head into the latter chapters of the third book, I often remember something else that my mother was wont to say: “The more things change . . .”

For more, please see

Friday, 6 September 2013

Excerpt from Lagan Love

He had left a note to meet him in Grogan’s. She understood the significance: 'Grogan’s is where I grew up. It’s the closest thing I've had to a real home, at least since my mother died.'

So this is it, I get to meet the family. I must make a good impression. What would complement my Just-had-good-sex-but-I’m-still-horny smile? Perhaps something in red, with black pants – no, a short black skirt. She wanted to leave an impression on his soul, as well as his body.

For a while, she would become a fixture on his arm, and in time, the world would know her for her own work. After that, Fate would decide if she stayed or went, but first, she had to look the part.

She paraded back and forth in front of the long mirror that leaned against the wall. It offered that nice perspective, sloping away. She could turn and see most of her back, right down to her long slender calves. Was it really fair to Sinead? She said it was okay, but her reflection wasn't listening. She was posing in her black underwear. And what was it you were saying about clichés? We could try the red set.

It was perfection. Her skin looked like alabaster, her lips like wine and her hair like storm-clouds. She shimmed into her short skirt and, corseted in her red shirt, checked herself one more time. Dark and dangerous, like a child of the night, she offered her passing reflection as she left.

Be careful, you don't know what else wanders in these nights, in this ancient city, in this strange land, her likeness tried to warn her but she had closed the door and was walking the moonlit street. Her heels clattered quickly past the shaded bench where a shadow flitted and was gone.

By the time she arrived in Grogan’s, he was standing by the bar. Her shirt was tight and her skirt was, perhaps, a bit short, but what the hell. She opened her leather jacket slowly. Her top three buttons were undone. She wanted to push her breasts forward, but she was losing her nerve. Most of the men in the bar had turned. They almost formed a circle around her but kept their distance and opened like a path before her.

She grew a little shy as they eddied back to their smoking and swearing as she passed. She smiled with as much assurance as she could muster and reached forward and kissed his lips as he ordered drinks and steered them to a small table in the corner. As Janice sat, she was careful to let her skirt ride up a little. His eyes followed her hips and she felt warm in his gaze. She reached out across the table; she wanted to be close to him again.

He leaned back and looked at her for a moment with that glazed look men get, but he was calm. “I was thinkin’ about you all day, an’ I was thinkin’ that maybe I'd write a poem about you or somethin’.”

The ‘something’ sounded appealing but, after her lust was sated, love poems would make the whole thing perfect. She would paint him of course; it would be a part of her Dublin period, a blue period when the seeds were sown. He'd be world renowned by then, too. It was all so good that she almost shivered.

“Are you cold?”

“No, of course not,” but she did lean forward and push her breasts together.

 “Maybe,” he smiled at her adjustment, “we could collaborate, ya know? I could talk with some people I know, and we could do one of those fancy books with paintin's and poems together. I think that would be fuckin' brilliant, don't you? I mean it wouldn't be hard now that everybody is talkin' about my poems already.”

That raised a flutter inside of her. They could share lives for a while; not a happy-ever-after thing, they were far too bohemian for that. But they could spend some time together. He could even meet her in the coffee shop for everyone to see. She almost frowned when she thought about her, but as she had said, Sinead was okay with this. She knew Janice was an artist, someone who couldn't be expected to paint between the lines.

In time, they would part and she'd go back to Canada, but not to Robert, he would be married by then, and she'd have a signed copy of ‘Poems for a Woman’ or some such title. Perhaps, she'd leave it on her bedside table, when Leonard Cohen spent the night.

New Love, her old-self reminded her, is such a heady mix, potent and likely to cause missteps.

I don’t care. I feel alive and free. I feel like I've never felt before.

Christ! Get a grip; after all, he's not the first!

But this will be delicious, he's a poet and I'm a painter. It’s all so terribly un-Toronto of me.

It is amazing how a good fuck can change your mind, she reminded herself in a tone that might have been borrowed from Sinead.

He was still talking about himself, and as long as she looked into his eyes and nodded during the brief pauses, he'd continue. He was very happy with himself; he might be invited to read his work as part of some Irish cultural exchange. He was Dublin’s street poet, and he was in demand right now. He ordered her another Scotch, and she took another of his cigars. Both tasted foul in her mouth, but she wanted to look the part, the mysterious woman with the handsome poet.

She must have been doing it right because every man who wrestled his way past looked her up and down. Janice loved the feeling and tingled between her crossed legs as the whiskey surged, dispelling caution and daring her, with every sip, to take yet another step out and away from everything she had been.

And, when he lit her cigar, he held the match before her face, looking into her eyes. As he drew his hand away, he let the back of his fingers trace along her cheek. The burning match was far too close, but it added to her excitement. He'd moved to the seat beside her and discreetly took her hand in his. He was being demonstrative, something Janice knew was unusual for him.

“So are you gonna be the one to catch the great Greeley?” someone called from the bar where a line of men sat in a row, turning every once in a while to look her over.

“She's far too good for the likes of him.”

“Maybe she's one of those people that do studies on endangered species.”

“Would ya ever go and fuck yourselves,” Aidan softly dropped her hand and reached for his pint.

“Ah! C’mon now, Aidan. Aren’t ya goin’ to introduce us to the young lady?”

“Janice, these are the lads. Lads, this is Janice.”

A few of them flocked around the table to introduce themselves, to get closer to her, and Janice smiled as she looked each one in the eye as they shook hands. For all their bravado, they were really very shy.

“So you're from Canada, then,” one of them remarked as if that explained something that had mystified them all. “And what are you doing in Ireland?”

“In Trinity, Jazus, Greeley, this one's a cut above.”

“Would ya ever go and fuck-off now and give us some peace and privacy.”

“C’mon on now, lads,” Paddy called from behind the bar, “leave the young love birds alone.”

Aidan squirmed. He didn't want this attention.

“Are those your friends?”

“Some of them.”

“They seem nice.”

“Trust me, they’re not!”

By the end of the evening, Janice had difficulty keeping her poise as they walked to her place. She was carefree and exhilarated by the promise of intimacy, something that could never be broken by wind nor rain. She tried to brush against him as often as she could, to feel his body against hers, to touch, as if by accident, some part of him, but she was in danger of falling over. Her jacket was open and her shirt undone to the fourth button. My true self emerges, she laughed to herself. He laughed, too, and she wondered if her mind was open to him. She really didn’t care. She was becoming something she had read about and never tried before.

“Aidan, you're not brooding. In fact, you almost seem happy. Are you sure you're a poet?”

“Ya know that I think you're havin' an effect on me.”

“Oh, Aidan, are you suggesting you've found everlasting love with me?”

“Nay, I just feel that you and I could stay in the here and now for a while and never have to worry about all the other shite.”

“But what about when we get old and wrinkled?”

“Then we'll just have to have a few extra drinks so we don't notice so much.”

“Aidan, you've given this a lot of thought.”

“Like I said, Janice, I think you're havin' an effect on me. So, wanna do it again?”

“Do what?”

“You know, doin' it.”

“Not until you say it.”

“Janice, darlin', would you like to make love with me?”

“Nay, I just want to have sex.”


From Lagan Love. For more, please see

Sunday, 24 March 2013

DUBLIN DUCHESS: 'Lagan Love' by Peter Murphy

DUBLIN DUCHESS: 'Lagan Love' by Peter Murphy: Lagan Love is a Dublin story. Based around the city in the bars, coffee shops, streets and houses, it is a story of disappointment in love, ...

Friday, 22 March 2013

And the winner is . . . Abdollah Dehnashi. Congratulations to Abdollah.
And for everybody else, stay tuned, we will be running another Lagan Love Collection give-away soon. So please stay in touch and thank you to everyone who took part.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Like a lovesick lenanshee, she hath my heart in thrall;

Win a handcrafted Lenanshee by Imago Corvi (retail value $275.00) inspired by the book “Lagan Love” by Peter Murphy when you send us a proof of purchase.


1. One Entry per purchase of “Lagan Love” by Peter Murphy
2. Proof of purchase (ebook or paper copy) must be sent to before March 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST.

3. Draw will be held on March 17th, 2013 using Random.Org
4. Winning Entry will be notified within 24 hours via email
5. Prize is non-transferrable.
6. Visit for more information






Friday, 25 January 2013

Sunday morning football in the park.

I haven't bloged in a while. Been busy working on the next two books.
Don't believe me - well, here's a little piece inspired by the days we played football up in the park. Enjoy.

‘Where are you shower from?’ their opponents asked in a disinterested way.

‘Fucking mountain men.’

‘No bad language, please,’ the referee scolded them as he checked his watch one more time and got ready to blow his whistle. From the kick-off they all knew what to do, except Danny who wandered back and forth along the half-way line. If he went further into his own half, Anto would berate him. ‘Stay up there for when we get the break. Get ready for the long ball.’
‘C’mon Danny,’ Fr. Reilly called from the sideline. ‘Keep at it. You’re doing great.’

Danny was encouraged by that and ran back and forth with renewed enthusiasm while the other team stopped even pretending to cover him.
‘That’s great,’ Fr. Reilly reassured him. ‘You’re doing a great job getting open. C’mon lads, Danny is open, let’s start getting the ball to him.’ 

His teammates carried on regardless.
‘Move away Boyle,’ Anto shouted as he approached with the ball. ‘Move away and take the cover with ya.’

Danny had no idea what he was talking about and stood where he was as Anto wove around him. But the opponent didn’t, clattering right through Danny as he tried to get to the ball. He fell to the muddy wet ground and looked like he might cry but the ref helped him up as he awarded a free-kick to the outrage of the other team. ‘C’mon, ref, that’s obstruction.’
‘Obstruction? Are you having me on? He was doing nothing of the sort. He was just minding his own business. Free kick, and that’s enough lip out of you or I’ll book ya.’ He admonished with his finger as his other hand tapped his shirt pocket where his black note book could be seen, along with the stubby yellow pencil.

‘Good man, Boyle. You’re playing a blinder,’ Anto muttered as he set the ball and drove it into the other team’s end of the field, far away from Danny. Normally they only played him on defense, against the weaker teams, and the ball never came near him. ‘It’s because they know they aren’t going to beat you,’ Anto had once told him and Danny was almost convinced.
The ball sloshed back and forth in the mud and Anto and his teammates forgot about Danny for a while but, at Fr. Reilly’s insistence, they did include him in the back-slapping when they finally scored.

‘Who’re the mountain men now, ye bollockses?’ they jeered the other team and even Danny joined in.

‘What are you looking at, ya fucking queer?’ one of them challenged him when he strayed too far from the huddle.
‘Language!’ the referee reminded them as he took out his note book to record the scorer. ‘I couldn’t see who got it so I’m going to put down your number,’ he winked at Danny and blew his whistle to restart play. He never strayed from the center circle and told Danny to stay with him so that he wouldn’t get run over again.

‘Is he marking the fucking ref now?’ Someone muttered when the game was paused while Fr. Reilly tried to dislodge the ball from an over-hanging tree.
‘Leave him alone, for fuck’s sake,’ Anto warned. He didn’t like the way they all picked on Danny.

‘Why? Is he your boyfriend now?’
‘Fuck you. Say that again and I’ll bleedin’ burst ya.’ Anto sneered. They were all very brave when it came to picking on Boyle but none of them would dare stand up to him.

‘Language!’ The ref reminded them absentmindedly as he watched Fr. Reilly throw sticks at the lodged ball.
The rain stopped as the second half started and the sun struggled with the low clouds but the field was slick and the tackles were flying. The opponents weren’t used to losing and were taking it badly. One of them even elbowed Danny as he ran past – a stinging blow to the back of his head when the ref wasn’t looking. He was far too busy blowing on his whistle with increasing fury. The game was getting rowdy.

‘It’s just a game, gentlemen,’ he reminded them all but only Danny seemed to agree. The others, teammates and opponents alike, were at war and it was only a matter of time until someone got hurt.
The referee nearly blew the pea out his whistle while looking outraged. One of the Saints was rolling around in the mud clutching his shin where the angry red rake of studs was emerging through the mud. Fr. Reilly was called to examine the wound while the referee wrote the offender’s name in his notebook. ‘I’ll have my eye on you now,’ he advised the lurking offender and snapped his notebook shut.

‘We’re going to have to play short,’ Fr. Reilly coached after he got his maimed player under the tree. ‘Anthony! Get them organised.’
On cue, Anto called them into a huddle. ‘These fuckers are going to try to rattle us all so don’t take any of their shite. There’s not long left.’

‘And what should I do?’ Danny asked, wanting to help any way he could.
‘Just keep doing what you’re doing. Stay high and wait for the long ball.’

He did for a while but in the last few minutes Danny couldn’t take it anymore. His team were getting ready to defend a corner and he had to go back. He had to get involved.
‘What the fuck are you doing back here?’ Anto asked.

‘I’m better as a defender.’
‘Okay, go cover number seven and don’t fuckin’ lose him. Don’t let him get a free header.’ They were under mounting pressure – playing a man short, and all.

When the corner was taken, it floated over them all towards the far post where number seven waited with the goal at his mercy. Danny had to make the play. He had to get to the ball so he closed his eyes and jumped.
It was like he was hit by a wet sack of sand and he collapsed to the ground in total silence.

‘Ah Jesus! The fuckin’ spastic put it in his own net,’ the other team jeered as they brushed past but one stopped to pat him on the back, even as he lay face down in the mud.
‘Is he hurt?’ the referee asked from the center circle.

‘He’d better be,’ the Keeper muttered as he nudged Danny with his toe. ‘Get up ya little bollocks, will ya?’
But Danny decided it was better to lie there as if he was hurt and the ref agreed, blowing his whistle to end the game.