By Tom Ryan
Billy Joe (“The Hurler”) Hannigan was a great and indeed nigh fanatical follower of the great game of the Gael – hurling. But he was also now in a tizzy. For he had been tossing and turning in his bed all night as he contemplated in his dreams the relative merits and demerits of both the lonely state of bachelorhood and that of the alleged ecstatic state of matrimony.
His only consolation was a hazy dream sequence in which the Tipperary team captain banged home a goal to the back of the Kilkenny net prior to lifting up the McCarthy Cup to the delight of delirious supporters in Croke Park.
At this moment with his blue and gold flag clasped tightly in his fist and fingering the blue and gold rosettes stitched into his lapels, He was loudly and defiantly singing the Tipperary “anthem,” “Sliabh na mBan” as he rapped on the door of Mary Kate Ryan’s cottage in the little village of Tir na gCamán (Land of the Hurlies). Billy Joe, in his daydreams would have you thinking the village was named after himself.
“Will you ever, please, close your gob, Billy Joe or my mother upstairs will throw a pot of boiling water down on top of that big head of yours even if ye did itself beat Erin go Brágh in the County Final. She’s still asleep upstairs. Sure, what’s the hurry, anyhow? “What’s the hurry?!” gasped Billy Joe as the afore mentioned Mary Kate in her gold dress and straw hat with blue ribbons fluttering out of it stumbled out the door, breathless and not a little annoyed. “And we going up to the All-Ireland and ne’er a ticket for Croker. What’s the hurry, sez she!”
“Billy Joe, you mean to say we’re off to Croke Park and might have to watch the match on television in one of the Tipp pubs in Dublin, you promised the other night ‘twould be a great day above in Dublin – a perfect day, you said.” “Sure, some of the boys above in Talbot Street, if you have a leg of ‘em, will be happy to oblige a legendary ould Tipp supporter and his cailín óg deas with a couple of tickets if we get there before twelve o’clock, no problem. Big Tipp crowd always at the Sean Treacy commemoration when Tipp are in the final. We won’t be let down.”
“We better get going or we’ll miss the train in Thurles.” “You can be in a hurry when you want, Billy Joe. The two of us going steady this 35 years and ne’er a mention of an engagement ring let alone a wedding bed. No hurry about that!” “Ah, don’t start that now. You know how easy going I am, Mary Kate, No need to be rushing into things like that.” “What is allotted cannot be blotted sure, what’s meant for you won’t pass you by.” “A fair few Valentines days have passed me by and not so much as a card from you.” “All you ever talk about is hurling. Morning, noon and night until I think you are more in love with the camán and sliotar than poor Mary Kate Ryan. Gwan, litya, you ould cod.”
“Have you the ham sandwiches and the tay flask, Billy Joe?” “Aye. You know who we’re up against in the Big Smoke today?” “Oh god, nothing else drummed into me head all this week on television, radio and the newspapers only them bleddy Kilkenny Cats that have to be skinned. Of course I know who we’re playing. You hardly think I’d be singing the Rose of Mooncoin, do you! God give me patience this blessed day.”
“Are we going to the match, Billy Joe or are we going to stand like two gawking fools here arguing all day long and be late for the bleddy train, the bleddy match and the bleddy reception for the team afterwards in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel. Come on!”
“Ah, you’re a mighty lass, Mary Kate. Sure any decent Tipp hurling man would be proud to have you as his partner and fellow supporter.” “Except the legendary Billy Joe.” “Sure, you know I love you, ould stock.” “And the hurling and Coke Park and the Tipperary hurling team and “Sliabh na mBan and … ”
“What are you doing, Billy Joe? Stop that nonsense or me mother will see you!”
“Sure ‘tis only an ould bit of a hugger.” “More like a mugger. Stop Billy Joe Stop now, I tell you – keep your hands to yourself or I won’t be responsible for me actions!” “Oh, good God, Mary Kate, I can’t wait any longer.” “Wait any longer for what? Behave yourself now like a good man. Getup off your knees and up on your two feet like a man and stop acting the fool. What will you be like after drinking above in Dublin at this rate of going?”
“I have to tell you, Mary Kate, the boys up in Dublin will not have any tickets at all for us. I never asked them nor do I intend to ask them.” “Oh, so we’ll watch the match in a pub in O’Connell Street? That’s a fine how do you do.” “Well, I have better plans than that, Mary Kate.” Oh, don’t tell me. Hayes’s Hotel in Thurles? For I don’t think we’re even going to make the train now.” “Mary Kate, will you close that mouth of yours and listen!” “What are ya up to or should I say down to. Get off your knees ya ould eejit! You’re making a holy show of me!”
“Mary Kate, mo chroí, will you honour this Tipp legend, Billy Joe, by agreeing to be his lawful wife in victory or in defeat, come hell or high water, Tipp victories or Kilkenny hammerings, me girl. For, if you don’t, I could not ever as much as look at a hurley or a sliotar again, as I might as well be dead as mutton in that case, so help me God.” “Billy Joe, What’s that in your hand?” “That, my gorgeous girl, is what you might call a little surprise – thanks to my hurling friends in the County Board who love this Legendary Tipp Super Supporter, Billy Joe.”
“Oh, Billy Joe, two tickets for the match! Well, you ould cod, you led me up the garden path all along. Oh, Billy Joe you are one great Gael! What’s this thing in the envelope with the tickets?” Me darling, Billy Joe – the ring! After 35 long years! Oh, I love ya me ould segochia!” “Sure all said and done, Mary Kate, I think in all humility, we now “have a perfect Tipp match today, Up Tipperary!