unyielding rebel | 

Roy Curtis: ‘I was as prolific on Good Fridays as unstoppable centre-forward Erling Haaland’

Magical glory of raising a glass to slaying bureaucracy

Roy Haaland

Erling Haaland© PA

Sunday World

ON the ladder of our affections, it resided upon the uppermost rungs, perched alongside Gaelic games and whining about the weather as Ireland’s most beloved national sport.

A contest that engaged every social class, that raced across generational and geographical boundaries, whipping up an annual fever of anti-authoritarian giddiness.

In an ideologically demented age, with the nation at the headwaters of a river of conservatism, it coaxed out the inner rebel which sits unyielding at the core of the Irish psyche.

I refer to the festival of innovation, the Mardi Gras of rule-breaking that was the pursuit of an illegal Good Friday pint.

As enthusiastic as fevered Klondike prospectors at the tail end of the 19th century, the nation went in pursuit of liquid gold.

That insurgency against bad laws — a draconian charter only finally torn down by common sense in 2018 — came to mind this week as the latest changes to the licensing hours prompted Ireland’s more excitable citizens to froth like a badly pulled pint of pilsner.

As this is the weekend the clocks go back, let us rewind to that era of shining insubordination.

To absurdist 24-hour prohibition, and the lovely light-headed surge that came with upending the system and happily sitting at a bar transformed for the day into a 1920s era New York speakeasy.

The Good Friday experience was Andy Dufresne’s Shawshank jailbreak in reverse, the craved sense of liberation lay within pubs padlocked for the day like a maximum-security prison.

Breaking in, escaping from what was essentially an Alcatraz of the imagination, became, for what seemed like the greater part of the population, a yearly badge of honour.

Erling Haaland© PA

The glory, adrenalin rush and heightened sense of achievement that came with raising a glass to the slaying of outdated bureaucracy were as magical as the surge of fulfilment thousands will enjoy at today’s Dublin City Marathon finishing line.

A confession: I was as prolific on Good Fridays as the unstoppable Norwegian centre-forward Erling Haaland.

Haaland’s Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola would have marvelled at our crew’s capacity, no matter the defensive barriers were constructed before us, to find the back of the alcoholic net.

Off the top of my head, I can recall 17 different venues where I validated the thesis that forbidden fruit tastes best.

In a scene straight out of Some Like It Hot, there was beer served from a teapot at a long-gone Rathmines Chinese restaurant. Had it been the product the straight-faced waiters pretended it to be, Barry’s annual profits would have at least doubled.

One year, a landlord organised a married v singles football match, with the understanding we would surreptitiously nip into the back bar of his tavern afterwards.

Word got out in the days before and, for some reason, the match attracted an audience to rival any All-Ireland final.

Garda raids were occupational hazards of our noble pursuit of bringing a shade of technicolour to those monochrome times.

Often the guards themselves were embarrassed at having to go through a clearly nonsensical bad-cop routine.

I vividly recall one such Good Friday at a canal-side watering hole, when, prompted by an officer who had just interrupted our imbibing, one universally known inter-county footballer offered the fictitious moniker of Cornelius O’Casey.

The guard knowingly eyed up and down the household name before him, dryly observed that Mister O’Casey seemed to have drunk as many pints as he had won All Star awards, then moved on without further comment.

In another Dublin 2 house, we hid in the basement cold room as a squad car pulled up outside.

Unbeknown to the young guards banging on the shutters, one of their superior officers was among those shivering alongside us in the subterranean chamber of kegs.

I can’t so much as change a plug yet was among a band of “electricians” recruited by a friendly publican to rewire his pub one long ago Good Friday.

The pub wasn’t much bigger than your front room. But clearly, as our eight-hour shift demonstrated, the electrics required serious remedial work.

The law was plainly an ass, so it was afforded less respect than Liz Truss, even if it took some 90 years longer to overthrow.

Now that it is perfectly legal to sit yourself on a high stool, the allure of a Good Friday pint has dimmed.

But the magic of those Klondike days endures, a nation on the Yukon Trail, mining for nuggets of joy. Toasting the unforgettable triumph of once again striking forbidden liquid gold.


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