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Tributes paid to tragic Dublin actor Stephen Clinch at anniversary showing of film

“He was really just about the craft, it was about the acting, he just absolutely loved it”

Peter Coonan. Pic: Kip Carroll

The Love/Hate cast

Peter Coonan in Between The Canals

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Tragic actor Stephen Clinch has been honoured at an anniversary screening of his first major onscreen role in the Irish movie Between The Canals.

Actor Peter Coonan, whose character Fran was infamously raped with a snooker cue wielded by Clinch’s character Noel in the hit series, also earlier starred alongside him in Between The Canals.

At an anniversary showing of the movie in Dublin’s Irish Film Institute this week, he and director Mark O’Connor paid tribute to Clinch, who died unexpectedly at the age of 52 in May earlier this year.

“It’s amazing to screen this for its 10 years anniversary and a lot of people here either worked with Clinchy, or his family, or just very good friends,”

Mark told a gathering of friends and fans at the screening.

“He was a great friend of ours, myself and Peter.

“What can I say about Clinchy. I could write a book about him.

“Despite his different demons that he had throughout the years, he was one of the kindest people you could ever meet. He would literally give you the shirt off his back and I remember when we were doing Between The Canals, we were kind of rehearsing a workshop myself and Peter, and Clinchy came in.”

Peter Coonan. Pic: Kip Carroll

Between The Canals was a crime film about three small-time criminals as they pinball their way around Dublin on a boozy St Patrick’s Day. It was made in 2010 and released in 2011, and was Clinch’s first onscreen role.

Clinch played one of the villains in the flick, and later went on to work with O’Connor on several other films, including Cardboard Gangsters and King of the Travellers.

“He never asked for anything over the years, never even asked for even his bus fare,” recalls Mark.

“He was really just about the craft, it was about the acting, he just absolutely loved it.

“It’s funny because he didn’t need to act, he was so believable onscreen and I kind of think he was kind of like an Irish Ray Winstone.

“Probably not recognised enough enough in this country, but he brought a lot of believability to Between the canals, and we have a lot to thank him for that and also the other films he did with us.

“Then beyond into Love/Hate I think he had a big influence on that TV show as well.”

The Love/Hate cast

Mark also noted that Clinch was renowned for his jokes.

“There were so many jokes that Clinchy had,” he explains. “ I was trying to remember one and my wife reminded me of one that he said, sorry if there’s any Kerry people, but this comes from Clinchy.

“The joke was ‘why did the Kerryman win the Nobel prize, because he was outstanding in his field’.’”

Peter Coonan reiterated what O’Connor said.

“I don’t think we would have been able to make this film if it wasn’t for Clinchy,” he maintains.

“We were shooting in Sherriff Street and Amiens street, and we were in and out of there for nine months, maybe a year and we met Clinchy through Mick (Foran).

“Basically, he was our protector in the area, because we were in and out of there a lot and we didn’t have a clue what we doing to some degree.

“I was just a mad f**ker with a bald head, running around like a lunatic, and Clinchy minded us throughout the process and helped us along, and obviously brought this authenticity that was so real and a freshness and openness to the work you just don’t get from a lot of people, and he goes to those extreme places with such ease and simplicity and then be ready to go again.”

He points out that Clinch was different to many actors.

“He brought enthusiasm that was refreshing and also he didn’t come with any of the nonsense that comes along with the industry, he was a genuine person and a pleasure to work with,” he stressed.

“He had a formidable career and we were so blessed to have him on Love/Hate as well, he pushed the boundaries in all the scenes. They wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good the scenes they were if it wasn’t for him, if he wasn’t on the other side, pushing you and pushing them, going ‘I’ll f**king smash his teeth in’.

“So we owe a lot to him and this film, we would have struggled if we had not met the likes of Mick and Clinch, but he was a true gent and Jesus I laughed my socks off to him many the time, so he will long live in our memories.

“I was proud to work with him.”

Father-of-three Clinch (52) was found dead in Dublin in May, with his funeral in Darndale and cremation afterwards at Dardistown cemetery.

The actor, who also starred in TV3’s Darkland series (also directed by Mark O’Connor) was from Kilbarrack.

He was released from jail in 2019 after he was jailed in 2016 for holding a loaded semi-automatic pistol to the head of a security worker and trying to rob €50,000 in Dublin.

Clinch pleaded guilty to possession of a fireman with intent to commit robbery and to robbery at The Gate Hotel on Parnell Street on May 11, 2015.

He was handed a four-and-a-half-year sentence for his part in the robbery.

He later said his return to crime after a 14 year break was the “stupidest thing” he ever did.

“I was quite content in my life, I was getting a good bit of work. I was getting a good bit of film work, I was doing all good things, everything was great for me and then I just drifted back into that madness, you know?,” he said in an interview shortly after his release.

“Maybe the excitement of doing stuff like that? I don’t’ know. I was just a stupid bastard, just a silly, silly, silly bastard.”

He confirmed he had been on methadone at the time of the raid, but was off it when he was freed from jail.

Clinch was caught on CCTV with another man trying to rob the Gate Hotel.

The Circuit Criminal court heard that Clinch had a history of heroin addiction and previous convictions of 17 robberies and 13 burglary offences. Those offences dated up to 2004.

The court also heard Clinch told officers he had been clean from heroin for nine years and that he didn’t know the gun was loaded and didn’t want to commit the robbery.

Clinch said he had owed €8,000 as a result of the discovery of a consignment of drugs he had been given to hide.

Garda Niall McCormack told the court the gun used in the raid had been altered to discharge live ammunition and was in fair condition.

He said 9mm rounds however were not suitable for the gun.

Singer Damien Dempsey, who starred alongside Clinch in Between The Canals, said he had known him all his life and that he had guided local people into music and acting and also warned them against the horrors of addiction.

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