Anything is possible for football’s true believers

Patsy Dorgan, the most elegant of League of Ireland centre-halves, explained, for an upcoming feature, how The Dream came true for him.
Anything is possible for football’s true believers

In the 1954 FAI Youth Cup final, Glasheen of Cork faced the famous Home Farm at Dalymount Park.

The stakes were significant, but the tension intensified when word spread just before kick-off that Jackie Carey, Ireland international and new Blackburn Rovers manager, was in the stand.

As Patsy tells it, he was still looking for Jackie in the crowd when he took possession and attempted a slightly showy prod back to his keeper.

Studs catching in the sod, he can still see Ronnie Whelan Senior’s smirk as he hared by him onto the quintessential poorly-weighted back pass.

As fate decided, keeper Pat Dineen bailed out Patsy, Glasheen won the cup and Jackie Carey took Patsy away to live the dream in the Blackburn third team on £6 a week.

On Tuesday, we heard from a former Home Farm centre-half who lived The Dream. It was beguiling to hear of his contentment. We hear a lot from satisfied men, but too rarely from satisfied men we can be certain deserve their happiness. “I’m not chasing something that’s missing in my life,” Richard Dunne told us, sounding like a man who appreciated the heights he had scaled, ready to relax in the knowledge he had got as much out of himself as any man could hope.

Later in the evening, we would see Cristiano Ronaldo worship devoutly at his own altar once more after scaling more heights beyond the scope of most dreams.

This week Eamon Dunphy called him the ‘Prince of Vanity’ but when we consider the advances Ronaldo has made at the summit of the only genuine global meritocracy, we realise this must be a deeply modest man, to be functioning at all on any kind of human level.

In a world where it may yet turn out that Led Zeppelin are chancers, footballers may be the only people left who can help us get to grips with the concept of deserve.

We can acknowledge the contributions of the great scientists and medics and scholars, but must take into account the vagaries of educational opportunity.

We cannot look to the golfers, until we see a few more black men there or thereabouts. And we would look to our political leaders only after we had exhausted every other avenue, including the rugby players.

So, on Wednesday, we wondered what was bugging Messi, surely not the Panama Papers, after they suggested he was salting away only a fraction of the wealth he is rightfully entitled to.

And on Monday, in Clonmel, there was the context for all of it.

The first rung.

At Clonmel Celtic’s pitch, Ireland U15 boys treated a good crowd to a magnificent 5-2 demolition of the Czech Republic, parking, for one week at least, the angst at Irish football’s underage structures.

In a performance of poise, skill, and industry, maybe there was only one moment you could properly appreciate how young these lads are.

Perhaps the kid had half an eye for the Manchester United scout in the crowd when he allowed a pass from his keeper roll under his foot and out of play. In the melodramatic way, a 15-year-old is entitled to, he held his head in his hands in a long display of theatrical existential angst before he knuckled down, just as Patsy did, and played brilliantly thereafter.

If the players supplied the entertainment, the battalion of scouts painted a picture of the stakes. Thankfully, they don’t send out LVG yet, to wreck young heads with his philosophies, but Walter Murphy, United’s scout for 19 years, was there, loving his day’s work as much as every other day he’s worked this job.

“Watching football… it is living the life. I’m living the dream as much as any of those young lads on the pitch.”

Walter is right in saying the dream has already begun for them.

With their clean sheets and man-of-the-match displays and double hat-tricks every week, among mortals, these kids have already put a foot on the ladder, have given themselves a shot, however slim.

Now they must deliver some rare X-factor in front of the judges, where an emotional backstory will be no use.

So and so is over and back to Fulham and Rangers. He is being watched by Everton. Brighton want to add to their Irish contingent. Your man is definitely signing for Southampton. Almost definitely.

Walter likes the look of three, whose dreams have survived since he saw them again and again at U13 and again and again at U14.

The night before, in the team hotel, Keith Andrews tried to help them navigate the minefield. Explain the options, the pitfalls. Go now, like he did, or wait, like Coleman and Long & Co.

Choosing the wrong time and the wrong place are just two of the mistakes these boys can make now.

To show the scale of what they are up against, Derry man Christy Holly explains on page 19 how he trawled the US for kids for Bayern Munich’s academy, among others. The global meritocracy.

Of those who step on the next rung, football will find the flaw, wherever it is.

In Patsy’s case, that flaw was one that has undone many men, and inspired others; a great love of Cork and an inability to be away from Cork.

Though he was a poet too, which would probably have caught up with him anyway.

The kind of humanity that’ll unseat some of these boys too.

On the verge of the first team, but wracked with homesickness, Patsy came home after three years to become one of Cork football’s iconic figures.

A reality that became a different version of the dream.

On to Thursday, when Ian Harte told Off The Ball, how, at 15, he travelled down on the bus from Drogheda to Dublin with his mother three nights a week. To train with St Kevin’s Boys, who provided four of Monday’s dreamers. The dream won’t always come to you.

And then Liverpool played Dortmund.

More than even the gegenpressing or the tactics or the showmanship, you sense Jurgen Klopp will bring something even more important to Liverpool. That he might be able to find within his players the belief and energy that has brought them this far in their careers.

He might even find it yet in men like Adam Lallana, that sense of destiny, whatever they had at 15 that nobody could find a flaw. On a night like this, you could believe that. And hopefully the Ireland U15 boys were watching too, and believing that anything is possible.

Heroes & Villains



Despite the high drama, the best thing about Thursday night was his calmness afterwards, Liverpool reacting as though it was just another 2-2 draw with West Brom.

Newcastle United discrimination tribunal panel:

Ruling on the testimony in the Jonas Gutierrez case, has anyone got closer to the essence of Alan Pards? “The detail of what was said was not necessarily as credible as the manner in which the evidence was delivered.”


The Chinese Communist Party:

“Since it is only a sport, there is no right or wrong about playing golf.” A great bunch of lads, but how can we take them seriously any more if they can’t stick to their guns on the big calls?

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