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Celebrity Manager

Last update - Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 11:19 By Roddy Doyle

Chapter Five 

There was nothing then for a few days. Joe put on his bainisteoir jacket one night, just after dark, and strolled down to the club. Or, he tried to stroll but his back wouldn’t let him. He walked slowly, carefully. He stopped at the railings. He couldn’t go in, on his own – he just couldn’t. So he walked even more slowly back to the flat, and stopped hoping that Mick or Maduka or someone else from the club would be driving past and see him, and stop.

He wondered had he done something wrong, had they changed their minds about him. They’d spent the night getting drunk with him and decided he was too dull, too nondescript, just too boring to be even a half-decent celebrity.

He felt sorry for himself, and he hated that. It was the feeling that had strangled him – that was how he thought of it – in the months after the accident, after he’d been discharged from the hospital. Self-pity was the emotion that had wrecked his life.


None of his daughters had ever played GAA, but he’d noticed that there was always a lot going on in GAA clubs on Saturday mornings. Cars being filled with kids in their clean gear, and kids in mucky gear getting out of other cars. It always looked like there were seven matches going on at the same time, on the same pitch.

So he walked down to the club on Saturday morning. It was cold, really cold, and his back was at him. But he got to the gates and kept going. There was a match on. He stood at the sideline, and watched, and tried to understand the game.

He’d played Gaelic football when he was a kid, but he’d no memory of rules or tactics. Freezing legs and rain – that was all he could remember about his childhood career.

He recognised the black kid who’d come to the door earlier in the week. He looked like a good player, although it was hard to tell. The game itself seemed to be a cross between soccer and boxing, with a bit of basketball thrown in – and ice skating. God, it was cold. He saw some of the other kids too.

So. This was his team.

–Howyeh, Dog Man.

It was Mick.

–You said you wouldn’t call me that, said Joe.

–Grand, said Mick. –Sorry, Joe.

–No problem.

–It’ll just be Dog Man for the telly, said Mick. –They’re trying to attract the YouTube generation,


–So they say.

–Is this my team, is it?

Mick looked at the kids.

–That’s them, yeah, he said. –The telly people again. They think kids’ teams will be more fun. And emotional. They want mammies crying on the sideline.

–I don’t want to make anyone cry, said Joe.

–Go on, you heartbreaker, said Mick, and he thumped Joe on the back.

It should have been agony; Joe should have been falling to the muck, screaming. But it wasn’t, and he wasn’t. He nodded at the action on the pitch. It looked like the Chinese kid was being pulled off another kid’s back by the referee – Joe wasn’t sure.

–I’m their manager, he said.

–That’s right, said Mick.

–So, said Joe. –How come they’re playing and I didn’t know?

Mick looked at him for a bit.

–That’s a reasonable question, Joe, he said.

–I don’t mean it aggressively, said Joe.

–No, no, said Mick. –You’re grand. I’ll tell you what it is. We didn’t think this thing through properly. But you’re here now. Come on.

Joe followed Mick along the sideline, behind one of the goals, and along the opposite sideline, until they got to a group of men and women who were huddled like cattle in the wind. Occasionally, one of them would break from the group and shout.

–Good man, Danny!

–It’s only muck – keep going – good lad!

Joe saw some of the faces he knew. Mary, Konstantin, Denis.

–Here, said Mick. –Konstanin.

–Yes? said Konstanin.

–You know the way you’re my assistant manager?


–Well, you’re sacked, said Mick.

Konstanin didn’t look too upset. But it was hard to tell because – so far – he’d only had one facial expression.

–Who is the new assistant? he asked.

–I am, said Mick. –Because I’ve just sacked myself and Joe here is the new manager. And listen.

Joe heard the ref’s whistle.

–Half time, said Mick. –Perfect timing. Come on, Joe, and meet your team.

The kids who were walking towards them looked like the side that wasn’t winning.

–Right, lads, Mick shouted. –Yis’re doing great. There’s no way some of those fellas are under 13. I bet they’re shaving, half of them. Anyway, this is your new manager. He needs no introduction from me. Over to you, Joe.


© Roddy Doyle 2013


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