By Michéal De Paor
My excited thoughts as I woke centered on going to my first Football International match, Ireland V Spain in the European Nations Cup. Although, I had been to the Leinster Football Final in 1963 and almost cried all the way home as Dublin beat Laois, today was different as I would get the chance to see the great
Luis Suárez from Inter Milan.
Although it was early in the morning, I heard voices coming from the front room, If I hadn’t lived in a bungalow, I would have crept downstairs.
On entering the room I saw three people, Kathleen Brady and two strange men, sitting at the table playing poker with my Mum standing watching them. This surprised me as my Mum could play poker with the best of them, I asked her why she wasn’t playing and she told me that the stakes were too high for her to play.
Kathleen was staying with us on her way from Castlebar to lodge money in a Bank in Dublin. The four of them had been to a whist drive in St Fintan’s Hospital the night before and had been playing poker since the whist drive ended.
Before going to school, I asked my mum how come the 10 /- notes were a slightly different shade of Red, she laughed as she explained to me that they were playing with £20 notes. My jaw dropped open in amazement as I had never heard of such a thing as a £20 note.
They were still playing when I returned home from school and one of the men on seeing my excitement about going to the match handed me 10/- to buy sweets for the match. I was thrilled as I normally got half a crown, 2/6 for my pocket money. My Mum appeared pleased with herself, as they had dealt her into a hand for looking after everything for them and she won £20, the equivalent of £350 today.
I then went with my Dad to the match along with a pal and his father. I don’t remember much of the game, even Luis Suárez had a quiet enough game playing for Spain and after Spain scored an early goal, Ireland could not get an equalizer, then
Spain finished off the match with a second goal with 4 minutes left to play.
When we returned home the house was empty except for my Mum. I sat and listened as my Mum told Dad that Kathleen had lost the £400 that she was taking to the Bank to the two professional gamblers and instead of heading to Dublin, got the train back to Castlebar