In this column last week, I wrote about the occasion in the 1970s when Dublin fans went on a bit of a rampage in Roscommon on the night before a match between the two counties.
Not only did they fight, break windows and cause general mayhem, but according to folklore, they allegedly broke into the mart, released cattle and rode them down Castle Street.
Last week, I invited readers with any recall of that night of mayhem to get in touch. My invitation was ‘half in jest’, but in fact I got a great response!
A number of people that I’ve spoken to since last week have confirmed that the ‘night of mayhem’ most certainly happened. One man insisted ‘1976’. Needless to say, over four decades on, when it comes to recalling the detail there is a bit of ‘rustiness about the rustling’. But we are making progress on salvaging this night from the past, and if you read on, you will get the perspective of a Garda who was present that night…and we also find out more about the extraordinary story of the ‘stolen cattle’.
The Garda’s eyewitness account!
I received a detailed account of the ‘night of mayhem’ from a Garda who was on duty on the night.
The now retired Garda contacted me during the week and confirmed that all the drama on the night happened in the Castle Street area.
“I was a very young Garda in Roscommon at the time” he began. “On the Saturday night before the Roscommon/Dublin game, fans congregrated around the Royal Hotel. Fans always congregated there when there were matches on”.
Yes, that I could vouch for myself!
Back to our friendly ex-Garda, whom I must say recalled the night with some nostalgia.
“So”, he continued, “on the Saturday night, the Dublin fans were outside the Royal, and after a while there was bedlam. Castle Street was blocked off. We arrived in the only squad car we had, two or three young Guards. It was mayhem, with Dublin fans breaking windows and throwing punches”.
The Gardai made a number of arrests, which wasn’t easy in the madcap prevailing circumstances.
“There were fellas hanging on to the squad car…batons were drawn. Peace was finally restored after several outbreaks of fighting”.
But it was really only half-time…
The Gardai brought whatever few offenders they had managed to arrest straight up to the cells in the Garda Station. Suddenly it was “all calm” on Castle Street, with hundreds of Dublin and Roscommon fans drinking on the still impassable street. Then, out of the blue, a Co. Roscommon man upended a Dublin supporter and “all hell broke loose again”.
Back in the Garda Station, the apprehended Dublin fans – still the worse for wear – were having the craic with the local Gardai, not to mention insisting that they were innocent.
The cattle – revealed!
So, did some of that small number of rampaging Dubs break into Roscommon Mart and release cattle? It appears not, but instead they ‘borrowed’ the cattle from a very well-known business family!
None other than well-known Roscommon businessman Declan Molloy (of Molloy’s Bakery) was able to help with my enquiries. “They were our cattle” Declan said with a smile when I called in for a coffee the other day.
So I rang him back on Wednesday.
“We had cattle at the back of our house in Castle Street” Declan revealed. “The incident happened in the early hours of the morning, after whatever high jinks had gone on in Castle Street. We were all gone to bed in our house…then in the early hours, we got a phone call from a neighbour, who told us that Dublin fans were riding our cattle around in the field!”
Seemingly about half a dozen Dublin fans had corralled the cattle into a pen and proceeded to ride them around the field.
Declan Molloy: “By the time we got down to check, they were just leaving. Cattle would have been fairly tame in those days. One of my brothers went down to check on them and he said the cattle were absolutely shattered”.
I asked Declan if the cattle were traumatised.
“No, there was no harm done, but they were certainly tired! They were all sitting down!”
Larry! Of course, why didn’t I think of Larry before this! So, just before going to press, I rang Larry O’Gara, whose family ran the Royal Hotel, which was so frequented in that era by GAA fans.
He remembered the night well. And he even ventured to ‘change’ the year! “I’m pretty sure it was 1975” Larry said, “because Dublin were All-Ireland champions at the time. They had won the All-Ireland in 1974”.
So, a new twist! It was the All-Ireland champions who were in town, and it was 1975, not ’76!
And, during our conversation, Larry even re-opened the theory that the Dubs DID ride the cattle down Castle Street!
Larry O’Gara: “It was a great weekend! The Dublin fans stayed in the hotel Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. They brought accordions and tambourines and bodhrans…they played music all weekend”.
Larry recalled the fighting in Castle Street on the Saturday night.
“In fact there was a fight in the hotel itself, but it was harmless enough. Castle Street was full of people and yes, there were rows, but a lot of it was good-natured and harmless”.
He recalled his late mother having quite a job accommodating Dublin fans. “In the end, they were asleep in the corridor, in the bar, anywhere they could get a lie-down!”
I asked if he recalled the episode with the cattle.
“Oh yes, now I didn’t witness it myself, because I was busy in the hotel, but I am certain that some of the Dublin fans rode cows down Cattle Street. They got them from Molloy’s land, took them out, and rode them down the street”.
Back in the cells in the Garda Station…
Meanwhile, some Dublin fans were kept in the cells overnight, and throughout the game, only being released after Roscommon and the All-Ireland champions were finished in the Hyde.
My Garda contact from this week: “We let some of them out after the match on Sunday…to get the train back to Dublin. I think it was leaving at 5 o’clock.
“One fellow ran up the street to get to the train and away from the Garda Station… there was scaffolding up outside a building in Abbey Street. The poor fellow ran straight into it and knocked himself unconscious. We came to his aid, got him on the train and made sure he was looked after”.
Now – I’m almost as exhausted as the Dubs, the Gardai and the cattle were!
Ah, the good old days!
A sporting Saturday that just wasn’t funny…
I didn’t get to Salthill for Roscommon v Galway, but, a few screen breaks aside, I was able to commit to a long afternoon in front of the television.
And that’s when those amongst the sporting Gods that wear primrose and blue duly punished me for not supporting the Rossies in the flesh…
What a stinker of a sporting day! I sat in front of that television as an expectant Leeds, Roscommon and Ireland fan…little did I know what misery lay ahead.
To paraphrase that great Norwegian soccer commentator from long ago (Norway 2 England 1, 1981), I took a hell of a beating.
Leeds, so close to securing that long-awaited return to the Premier League, had a chance to go five points clear of promotion rivals Sheffield United. The sides met in Saturday’s ‘High Noon’ on Sky – Leeds dominated, but Sheffield won.
Next, Wales v Ireland in the rugby, with radio and Twitter updates on Galway v Roscommon. More misery. Roscommon’s defeat leaves them staring relegation in the face. Still, while there’s life there’s hope. The Rossies face Kerry in a crunch game this Sunday.
Ireland lost every key call against Wales, but it was still a poor performance. Wales were worthy winners.
Anyways, the amazing Scotland comeback against England in a Twickenham classic, and a simply sensational Players’ Championship in the golf – won by Rory McIlroy – brought some welcome balance and brilliance to that mischevious sporting weekend.
Four ‘nuns’ on a truck…
This country is changing so rapidly, it’s mind-boggling. There we were on Sunday, my son and I, walking along the pavement in Ballyleague, minding our own business.
Then four nuns waved at us from a transport box, or was it from the back of a truck?
Oh yeah, just remembered…the Ballyleague/Lanesboro St. Patrick’s Day Parade had just ended. Lots of good floats, lots of fun, great crowds. Oh yeah again…thanks a million to the guys on the ‘Zombies’ float (representing Ballyboro Scouts, I think). They were firing water pistols and dancing to/singing Baby Shark – and I cannot get that sound out of my head since!
THE highlight of the Six Nations…
So, farewell then, to the 2019 Six Nations Championship…
On Sunday night, the Virgin Media team did a review of the tournament, hosted by the sure-footed Joe Molloy. Despite Ireland’s drubbing by Wales on Saturday, it had a good-humoured end-of-term feel to it. Even Matt Williams smiled, although this may have been an unintentional lapse.
They discussed the highlights of the 2019 Six Nations…and while it is true that Wales and England were impressive, I thought the pundits overlooked what for me was the obvious highlight of the campaign.
Which was…that wonderful, evocative television advert (a true story) featuring the two Welsh brothers honouring their late mother’s will by attending Six Nations’ matches.