Category: Archive

‘You booze, you lose’: a lesson for Irish soccer

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

When the manager called his troops around him for a pep talk before getting down to the serious work, he got a distinct whiff of alcohol from his Irish striker.
“Quinn,” said Graham, “you smell like a brewery.”
“You would too boss,” replied the Dubliner, “if you were out until five o’clock this morning.”
In recent years, this yarn was often spun by way of illustrating how much the culture of drinking in English soccer had changed. The carousing days were over. The days when a top-flight player could saunter into training reeking of booze were just a memory. Too much money at stake these times. Too much common sense. What utter bunkum. The story of the Premiership season so far has not just been about the disproportionately large role alcohol continues to play but more specifically its ruinous effect on the lives and careers of Irish footballers.
Drink and the problems it inevitably causes when consumed in excess is a recurring theme throughout Roy Keane’s autobiography. Almost every off-field controversy in which the Corkman has embroiled himself seems to have had its roots in his habitual abuse of alcohol. While he stops short of calling himself an alcoholic, there is enough evidence from his own hand to suggest that is exactly what he is. The horrible irony about all this, and a point latched onto by some gleeful English journalists at the time, is that Keane then couldn’t handle the rest of the Irish squad’s lax attitude to drink when billeted in Saipan before the World Cup.
In his own forthcoming autobiography, Quinn details how on the second night after arriving on the island, every member of the squad, bar its most important one, went on an all-out binge. They bullied an American bartender running an English bar into keeping the joint open until six in the morning so they could drink their fill. Given that these men were about to spend a month abstemiously preparing for the most vital games of their career, it is perhaps understandable that they wanted to let their hair down just once. Except the extent of this shindig fueled Keane’s fears that some of his colleagues were only along for the ride and now raises the issue of whether the manager should have encouraged players he knows have problems with alcohol to enjoy such freedoms.
Richard Dunne was to the forefront of the festivities that night and, unfortunately, those who know the Irish squad say that he nearly always is. Which is a pity. Five years after making his Premiership debut as a raw but promising 17-year-old, he should be one of the lynchpins of the international team and a Manchester City regular by now. Instead, he has become the parable of the modern player. A case of what might have been. All of the hand wringing about Ireland’s parlous performance against Russia in Moscow (Dunne didn’t make the squad because he hasn’t started game for City yet this season) ignores one pertinent point. Drink is preventing some of our brightest young things from fulfilling their talents.
Eleven days ago, Dunne turned up for training in a cruel condition. He’d been out drinking until the wee small hours and it showed. Kevin Keegan instantly threw him off the pitch and banished him from the club. Only the subsequent intervention of Dunne’s agent and his trade union saved him from the sack, and he negotiated a deal where he will now work on what everybody involved euphemistically calls his “lifestyle” issues. Between his first club Everton, and City, this is the fifth time the Dubliner has been involved in a drink-related breach of discipline and now, finally, somebody has the sense to shout stop. Surely, it is not expecting too much for the alarm bells to go off a little earlier. Was it not obvious this guy needed help?
Did anybody at those clubs or anybody involved in the Irish set-up not see that Dunne being regularly 30 pounds overweight might have something to do with his, ahem, lifestyle? He may have tried persuading journalists that his excess baggage was down to a slow metabolism but shouldn’t his employers know better? That’s an excuse the rest of us can use because our bodies are not essential to our work. This is a professional athlete who reputedly earns

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