“Mark O’Connor! Number fotty tooh!”

Apparently, there are 58 pubs on the Dingle peninsular in southwest Ireland. Not surprisingly, this is the highest number of pubs per capita in Ireland.

 

On a recent visit in October, my wife Jill and I managed to make it to seven of them. Consequently, we’ll have to take the word of the locals regarding the other 51.

 

And they’re nothing like the oversized beer barns we have here. Come to think of it, most of them are little more than half the size of your normal Australian suburban corner hotel such as Andy O’Brien’s iconic Petrel Hotel in Pakington Street Geelong West.

 

For the more abstemious readers among you – God bless your souls and your livers – who may be unfamiliar with Geelong’s longest continuous licensed premises with just three owners since 1849, the hotel measures about 15 metres by 45 metres. (Personal interest disclaimer: the royal and ancient Petrel is your author’s local.)

 

So then, the Dingle pubs are many but small. No problems there if for no other reason than they all serve Guinness.

 

Guinness then eh?

 

Kindly forgive this untimely interruption to the already waning early energy of the narrative folks but it must be declared that the Guinness in Ireland is nothing like the crap that passes by that name here. It has nothing of that bitter aftertaste.

 

In fact, the taste that lingers on the palate is a sort of sweet nutty confluence of subliminal flavours that probably has its distant origins somewhere in Enid Blyton’s Land of Treats at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. Dame Washalot more than likely enjoyed a few Guinnesses herself while discarding water over whatever hapless adventurers happened to be climbing the tree at that point in time.

 

But I digress.

 

OK then, so if all the Dingle pubs serve this nectar of the Gods where does a thirsty Aussie couple start? Well, we thought a random selection was as good a way to go as any.

 

Soooooo….we politely walk into one of these tiny oases of the angels and discover navy blue and white hooped themes in all manner of paraphernalia. At first sight, it looks like an unlikely outpost of the Cats’ shop at Kardinia Park.

 

Guinness and the Cats – together? No way. I haven’t been that good. Surely I still have a few unexpurgated sins in the locker since last Lent’s confession.

 

“Nah darl, it can’t be. Probably the colours of some local team,” I helpfully suggest.

 

“Are you sure? Why don’t you ask him?”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because that photo is our 2019 playing list – that’s why,” insists my ever alert perspicacious bride pointing to the primary source evidence adjacent to a large inverted gin dispenser.

 

We broach the subject with our very genial host Dave but we are not prepared for the rather unexpected detail of the answer.

 

“The Cuts,” he says.

 

“What?”

 

“Geelong in the AFL. Come on. Surely you know them. You’re Aussies! The Cuts!”

 

These conversational pipe opening invitations come in such rapid fire succession that I need to gather my thoughts prior to responding. Yeah he really does mean the Cats and he is talking about Geelong. Strewth!

 

I mentally gather my bona fides. Yes, of course I know where Geelong is if for no other bloody reason that I live there. Yes, of course I know where Kardinia Park is because I can walk there from home. But why the hell does this Irish guy in Dingle know so much?

 

Then before I can respond he lands the knock out punch.

 

“Our lad, Mark O’Connor! Number fotty tooh!”

 

“Eh?”

 

“Surely you know him. Mark O’Connor, number fotty tooh!”

 

I knew O’Connor was from Ireland but only then did it occur to me that he must be a local much loved son of Dingle. And sure enough, on closer inspection there are the photos of the aforementioned number fotty tooh (sic) doing his best work off the half back flank in 2019, his breakout AFL season which Dave and other drinkers were all over.

 

With apologies to Humphrey Bogart’s line about the unexpected reappearance of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, I suddenly have a similar sensation. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns on all the Dingle peninsular I happen to walk into his!”

 

But wait, there is more. It seems Mark himself was due to return home the following week after our departure and with Brandon Parfitt and Esava Ratugolea in tow too. Good lads. They could certainly holiday in plenty worse places than Dingle.

 

Three pints of Guinness and a forensic analysis of Mark O’Connor’s role across half back later, Jill and I bid our fond farewells to Dave and leave him a Cats’ poncho. We had packed it for a rainy day and it was the only real wet weather protection we had but, given the circumstances and despite some local showery weather predicted, we thought Dave would love showing it off to Mark and friends.

 

 

“It’s all yours mate.”

 

And I didn’t even have to explain what, why or where a half back flank was.

 

Now for those other 51 pubs. Anyone interested?

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Love this Roger.

    Love this sernedipity/ynchronicity/whatever the term is.

    Dingle is a classic. We were in a pub there one Saturday afternoon – punting poorly when a local came over said, “Oi’d be bhackin’ de Dermott Weld horse in the next m’self.”

    Stormed homeat 9/2.

    The race was the irish St Leger. The horse was Vintage Crop. Next start it won the Melbourne Cup. We were on that day as well.

    I think the Irish lad O’Connor is turning into a bit of a player.

  2. Brilliant Roger. Your description of Guiness here might be in the top two or three I’ve ever read.

    “the taste that lingers on the palate is a sort of sweet nutty confluence of subliminal flavours that probably has its distant origins somewhere in Enid Blyton’s Land of Treats at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree.” Superb.

    Dingle is one of my favourite places in the world because its beautiful and because you don’t go there unless your going there. .

  3. Roger Lowrey says

    Thanks JTH. Yes, Mark O’Connor’s form held up very well last season. He would now be a default selection on one HBF in our best team I would have thought.

    Thanks Dips. Yes I agree. Rather like Sylvester the cat, I left claw marks all across the Dingle peninsular as I was being dragged out.

  4. Colin Ritchie says

    Is Funghi still swimming in the bay?

  5. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab yarn Roger! Yes, I’ve lingered in a pub or two in Dingle town a few years back and had a great time there.
    It certainly is a magical place, it has an atmosphere all of its own. Hope to return one day!

  6. A great yarn, Roger.

    I have driven past the Petrel many times but have yet to call in. Will do so soonish.

    I was in Dublin in August and spent an afternoon in the Guinness Brewhouse with 9 mates.As we got swept out the door with the refuse, we calculated that we drank 20 pints that afternoon. 2 shouts each of 10 pints! I did not need dinner that night.

    And as to your last question: yes, very interested!!

  7. Paul Spinks says

    A great ‘small world’ story, Roger.
    Makes me want to go to the Emerald Isles and explore the O’Spinks history.
    Can’t compare Guinnesses, but the Drunken Poet in North Melbourne doesn’t serve a bad drop. A small venue with an Irish woman in charge.

  8. Roger Lowrey says

    Thanks Col. I can’t wait to get back there myself.

    Smokie, it’s a wonder I haven’t seen you driving past the Petrel because I am there so often – as my sterner critics insist. Do drop in though, It’s a lovely quiet little pokie free suburban pub.

    And thanks Paul. I’ll try it next time I’m nearby. I’ll be prepared for the worst however I may be pleasantly surprised.

  9. Grand piece Roger. I have little interest in the “Cuts”, horse racing or Guinness. But any place where the golf course is called Ceann Sibeal has me captivated. Lahinch is just up the road and has had me captivated since this year’s Irish Open. Surpassed only by the US Masters for best individual tournament of the year (the Presidents and Solheim Cups were top of my list). Tralee and Ballybunion are nearby. Can you drop in and book me a tee time?

  10. Hi Roger,

    Go Cuts! Go Merrick (aka number fotty tooh)!

    The beloved and I will be visiting Dingle next June, as part of a self drive holiday around Ireland. Must remember to take some Cats gear along to wear proudly in the local pubs. Should ensure a good reception. Looking forward to enjoying those ‘nutty confluences’, etc again.

    Hope to catch up at a future Almanac lunch for some travellers tips.

    Cheers, Burkie

  11. roger lowrey says

    Peter, there is certainly no shortage of golf courses so nominate your own tee off time.

    Burke, I’ll send you a photo by separate email with a photo of the pub where Dave the barman and his Cats mad friends live. I’m sure they would be tickled pink to see you.

  12. roger lowrey says

    Paul Spinks, I am writing this from The Drunken Poet. You see I don’t let the grass grow under my feet when I get a strong lead.

    Indeed the Guinness is very drinkable. Probably not quite that subliminal flavour I wrote about above but by far the best Guinness I have had in Oz. Certainly no bitter aftertaste. I’ll be back here.

    The Kilkenny Lager is also very drinkable. It’s a reddish coloured item similar in consistency to a Guinness.

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