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Camogie team selectors and backroom staff: Back: Kevin Cummins; Barbara Buckley and Marian Keohane.Front: Hal O’Brien; John Mitchell; Billy Morgan; Síle Dunne; Eric Philpott and Liam Sayers.
Camogie team selectors and backroom staff: Back: Kevin Cummins; Barbara Buckley and Marian Keohane.Front: Hal O’Brien; John Mitchell; Billy Morgan; Síle Dunne; Eric Philpott and Liam Sayers.

Cork Nostalgia: A Casanova, I never was!

I WAS always a bit of a Jonah where girls were concerned.

In fact, looking back now, I can see I was a total disaster! My very first ‘date’, while still a schoolboy, resulted in my being barred from the Palace Cinema on McCurtain Street, home now of the Everyman Theatre.

I had finally mustered up the courage to invite Carrie, an Ursuline’s girl that I fancied, out on what was probably her first date, too. I had tickets for the Grand Circle – the best seats in the house – and to really impress her, I picked up a large box of After Eights in Jerry Driscoll’s on the Ballinlough Road, which I produced with a flourish once we were seated.

The lights dimmed and I placed the After Eights on the balcony ledge in front of us. Bad decision! As Carrie reached forward in the dark, she knocked the box off the ledge into the blackness of the stalls below us.

The wafer thin chocolates showered down on the unsuspecting patrons while the gossamer-light sweet papers floated off like butterflies on the smokey air, to be silhouetted by the light from the film projector and appear on the screen like giant bats emerging from a cave.

There was chaos in the cinema as the film-goers below us scrambled for the chocolates, while girls screamed as ‘the bats’ landed on their heads.

Every usherette in the house trained their torches on the pair of us above in the Grand Circle, where we sat transfixed, like rabbits in the headlights of a car. Carrie wouldn’t speak to me for years afterwards, but, at least, she escaped unharmed, unlike the St. Al’s girl I met up with later in UCC.

I had fancied Tess from the time I first saw her, like a will o’ the wisp, on the camogie field. Quick, blonde and petite, she was a dazzling player and a really lovely girl off it. Being part of the GAA family, we were on nodding terms but I had never actually spoken with her until, one day, leaving a lecture together, I casually asked her if she wanted a lift home – I knew she lived out Douglas way.

To my delight she accepted and we strolled off down College Road to where my trusty Anglia was parked in the UCC car-park near Hayfield Manor.

In my excitement, I forgot that my brakes were a bit erratic and as we entering on to Barrack Street the brakes seized, clinging the car to the road. I was thrown against the steering wheel but poor Tess had no protection and was slammed violently, head-first, against the dashboard. Blood!

There was blood everywhere as it gushed from her broken nose. The only First Aid I had was a dirty towel from my gear bag in the boot but we couldn’t stem the flow.

There was nothing for it but to head for the South Infirmary with Tess sobbing into the towel beside me.

The nearest I got to romance was my sympathetic arm around her shoulders as we sat outside the A&E, my dirty towel slowly turning a rusty red.

Poor Tess wasn’t the only girl that came a cropper in my company. During a GAA scholarshp trip to the Gaeltacht for UCC students in the late 1960s, a few of us Cork lads fell in with a bunch of trainee teachers from Mary I in Limerick. I was particularly keen on Mona, a Galway girl, and persuaded her that a day out in Tralee would be a nice change. A gang of us headed off in the Anglia on a glorious sunny day and I was like the cat that got the cream with Mona, all mini-shirt and sun-glasses, in the front seat beside me. Inch strand, on the way, was like a Mediterranean beach simmering in the sunlight and we just had to stop.

At the entrance to the beach a young lad had a few horses for hire and very quickly we had a deal struck for four horses. Gallantly, I cupped my hands together to give Mona a lift on to her mount but, in my anxiety, I heaved her up – and over — the horse and she crashed to the ground with a scream of pain on the far side, dislocating her shoulder! I spent the rest of that holiday travelling too and fro from Ballydavid to Tralee General Hospital, ferrying the unfortunate Mona and a couple of friends who travelled with her — no doubt, for protection! A dislocated shoulder puts a fierce damper on romance!

All the above were unfortunate accidents but the incident with Eileen was a total ‘faux pas’ and really illustrates the innocence of those days. I passed this exam in UCC — totally unexpectedly — and was cock-a-hoop. This deserved something better than the Anglia and I approached my dad for his car for the night. He always had big cars, Zodiacs and Zephyrs and the like, mainly because he could pick them up for a song. They were monsters, with bench seats in front and the gear lever on the steering column — but great cars to go. Dad, too, was chuffed at my success and readily gave me the keys. I rang Eileen immediately. “I have the Zodiac, Dickie Rock’s in the Majorca: are you on?” Was she what! Eileen was from Youghal, nursing in the South Infirmary and in digs alongside the hospital. I picked her up in style with the Zodiac and we headed for Crosshaven.

In reality, like all the ballrooms in the 1960s, the Majorca was a bit of a kip, but for us that night it was the ballroom of romance. Dickie and The Miami were on fire and we jived and rocked the night away with the best of them and as we sat back in the car to go home we were both on a high. I was unused to the big car and had to be careful with the driving but Eileen had no such inhibitions and nuzzled up to me on the bench seat. Things were looking good and, in my best Clark Gable fashion, I casually asked her if she wanted to get into the back seat. “No!” she answered emphatically, and pulled away from me in a huff.

“Wow, I read that wrong”, I said to myself as we motored on but by the time we got to Carrigaline, Eileen was after thawing out somewhat and was again leaning in against me, her hand stroking the back of my head. I was slightly confused — but still willing — and again suggested the back seat to her. “No!” she said again and, again, pulled away. I was becoming confused and agitated and was losing concentration on the driving.

As we cruised into Douglas, Eileen had kicked of her shoes and had her feet tucked in under her on the bench seat. She had snuggled in to me and was stroking the nape of my neck gently. I was feeling dizzy by this stage and in no fit condition to be driving but I was determined to see this thing out. “Come on, Eileen” I croaked, “why won’t you go into the back seat?” Cuddling up closer to me and nuzzling my ear, she whispered, “Because I want to stay here in the front seat with you, Kev” !!!