Tuesday 8th June.
A date that sent shockwaves around the world. Most people remember vividly exactly what they were doing when they heard the news that Pat Dolan’s trouser leg had been splashed. For those of us present on that traumatic occasion, counselling is only making slow inroads into our personal nightmare.
In case you have been living on Mars all summer, playing with your new-found Beagle, the shocking event happened as the teams and players were trudging off the pitch at Tolka. Shelbourne fans were regaling Pat Dolan as he made his way to the tunnel. “Ah, you’re a daycent old skin, Pat!” was one oft-repeated comment. “You’re looking very dapper, Pat,” was another. The shy, retiring Cork City manager was blushingly accepting all the generous tributes, when it happened!
Out of the darkening Tolka sky, a water balloon was launched. As spectators and players looked on in horror, its murderous trajectory caused it to come to earth just inches from the great man’s shoe, sending a spray of deadly water onto his grey flannel trousers. Women shrieked, grown men fainted, Ollie got an uncontrollable fit of giggling, which he later ascribed to shock.
For many, it seemed that the next few seconds happened in slow motion. A deeply traumatised Dolan wheeled around, water flowing copiously from his turn-ups. Gunther, his faithfully assistant, started screaming uncontrollably and tried to crawl away from the scene in panic. The Cork City kitman, who had also been splashed in the same incident, fell stricken to the turf.
The security forces were quickly on the scene. Many formed a human shield in front of Dolan, in case of a second attack. Stewards ran up the New Stand, where they quickly apprehended a suspect, with telltale evidence of water on his hands. As news of the catastrophe was relayed around the globe, the Gardai announced they had arrested Lee H. O’Swald, a ten-year-old misogynist, who had reputedly spent time in Waaaaaterford.
Scheduled programmes were interrupted around the world, as tearful newscasters relayed the shocking event to disbelieving viewers. A vigil was set up at the Mater Hospital, to where Dolan’s trousers had been rushed. At 12.20 am on the morning of Wednesday 9th June, the Master of the Hospital, Dr. Takin da Micki, announced that the trousers had been declared irreparable.
Dawn broke to a much changed world. The outpourings of grief from the global community were little comfort to the people of Cork, who had taken Dolan’s trousers to their hearts. Most people stayed off work and tuned in to Sky News, eager for any further insights into the tragedy.
Meanwhile in the Bridewell, Lee H. O’Swald was being brought from his cell to the courtroom, when a local wide boy, Seamus Ruby, stepped through a doorway and threw a paper cup of water all over him. He stood no chance. His t-shirt was drowned.
But it was this latest twist in this saga that caused people to question whether O’Swald really had been the protagonist in the attack on Dolan’s trousers.
Unfortunately, film footage of the incident is rare and inconclusive. A TV3 film seized by Gardai purports a shadowy figure to have been seen lurking in the grassy knoll in the penalty area at the Drumcondra end of the ground, though Gardai fatuously claim that this “shadowy figure” was in fact, Dolan’s shadow. Eyewitnesses claim that a second water balloon was launched from the Riverside stand, which heightened the conspiracy theory.
The rumour-mill began to grow. It was the Mafia, the Cubans, the Order of Malta, the Waterford Baptist Community, disgruntled St. Pats fans. A Public Commission was immediately set up and quickly came to the conclusion that O’Swald had been acting alone. For many people, this was too pat, too convenient.
Seamus Ruby claimed his attack on O’Swald was carried out for personal vengeance, yet it was soon discovered that he had links to various organisations. He had been photographed entering the premises of Champion Sports on Henry Street. He had worked for a brief period in the nineties for the mysterious firm, HMV. He made regular trips from his home in Artane to a house purporting to be the Cat and Cage in Drumcondra.
Almost 26 million people lined the streets of Dublin as the trousers made their sad way to Glasnevin Cemetery. Millions more watching television around the world were struck by the poignancy of Dolan’s underpants saluting as the cortege filed slowly past.
Bono’s epic and totally unpretentious ballad “Wide [In the Name of Jaysus]” echoes the sentiments of many of us:
“Tuesday evening, eighth of June,
Balloon flies out in the Tolka sky.
Relax, they got your pants,
They did not get your tie.”
The truth will probably never be known. Oliver Stone is reputed to be bidding for the film rights, and rumour has it that he has already lined up Dennis Hopper, Brendan Gleeson and Elliott Gould to play the part of Pat Dolan, while Gabriel Byrne has auditioned to play the trousers.