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Sat 14-Nov-2009 0:00
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Rooney: 'The Darlin' of The Lay-ay-dees ...'
It's great to see that old GAA film
making the rounds again, in the GAA's 125 year, writes An Fear Rua...
It will be shown as part of a festival of GAA films at the Riverbank Art Theatre, Newbridge, county Kildare on 18th November. More details
The standard description of the film in the various film guides read like this:
‘An athletic Irish dustman does his best to avoid marriage in this comic drama, set in Dublin. His landlady is a widow who takes a dim view of her lodger…’
Talk about an understatement! Reading that write up, you’d never get the impression that one of the main themes of this film is the dustman, ‘Rooney’s’, efforts to help ‘Dublin’ win the All Ireland senior hurling title, cheered on from the sidelines by a bunch of colleagues from the Basin Lane depot. Except, when you see the film, it’s not the old pale blue of Dublin he’s wearing, but the distinctive black-and-amber stripes of Kilkenny. Ah well, when Hollywood meets Hurling, little details like the correct colours for the team go out the window…
The reason ‘Rooney’ wears the black-and-amber in the film is that it was shot in Dublin in 1957 and released the following year. The All Ireland hurling final of ’57 was a memorable game, contested by Kilkenny and their Suirside neighbours, Waterford. As the teams paraded around Croker behind Buachaillí Ard Aighin, the less bleary-eyed among the spectators noticed sixteen players in the Kilkenny jerseys. Taking up the rear of the line was the actor, John Gregson, who plays ‘Rooney’. Shots of the parade and action shots from the final were intercut – somewhat amateurishly, if memory serves correctly – into the body of the film to convey the impression that ‘Rooney’ was playing in the All Ireland final.
Interestingly, Waterford were offered first option on having Gregson togged out in one of their jerseys for the parade. (In fairness to the film makers, maybe they thought this was closer to the Dublin ‘strip’). However, conscious perhaps that this was the Déise’s first final appearance since their victory over Dublin in ’48 – and not wishing to add to the team’s nervousness – the Waterford mentors refused permission. That illustrious Waaaaterrrrfurd Gael, Padraig Ó Fainín, tells the story of how they cycled over to see Padraig Ó Caoimh (then General Secretary of the GAA) in his ‘digs’ in Ranelagh, in Dublin, to knock on his door at about one o’clock in the morning to tell him they were refusing permission. For some of the Waterford mentors too, it’s likely the whole idea of trucking around with ‘fancy dan’ film makers was regarded as dangerously subversive of faith and morals. The Kilkenny lads, however, probably being a bit more used to the big day out in Croke Park, had no problem in giving the ‘go ahead’.
Afterwards, a couple of ‘Cat’ wags remarked that even with sixteen men, Waterford still wouldn’t have beaten them.
Dublin hurling did play a cameo role in the film, however. The Metropolitan star, Dessie Ferguson, was selected by the film company to coach Gregson in the skills of the ancient game. Dessie went on to play well for a Dublin side unluckily beaten by Tipp in the ’61 final. But he was clearly not impressed with the actor’s hurling skills and the action sequences in the film suffer as a consequence.
There are other delights in the film. It’s great to see the Dublin of the Fifties before the ‘developers’ JCBs plundered it. The supporting cast is a veritable cornucopia of actors and actresses from the Abbey Theatre and the Raidio Éireann Players, many of whom later went on to fame and fortune and starred in radio and TV soaps like ‘The Kennedys of Castlerosse’, ‘The Riordans’, ‘Bracken’ and ‘Glenroe’. If you look carefully, you’ll see the likes of Jackie McGouran, Noel Purcell, Barry Fitzgerald, Arthur Sheils and Marie Mullen. The theme song ‘The Darlin’ of the Lay-ay-dees is Rooney-Oh!’, was never likely to be an Oscar or BAFTA winner.
Still, if you’ve nothing better to do, it’s entertaining and well worth a look. At least it’ll do until Hollwood gets around to casting Eddie Murphy in ‘The Henry Shefflin Story’…
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