Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: Evening Herald, March 2010

Break for the Border

Stephen Street, Dublin 2

break for the border
It’s Thursday night in Break for the Border, a sprawling open-plan bar on split levels. There are pool tables and waitresses in hot pants. Rock and roll blasting from the speakers. Yee-haw! Why the hell haven’t I been here before?

Aidan wants to play pool. I hate pool. He always beats me. We find a table. On the dance floor, two heavy set ladies are busy shaking what their Mammas’ gave them. (“Break for the border,” mutters Aidan. “That’s what you tell the taxi driver tomorrow morning.”)

He taps me on the arm. Christ. It couldn’t be. Bill Byrne? I whisper. “Groundskeeper Billy,” he chuckles. Bill Byrne is the groundsman at our football club. He is also one of the more intense human beings you’re ever likely to encounter.

Reckon it’s him? “It fucking looks like him.”

Must be his wife then. “Gotta be. They’re bored sick of each other.”

Some of the lads in the club say Groundskeeper Billy has metal plate in his head. I never really believed that. But one night after training last summer, Billy was out lining the pitch when a thunderstorm erupted.

Billy legged it back to the dressing room like a man posessed. Weirdest thing was, he ran in sorta zig-zag lines, like a soldier dodging sniper fire.

I’d now say I have more of an open mind on the question of that metal plate.

Shite, he sees us…

We wave politely. Groundskeeper Billy returns the salute. Then he says something to his companion and she reaches for her handbag. They stand up.

They’re not coming over… Are they?


They fucking are.

“How’s yourself, Bill?”


We’re introduced to Delia.

“I wouldn’t have thought this was your scene, Bill?” offers Aidan. They’re a good twenty years older than anyone here. “Oh, I’m a fan of the modern music,” the groundskeeper replies. “The rock. The pop. The hip-hop.”

The hip-hop, seriously?

There is silence. I try another tack.

How long have you and Bill been together? I ask Delia. “This is out first date,” she replies. “We met on the internet.”

There is an even longer, even more awkward silence.

“Grounds are looking great this weather,” I offer. “It’s dry,” Bill nods sagely. “All that fucking rain last year and five and six games being played a week. Then these fuckers come asking why the pitch is cut to shit.”

He laughs bitterly. More silence.

“The new nets are looking great,” Aidan ventures.


The markings are all in, erm, straight lines, I chip in. Bill just nods. More awkward silence. Then Aidan leans over.

“C’mere Bill,” he winks. “Would you say you have ninety-nine problems but the pitch ain’t one?”

The groundskeeper mulls the question for a second.

“I suppose I would,” he says.

I stand up rather abruptly at this point.

Okay, who’s for a game of pool?