In the latest addition of a series of questions to Irish football journalists about working abroad, Garry Doyle mixes fact with fiction as he reveals the good, bad and ugly of working within the Irish press core.
Travel Bug by Garry Doyle (Freelance)
Can you remember your first working trip overseas?
Sweden 1999. Embarrassingly, I had to travel on a British passport – the dog had eaten my Irish one which cause huge offence to some colleagues. The opportunity to work abroad arose on the back of some impressive expense claims I had filed for The Irish Daily Star, which the paper’s then sports editor, Kieran Cunningham, generously stated were the most creative writing pieces he had ever read. Accordingly, he wanted to see if I could handle the pressure of spending the company’s allotted allowance over the course of a week at the UEFA Under 18 European Championships.
When I returned with more receipts than Tesco would clock up over the course of a busy month, Cunningham came to realise the unique talent I possessed and fought valiantly to change my byline to Liam Lawlor. For legal reasons, which I don’t really want to go into, Cunningham’s plot failed, although to this day he still jokingly calls me Lawlor or Baby Haughey. We last spoke in 2008.
Favourite place that you have visited on a work trip?
New York in 2007 with Steve Staunton’s Republic of Ireland team. Seeing Joey Lapira make his debut was a special day. That aside, the wonderful camaraderie among all the reporters present was something that will stay in my heart for ever.
Have you returned to any city when not working?
There was a lot of speculation surrounding my future following that New York trip with papers linking me with moves to Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, New Yorker and Washington Post. I played the whole thing down but don’t mind admitting now that I was back and forth to Manhattan quite a bit throughout 2007. However, my agent at the time considered The News of the World to be the best move. It closed down in 2011. We parted company shortly afterwards.
Have you visited any country during a particularly turbulent period?
I happened to be in Dublin during the filming of the second season of Love/Hate and the tension in that city was evident in everyone’s eyes. All the talk of IMF bailouts and a double-dip recession caused the kind of anxiety and fear I had not seen since one evening in 2004 when I told a group of reporters that Paul Hyland had some new fishing stories to regale us with. Tel Aviva in 2005 and Baghdad in 2007 reminded me of my formative years growing up in Northern Ireland.
Best result a team has achieved on your travels?
San Marino 1-2 Republic of Ireland, 2007. It looked as Ireland were on their way to a priceless point against Dan Marino, the legendary Miami Dolphin, until Stephen Ireland scored an incredible winner. ‘There are no easy games in international football,’ said the manager afterwards. Giampaolo Mazza I think his name was.
Any cities or countries that you still want to visit?
Athlone, Newtownards and Tuam.
What is the best hotel you have stayed in?
Paul Buttner and Mark McCadden told me about this place they regularly go to in Murcia at the end of each League of Ireland season. Hotel Brokeback Mountain they call it. Apparently it’s popular with fishermen and hunters.
And what about the worst?
There was a hotel in Salzburg where the champagne was not properly chilled and the pheasant slightly overcooked. I booked out immediately.
What is the best meal you’ve had on your travels?
We had roast chicken (crisps) in Copenhagen once.
Any nightmare trips?
Portugal 2008. A taxi ride home resulted in some bandits throwing me in the boot, tying my hands behind my back and demanding all the money I had in my pocket. All was going well until I asked for a receipt. Old habits die hard!
The rest of the evening was a blur but thankfully Neil O’Riordan, of the Irish Sun – one of 73 papers I used to work for – managed to raise the alarm. After some considerable time, I was released for a small ransom fee and have remained in Neil’s gratitude ever since.
What are the three must-need items when working abroad?
1 – Paul Rowan
2 – A British passport, in case something happens to your Irish one
3 – The ability to tolerate often-repeated anecdotes about The Irish Press, writing Keith Gillespie’s book, schoolboy unrest, the Jack Charlton era, and ghosting Dermot Keely’s column
Best advice you could give to a new journalist going away?
Wear beige trousers, whinge about young journalists not being respectful and practice imaginary golf shots in front of fellow members of the press box. This course of action will immediately see you welcomed by a posse of reporters as ‘a good skin’.