The road to the Phoenix Park... by Toy­ota Corolla

Pope John Paul II com­mit­ted the un­for­give­able sin of leav­ing Cork out of his itin­er­ary in 1979 but FRANK COUGH­LAN was un­daunted and in need of a way to im­press his new girl­friend

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - VISIT OF JOHN PAUL II -

Ithought my de­vout mother would be pleased when I told her that I was go­ing to drive overnight to see the Pope in Dublin. Sure, in fact, that the news of her re­li­giously lax son un­der­tak­ing this sa­cred pil­grim­age to the Phoenix Park would be greeted with a gen­er­ous splash­ing of Lour­des wa­ter and a God speed.

But she was de­cid­edly in­dif­fer­ent.

John Paul II, in­fal­li­ble though he may have been, had com­mit­ted a mor­tal sin in her eyes. He had left Cork off his Ire­land Tour 79.

“He’s go­ing to Gal­way,” she sniffed. “Gal­way? Sure, it’s only a town.”

She wasn’t the only one. The Ir­ish Press re­ported that “Cork is a city that feels left out in the cold. It has no flow­ers, no new bunt­ing, and along the whole length of Pa­trick Street hardly a dozen flags are fly­ing.”

A schism was not ex­pected but there were rum­blings. Rome fell out with Con­stantino­ple over less.

I was un­de­terred, how­ever. Not be­cause of any newly dis­cov­ered re­li­gious fer­vour or be­cause I had been swept away by the rock star ap­peal of JPII, but be­cause I needed des­per­ately to im­press my new girl­friend.

It had been made clear to me over a Harp and a glass of Guin­ness ‘n’ black­cur­rant that if I couldn’t find the time to bring her, some­body else might. The threat was left hang­ing there. So the great ad­ven­ture be­gan.

It would be my first time driv­ing to Dublin and my Toy­ota Corolla got the full ser­vice. That is air in the re­moulds and a splash of Fairy for the wind­screen wash. I even added a few cas­settes to my glove com­part­ment li­brary. 10CC if mem­ory serves.

White, gor­geous and with a spoiler that didn’t seem to do much, my first car cut a bit of a dash. Souped up and noisy, it was only when she had to ac­tu­ally go any­where quickly that her lim­i­ta­tions were ex­posed. A mi­nor con­sid­er­a­tion around town but a bit of a li­a­bil­ity on the open road.

The girl­friend, a stu­dent nurse in the South In­fir­mary, man­aged to get the Fri­day night off so we set off in the early hours.

She brought a sleep­ing bag which she im­me­di­ately wrapped her­self in while I lis­tened to Bowie’s Pin Ups and con­cen­trated on the cat’s

It had been made clear to me over a Harp and a glass of Guin­ness ‘n’ black­cur­rant that if I couldn’t find the time to bring her, some­body else might. The threat was left hang­ing there

eyes on the long and wind­ing road to the great­est show on earth.

The last time so many Ir­ish peo­ple had gath­ered in any­thing like these num­bers was when John McCor­mack war­bled at the Eucharis­tic Congress in 1932. The next time would be to wel­come home Jack’s Army from Italia 90.

Make of that tra­jec­tory what you will. But

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