An interview with Con Houlihan
Hot Press spoke to with the late, great sportswriter in 1984...
Declan Lynch, 13 Dec 1984
Sports journalist Con Houlihan died on August 4 at the age of 86. Declan Lynch spoke to the legendary Kerryman back in 1984...
The original idea was to ring up Con Houlihan at some atrocious hour on Saturday morning, well before midday, and arrange an interview in the most civil circumstances that could be managed. I rang several numbers but, pas de Con.
Eventually using my journalism powers of ESP, I decided to run down my quarry, to hunt the great Con to his lair. The choices were three, as I saw it. I narrowed it down to The Harp, The Palace and Mulligan's. I found him in Mullligan's.
You would not believe the impact of meeting this man in good form. If Mount Rushmore could come alive, it would look and act like Con Houlihan. I doubt it would speak like him, because nobody in the world speaks quite like Con.
I introduced myself to this enormous presence. He was seated at the bar with John Behan, the sculptor, and the presence of both was quite overwhelming. Con draws out a wad of notes from his pocket and orders up drink. I immediately like him. He goes on to say that Hot Press is a great magazine, “the new Ireland’s Own”, if you don’t mind…
An evening with Con Houlihan is like live theatre. To dislike him, you’d have to be a depraved amalgam of Mussolini, Mary Kenny and De Valera, if you can imagine anything so horrible. He’s a very affectionate man, and in his affection and generosity, he’s as big emotionally as he is physically. He has a way of describing people he admires. He says they’re, “up there”- and points to the ceiling. Most people you meet in a night out with Con think he’s “up there” as well. Trailing around in his slipstream, you get the distinct impression that Con Houlihan knows everyone in Dublin worth knowing.
People you wouldn’t normally notice suddenly seem interesting. You see, Con is not an establishment hack. He has the appearance and the temperament of a man who’s happier when he’s close to the backroom staff – from the printers right across to the street vendors. He has words for everybody, but he’s more comfortable with “ordinary” people.
Originally, I couldn’t understand a word that he said. He’d had a few, and he has a tendancy, as a result of an innate shyness, to put his hand in front of his mouth. This, in tandem with an inscrutable Kerry accent, threw me right out. “Mother of babbling God,” I thought, “I have to perform an interview with this man, and I can’t understand a word he is saying”. I knew that the mental equipment was fine, but the thoughts were just not manifesting themselves in speech. Or, rather, he was a bit jarred.