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Parkinson: A Walk In The Dark

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: May 05, '21

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A few years ago, Eamonn picked up Mary and me in Athlone. We were headed for Clifden, which is about the nearest you can get to America without leaving Ireland. It is a two hour drive for a normal person, which equates to about four hours with Eamonn behind the wheel. On the plus side, the rugged beauty of the last half hour’s drive can be viewed for a full hour on Eamonn’s Tours. It is truly awesome.

Simon OHora, Mr. Poker in Clifden had invited us down as guests at a tournament to raise funds for Pieta House who do great work in the front-line battle against suicide and self-harm. I was invited because I could bring partypoker freebies. Eamonn was there because of his driving skills, and because he and Willo had lost their eldest son to suicide in 2007. A few weeks later, they flew to the WSOP to get away from everything, so Vero and I got to see close up the pain suicide causes. It was heartbreaking.

Clifden was going fine until speech time. Simon spoke from the heart about the suicide epidemic and the need for poker to do its best to make a difference. He then said he was going into the back room to sort out the money and called on me to say a few words. It may have been the gallon or so of Carlsberg I had consumed but when I stood up to speak, I realized that, though I had done my homework, Simon had said everything I was going to say, so I was fucked.

I thanked everyone and told them that the fact that Eamonn, Bren and I and the lads behind Poker For The Homeless had raised almost 300k was testimony to the fantastic generosity of Irish poker. I could have quit there and then, but I didn’t and insisted on saying that had we been allowed to “sort out” the money in the backroom, we would have raised a fair bit less. Then I sat down. Strangely enough, we were invited back the following year! 

Six months later, I was in bed on a Sunday morning when the phone rang. I was horrified when I saw that it was my big sister calling. She was on holiday in Italy, and I knew she wasn’t calling to tell me what a nice time they were having. Our little sister Orla had been suffering from depression for a couple of years. It had to be that. It was. I had been telling myself she had too much going for her to take her own life, but obviously she was in too much pain to see what we saw.

A few days later, we travelled to Leitrim for the funeral. Eamonn was driving so it was the equivalent of a Paris to Istanbul trip. It didn’t really matter. Time we had. The burial was to take place in Dublin. Simple. All we had to do was follow the hearse but we lost it after thirty miles. You couldn’t make it up.

I didn’t leave the house for a fortnight after that. Then, Mary and Fitzy persuaded me that it’d be good to go to Joe’s Bar in Ballinasloe to play their Friday tournament, which was always good for a laugh. During the break, we were approached by a giant of a man I didn’t know. I hoped he wasn’t looking for a fight. He wasn’t. He just wanted to tell his story. It was a sad one. A few years back, he had been living with his eighteen year old girlfriend. Happy days. Then, she had a miscarriage and was in a bad way mentally. He said he took all the holidays he had coming so he could be with her twenty four hours a day. Eventually, he had to go back to work. When he got home after his first day back, he found his girlfriend had taken her own life. Oh God. He shook hands with me and left. I wondered how long he had been waiting to let it all out.

We adopted a different tactic for that year’s Clifden fundraiser. Willo drove. If ferrari were looking for a fearless test driver, they could do a lot worse than give her a call. On the other hand, she didn’t bring the same guarantee that you would get to your destination in one piece that Eamonn brings to the party. We got there early and a bit shook. Swings and roundabouts.

It was great fun. At speech time, they put a swear bucket in front of me and said I had to donate €5 to Pieta every time I swore. I threw in €50, and said I would pay the balance later. I knew my onions this time and spoke about the need to talk a lot more openly about mental health, the need to watch each others’ backs and to make it clear there was help out there, and that we can make things better working together. You could have heard a pin drop. I was chuffed, until they told me everyone kept quiet so they could count what I owed the swear bucket. Jesus!

There was no Clifden in 2020, which just goes to show you that poker players are smarter than our politicians who didn’t understand the lockdown rules and had their golf dinner there anyway. Thankfully, there were consequences. Pieta’s flagship fundraiser Darkness Into Light where people gather at various venues and walk together from night to daylight isn’t possible this year, but people are encouraged to do their own thing on May 8th to raise funds. I intend walking 5kms in memory of Orla, the giant’s girlfriend and all who couldn’t make it, and in the hope that others will. Huge thanks to all who have sponsored me already. Anyone who wishes to sponsor me can just go to Pieta.ie and press the donate button. Thank you.

Padraig is currently involved with Jesse May in hosting Irish Pub Poker Tours for medium-sized corporate groups. For info you can contact him on Twitter @padraigpoker.

 
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of CardPlayer.com.
 
 
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