If anyone without an Irish lilt to their voice had said the following, they would be justly condemned for some terrible regional stereotyping. But the words actually came from the mouth of John O’Shea yesterday, who is as proudly Irish as proudly Irish gets.
“If you put five Irish guys together and there’s some drinking,” O’Shea began, “it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t end with some fighting.”
He then laughed and wandered away without a care in the world. It was almost as if one of the fighters wasn’t scheduled to be him.
O’Shea was filling us in on what had been hinted at from the Twitter accounts of the previous night, when Mick “@BIGMICKG1” Graydon, Jude “@jthaddeus13”, Fergal “@midnitekowby” Nealon and O’Shea (known as @DaGunMan) suddenly got very excited about the prospect of some fisticuffs. They had been out drinking in Prague in a party that included the three mentioned above plus Dermot Blain and Eoghan O’Dea.
“Such an amount of Irish poker brains in one s***ty Czech bar,” said Nealon, who was one of the witnesses to what happened next. Lubricated by some ales, the group began playing the game de jour open-faced Chinese poker and, as is typical in that pursuit, a couple of players got stuck very quickly, while a couple were looking at a hefty payday.
Also true to form for open-faced Chinese, someone suggested raising the stakes. And then they suggested raising it some more. What had started at 10 Czech koruna a point soon became 100, then 200 and then someone suggested they go as high as 500. And this was where the flashpoint occurred.
According to O’Shea, the proposed increase to 500 koruna a point had not been definitively agreed upon because one of the players (I am not sure which) wanted to lock up some profit before things got out of hand. But before this particular dispute had been resolved, the players drew for the button. And the player least keen to raise the stakes got it, which is a massive advantage in this game.
Again I am not entirely certain of all the details from here – O’Shea spoke quickly and by his own admission had been imbibing liberally himself. But a hand played out, someone won and someone lost, and the second someone was suggesting that he might not want to pay up.
This apparently riled Ainsworth – also quite well refreshed apparently – and he announced his displeasure at the potential welching on a bet. O’Shea casually observed at this point that it looked like the friends might be heading for a scrap, at which point Ainsworth turned to O’Shea and declared, “Well I’ll fight any man!”
Again the details are a little scant, but O’Shea was somehow tempted into taking this bait. So it was that Ainsworth and O’Shea, neither of whom was the alleged welcher, were suddenly arranging a trip to the ring.
“Somehow a drunken night of Chinese poker ended up in me and the @DaGunMan having a fight in six months,” tweeted Ainsworth.
“To hell with elky v raszi!” announced Graydon. “This is gonna be fun. 3 witnesses. Either 1 backs out they forfeit the bet! Leeets get rreeaaddy to rummmbbllleee.”
Now, there’s one thing that needs to be pointed out here: a straight O’Shea versus Ainsworth fight would not be especially fair, even under the fully sanctioned Queensberry rules. O’Shea is by a few inches the taller man and weighs about 90kg (more than 198lbs). The wiry Ainsworth is about 65kg (143lbs). Also O’Shea was in training during the summer for a fight against another friend, Russ Johnson, a contest delayed because O’Shea made it to day five of the World Series Main Event ($52,718, thank-you very much).
But O’Shea stayed trim, had the fight a couple of weeks ago and although he lost pretty dreadfully (by his own admission), fighting Ainsworth would be a physical mismatch. It meant that the potential pugilists this time around set odds and agreed that O’Shea would put up €30,000 to Ainsworth’s €20,000.
“It will be an absolute humiliation if it went ahead and I lost,” said O’Shea, revealing a measure of apprehension. Anyone losing with all that advantage would, as he well knows, suffer at the hands of the Irish banter machine.
By the time the morning came around, of course, and sore heads had softened into something more reasonable, the two fighters were thinking things through again. The first step was to reduce the money at stake – maybe €10,000 to €15,000 – and then to rethink the whole thing.
“I’m not going to hold anyone to a drunken bet for that amount of money,” said O’Shea, even before he had had a proper chance to talk it soberly through with Ainsworth. “But we’ll definitely get him to do a forfeit or something. We will see. We’ll definitely get him to do something for his yap.”
Watch this space. And watch your drinking, folks. There are Irishmen waiting to see you in the ring.