I took the ferry over to Dublin from Liverpool around 1995 to photograph the horses and Ballymun flats. I stayed on my friend, Ed’s, couch that evening, after supping several pints of the black stuff in city centre bars. The next morning I headed out over the half-penny bridge in search of the infamous Ballymun flats.
I caught a bus in the station by the Liffey and ended up in Finglas. I met some young lads, about 12 to 14, exercising a dappled grey mare on a rope. I spent some time with them, mostly trying to understand their north-side lingo. It was a dull day with iron-grey skies – the sort I know and love – had a headful of aperture and shutter speed combinations, already calculated knowing a similar light in Manc.
I approached the flats through a host of shipping containers that were being used as shops and other local businesses. One of them was the goal-posts for a penalty shoot-out. I had met the Ballymun kids! The image above is the best image of that day. The kids were deadly serious about the football and very good at slotting balls in with amazing accuracy. It seemed that whole container was the goal. And at about 8′ tall a 4′ 2″ kid needed special Zebedee powers to save anything high. The intent and concentration on the young goalie is what makes this image for me.
I made a quick exit when some local youth offered to inject me with AIDS from a dirty syringe. The exit turned into an entrance to low-lying estate pub near the real shops. For a Monday afternoon it was surprisingly busy. The bar, noisy and smoky, with lines of men in black suits drinking the black stuff and smoking major cigarettes, went quiet when I walked in. A bit like the cowboy moves. I met a couple of old boys drinking halves of stout and Bushmill’s chasers. I seen the injector gang lurking in the doorway, biding their time for the Arab, I was now known, to make his exit. The old-timers wouldn’t let me buy a round and by this time I couldn’t really haven’t given a fuck either way. I needed to keep my camera and film but realised I was pissed and needed to go to the bog. Off I went calculating my time at the piss-stones to coincide with one of the old-timers who had just gone. The stones were through the foyer where one of the injector gang had been lurking. Nobody there, the coast was clear. I knew I would be most vulnerable to an attack from behind mid-piss. So thought “this needs to be a quick one” It wasn’t, it went on for about 4 hours. The tallest of the injector gang came in just as I was buckling up. And I thought he said “lend me a fiver”. My usual reply to this is “go and mug a tourist, because I need all my money for biscuits” and keep walking at a steady pace. He was blocking the doorway so it was lucky that another old-timer came in for his leak just then. In the commotion I made my way back to the bar uninjected, and found another 2 stouts and Bushmill’s waiting for me ready to go. I spent that night at old Brendan’s place. It turned out he was related to the youth and made his apologies about the threats. I left early the next morning after a cup of tea. Saying my goodbyes, but never to return. I just had a couple of films from that day x2 HP5. I messed up the development and didn’t put enough chemical into my old double Brooks tank. Luckily this image was on the bottom so survived. I lost all the negs about 5 years later in one house move or other, but luckily for me I still had a print. This image is a digital copy of that print.