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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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John Giles buried a penalty on a minister today

You never lose it.

Gilesy gave him the eyes.
Gilesy gave him the eyes.
Image: Maxpix

THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL can be an odd place.

With every single one of the 500 candidates vying for media attention, you sometimes need to add a special attraction.

For junior minister Aodhán O Riordáin, that meant calling on an old friend in the shape of Irish football legend John Giles.

Launching Labour’s sports policy, O Riordáin called on the former Ireland midfielder and manager. He also had two local children along.

Moments before the press event was due to start outside O Riordáin’s constituency office, there was almost a disaster.

A delivery van parked right across the small yellow soccer goal, blocking the young boy and girl from practicing their shots before the RTÉ analyst came down.

“That’s Fianna Fáil!” shouted one photographer and a Labour staffer was dispatched to ensure that the van would be moved.

Delivery safely inside the local cafe, O’Riordáin and Giles arrived. After spending a couple of minutes kicking the ball around, the group posed for photos.

Up first, Giles was asked to take a penalty on the Labour TD. No messing, Gilesy dispatched the ball into the corner. You don’t mess around in these situations.

O Riordáin saved the next one, though it was rolled at him, and proudly told the attendant children how he’d saved a John Giles penalty.

If O Riordáin is feeling the pressure in the Dublin Bay North constituency, he’s not showing it. With five seats up for grabs, the area has five incumbent TDs running as well as a senator and seven councillors, one of whom is an ex-TD with the surname Haughey.

In Marino, the locals are firmly behind O Riordáin.

“He was working for the area before he was elected, so he’ll get my number one,” one woman tells me.

That is a sentiment echoed by Giles, who says he’s supporting the man, not necessarily the party.

“I’ve known Aodhán since he was a teacher down on Sheriff Street and he was involved in the plaque dedicated to me in Loman Square, so we go back a few years.

I felt from the start that Aodhán was a good guy. I liked him, I didn’t know he was going into politics, but I still like him!

The two have worked together through the John Giles Foundation, which runs grassroots football projects.

On brass tacks, Labour’s policy pledges to “continue to boost sports funding in local communities through the Sports Capital Programme and reform the programme’s operations to prioritise joint funding applications between local clubs and schools or youth organisations”.

But really, on a day when John Giles is hitting penos against a wall outside a cafe, brass tacks take a back seat to star power.

Read: ‘Fianna Fáil act as though they were formed in 2011’

Read: ‘Tired and hungry’: Labour minister explains why she walked out of local radio debate

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