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Jack Charlton's Taste In Irish Music Got Him In Trouble With Right-Wing Tory MPs

Jack Charlton's Taste In Irish Music Got Him In Trouble With Right-Wing Tory MPs
By Conor Neville

Jack Charlton's new authorised biography by Colin Young features a foreword from the man himself as well as a patchwork of contributions from his former players, teammates, assistants and friends.

It's twenty years since Jackie appeared on Desert Island Discs. He may have been advised beforehand to steer clear of politics in musical selections.

He chose one song from the Dubliners and, also, regrettably, from one song from Chris De Burgh - or Christy Burke as he said he often mistakenly called him.

The Dubliners song he picked was the wholly uncontroversial 'Dirty Old Town'. No one could get offended by that one. A favourite of Irish singers, it was written by an English songwriter, Kirsty MacColl's old Dad, Ewan.


However, according to Charlie O'Leary, Jackie's favourite Irish song was 'Sean South from Garryowen', the song which they used to holler out on the team bus on the way to games.

This, somehow, didn't make the cut on Desert Island Discs.


In addition to his role as kitman, Charlie functioned as the DJ on the team bus. This was in the era before Oliver Stone's 'Any Given Sunday', when team DJ's had to get creative and properly think outside the box.

We understand his musical tastes differ from that other famous footballing DJ, @Rioferdy5.

He put me in charge of the music on the bus. Jack didn't understand some of the songs but he loved the marching songs in particular. We were playing Poland away and a song came on, which would be more to the British Army than the Irish Army, and it was a very dull and slow song.

When we were beaten he said to me afterwards, he said "Never played dirge like ever again." The funny thing was the next day he was humming the song.

Sean South of Garryowen was his favourite.

It got to the stage where it had to be played. It's a rabble rousing song full of life, if you forget about the words; it was lovely.

In his book on the Charlton brothers and their relationship, Leo McKinstry recorded how there was hell to pay when news of the Republic of Ireland team playlist reached the English tabloids.

Teddy Taylor, the comically Eurosceptic right-wing Conservative MP from Glasgow, fulminated in public that Jack should be ashamed of himself for belting out such a ballad.

The FAI weren't inclined to play up the fact that the Irish team used to sing songs celebrating the IRA's 1950s Border campaign.


Until 2014, when John Delaney was filmed treating crowds around Ballsbridge to a rendition of 'Joe McDonnell' by the Wolfe Tones.

When you sing a song like that, you don't believe in every word that is in the song. I sing a large number of songs, maybe five or six different ones. It's normally done in a private way when there is a sing-song. It's a typically Irish thing we do. We sing songs amongst our group and you expect it to be kept to the group...

I'll give you an example. Sean South from Garryowen has been sung on the Irish team bus for years, from the Jack Charlton era, right up to the current era.

"If people want to tape these things in what I would call a sly way, and then try to make them public, it is wrong. But I do accept that if I have upset anybody here, I'm sorry.

One of those resolutely on the side of JD in this dispute was Ireland's most beloved footballer. Paul McGrath harked back to the days of rebel songs in the bus when backing up the FAI chief.

Read more: Kevin Kilbane Guarantees Himself Free Pints For Life After Mentioning Coppers On MOTD2

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