If Garth Brooks plays the Milk Market in Limerick, I might go

I was well into my thirties before I knew what FOMO was. For those who don’t know yet, it means fear of missing out. As a teenager and young adult, I knew exactly what the pain of FOMO meant, even though the acronym wasn’t invented back then.

As a grumpy teenager, I would spend long afternoons on my bed imagining all the bands I’d missed because my parents wouldn’t let me go to a gig or two. They kept talking about something called Leaving Cert being more critical. Then the shame, a, having to pretend you left next Monday, or b, just having to avoid everyone.

My twenties, however, were a different story. I wasn’t afraid of missing out because I stayed outside the whole time. If I had money in my pocket, I found a friendly innkeeper to give it to. I went to a lot of gigs, including one that lasted four years called College.

They say high school is the best days of your life, but they’re wrong. college days are. But the most amazing festival I’ve attended ended abruptly when college ended. I look back now and wonder why I left such a beautiful place.

When I left I could still have gone out full time, but I was missing two things: time and money. I quickly realized a terrible life trap was waiting to engulf you as Paul McCartney sang You Never Give Me Your Money: “Out of College Money Spent See No Future Pay No Rent All the Money’s Gone Nowhere to Go”.

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Most of the money was invested in hangovers and bed rentals. At the same time, when I wasn’t pouring pints myself, I was lounging around the International Bar on Exchequer Street, learning my craft. But around this time Ireland was going through an uncomfortable phase of its own ‘boom’.

Bernard O'Shea.  Photograph Moya Nolan
Bernard O’Shea. Photograph Moya Nolan

If I missed one thing completely, it was Ireland’s economic boom. When it imploded in 2008, I was just getting started.

The television and radio appearances I was getting at the time had drastically reduced pay. But there was power in viewing the boom as a penniless comic before the downturn. I’ve seen the good (a lot of corporate gigs with free bars) and the bad (what happens when there’s a paid bar at a corporate gig).

As the city got taller and its bars bigger, my worth became less and less significant by the day. However, my findings from my bedroom window were still the same as they are now. I’m glad Ireland had a great party. We deserve it. But the hangover would always be terrible.

This weekend we had friends sitting in the same kids and work boat as us, and the conversation soon swung toward FOMO waters. I quickly realized that I had missed the three most important events of the Irish summer. The Picnic, the Plow and the Garth.

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For the first ten years of The Electric Picnic, I performed in the comedy tent. I was blessed to see some great acts up close and had the luxury of my own restroom. I was spoiled. I took it for granted. I thought I would be there every year.

That was until the kids came and my stomach grew to the official size of a middle-aged man who doesn’t watch what he eats. The thought of sleeping in a tent fills me with dread, especially at how stiff I’ll be the next morning. Glamping is my only option now but I would need to bring a kettle for my morning Ovaltine.

The Plowing Championship was always a big event for me growing up as it was almost always held in Laois. That meant one thing above all – a day off from school.

But over the past few years something strange has been manifesting in my Culchie brain. I feel like I should go there. It’s almost like a tracking device in my brain telling me to “go to your place, Bernard” and to buy “wellies and a chainsaw you’ll never use.”

Bernard O'Shea with his guitar and Marty Morrisey
Bernard O’Shea with his guitar and Marty Morrisey

I love the plough. I was planning to take the kids this year but didn’t line up early enough to organize it. Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure there’s an entire area that specializes in poultry.

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Then there’s Garth. The new pope. True to his word, he appeared in boots. The frenzy that surrounded his five nights at Croke Park was almost matched by his dinner at Matt The Trashers in Birdhill and his showing up in Kerry belting out the tunes and gulping down the pints.

Those who weren’t even fans raved about his performances. But hold on tight As much as I can see the appeal and nostalgia behind the music, it was never my thing, even if it’s served with “Hang Sangajis” on the 45-meter line overlooking Hill 16.

On the highway to work, I listened to my former colleague Jennifer Zamparelli on the radio as she spoke to those who were intrigued and converted by his country charm. Still, she wasn’t convinced to go, and neither was I.

I have no FOMO in relation to all three of the above events; ‘Cause there’s a reluctant little old man inside me screaming, “You’re better off staying away from the crowds and the noise”. But there’s also a little side of me that wishes I’d gone. But there’s always next year, and if we want to take any leads from Mr. Brooks, I might go see him.

Any plans to play at the milk market in Limerick, Garth?

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