Mr. dennehys

Soccer local is global in the Village

[caption id="attachment_67248" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Everton fan Mark Taylor, center, is on home turf at Mr. Dennehy's bar on Carmine Street in Greenwich Village, but finds himself hemmed in by Newcastle fans John Spinks, left, and John Hedley."]


For the first time in almost 40 years, season-ticket holder Alan Murphy was not at Goodison Park for the home derby. But he was at Mr. Dennehy's, which, for New York area fans of Everton, is the next best thing.

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Murphy and his wife Michelle were in the Apple celebrating the 25th anniversary of their marriage.

They met at a Clash concert in Eric's, the famed Liverpool club, in 1983. He was a musician himself, but his band was more REM than the Clash. The couple raised two sons, who themselves are both in bands.

"This is a fantastic trip," he said.

The Carmine Street bar, as the local stand-in for Goodison, had lots of Everton fans plus a few blow-ins like County Clare-born, Brooklyn-based artist John Spinks, who is a fan of Newcastle United, having being raised in that city.

Spinks said, looking up at the screen: "You couldn't buy the atmosphere there."

It was the first day of October and an unseasonably hot 80 degrees in Liverpool for the 12:45 kickoff. That meant 7:45 a.m. in Greenwich Village. Nonetheless, there was a respectable 35 or so there for the game.

"I said to Michelle: I hope I don't meet a whole load of scousers," Murphy said. Well, that wasn't a big problem. On his left at the bar was Martin Novak, from the Czech Republic and a fan of 14 years' standing. And on his right was Rolando, who left his New Jersey apartment, and his sleeping wife, at 6:30. He was born to a Cuban father and a mother of Irish and English heritage. His great-grandmother left Liverpool in 1904 and when the club of that name won the European Champions League in 2005, he opted for Everton.

For some it's not a matter of choice. They grew up in the city, which as Murphy pointed out is the "capital of Ireland."

Mark Taylor's boyhood friends knew they couldn't even wear a knitted red jumper when visiting. The color would just set his dad off. The son's wife Mary, who is from Connemara, asked him recently: "Do you prefer Liverpool to lose or Everton to win?" Admittedly, he had to think about that one.

Spinks greeted his friend over from Newcastle, John Hedley, a guitarist known in the English northeast as the "white Jimi Hendrix."

"I think I need an interpreter," Taylor said of the Geordie banter between them.

He'd no such problem with Murphy, who, like himself, grew up in a family of Evertonians wearing blue. Murphy seemed to have had a sheltered childhood, because for a little while he was blissfully unaware of the fact that there was even a team called Liverpool.

Everton has won a very respectable nine championships in its history, he stressed, but none since 1987, and the last of their five F.A. Cup wins was in 1995. "The pain makes you stronger," he said.

The two Newcastle men, meanwhile, decided they'd pace themselves with regard to pints. They were both due at Sting's 60th birthday party later in the day. Hedley was in the star's first band. Spinks added something about being "altar boys together."

Sting and Hedley? "No. Me! He's a Protestant," the artist said nodding in the direction of the great white guitar hope. "Sting's father was our milkman for years."

Things were nicely balanced, at 0-0, until the 23rd minute when Everton's Jack Rodwell tackled Luis Suárez. Red card! People with already one pint in them 3,000 miles away guessed it was a fair challenge. The instant replay proved them right. The ref was clearly incompetent, but the Mr. Dennehy's crowd preferred to target the Uruguayan for making a most of it. "Remember he handled the ball on the line against Ghana in the World Cup?" someone said.

The underdogs luxuriated now in the injustice of it all. Nobody, though, disputed the penalty decision given in Liverpool's favor just before half time. The USA's Tim Howard, born to a Hungarian mother and an African-American father, was in goal. (Everton have players from 13 nations in its first-team squad, including in this Saturday's team, the Aussie Tim Cahill, who won praise from the Mr. Dennehy's crowd, and Donegal's Seamus Coleman, who escaped everyone's notice. Spinks said of Cahill: "He's a good club player. He doesn't have put in a good shift of work.") Liverpool's Dutch star Dirk Kuyt stepped up to the spot and struck the ball well toward the lower right hand corner. The USA goalie, though, read it perfectly, drawing the biggest cheer of the morning on Carmine Street. Still 0-0.

Half-time: "There'll be much debate about the sending off," said the commentator.

"Debate?" Murphy exclaimed incredulously.

The ESPN match analyst helping the commentator was the former Liverpool star Steve McManaman, who went to school with Taylor. He was Everton then. "He never played well against us," Taylor said.

"Who did he play well against, then?" Hedley shot back with a mischievous grin.

Taylor was ready for that. Against Valencia, for Real Madrid, in the Champions League final in 2000. He was Man of the Match.

He and Murphy could reel off the names of other schoolboy Evertonians who became stars for the Reds.

There was much debate about Liverpool's Andy Carroll, a Geordie who became Britain's most expensive player earlier in the year. Eight and a half games into the new season, he still hadn't scored.

"That was a good piece of business," said Spinks, who's expected to defend his club's former player. "He's clumsy and when he doesn't deliver he looks worse.

"He needs to go to a monastery for a while, but you won't find that in Liverpool," he added.

"The nerves are kicking in now," said Taylor, turning the discussion back to Everton. "I'd rather lose in the first half than in the second."

The boss on Carmine Street, Cork's Donal Dennihy, passed through the crowd. "He does the small things well," said Spinks, approvingly.

There was nothing small, however, about the breakfasts served up to 10- and 8-year-old Mariana and Lennon McNee. Their dad is Iain McNee, the owner of a soccer shop, the Onion Bag in North Bergen, N.J.

His first love is home team Carlisle United, who are in the third tier, known now as League One. The club's "golden era" was when they were in the old Second Division. The team even spent a season, 1974-75, in the First Division (the smallest town to reach the top tier over the past century).

McNee traveled as a child and youth, with thousands of other Carlisle fans, to places as far as away Bournemouth on the South Coast.

"It was easier then," he said, not least because British Rail had a £1 family ticket.

All the kids then picked a First Division team to support as well. In 1980, he took Everton, who somehow Carlisle United had managed to beat twice in that brief foray at the top. Their strip was blue, too. That was a big factor in the choice.

McNee brought his children

home a couple of years back to a cup-tie involving both Everton and Carlisle, assigning them opposing teams to


"I've been many, many times," said Mariana, whose mom is Mexican, of her dad's hometown Carlisle.

But on this occasion, much as they love football, Mariana was engrossed in a book, and Lennon, named for a noted Liverpool musician, was more interested in sleep.

Everton's 10 were hanging on well into the second half. "Time for the valium - and the Xanax," Taylor said at the 63rd minute.

Then on 71 minutes, Carroll finally scored. Suárez added insult to injury with another 10 minutes later.

It was all over.

At fulltime, Taylor shook hands with a departing tourist. "He's an Everton fan from Hampshire!" he said, clearly delighted the faithful could be found that far south.

There was much discussion afterward about how football wasn't what it was and how it was all about big money these days -- and Everton had none. There were a few silver linings in the modern game, though, such as Argentina and Barcelona's Lionel Messi. "He improvises like a jazz musician. Like Charlie Parker," Spinks said. "Aye," said the guitarist Hedley.

"We didn't deserve to lose 2-0," Taylor said finally.

"You'll just have to put it behind you," Spinks said.