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Man With a Brogue Scotches the Notion of Heavy Drinking on St. Patrick’s Day

The notion that the Irish--the real Irish--turn St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 into a drunken orgy is pure blarney.

That never was and never will be true, says Donal Patrick O’Sullivan of Costa Mesa, who looks like a leprechaun and talks in a thick Irish brogue.

“Why, until recent years,” O’Sullivan said, “pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day and you couldn’t legally buy a drink.”

But wouldn’t you know, O’Sullivan said, it’s American-born Irishmen who are to blame for the hard-drinking nonsense.

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“The people in Ireland are 96% Catholic and the country goes to morning Mass to celebrate the day in the five or six churches in and around every town,” said O’Sullivan, who isn’t against some good Irish whiskey when the occasion calls for it.

“You have to know that St. Patrick’s Day is a religious exercise in Ireland and a day families gather for a solemn observance of the death of St. Patrick,” he said. “It’s a very high-level affair.”

Sort of a one-man crusader out to set the record straight, O’Sullivan said many Irishmen in Ireland work in agriculture and are out from dawn to dusk, six days a week. “They couldn’t survive heavy drinking sessions either physically or economically,” O’Sullivan said.

“My main objection to the way it is,” he continued, “is that everyone becomes Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, wears green and gets drunk. It’s not like that in Ireland. We’re a very moderate people.”

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In Ireland, he said, whetting the throat on March 17 is symbolic, but done carefully. “We have some very strict drinking laws in Ireland, and besides, it almost always rains on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Born in Cork, Ireland, O’Sullivan blames Irish-Americans in New York, Philadelphia and Boston “for starting this drinking thing.” From his research, he believes the drinking phenomenon appears to have a deep sociological background. “Every time they (American-born Irishmen) won something political, they would get drunk,” he said.

O’Sullivan, who speaks the Gaelic language, said, “I am an American citizen and I’m very proud of that, but I’m also very proud of my Irish heritage and want to protect it.”

He operates a private post-office box rental business in Costa Mesa with his wife, Patricia O’Sullivan, and says the shop stays open St. Patrick’s Day. “But wouldn’t you know, people come in and ask my why I’m not in the local bar getting drunk.”

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Now there’s going to be a sandwich stack-off, sort of a challenge to the popular chili and spaghetti cook-offs.

The winning sandwich will be the special of the month at the Atrium Court on Fashion Island in Newport Beach, and besides the monthlong glory of it all, there’s a $100 prize.

“We were trying to come up with a new idea,” said Carol MacDonald of Tustin, spokeswoman for the sponsoring Irvine Ranch Farmers Market, “and we thought there would be a lot of people who would like to prepare their favorite sandwich.” (Call (714) 631-4408 to enter.)

The public stack-off with 25 finalists will be held Feb. 17 at the Atrium Court.

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For hungry watchers, the market will prepare a gourmet submarine sandwich and sell it for 75 cents an inch.

Let’s hear it for Peter Similuk of Costa Mesa. Before a shoulder injury, he was batting .847, then settled in at .500 and that’s not bad for an “Old Goat,” as he refers to himself.

“We’ve got a lot of pretty good batters,” said Similuk, 71, player-manager of two squads in the 18-team Orange County Senior Slo-pitch League that plays in Huntington Beach. The oldest player is Paul Sillwell, 81, of Fullerton.

Similuk’s two teams are called “Old Goats” and “Clowns,” and he says they are correctly named. “That’s what the players are, but for myself, I’m a nut,” he continued. “You know what a nut is?” He said if other nuts like him who are 55 or older want to play, they can call (714) 957-2515.

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Despite his bantering, the seniors play an energetic but careful softball game that doesn’t allow sliding, for instance. “We try to have a good time, but sometimes things happen,” Similuk said. “Six months ago a couple of players dropped dead on the field but we don’t dwell on it.”

He said each team plays 30 games a year and sometimes travels to places such as Palm Springs for competitive tournament games.

“By the way,” he said, “I play some good defense and did I tell you. . . .”

Acknowledgments--Janet Cater of Orange, planner and director of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers), Orange County’s student and public education program, was presented the Orange County Department of Education’s Outstanding Contribution to Education Award.

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