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Highlights on Off The Ball

'The first gig we did in Mountjoy was immense' | John Colleary explains why he helps prisoners

'The first gig we did in Mount...

'The first gig we did in Mountjoy was immense' | John Colleary explains why he helps prisoners

“Do you think you and the lads would be able to play three songs?” John Colleary inquires. “I think it’d be a nice end to the gig if you did,” he explains.

“Yeah, yeah that’s fine, but we’d need some time to rehearse,” is the answer to John’s question. “You know there’s always some mistakes when you get up on stage so hopefully, they’re not big ones,” says the prisoner.

John Colleary has organised and taken part in plenty of gigs during his career, but these ones are the ones he looks forward to the most. With the help of some of Mountjoy’s inmates, they are preparing for another night of music and comedy in the jail.

The lads in Mountjoy look forward to the gigs as well. This prisoner is anxious for everything to go right on the night. He’s eager for them to give a good account of themselves for the guests who are coming into Mountjoy for the show.

For John, working in Mountjoy is something that gives him an energy that is unlike anything he gets from the comedy gigs he does for a living. Getting people who were enthusiastic to take part was important for him to draw in the wider group.

Comedy gig in Mountjoy Prison. L-R: Danny O'Brien, John Colleary, Eric Lalor, Deputy Governor Donnacha Walsh, Bohemian Foundation president Thomas Hynes, Joe Rooney. Image credit - Stephen Burke

“It’s a case of getting the most interested people involved and once they are interested I’ve found them to be more enthusiastic, energetic and helpful people to work with.”

“I remember the first time we did a gig in the prison; the energy was immense. We were worked on it for about 10 weeks and when it was all over, I felt really good – it gave me a great boost,” the Sligoman said.

John, who is a good friend of Foundation president Thomas Hynes, has been on the board of the Foundation for several years. He has been helping the prisoners express themselves through comedy with regular workshops in the prison.

At first, some of the prisoners were a little bit “stand-offish” according to John but he explains how they are just like any other group of people you might come across during life.

Once you establish trust and build a relationship you see them as just another person – one that happened to make a mistake.

Colleary thinks that his profile that he gained from working on ‘Savage Eye’ and ‘Irish Pictorial’ helped him because the prisoners knew him.

“I don’t think it’s any different to anybody else you meet for the first time.

“Some of the prisoners you meet, you can immediately have the craic with and then there’s guys in there that wouldn’t get involved until eventually they eventually chilled out and got into it,” he said.

John performing in the chapel in Mountjoy Prison as Deputy Governor Donnacha Walsh watches on. Image credit - Stephen Burke

Dulling the sharpened edges of life inside

John explains inclusion is what the Bohemian Foundation strives for and whether it is football, comedy or running, the aim is to reach people and supplement traditional services.

“Between the comedy that we do and what the Bohs players do with the football, there is a cross-over.

"I noticed few guys that weren’t in the best of shape before we went in are now much more positive and physically well. I’d like to think the Bohemian Foundation has something to do with that,” he said.

He can see that the work of the Foundation helps to change the atmosphere in the prison – dull the sharpened edges of prison life.

“Because of how positive they are around us I like to think that the Foundation means something to them positively.

“Hopefully we help them along the path of rehabilitation, to be more positive when they get released because that’s the purpose of it. The idea is to get guys to stay away from the scenarios that put them in prison in the first place,” John Colleary said.

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Bohemian FC Bohemian Foundation Bohemians Bohs Comedy Football Jail John Colleary League Of Ireland Loi Mountjoy Mountjoy Prison Prison Football Prisoners Rehabilitation Savage Eye Soccer Thomas Hynes