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McCabe was wronged because they couldn’t handle the truth

 

 

 

 

 

The entire process of the Garda ‘whistleblower’ scandal has taken out two Ministers for Justice, two Garda Commissioners and two senior civil servants, although it must be noted that while the dispute had begun long before Nóirín O’Sullivan took the helm, her tenure as boss was constantly dogged by it. May I add that the publication of the resulting Disclosures Tribunal has exonerated her of mistreating Sgt. McCabe and of helping to orchestrate a smear campaign against him. I also stress that Frances Fitzgerald got a clean bill of health when she was vindicated and found to have ‘acted appropriately’. In addition, Alan Shatter was himself vindicated in the courts.

  However, perhaps the biggest loss resulting from this shocking controversy is the ‘whistleblower’ himself, Sgt. Maurice McCabe who has retired from An Garda Síochána following 30 years of service for the simple reason that the man who really should be hailed a hero, felt it was ‘the only decision’ open to him. Now while I believe the force has lost an incredibly brave and honourable member – a man who at all times had only the interests of the country he served at heart – Maurice’s decision to opt out is absolutely the right one to make; both for him and for his family. Why? Because, despite the fact the force has missed a wonderful opportunity to retain McCabe’s services where he could teach rookies how to relate to the public, how to earn their respect and admiration, and, in general, how to be a good copper, there’s no way back for him.

  And, while Minister Charlie Flanagan has said the nation owes Maurice “a debt of gratitude,” I’d go one further and say give this amazingly strong human being the Scott Medal in honour of his bravery.

  While we’re at it, let’s give a shout out to Lorraine McCabe, the incredible woman who stood strong and silent by her man; who held her head high, who never wavered, not for one second, even when the man whose babies she bore, was disgustingly and wrongly accused of child sexual abuse. I won’t use the vile words former Commissioner Martin Callinan is alleged to have uttered when he tried to taint an officer trying to do his job, because this is a family publication. But I’ll give you a possible reason for Callinan’s nauseating attempt to blacken a man’s good name…he couldn’t handle the truth.

  Now I can tell you, while an apology from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and the current Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will go nowhere near soothing what must have been the unspeakable emotional turmoil this solid couple have endured for over a decade, I’m sure it’s welcomed and received with the same sense of human dignity, respect and integrity that has become indicative of their upstanding behaviour.

  We can expect that Mr. McCabe (it’s odd not to address him as Sergeant, but he’s now like the rest of us…livin’ on civvy street), is due a level of financial compensation, especially from Tusla; but I’d say no amount of money will ever be enough. And, while I’m not pre-empting anything regarding an amount of remuneration, it must be said that Tusla’s mishandling of a file and an incorrect allegation levelled at McCabe was beyond doubt a travesty. Okay, Tusla have very publicly apologised for their titanic feck-up; in fact, if Carlsberg did catastrophic cock-ups, this one would defo be an award winner. However, for the record, there are upstanding, blameless people working within Tusla who do a fantastic job, so let’s not sully their good names.

  Look, if anything good is to come of this debacle, and if citizen McCabe is to leave any legacy, it’ll surely be that Commissioner Harris will learn lessons going forward regarding the process by which the force he leads operates and delivers its service to us, the citizens it protects. He should also look at how the force treats its hard-working and admirable coppers, (many of whom are stationed here in Roscommon), and make sure they’re treated with the due regard and respect they deserve. I wish the McCabes every best wish and happiness.

 

It’s Movember lads…you’ve got 30 days to cultivate that luscious lip warmer

 

It’s Movember folks and that means raising awareness of men’s health issues like prostate and testicular cancer, etc.  Oh, and it also means all you sexy Roscommon Mo Bros who’ve been putting off growing and cultivating a bit of hair on your upper lip can now do it in the name of a good cause.

However, do bear in mind lads, despite the fact menopause has given your poor elderly maiden aunt a weak bladder and regular hot flushes, much to the woman’s mortification, the ‘change’ has now managed, (without auntie even trying) to allow her grow a substantial soup straining set of old lady whiskers that’d put Magnum PI, (or a ‘70s porn star) to shame; yet you, ya big hunk of masculinity, may only be able to manage a slash of peach fuzz on your chinny-chin-chin; but don’t get too disheartened.

  However, Movember is not all about the lads, women can get involved too by becoming Mo Sistas who encourage and sponsor their dads, their brothers, their partners and their friends to grow and cultivate a luscious winter lip warmer, raise awareness and funds, and have conversations about their own health concerns. In addition ladies, when the man in your life reaches his upper-lip limbo, (and he will), and his barely-there bush begins to itch like hell, remember, it’s gonna be your job to encourage that bad boy to stick it out. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The man rang me and said ‘I hope you voted for Peter Casey’

 

 

A couple of days ago I got a phone call from a man who started off his chat with the words “I hope you voted for Peter Casey”.

  I told him I hadn’t, which didn’t impress him much. He then started to talk about the new rung in Irish society, i.e. the Squeezed Middle. The man told me of a conversation he recently had with two schoolteachers who are married to one another and who are both working in Dublin.

  Basically they told him that they cannot afford to even think about starting a family, such is the crippling cost of childcare, and they also told him that they can never dream of trying to buy their own house – an amazing situation considering they are two highly educated people, both of whom are working, and effectively – as teachers – responsible for the education of our next generation.

  As Peter Casey did earlier, the man contrasted their situation with that of the travellers in Tipperary who turned down the six new houses which had been built at a cost to the taxpayer of €1.7m. It is easy to see why the Squeezed Middle are becoming more and more restless.

  Later that evening I spoke with an educated professional person, and in her opinion we now have a three-tier society – the social welfare one (where certain sections seem to get everything from free housing to free medical services to fuel and footwear allowances, etc.), the very wealthy who don’t contribute anywhere near their fair share to the economy, and the Squeezed Middle, who get caught for everything and now have nowhere to turn.

  The latter group’s problem is that they are earning too much to qualify for any social welfare, but the cuts which they suffered during the recession mean they are now stuck in no man’s land, and the banks (who had to be bailed out by all of these P.A.Y.E. earners because of their own outrageous mismanagement) have turned their backs on the very people who saved them – and their extremely strict mortgage guidelines mean these middle-income earners are now trapped in a poverty trap.

  In Dublin it is not uncommon to be paying up to €1800/€2000 a month in rent for a two-bedroomed property, and despite continuous promises of its intention to address this, the Government has done nothing about it (or certainly achieved nothing).

  The teachers I am talking about are stuck with the outrageous rent prices that are being charged now. As in the case of a lot of people, they could buy their own house for less monthly outlay than they are now paying if the banks would only give them a mortgage.

  It’s the classic Catch 22 situation, but the fact that 340,000 people voted for an unknown candidate simply because he highlighted the unfair treatment of a section of our society must surely make our politicians more than a little uneasy. Maybe it will force them to act. We’ll wait and see, but we’re not holding our breath.

  Now we all know that there are true, genuine social welfare recipients out there, who need all the help they get, but we also know that large numbers are trying to milk the system, while a good number of our millionaires and billionaires have overseas residences’, and in some cases pay very little tax, even on money made in Ireland.

  The truth is that the middle-income earner is an easy target, and is getting hit at every turn. I believe he, and she, has had enough, and the revolution may be just around the corner.

 

My prescription: Cut back on claims culture

 

Sometimes you would wonder as to what sort of world we live in today. One of the biggest causes of concern to me, and to many ordinary people like me, is the big surge in legal claims against every type of company and individual – and the huge sums of money that are being awarded for what often appear to be relatively minor complaints.

  One of the areas that seems to be particularly vulnerable is the medical services sector. I have to say that if I was a doctor or a consultant (or any type of medical professional), I would need to make sure that I had adequate insurance in place.

  Now nobody wants to see patients or their families suffer as a result of medical negligence, but it seems to me that hardly a day goes by without some claim or other making the national papers. Sometimes I think we expect too much from our overworked, stressed-out medical professionals. No matter how well educated and trained our doctors and nurses are, it is not possible for them to be immune from making mistakes, particularly as they are dealing with something as complicated as the human body.

  I have to say that if I was young and starting out in life, even if I had the ability I would turn my back on a life in medicine. Even tradesmen, who are working with lifeless objects, can get things wrong occasionally, so is it any wonder mistakes can be made on the human body, which has so many different bits and pieces involved in making it up?

  Now I am not showing favour to any side, as I am well aware at how traumatic a wrong diagnosis can be, but it just seems to me that there is a neverending stream of lawsuits going on. If it continues like this, will anyone at all train to become a doctor? If not, we will eventually have no health service at all.

  Another feature of our society is the reality that there are several fraudulent claims being made (across the board, not necessarily against medical personnel) and there are families and gangs who make hundreds of thousands of euro through staged accidents and other such scams year in year out. For ordinary, everyday folk, this goes against the grain. I think we would all be better off if we saw less lawsuits and lower monetary awards.

 

Sporting success stories

 

Finally for this week, yesterday afternoon I took a stroll around the grounds of Creggs Rugby Club, where the floodlights for the new 4G pitch were being erected. In the cold light of day it is an amazing sight and a development that the club and the village should be rightly proud of.

  When all is done there will be a total of five full-size rugby pitches in a village with a population of about 100 people. I am told the first match on the new pitch, and under the new lights, will take place in a couple of weeks or so. All I can say is make it your business to get there, as in every way – both in terms of the rugby the teams are playing and the way the club is developing – this a great local success story.

  Talking of success stories, well done to our neighbours Fuerty on winning the Intermediate Football Championship last Saturday and to St. Brendan’s ladies on winning the Connacht Intermediate Final last Sunday.

  Going back a week or two ago, it was great to see Aidan Tully’s beloved Kilglass Gaels finally winning the County Junior Championship after a few years of heartbreak. Congratulations also to our good friends (sometimes) from St. Joseph’s, Kilteevan, a club we in Creggs have had a lot in common with down through the years…well done on winning the league title, and if any victory was better celebrated, I would be very surprised.

  When all we hear is doom and gloom about the decline of rural Ireland, it’s great to realise that sport, in whatever guise, can lift the spirits of so many small communities. All of these different villages (including Athleague after their great County Hurling Final win) will get through the winter in a better way as a result of their exploits on the sporting fields.

  So congrats to them all, and also to John Whyte, who became President of Creggs last week. Great performances from all involved – well done!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

‘There were highs and lows, but somehow Rooskey’s very own hotel kept ticking over’

 

 

 

It was known as ‘The Beeches’ – presumably because there were Beech trees nearby.

  I’m probably doing that old building an injustice, but my memory is that it was an eerie and drab place.

  Even by the late 1970s, it was long vacant, a ruin in fact. It had been a public house, in its day.

  ‘The Beeches’ was an intimidating old ruin that night when a few of us decided to get a closer look. The derelict and mysterious building dominated the landscape when you crossed Rooskey bridge, on to the Leitrim side. 

  As young lads, we had to explore it…we were drawn to the very thing that was scaring us.

   Having a name like ‘The Beeches’ added to its auru…as though it belonged to a novel or a movie. That cold and wet night, we were feeling adventurous, brave and apprehensive, all rolled into one.

  We approached the building from behind, presumably to avoid detection. We entered, via an unlocked rear door. We even tiptoed upstairs...jumping with alarm or probably even terror at every sight of a shattered window, every gust of wind, every imagined shadowy image. We survived.

  A decade or so on, ‘The Beeches’ had been purchased…and a new chapter in its history beckoned. The building would be knocked, and in its place, Rooskey would have its very own hotel. 

  The imminent arrival of a hotel certainly caused quite a stir. And in a marketing masterstroke, the owners invited the public to suggest a name for it. Readers submitted suggestions to a local newspaper. ‘Shalamar’ (or ‘Shalimar’) won out. The first owner of Rooskey’s own hotel was Phil McGovern, who was affectionately known as ‘Phil Baby’. The fact that ‘Phil Baby’ had been in America for many years seemed to give him a special aura – sure the locals were fascinated. With or without an American vibe, Phil had a great personality. He was quite a charismatic character, with a ready smile and a great turn of phrase.  

  Some years later, the ‘Shalamar’ (or ‘Shalimar’) became ‘The Marina’. Over the years, the hotel changed hands a few times. There were highs and lows, but somehow Rooskey’s very own hotel kept ticking over.

  In more recent times, the hotel was renamed ‘The Shannon Key West’. This was probably its most successful era…seemingly flying during times of prosperity, hanging in there when the recession bared its teeth. It can’t have been easy to keep going, in such a competitive industry.

  Up to as recently as six or seven years ago, it was usual to see the carvery area packed at weekends (especially Sundays). At night, crowds enjoyed the music of local performers.

  Then came the demise. The doors had closed before, but someone had always come to its rescue. But now, societal trends were a foe. The village was bypassed, the recession had hit hard, big dinner dances were dying out. Many of the young people who might have held wedding receptions in Rooskey’s own hotel were now in Australia, Canada or elsewhere. 

  The years went by, and the doors never re-opened. Hope ebbed away.

  There was talk last March of a takeover by a consortium that would restore the hotel to its former glory (‘A well-managed 3 or 4 star hotel’ the headlines screamed). Nothing came of it. More misplaced optimism.

  Now, this week’s news suggests that long-standing rumours appear to have been built on substance. It’s the news that many people didn’t want to hear. Others may be fine with it. I find it very disappointing. Rooskey’s own hotel is apparently set to become an asylum centre. It will, we are told, cater for around 80 asylum seekers – and it’s all likely to  happen within the coming weeks.

  Although the rumours had been circulating, many local people are stunned. It seems they are not getting their hotel back. And they are concerned that Rooskey – a great village which was devastated by the loss of the old Hanley Bacon factory to fire in 2002 – simply does not have the facilities and services in place to provide for the influx of 80 or so asylum seekers.

  Challenging times ahead. It appears that the music has died, the Sunday afternoon carvery buzz will be no more. It’s an uncertain new chapter for what was the ‘The Beeches’, for what was ‘Rooskey’s own hotel’.

 

The write stuff from Paul (again)

 

I didn’t get to Gleeson’s on Saturday for the launch of Paul Connolly’s new book, but I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Mount Talbot man on his latest project.

  Paul’s late brother, Tommy, was a great friend of the Roscommon People (and, in a previous era, of the Champion). Many years ago I ‘recruited’ Tommy as a local notes correspondent (he also submitted excellent hurling reports).

  Paul has taken the Connolly writing flair and love of place to new levels. A few years ago Paul wrote an extensive history of Mount Talbot. His latest work is ‘The Landed Estates of County Roscommon’ and I very much look forward to reading it. The book is a celebration of the history and folklore behind each of the stately homes and ‘Landed Estates’ of County Roscommon. It’s available in local outlets at €30. What a valuable addition to Roscommon’s impressive literary output.

 

Wanted: Manager, and some positivity…

 

I haven’t been rubbing shoulders with the barstool experts for ages – and I use the term with affection, not sarcasm – and neither have I delved much into the social media commentary.

  So I’m not entirely up to date with how the Roscommon GAA community feels about the saga surrounding the vacant senior team management position.

  However, from just chatting to people on the street or at a shop counter, it’s fair to say that fans/GAA activists are becoming demoralised with the current impasse.

  Obviously the people mandated to find a new manager are working away behind the scenes, and no doubt a candidate will emerge soon. To which one might add, the sooner the better.

  The delay in making an appointment, which is largely down to the poorly handled Aidan O’Rourke last-gasp withdrawal, is not good for Roscommon football. We all know that.

  It’s probably inevitable in the absence of an appointment that a negative mood, certainly a sense of frustration, would fill that vacuum.  

  Still, an outbreak of positive thinking would do no harm. After all, Roscommon are now a Division One team again. We have a lot going for us. We were Connacht champions in 2017 and finalists this year. We made it to the inaugural Super 8s, and we have some very exciting talent.

  We need to shake ourselves out of this unfortunate (but no doubt temporary) post-McStay era stalemate period and get back on course.

  We need a manager to be appointed as soon as possible – urgently at this stage. There is no denying that the O’Rourke episode left many people angry, no denying that it’s been a highly frustrating few weeks. What we need now is an appointment, and then let’s get down to business. Sideshows like focusing on who is or isn’t leaking to the media are daft – it’s trivial stuff, like complaining of a few draughts when you’re halfway through building a fine house.

  Yeah, we took a few hammerings from the very elite in the Super 8s. But on balance I think we’ve been very much on an upward curve the last few years. We need to regain and then build momentum. We’re in Division One. A new season beckons. Let’s get back to the process of continuing to…er...make Roscommon great again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westlife: Dad bods, skinny jeans and flyin’ without Bryan

 

 

I should have seen it coming, I should have read the signs…but I didn’t and Westlife, aka Ireland’s answer to Take That, who warned us, nay swore, they were ‘never gonna say goodbye,’ have remained true to their word, because, following their break-up in 2012, they’re back, albeit this time, they’re flyin’ without Bryan, (formerly Brian) McFadden; and suddenly your columnist is not in a good place.

  Fans of the ‘90s bubble-gummers, (I’m not one…can ya tell?) will remember the uproar when Brian/Bryan left the lads to build a world of his own, (I’m gonna apologise right now for all the puns), in a vain attempt at forging a solo career back in 2004. When the news broke, I was one of the couldn’t-give-a-toss journos present at the press conference and witnessed first-hand the desolation and despair displayed by many a teenage fan when they learned of the highlighted haired one’s exit. And I’m not making fun of the poor girls’ associated trauma here folks, I mean, I’d  imagine life seemed pretty hollow for these young wans given what they thought was likely to be the demise of this hugely successful group following the parka-wearing no-hit-wonder’s departure! As we know, the others managed to bounce back and continue for a further eight years sans Brian/Bryan.

  Fast-forward to 2018 and poor Brian/Bryan  appears to be better known for his impressively thicker thatch…his platinum plumage thinned due to “lifestyle and general stresses” (I’d say he missed an opportunity there to join Right Said Fred, but I digress), as opposed to the upward trajectory of his solo career. He’s also credited  with somewhat incredibly offensive and ill-timed tweets, an inflated ego and a six-month driving suspension after notching up no less than ‘12 penalty points on separate speeding offences’. Wow, way to keep in the spotlight bro!

  But enough about he-of-the-thinning-mane; (and no, I’m not bald-bashing, in my opinion there’s nothing sexier than a bald man), and instead, let’s focus on the remaining fab four Westlifers whose idea of ‘dancing’ was to coordinate their movements from deftly sitting atop a high-stool to cleverly pointing every time they heard a key change whilst warbling to cover tracks. Oh, and dressing like frustrated ‘Greasers’ waiting tables in Arnold’s diner (remember TV’s Happy Days), as they murdered Billy Joel’s classic Uptown Girl!

The now grown-up Nicky, Mark, Kian and Shane, have, no doubt, since going their separate ways, experienced what we’ve all experienced, i.e. dealing with the hard lessons of adulthood. I’d imagine it must have been difficult being molly-coddled by flunkies, and living it large in five-star hotels chatting to music journos about the psychologically demanding choices associated with deciding on your favourite Subway sandwich filling, or which detox juice-cleanser you favoured. And, having now dealt with issues associated with post-boyband life, will the comeback kids manage to perfect their ‘go-to’ pose a la Derek Zoolander’s flawlessly executed, perfectly angled Blue Steel look, get ‘all dressed up for glamour and rock n’ roll’ pour their dad-bods into skinny jeans and drop a credible auto-tuned set of gigs whilst living life on the road at turbo speed?

  Now I’m not accusing the lads of lacking musical talent, I’m sure they’ve got it in abundance; but it’s a fact many a note-strangling group do take advantage of modern technology in order to help them create layered harmonies in the name of delivering seamless performances. But all that aside, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Westlife on what’s clearly their incredible belief in their own abilities (and, ahem, natural-born talent), to croon what we’re told are going to be original Ed Sheeran penned ditties. I’m certain Nicky, Mark, Shane and…er, the other one, will once again raise up all those now hormonal former Queens of their hearts, igniting the one-time wannabe Mrs. Westlifers’ adulation in order that they can stand on mountains and, eh, walk on stormy seas…bless!

Lighten up Kristen, fairytales teach kids a valuable lesson

American actress Kristen Bell’s framing of the scenario where Prince Charming wakes Snow White from her poison-induced sleep with a kiss as a valuable opportunity to teach her kids about consent incited lively debate among keyboard warriors last week.

  I can understand her motives. She’s a concerned mother. I get it. That said, regular readers  know that, being a survivor of rape myself, it’s extremely important to me that, when educating young people about sex, the whole issue surrounding consent, (divisive though it is), is not just addressed in families and in schools, it’s fully understood by everyone. However, it’s my opinion that neither Grimm’s fairytales nor Disney’s adaptations of them are ever going to corrupt our kids. It’s also my opinion that Kristen, who voiced Princess Anna in kids’ favourite Frozen, a hugely successful Disney movie that no doubt did her career a lot of good and made her very rich, is being a tad hypocritical.

  Look, we all know the hot-to-trot ‘Prince’ delivering a persuasive pick-up line via an insolent pout, smouldering looks, and head of hair so fabulous it deserves its own Knighthood is never going to rock up and rescue us. And, as kids, I’ll bet while most of us, (me included) never wished to become actual Princesses, we did secretly want to be treated like one.

  The fact is, in my family, the much-loved tradition of sitting down together to watch Disney’s adaptation of a fairytale holds not just a cultural significance, it’s also something which is not going to decline in popularity, no matter how old we get!

  My most memorable Mother’s Day treat was when all four of us girls headed to the movies to watch Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast.

  Sure what could be more inspiring than enjoying a tale where a rose’s breathtaking blooms sit confined to a glass container, threatening to wither and die unless the heroine finally realises she needs to take action and do what we’re all capable of doing, i.e., save herself.

  So you see Kristen, the moral of the story hon, is that fairytales can not just play an important part in enhancing our imaginations, they can also teach us how to blossom and provide our own paths in life.

 

 

Boring Presidential election? Not in Creggs…

 

 

It’s Tuesday morning, and out here in Creggs we are coming to terms with the success of this year’s Harvest Festival, the 38th version, which took place over the Bank Holiday weekend. In my humble opinion it was right up there with anything that has happened in our village in the previous thirty-seven years.

  As we know, in the little island of Ireland we had the very uninspiring and – apart from Peter Casey’s intervention – boring battle for the Presidency, which Michael D duly won, but here in Creggs there was nothing boring, tedious or uninspiring about the battle for President of Creggs.

  As we headed to the polling station in Lisaniskey on Friday evening to cast our votes in the Irish election, the six candidates in the Creggs Presidential race were getting ready for an intensive four-day campaign, the likes of which has never been seen before, and most likely never will again. At the end of it, only the best and strongest would still be standing.

  Friday night was the calm before the storm, but on Saturday night the battle royale really took off. All six candidates appeared at the very well attended American Tea Party in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet. Later that night, I had the honour of interviewing all six live on stage  in Mikeen’s. There was no ducking or diving by any of our candidates, with no-one coming up with excuses as to why they couldn’t face the debate. Every one of them – Shameless D Higgins, Miriam O’Cee, Mrs. Brown, Sheikh Abdul El Fullabull, Donald Whitehouse and Ger Jung Un – took to the stage like true professionals. One after the other they put forward their manifestos and explained why they should become President of Creggs and what they would do for our village if they were elected.

  We had all kinds of promises…from building walls to keep the Mountain People out of Creggs, to finding oil under the floor of Mikeen’s (always thought it was a Gold Mine, but an oil well is even better), while Shameless D did his entire presentation by way of a poem.  At the end of it all, the general opinion was that everyone had acquitted themselves really well and, in true election parlance, it was all to play for.

  As for me, several people said that I was just brilliant as an interviewer, and all agreed that if I was fifty years younger, five or six stone lighter, blessed with a more Dublin 4 accent – and not looking like a vagrant – I could have been a candidate to present the Late Late Show. I have joined a gym, am going to a barber and an elocution class, but even with all that I have just realised I am too old (the free travel and pension book gave it away) and sadly Ryan Tubridy’s job is safe, at least for now.

  Anyway, all the other events in the festival carried on…the Craft Fair, the massive auction in the school, a very successful dog show, the Connolly Cup, the well attended fair day with loads of horses (and by Monday night a good few asses), and on Saturday afternoon a wonderful All-Ireland junior Cup match (rugby) between Creggs and a Clonmel team who had been league champions of Munster for the previous four years.

  The biggest attendance at The Green in years saw the best game played there in a long, long time, and at the end of a pulsating encounter the visitors won on a 36 to 24 scoreline, aided in no small way by a curious referreeing performance.

  However, our lads put in a brilliant performance, and let’s hope as big a crowd turns up next Saturday night for a very important league game against our neighbours, Buccaneers.

  We also had a children’s tractor run on Sunday – and loads of other fun activities for the kids – a vintage tractor display, a traditional farmhouse baking display in the Heritage Centre, and on Monday, a pretty tricky Car Treasure Hunt. Back to Friday night, and we started it all off with a Schools Quiz, followed by the Harvest Mass, and the election of this year’s Personality of the Parish. Regarding the latter, everyone agreed that the honour which fell to Kathleen McKeague was long overdue and very well deserved. It would take a full book to tell you about all the work Kathleen does in our parish, so all I will say about her is that without Kathleen and her enthusiasm, Creggs would be a much lesser place…so thanks, Kathleen. Congrats on an honour that’s richly deserved.

  Later that night Bert Curley hosted a highly entertaining table quiz over the new oil well in Mikeen’s, getting the whole event off to a brilliant start. On now to Monday evening, and by late afternoon, with tension at its highest, Mikeen O’Roarke made the announcement that thousands had been waiting for when he confirmed that Donald Whitehouse had trumped all the other candidates and was the new President of Creggs. Mr. Whitehouse made his acceptance speech to his many adoring followers, and as I write this (on Tuesday evening), I am told that Melania and family are already installed in the White House.

  It was all great craic and great credit is due to all the candidates for throwing themselves flat out into the contest, to Duff (my brother) for coming up with the idea, and to Pauline Scott for taking it on and for giving us such a fun weekend.

  On a political note, it has long been acknowledged that the Roscommon People has a shrewd eye for elections and such like, but I think they surpassed themselves in last week’s paper by predicting that Donald Whitehouse looked the likely winner.

  Over the weekend Billy Garvin, PJ Davis and Odd Sox and Ciaran Brown provided us with some wonderful musical entertainment, and  as the dust settles on the Harvest Festival for 2018, it has left us with memories which will long live in our memories.

  The Lecarrow Vintage Club had a wonderful display of a 1950s’ rambling house, and for all of us who came from that era it was great to see all the old things that were part and parcel of our lives back then, but which are very seldom seen nowadays. So thanks lads for coming and giving us a bit of nostalgia, even if only for a day. They go around to fairs and festivals and local events, so if you see them, they are well worth a visit.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, it was good to see the Keaveney brothers (Paul and Michael) home from San Francisco after a long while.

  As I left Mikeen’s on Monday night I met a young lad from Galway, Gavin O’Connell, and discovered that I’d played rugby with his father Jacko, and uncle Jarleth, back in the 1970s, while plying my trade with Corinthians. It’s a small world.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

Michael D in different league, Casey rattles establishment

 

 

 

In the end, the end couldn’t come quick enough. It was a listless and unsatisfactory Presidential campaign. The incumbent was prone to smugness, and could afford to be; he knew he was in a different league.

  Smug or not, Michael D is a class act, and it’s very evident that he’s a popular President. He did a fine job in his first term and he will continue to represent Ireland extremely well.

  His victory was very comprehensive, but the competition was less than world class. We shouldn’t denounce the other candidates for that; they are decent people who did their best (albeit that some of them have delusions of grandeur).

  Blame for the absence of a proper humdinger of an election lies with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Both parties were too cowardly to take Michael D on, preferring to take no chances, keep their money safe and hopefully hang on to the President’s coat-tails as he sauntered to success.

Here’s my view of the not so famous five who trailed behind Michael D…

Peter Casey

Peter Casey played his cards well, and make no mistake – despite his public aversion to the US President – they were Trump cards.

  Casey’s public speaking style is not very polished, he is full of contradictions, he often seems to be speaking off the cuff, he makes unsubstantiated allegations for fun, he rattles the cosy consensus, talks straight, ruffles feathers and – most of all – he attacks the politically correct culture. I don’t know about you, but that reminds me of a chap in the USA. So yes, Casey cleverly took some pointers from the Donald Trump Guide to Rocking the Establishment and Speaking for A Fed Up section of the Squeezed Middle who resent how society is going.

Sean Gallagher

The big loser of the election. Cut a forlorn figure throughout most of the campaign. I had no sympathy for him, well, not beyond the respect I would afford any person who goes before the electorate and gives it their best. But, long before the end, Gallagher came across as a man living in the past. I thought he was arrogant, presumptuous, and had nothing much to offer – bar waffle.

Liadh Ní Riada

I was quite impressed with Ní Riada’s campaign, and yet she attracted a poor vote. She’s a good speaker and a formidable and talented individual, but ‘Poppygate’ cost her a good bit of Sinn Fein support, and she slipped up badly when claiming that her take-home pay of around €60k was in line with the average industrial wage. This affected her credibility. 

Joan Freeman

Joan is a genuine, warm, sincere individual, but the wheels came off her campaign pretty quickly. The work she has done in relation to Pieta House is phenomenal, but she arguably focussed too much on mental health. She performed poorly in the debates, at times coming across (unfairly, I’m guessing) as quite egotistical (I appreciate that having a big ego seems to be an essential part of the package when it comes to presidential candidates). She also lost her cool a few times in the debates. Freeman clearly did not have a full grasp of the Constitution. She described herself as a “one-trick pony”, which was a tactical error. Ultimately, voters got bored with Joan. They saw her as a very worthy person, but they didn’t see a President.

Gavin Duffy

Gavin Duffy is much better than this paltry 2% that he mustered. Duffy is an intelligent man. On one level he’s a good communicator, but in this instance he got the nuances of his campaign wrong. He was so anxious to come across as a decent, reasonable guy (which he is), he boxed himself into an anonymous space. He became irrelevant. And while he is normally a good communicator, he didn’t, during this campaign, talk in quite the right language, and accordingly did not connect with the electorate. He became the forgotten man of the campaign.

Going around in circles in Roscommon town

Participation in a new game in Roscommon town – it’s for all the community – peaked on Friday last.

  It’s called ‘How do we get our car home/anywhere?’ and involves hundreds of slightly/very frustrated motorists trying to move from one part of town to the other as gridlock grips the county town.

  Okay, we’re tongue in cheek here – it’s not quite Dublin at rush hour – but traffic tailbacks are on the increase in Roscommon town! Mostly this is good news, reflecting excellent footfall as the shopping facilities in town attract customers from adjoining areas. Circular Road (in particular) on a Friday is very slow moving.

  However, traffic build-ups have reached new levels in the past couple of weeks due to lots of those essential roadworks that are underway.

  And so, last Friday, we had this bizarre new ‘game’ as motorists patiently tried to find escape routes from town centre back to their homes or places of work.

  At around 4 pm, the area around McNeill’s roundabout was chock-a-block; I drove back down Abbey Street, headed towards the Civic HQ, then turned right for Main Street. Here I was thwarted again, because there are roadworks at The Square. I turned in the vicinity of St. Ciaran’s Park…back towards the Church…hoping to emerge on to the Fuerty Road. Silly of me. It was chaotic there too; virtually at a standstill. A number of parents who had collected their children from school were turning in the Church carpark, perhaps hoping for some Divine help in the process.

  The whole town was a motoring riddle – with drivers wondering how to get out of the clogged-up centre.

  More of the same on Tuesday (after the weekend respite) where at the roundabout opposite the Arts Centre, a beautiful vintage car – from the 1930s, I’d say – joined the slow moving traffic. Motoring’s sedate past suddenly merging with motoring’s sometimes frantic present.

  So, slow times for motorists in Roscommon town, but no doubt it will all be worth it in the end! At least the schools are off this week!

Tragedy at Leicester

What has unfolded at Leicester City FC in recent years would have been deemed far-fetched if penned by a fiction writer.   

  Premier League players – and sometimes fans of the game – get a fair bit of flak, but there was a touching show of unity by the entire ‘football family’ at the weekend as people reacted with shock, grief and solemn dignity to the awful tragedy at Leicester.

  Triumph, farce and tragedy…it’s been a bewildering few years’ at the club. Their Premier title triumph in 2016 defied belief. It was just extraordinary…unfashionable Leicester doing what appeared to be impossible…strutting to Premier League success with a team mostly made up of journeymen, the world class big boys at more illustrious clubs left in their wake. The following season, Claudio Raniera, the manager who led Leicester to glory, was dispensed with. Poor results sealed his fate: sentiment and the scale of the historic achievement of the previous season wasn’t enough to protect him from the ruthless and unforgiving demands of modern-day football.

  Last weekend, a horrible new twist in Leicester’s recent history. A helicopter carrying five people, including Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – the club’s very popular owner – crashed outside the King Power Stadium, shortly after Leicester’s draw with West Ham. There were no survivors.

  The tragedy puts sport – even epic sporting acheivements, like’s Leicester’s in 2016 – into perspective. It is such a sad chapter in what is still a great, powerful and emotional story.

 

Morning after the night before...

 

 

 

Rooskey was calm and serene on a stunningly beautiful Monday afternoon when I took a walk into the heart of the village.

  Opposite McGuire’s garage, the lone fisherman who was there on Sunday was gone, with or without fish, I have no idea.

  The empty hotel looms large, a constant reminder of lively seasons past – and of unfulfilled potential. We are tiring now of asking ‘Any sign of the hotel re-opening?’ – but we live in hope.

  Crossing the bridge, a few passing cars and shoppers popping into Tighe’s Centra were the first signs of activity. It was a beautiful day, graced by bright, warm sunshine. It was the day after the local GAA club dug out a famous county title win. Flags fluttered from poles and windows. A plaque on the outside of the derelict factory – once the heart of the village – solemnly declares: ‘Site of Bacon Factory. Hanley’s/Glanbia. Destroyed by fire 2002’. In the spacious carpark, the markings for car parking spaces are still clear, but there’s no army of men and women in white overalls, no life there, nothing only memories.

  It was a very serene afternoon, but suddenly I could hear loud music booming from further up the village. It turned out that after big celebrations on Sunday night, part 2 of the party was underway. “Most of the team are in there” a local man said to me, pointing at Cox’s famous bar. They were too. It sounded like a great party (I passed, continuing on my walk).

  Next I met Tommy Washington, also out for a walk. Now there’s a great GAA man, and also, aptly enough, a man synonymous with Hanley’s factory. Tommy was a legendary sales rep with Hanley’s in its great heyday. Now we chatted for a few minutes about Kilglass Gaels’ great win on Sunday. “A great boost” we agreed. Tommy went one way and I went the other. Two players emerged from Cox’s, where the music was still blaring. They had earned their party and their great celebrations.

  I was delighted for Kilglass Gaels, for everyone associated with the club, for the village too. It’s my own village, where I spent my childhood. Commiserations of course to Clann na nGael, a club which will continue to prosper at all levels. It’s harder for much smaller clubs, like Kilglass. Emigration, unemployment and lack of opportunity drains places like Rooskey of many of their young people. Kilglass lost the last two County Junior Finals, but, with great perseverance and heart, somehow summoned the resolve to return again and claim the title at the third time of asking. A win such as this is a once-off boost to an area but  also injects new belief that adversity can be overcome. Rural Ireland might be under pressure, but small communities can, thanks to the amazing resilience of the people, still achieve great things. Proof of that in Kilglass/Rooskey last weekend.

  I crossed the bridge again – when I came to it – the blaring music easing with every step I took. Past the hotel, past McGuire’s, down a familiar path and road. In the fisherman’s field opposite the Shannon, still no sign of that lone fisherman. So be it. Kilglass Gaels had landed their own big catch, the one that got away in 2016 and 2017. It was a great weekend for Rooskey.

Meanwhile…in Kilteevan…

 

While my native village of Rooskey was toasting a great win (Kilglass Gaels) at the weekend, there were similar celebrations in Kilteevan, where we now live!

  Like many other small rural clubs, St. Joseph’s have battled not just for success, but for actual survival, in recent years. The fact that St. Joseph’s have managed to overcome the type of challenges that face so many clubs is a great credit to the very dedicated volunteers involved.

  This season, results have been improving too. The year was already a success before last Saturday, when the team travelled to Boyle to take on the home side in the Division 5 League Final. It had been fifteen years since St. Joseph’s last tasted outright victory in a competition (the Junior Championship triumph in 2003). Remarkably, five of the players who were involved in 2003 were still playing for the club last Saturday!

  Cheered on by a big support from the parish, St. Joseph’s upset the odds and won last Saturday’s final by 5-6 to 0-11. The cup was presented to proud captain, Paul Gilleran.

  This tremendous win is just reward for the dedication of so many people over the years, not least this season, when the players took it upon themselves to do individual training sessions outside of group sessions to help achieve promotion and ultimately win Saturday’s final.

  My brother-in-law, Ronan Beirne (vice-captain), informs me that the celebrations in Paddy Finn’s were very special indeed. At that very calm gathering, a number of club awards were presented, so congratulations to David Gibbons (Player of the Year) and to Paul Gilleran, who received a Special Recognition Award recognising the fact that he was a member of the Roscommon Masters (over 40s) team that won an All-Ireland title this year.

  And congratulations to everyone involved with St. Joseph’s on a great win.

 

‘It’s malogen’– Brian

Brian Kerr – by now a national treasure – is famous for his distinctive Dublin drawl and his often pricelessly bizarre and entertaining use of language.

  No-one can question Brian’s knowledge of soccer, and he has great and sometimes underappreciated coaching credentials. Now, as a regular media contributor, he is famous for his unique way with words…a combination of Bertie-esque mangling of the English language and Kerr-esque wit.

  Last Saturday, Today FM had live commentary on the Chelsea/Manchester United match. The commentator was UK-based Englishman Adam Lindsay. Kerr provided expert analysis alongside Adam.

  Catching a few minutes of it, and aware of Kerr’s growing fan base, I wondered what English-born  commentators like Lindsay make of Kerr’s accent, wit and quirky phrases.

  As I listened to the polished tones of the English commentator and the unique Kerr, I thought our man is very well informed, very individualistic…this was going well.

  In the final seconds, the commentator asked Kerr if United would be happy with a point, despite conceding a late goal.

  Me: (Go on Brian…you can do it…give us a sophisticated summary…)

  Kerr: “I think so…they were malogen in the first half!”

  You have to love him!

 

Bill’s well worth tuning into!

A couple of years ago I ‘discovered’ Bill Maher, a comedian/presenter whose weekly show ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ can be seen in these parts on Sky Atlantic.

  I enjoy American current affairs shows, and am well aware that many of them are unashamedly politically biased. Watching Maher, it was soon clear that he was not just anti-Republican Party, but genuinely terrified of the prospect of Donald Trump winning the Presidency. His shows prior to Trump’s win were engrossing; then his worst fears were realised. His shows since the dramatic event have been utterly dominated, week on week, by Maher’s obsession with Trump and the host’s fear that democracy itself is now very much under threat.

  Sometimes Maher’s jokes fall flat, and his pro-Democrat bias is blatant, but more often than not his show is very entertaining and insightful and features excellent guests (usually, but not always, folk who are fiercely anti-Trump).

  Bill’s been around a long time, but I only discovered him two years ago. I wasn’t sure how credible he is, but this week’s show was a 25th anniversary special and some of the highlights of past shows (and tributes from showbiz folk and others) were great. They convinced me that this guy is pretty special, quite a one-off. Readers might like to check him out. Real Time with Bill Maher is on Sky Atlantic on Sunday nights (usually 11.35 pm). 

 

 

 

Another fine mess…why I’m livid with insensitive Stanley

 

Last week, channelling his inner Maggie Thatcher, and offering his opinion as to what the so-called ‘Iron Lady’ would have thought of the whole Brexit border challenge, Stanley Johnson, champion of the over-privileged and, given his insensitive comments, pitiless prat, said “If the Irish want to shoot each other they will shoot each other whether there’s a hard border or whether there’s a soft border”.

  Speaking on TV show Good Morning Britain, Boris Johnson’s inconsiderate pompous father callously dismissed every devastating and destabilising era in our history as if they were collectively a batch of fun-filled, frivolous pastimes, only occasionally resulting in the disfigurement and death of our people. I mean, what does this clearly intellectually challenged Olympic standard buffoon think we are…a pack of wild savages? And, eh by the way Stanley, we didn’t ‘shoot each other,’ the fact is, historically, many of your fellow countrymen (not all, because I won’t see decent British people maligned), were guilty of starving, torturing and shooting us; but alas, perhaps they didn’t teach you verifiable specifics at your expensive Exeter College?

  Now at this point folks, despite the fact I’m positively livid with Johnson, and with him alone, I feel I must state that I have many UK friends, and I’m married to an Englishman, so I’m fully aware there are righteous, hard-working and honourable British nationals living in Roscommon, so I neither mean, nor do I bear, any ill will toward them whatsoever. In my view, we’ve put our fractured history firmly behind us in the name of peace, love, friendship, and in affording the Queen a warm céad míle fáilte, and I for one wholeheartedly embrace and welcome our British neighbours with open arms and the respect they truly deserve.

  However, in light of Johnson’s statement last week, I have to question if, indeed, we can fully depend on the UK truly being our close friend, or, (and I’m just throwing it out here), does the former MP’s very public lapsus linguae, (that’s slip of the tongue for those wot didn’t do Latin in skule), mean there worryingly still exists – across the water – a band of supercilious ‘ruling-class’ snobs who believe the British historical and tyrannical oppression of our little country, not to mention their former attempt to annihilate our Irish culture, was simply just their little way of ‘aving a right old larf? And, if so, is this belief so deeply ingrained, it has distressingly been passed down through generations? Nah, maybe this is just a Johnson family thing?

  Nevertheless, if the former is the case, (and I’m certain it’s not), but, what if it were, does it mean there’s possibly a cohort of rich gits, totally unburdened by the harsh realities of everyday life, going about dismissing the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process with the same vulgarity displayed by Johnson, hence trying to sour the now solid, trusting relationship we’ve so painstakingly managed to build with our nearest and dearest neighbours? It’s enough to make to one extremely nervous, isn’t it?

Stanley Johnson’s ill-timed comments were not only uncomfortable for us Irish to bear; I’d imagine they’ve also made many of our distinguished British friends feel twitchy.

  It’s my opinion that the former British Foreign Secretary’s father is not just a public embarrassment; he’s also the owner of a dangerous Machiavellian mouth! As someone who used to produce live TV, my advice to UK broadcasters, given we’re now into end-game scenario regarding Brexit, would be to keep this pompous individual whose grasp of history, and delicate political situations, is as naff as his trademark fluff ball, helmet of hair, (which, strangely is probably the most impressive attribute the 78 year old possesses), off the air until the entire situation is safely, securely and harmoniously resolved.

 

Blasphemy: Do you know what you’re voting for?

 

Tomorrow (Friday), sees us going to the polls to vote on a law relating to the offence of Blasphemy. Currently, if an individual is found guilty of what is defined as ‘the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things,’ they could be slapped with a fine of €25,000. There is no prison sentence attached to this offence.

  Now, while our Constitution, i.e. Bunreacht na hÉireann, came into effect on 29th December, 1937, on what’s called Constitution Day, the fact is that Blasphemy was never clearly defined…are ya with me? Therefore, in order to give the offence, (of which nobody has ever been convicted), a clear definition in law, the Defamation Act 2009 says that an individual is guilty of blasphemy if they ‘Publish or say something that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and intend to cause that outrage’. However, I must point out that there is a defence in place if the accused can prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic value in what they have published or said.

Still with me?            

  Now, all of the above aside, while I’m of the opinion that holding a stand-alone referendum to remove the offence of Blasphemy is a waste of taxpayers’ money, I also believe this ridiculous  law has absolutely no place in a civilised, democratic society where we should all be allowed and entitled to express our views. So, while a referendum is an expense we cannot afford, the offence of blasphemy is a clear encroachment on free speech in this country and the Oireachtas needs to be able to change the law so that it is no longer an offence. But that’s just my opinion; it’s up to you to make up your own minds folks.

 

 

The Harvest Festival, Ronaldo and Westlife…they’re all back!

 

 

It’s Wednesday morning…and I am writing this at my kitchen table, slightly depressed after watching another poor Manchester United performance, this time last night against a very good Juventus team, (of course now featuring our one-time hero, Cristiano Ronaldo), and I am wondering how I have managed to so far totally ignore the Presidential election.

  By the time you read this it will be almost polling day, and while I have every intention of using my vote, the truth is that I have had no interest whatsoever in the credentials or otherwise of the candidates. Maybe I am guilty of keeping a closed mind on the whole affair, but I have known which person I will vote for for a very long time, and none of the other candidates were ever going to be impressive enough to make me change my mind.

  And so, out here in Creggs I am more concerned with the upcoming Harvest Festival  than I am with the Presidential election, but I have to admit that having been away for a little break for a few days, I am not fully up to date with all that is happening over the weekend. However, I’m sure the advertising department of this newspaper will be full of the many events that will be taking place, and I am looking forward to a weekend of fun, craic and entertainment. (Editor’s note: Yes Frank, full details on pages 22-24).

  This festival has been running now for more than thirty years, and year in, year out, the crowds flock to the village. It has become a very welcome fixture in the life of the local community. I’m sure this week will be no different, and I expect I’ll meet you some time and somewhere along the way.

  The weather plays a big part in the success or otherwise of all local festivals, and ours is no different, so if you have an inside line to any of the Gods up there, but especially the weather one, give him a shout and ask him to look favourably on our little border village for the few days, and give us a weekend of beautiful autumn sunshine.  

  Talking of entertainment, and this morning I am delighted, but not a bit surprised, to hear about the return of the brilliant Westlife. Apparently this news has been out there for a week or two now, but somehow I managed to avoid hearing it. Well, I have heard it now, and I for one am delighted.

  Westlife have always been one of our biggest international acts, probably second (amongst Irish groups) only to U2 in worldwide popularity, and in my opinion they have produced some of the best songs of recent years.

  And while I won’t go to see their July comeback (although if tickets came my way I might), I am genuinely glad to see the lads back, and I have no doubt they will once again become global superstars. It is heartening to hear that they are not just going to wheel out the old hits, but they have new music on the way, and we are going to see a new version of the old band. I can’t wait.

  Still staying with entertainment, and I missed out on the Intermediate Football Final featuring our two neighbouring local clubs, Fuerty and Oran, but I’m told it was a wonderful game of football. As it ended in a draw, maybe I will make it to the replay…not sure when it’s on, but either way, it was good to hear that the standard was so high and the entertainment value equally so. Well done to both teams, and good luck for the next meeting.

 

Musings on Munster  – and Manchester United

 

Last Saturday was one of the few Saturdays that I was free from working duties, and so I treated myself to a visit to a public house (drinking Lucozade), where I was going to watch the Heineken Cup rugby game between Munster and Gloucester. I was really looking forward to it. Sadly, the game was marred by a couple of refereeing decisions which went the way of the home side (they usually do), and –helped by a very poor Munster performance – the whole thing was eminently forgettable.

  A lot of the post-match debate was about a decision to give Gloucester out-half, Danny Cipriani, a straight red card. Unfortunate as it was, it was the correct decision. Nowadays, any blow to the head is totally out, and Cipriani definitely led with the elbow/shoulder and made contact with a Munster player’s head – and paid the price.

  It amazes me how well-paid professional players forget that television cameras pick up even the slightest indiscretions, and that every action is dissected and pored over…yet they still commit the most stupid acts of aggression and thuggery – and then are amazed when they get caught out.

  I would say Cipriani was just guilty of a reckless tackle, but when it involves a belt to the head it won’t be tolerated, and, with all the discussion about concussion and its effects, that’s only proper order. Anyway, it was a disappointing affair, and no matter what they think, Munster, although going in the right direction, are still a long way off the standards being set by Leinster (even though they lost a thriller in France to Toulouse on Sunday).  

  As it happened, the pub I was in was also showing the Chelsea-Man. Utd game and Jose Mourinho’s reaction to being baited by a Chelsea coach – when the Londoners got a late equaliser – was the highlight of the day. Like him or hate him, he is never dull, even if his team is!

Finally for this week, comes the news that there are 80,000 less smokers in Ireland now than three years ago. Research shows that the new packaging with health warnings plays a big part in the motivation to quit, but the cynic in me is inclined to think that the cost of €12.70 a packet of twenty could be just as big a factor.

  The simple fact that a twenty-a-day habit is costing close on a hundred euro a week is enough to make even the most dedicated smoker think twice – but whatever is driving it, the reduction in smokers is a good thing –  and long may it continue.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

From threat of oblivion to a new era: Connacht Rugby’s great comeback

 

 

It’s some time during the last week, and everywhere in the sports pages of all the national newspapers, one of the big stories is the wonderful news that the Sportsground in Galway – home to Connacht rugby, and indeed to the Galway greyhound racing track – is to get a €30m facelift.

  Coming not that many years after the rugby hierarchy tried to do away with the aforementioned Connacht rugby altogether, it was certainly great and very welcome news.

  And as I looked at the impressive plans and thought of the new 12,000 capacity stadium, together with a new high performance training centre for Connacht, it was hard not to let my mind drift back to the days in the late 1970s and early ‘80s when we, Creggs Rugby Club, used to appear there almost every year in some final or other.

  There is no doubt that it was a very basic rugby ground at that time. Our first major milestone was only three years after our foundation when we reached the Junior Cup final, only to lose narrowly to a great Ballina team. The two things that stand out in my memory of that day are that we togged out in the Old Corinthians dressing rooms on College Road, and of Aubrey Bourke, the Ballina captain – brother of Mary Robinson, our then future President – coming to visit us after the game (I can remember him having to stoop quite a bit to get into the tiny Corinthians dressing rooms).

  Aubrey was a very imposing man who had played senior rugby for Dublin Wanderers and Leinster, and I recall being greatly honoured that he took time out to call in to talk to us. He told us we were a team that was well capable of winning a provincial title, but in truth I don’t think either he or we believed it.

  Now, all these years later, I am still trying to figure out, firstly why we didn’t tog out in the Sportsground (maybe they hadn’t any dressing rooms at all then, as I think Ballina togged out in the Skeffington Arms Hotel), and secondly how Aubrey managed to track us to the bowels of College Road. He was to die very soon after that, a victim of cancer, but a year later we fulfilled his prophecy by winning our first ever Junior Cup.

  Funny enough that final couldn’t take place in the Sportsground (for some forgotten reason) and we beat Tuam in the final in Glenina, the home of Galwegians, where we sneaked home courtesy of a highly dubious try, scored late on by yours truly. My brother Peadar converted to give us a flattering but tremendously exciting victory.

  For several years after that we played Cup finals and League finals, mostly in the Sportsground, winning some, losing some, but ever and always the overriding factor was the weather. It nearly always blew a gale straight down to the road end, and the truth is that there was no other pitch in the province that we disliked as much. And yet, for those years it was also a magical experience – playing in front of our own hugely committed supporters, and, win or lose, we would head back to Sean Donoghue’s in Abbeyknockmoy. The singsong would start there (and it would always be a much longer stop than it was meant to be). On then to the village, oftentimes after another stop in Ballygar, and I suppose nearly forty years later it’s no harm to tell you now that on those nights official closing time would not really be observed. In fact it could nearly be said that no closing time was observed.

  The remarkable thing was that all the big celebrations were on Sunday nights, so I would imagine there was fairly severe absenteeism on the Mondays of that era!

  Anyway, it’s nice to know that the Sportsground will get a much-needed facelift over the next year or so, but I wonder will they ever get the wind to behave itself in the Galway venue. I have the feeling that no matter how much money is spent, the gale will still be the dominant factor in the Sportsground.

  It would be great to get back there soon for another final appearance, and without tempting fate, I think our present team is more than capable of breaching the twenty-six year gap since we last won the Junior Cup.

Michael Buble to retire?

While I don’t go to concerts – despite continually planning to – the one artist I would really like to see live would be Canadian superstar Michael Buble, but judging by an announcement in this weekend’s papers it seems that I am never going to get to see him.

  In a recent interview he tells how the battle of his young son, Noah, with liver cancer made him question everything to do with his career, and how he has become embarrassed by his ego, and at 43 years of age he is retiring after the release of his next album. I know he certainly has enough money to live very comfortably for the rest of his life, but even though he will never sing for me now, it’s good to know that sometimes even the wealthiest and most successful of showbusiness people can see through the shallowness of their lives and realise there has to be more to it. His son is progressing well, and I hope Michael and his wife, Luisana, can live the normal happy life they so obviously want, and I wish them well. I’ll have to make do with wee Daniel.

My new billionaire friends…

For the last few weeks Eamonn Holmes and his wife, Ruth Langford, have presented a documentary series showing how the many billionaires around the world spend their money, and it has been totally fascinating and amazing to see the lifestyles that some people have.

  Among the more interesting ways of spending outrageous amounts of money was in a bar in London where a single cocktail costs £8,845, and the instance of an Irish barber, also in London, who charges £1,000 for a haircut. We saw yachts bigger than football fields, private jets with the most luxurious interiors you could imagine, one collection of vintage cars worth more than £15 million, and millions of pounds’ sterling worth of jewellery.

  When all was said and done I said to myself I wouldn’t fancy the billionaire lifestyle. That by the way was a lie, but the only way I’ll ever see any of it is on the telly. It’s a series that I have really enjoyed – if you get a chance, try and watch out for it.

And finally…

Finally for this week, on Wednesday night of last week at a little gathering in Dowd’s in Glinsk, we handed over €5,140 – the proceeds of the recent fundraising dance – to be divided equally between the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West.

  It was a tremendous response by the people of the parish. Once again, thanks to everyone who helped in any way. On the night, amongst loads of others, it was a privilege to be joined by two hearty octogenarians, Lily Timothy and Bina Harris – Lily heading off the next morning to Spain to celebrate her 86th birthday – and Bina looking forward to reaching the same age in June.

  It was a huge delight to meet both of them, but especially Bina, who has been a little under the weather recently. All I can say is may they carry on for many more years to come!

Till next week, Bye for now! 

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