To this very day, if anyone asks me, although no one ever does, I would always say that my first (sporting) love is gaelic football, because as a young lad growing up in the rural village of Creggs, there was at that time little else to do in the way of entertainment and if you had any inclination towards being a sportsman of any kind you simply had to play football with your local parish team.
In truth, for very many years, I had great fun playing with Creggs footballers, and while we didn’t have too many medals to show for our efforts, at the end of our careers we had a lot of good times and happy memories to look back on.
However, somewhere along the line, probably during my term in school in Cistercian College, Roscrea, I discovered the game of rugby, and after wearing the jerseys of Ennis, Westport, Dundalk and Corinthians rugby clubs, my whole life was transformed for the better when Creggs Rugby Club was formed in 1974.
The fledgling club took a few years to make an impact, but when it did it made a huge one – and for the next 15 or so years there is no doubt that our little village club punched numerous times above our weight and at both cup and league competitions, success followed success.
One of the big differences between rugby and GAA is that every local parish has its own Gaelic club, while rugby is still apart, from a few exceptions, mainly to be found in the bigger towns. And so, in a way we had a siege mentality, which stood to us in good stead and I can still hear the Mick Hernon rallying cry “come on the village” ring around our original pitch, the Church field in Kilbegnet.
Mick would be standing on his perch up on the ditch and I firmly believe his war cry put the fear of God in visiting city teams.
Success wasn’t confined solely to the first team, the seconds also won several cups and leagues, there was a lot of underage victories too – and when the women came along in the early ‘90’s they surpassed everything the men had achieved by becoming the All-Ireland champions.
Along the way as a club we developed great rivalries with, first Ballina, who when we arrived were the undisputed kingpins in Connacht junior rugby, and later with Connemara All Blacks, who were a bit like ourselves in that they came from the rural community of Clifden.
One of my first memories was going on a tour to Clifden, a tour on which the whole club, including wives and girlfriends (nearly all our own) were brought. We were to play the All Blacks in a Saturday evening friendly and afterwards we were booked into a local hotel, for a bit of fun and craic.
Sadly, it seemed that the locals were totally unaware of our presence – mainly because we forgot to tell them –and when we arrived at the All Blacks pitch, we found it deserted, and that was the way it stayed. No opposition appeared, but being a resilient crew, we didn’t let it affect our enjoyment of what turned out to be a fantastic weekend.
However that was a long time ago and in the meantime the fortunes of both clubs have taken very different paths. After a two-year flirtation with the All-Ireland League, we have dropped out of the top tier in Connacht rugby and for a few years now we have been plying our trade in the Second Division, while for all of those years Connemara were doing very well in the All-Ireland league.
However two years ago they lost their place at the top table and on their return to junior rugby in Connacht one could be forgiven to think that they might now struggle in the local competition. That’s where you would have been wrong, because last year, in their first year back, they took up where they had left off and won the Division One League. We at the same time were finishing 3rd in Division Two.
Fast-forward to last Sunday in The Green in Creggs where our local team once again crossed swords with the All Blacks, this time in the Connacht Junior Cup, a game which resulted in a fantastic win for Creggs. The final score was 13 to 7 in our favour, but you would want to be there to appreciate the great effort and performance put in by the Creggs lads. It was a win built on great heart and commitment, topped by no little skill, even in terrible weather conditions, and for us old folk, it was wonderful to be there to see it.
I’m told by a curious twist of fate that it’s a quarter-final next Sunday at two o’clock in the Green, against our other old foes (and friends), Ballina and even if it clashes with Ireland’s match with Wales, give that one a miss and come to Creggs and help push the lads over the line.
Nothing would give me greater pleasure (except maybe to win the Junior Football Championship) than to have the Junior Cup back in the village and who knows, this could be the year.
We danced and sang on the counter in Seamus Keane’s ‘till the early hours the first time it came and I have no doubt it would be similarly celebrated this time. Here’s hoping!
Terry – ‘loveable Limerick rogue’
That’s almost it for this week, as Martina tells me I’ve gone a bit mad and put in too many words and only that it’s by email she wouldn’t pass it on at all, (what a shame says you), but I suppose for all of us who grew up with the BBC back in the 1980s and who watched Terry Wogan – the lovable Limerick rogue – as he ruled the British airwaves, it was very sad to hear this week of his unexpected death after a short battle with cancer.
The newspapers on both sides of the Irish sea are full of tributes to the late broadcaster, which in itself is a mark of the huge respect and affection he commanded during his long career.
All I can say is that, for many years, Val Doonican and Terry made Saturday night viewing a must for me and many, many more. May he rest in peace.
Till next week, bye for now