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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

Tipp-ing my cap to Joe and Co. – ‘Are you watching, Neymar?’

 

It’s early Sunday morning and once again all my Saturday night plans have come unstuck. I had intended to get to PJ’s in Castlecoote to hear the Luke Kelly soundalike, Jim Gallagher, who I’m told played to a full house and was just brilliant, and then I was going to go to Nathan (like Elvis – no need to mention his surname) in Ballygar, but I ended up going nowhere.  

  Anyway, I’m up early on Sunday morning when I get a phone call from a friend of ours who is travelling on the motorway outside Athlone. She is actually heading south but she can’t get over the number of cars on the road that are flying Galway flags. She wants to know if Galway footballers are playing in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park (she is not that well up in sport), and I tell her that hell will have frozen over before that happens again, that Donald Trump will be Pope, and that Elvis will have made a comeback, and many other crazy things will have occurred, but that today the Galway hurlers are once again heading to the Capital hoping to get to the final and have another shot at ending the almost thirty-year wait for the McCarthy Cup.  

  During the week, Neymar, the Brazillian superstar footballer, moved from Barcelona to Paris St. Germain for €222 million, and after getting a paydeal worth more than €575,000 a week, told us that he didn’t move for money; that he felt he needed new challenges and that he felt a spell in Paris would provide those challenges. His arrival in the French Capital might also be to do with his reputation for partying, as rumour has it that he likes to burn the candle at both ends.

  Also during the week, the hurlers of Tipperary and Galway were going about their ordinary daily chores in whatever jobs they have as they prepared for their All-Ireland semi-final meeting for the third year in a row.

  It is now Monday afternoon, and almost twenty-four hours later, I am still buzzing at the unbelievable game of hurling that unfolded in Croke Park yesterday and while Galway’s victory makes the buzz even better, the fact remains that it took two teams, almost forty players, every one of whom left everything on the pitch, to serve up a contest that absolutely fizzled for the entire game. Sure, there were loads of mistakes, and the Galway first touch was not so good (as a player who once got to a Junior County Hurling Final with Creggs, I’m more than qualified to pass judgement), but the sheer intensity, the quality and power of the hits, the manliness of all the players, and of course, the outrageous score that Joe Canning produced to win the match, meant that this was an epic contest that will never be forgotten by this maroon and white scribe.

  All of these players are amateurs who will be back on the day job this week and as I thought about Neymar’s more than half-a-million a week, I wondered what price Joe Canning or Seamus Callanan or Galway’s man mountain Gearoid McInerney. As all of us who followed the great team of the 1980s know his father Gerry was a member of one of the greatest half-back lines of all time – alongside Tony Keady and Pete Finnerty – and it’s some tribute to his son that he seems to be just as good as his father.

  Anyway, I rang my friend after the game to tell her not to go on the motorway on the 3rd of September, as all Galway will be heading to Dublin that day.

 

Appalling murders

Yet again last weekend we have seen two more knife deaths; a homeless Polish man was stabbed almost 40 times before his body was dumped, while in Kilkee, 25-year-old father-of-one Karl Haugh was fatally stabbed in what a senior Garda said appeared to be a fight that got out of hand. Now that latter fact alone is a very worrying state of affairs, as it seems now that protagonists have no hesitation in producing and using dangerous weapons. I have said before that in our young days, fists were used to settle differences that eventually moved on to kicking and uncontrolled use of the boot, and presently the use of the knife or the gun.

  Whatever happened in Kilkee, neighbours say several young men went door to door looking for the eventual victim, so obviously there was something brewing. All I can say is I hope the thugs that murdered both men firstly get caught and secondly get the proper sentences their appalling crimes deserve.

McStay graceful after Rossie exit

I have no doubt the sports pages will dissect and analyse every aspect of the big Mayo win on Monday. For me the biggest thing was the realistic approach that Roscommon manager Kevin McStay took to the result. His interview immediately after such a disappointing defeat, was sensible, calm, realistic and graceful, and in my opinion, a credit to him in difficult circumstances.

  As for the Rossies, while it was a sad end to a great year, the challenge for them is to build on their Connacht final win. The challenge for all counties is to close the gap on the big four (like Elvis and Nathan I don’t need to name them), and I have to say that it will take an enormous effort from those who make up the rest.

And finally…

Finally for this week, Dowd’s in Glinsk is the place to be next Saturday night, when Caislean Oir are holding their big fundraising dance with the mega draw for the car or €10,000 taking place, so make sure you get your ticket because if you’re not in, you can’t win.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

Food for thought: Why I can’t really propose a toast to this hospital ‘patient’

 

It’s Thursday evening of last week and once again – for the second time in five days – I find myself in the old Regional Hospital, now the University one, in Galway city, and at about half past nine I am sitting in the x-ray area waiting (obviously enough) for an x-ray. This time, surprisingly, I am not the patient, but rather it is an immediate family member who is. By the time we got as far as the x-ray room, we had already been in the hospital for six and a half hours. 

  As is the norm, there isn’t a lot of chat going on in the waiting area, when this lad in his late thirties sits beside me and immediately starts to talk to me. It’s hard to miss the strong smell of drink off him. He asks: “Will you be let home tonight? You never know when you come into these places.” So I try to explain that I am not the hospital patient, and that, yes, hopefully we will get home later. When he repeated the exact same question five or six times in the next few minutes, I thought to myself that he wasn’t fully with it and so I asked him what he, himself, was doing in the x-ray department.

  Before I got an answer, the girl who had given out the cups of tea and stuff about an hour or so earlier, came by to collect the dishes, and my mate wasn’t missing his chance. He called her over and asked for a cup of tea and two slices of toast. Now I could see the young girl was doubtful about him and she too asked why he was in the x-ray department. He said he was waiting for a dressing for two large cuts he had on his arms. She threw her eyes up to Heaven but agreed to get him his tea and toast, along with the six packets of sugar he asked for. Anyway, off she went while he enquired another few times as to whether I’d be going home later, until fairly quickly the young girl was back, complete with the required items.

  I watched him as he put the butter and jam on the toast with his fingers and before you could blink, the whole lot was gone and so was he. Out the door with him, none of his cuts dressed, and away into the night, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had only come in after a few pints for his supper and equally, does it happen on a regular basis? Now obviously I don’t know, but he certainly had no business being where he was medically, and the only conclusion I could come to was that he knew he would get something to eat in the hospital – and how right he was.

  As for us, my family member was admitted for the night after another couple of hours and did eventually get a bed, but once again, under outrageous pressure, the medical staff did a wonderful job and we can only applaud them for being so kind, courteous, and professional, under appalling working conditions. 

Massive fundraiser for Caislean Oir in Glinsk

Sharon Gannon has asked me to tell you all about the massive fundraiser that Caislean Oir, Glinsk Community Childcare, are having. A draw for a brand new Dacia Sandero car, or €10,000 in cash, will take place in Dowd’s, Glinsk on Saturday night, 12th of August. There are other prizes as well and tickets are only €10. What an amazing undertaking by the Glinsk community, so make sure you buy those tickets and support a worthy cause.

  Tickets can be got at the creche, from local businesses and also online at www.caisleanoir.com. All proceeds go to the day to day running of the non-profit community creche, and you could be driving away in a lovely new car or leaving Dowd’s with a bagful of cash! On the night there will be music by Shane Moore. It should be great craic; but get out now and buy those tickets. I must buy one, as the old Almera is nearing the end of its natural life.

  Also, keeping in with all the local publicans, Bernie Naughton wants to let all Luke Kelly fans out there know that on this Saturday night she has James Gallagher and his band playing in PJ’s bar in Castlecoote, and I am told that he is a brilliant entertainer, a real star, and the ultimate Luke Kelly soundalike. If you like Luke and want a great night’s music, don’t miss it – and tell Bernie I sent you!

Almost converted  to Rossie-ism

Finally for this week, it was great to be in Croke Park last Sunday. Even though I was disappointed with what I felt was another spineless performance by our Galway footballers, the game between Mayo and the Rossies was just fantastic, and while it was probably a fair result, I thought the young Rossies were a credit to themselves, to their management team (two Mayo men and a Galway man) and to their county, and they have lit up what has otherwise been a mediocre championship.

  I thought they were the better team on Sunday and although I have to say this Mayo team has extraordinary resilience, I believe the primrose and blue will have at least two more visits to Croker. I met loads of the supporters and the colour and atmosphere they brought to the Capital was wonderful, and by the time I had a few lovely pints of Bowe’s best Guinness – a lovely pub off Fleet Street – I was nearly converted to Rossie-ism.

  Next weekend, with the football quarter-finals, (three of them including this replay) and the hurling semi on Sunday, it promises to be one of the great sporting weekends of all time. Throw in the Open Day in Donamon, the musical treats that Ballygar Carnival have in store for us (love to see Lisa McHugh), and all I can say is it’s great to be alive.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

What happened to my best-laid plans…

 

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry – a saying that came to mind this morning as I reflected on the happenings of last weekend and my trip to Sligo that never actually took place.

  All week I was looking forward to the visit to Markievicz Park and the big match between Galway and Donegal, but all depended on my getting away by 5 pm. As I brought the garden furniture into the shop just before the clock struck five, all was looking good and I could see myself fed, watered and parked up in plenty of time for the seven o’clock throw-in.

  However, as I made my way back in to get my keys, four people appeared in the front door and somehow I realised that the match might have to take place without me. One couple were obviously tourists and just passing a few short minutes, but the others looked as if they were potential customers – and indeed they were.

  They were on the lookout for some small items but because their car was already full and they needed the pieces that night, there was nothing for it except for me to offer to deliver. It was only a couple of miles out the road (the wrong one for me of course), but it’s amazing how long even a small delivery can take. You have to have the chat, be friendly, and as they are the customers who keep you in a job, be as nice as you can, and so as the minutes flew past I soon realised I might as well forget about Sligo and try to get home in time to see the throw-in. 

  As it happened, extra-time in the Cork-Mayo match meant the start in Sligo was delayed and I was well settled before the ref threw in the ball. What happened afterwards was quite amazing as the Galway team, who had been hammered by the Rossies only 13 days earlier, found a bit of form and annihilated a Donegal side that was as bad as any I have ever seen from the land of Daniel O’Donnell and Margo.

  I was critical of the tribesmen and their management after the Connacht final, and while Saturday was an improvement, the full-back line is still an accident waiting to happen. A Donegal side with only Paddy McBrearty playing well should have scored at least two goals. I shudder to think what the Kerry full-forward line of Geaney, O’Donoghue and a revitalised Kieran Donaghy will do to us on Sunday if we still haven’t taken remedial action. Good and all as last Saturday was, it won’t be anywhere near good enough against the might of the Kingdom.

  Anyway, we had the hoped-for win, and my next plan was to hit for Dalton’s for the big Crumlin fundraiser. However, during the week my old ticker had gone a little bit off kilter so instead I found myself heading off to Galway University Hospital. I took my place in a wedged waiting room that had at least sixty to eighty other unwell people all hoping to be called in to see the triage nurse. Five hours later (which was a very reasonable time) I had all my bits and pieces checked out and after a visit to Supermac’s across from the hospital (which I didn’t tell my heart consultant about), we were on our way home and in the scratcher about 3 am. 

  That opening line came from Scottish poet Robbie Burns, and as all Connacht (or at least three-fifths of it) gets ready to go to Croke Park on Sunday, I might or might not head to the Capital for what promises to be one of the greatest invasions ever by western fans. To give you my predictions, I think the Rossies and Mayo will go to the wire with Roscommon edging it by a point or two, but I cannot see any way Galway can beat Kerry. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s the Kingdom by five points.

Fantastic line-up for Open Day at Donamon Castle

Once again Sean Beirne (who is recovering from a major knee operation, so we wish him well –wonder will it slow him down? Doubt it) has asked me to remind ye all about the biggest and the best free day’s entertainment anywhere, taking place once again on the beautiful grounds of Donamon Castle on the bank holiday Sunday, 6th of August, where the musical line-up is just fantastic. 

  The Castlerea Brass & Reed Band, Patsy McCaul, David Keenan, Crazy Corner, Bill Haugh, the Duggan School of Dancing and Jake Carter, young brother of Nathan, and his band will all be on stage.

  The best thing is to make a day of it and see them all! There will be train rides, pony rides, face-painting, bouncy castles, book and DVD stalls, fun4u entertainment and the usual array of lovely sangers and snacks and, I hope, gorgeous buns along with teas and coffee and all other types of goodies. I love the buns, so keep a couple of the nice currant-y ones for me.

  At 2 pm there will be a presentation to Fr. Norman Davitt, who will be seventy years a priest on the 15th of August this year, which is a fantastic achievement, so well done Fr. Norm. For a good few years now he has been a familiar figure on the local roads, riding his bicycle or driving his jeep, and he is a credit to the priesthood!

  To round off the evening, the huge draw (€1,500 first prize, with loads more prizes) is at 6.30 pm. There’s lots more too – I just haven’t room to mention all, but make sure you keep the 6th of August free. It all kicks off with Mass at 12.30 pm sharp. I’ll see you then!

Till next week, Bye for now!

Helping ill children: Please support this important fundraiser

 

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin is one of our best-known national institutions and many thousands of sick children have been treated there over the years.

  Next Saturday night Shirley Whyte and the good people of Fuerty are holding a fundraising night in D’Alton’s in aid of the aforementioned hospital. There will be a barbeque, music and auction on the night with a special €200 hamper for the Best Dressed Farmerette, which is why the night is being called Craic for Crumlin and Shirley promises the craic will be 90. 

  There is also a raffle taking place and at the moment they are busy selling tickets with the first prize of a heifer and calf, or €1,500, along with loads more prizes. There is a nice story behind the first prize. A few years ago Liam and Bernie Heavey donated a calf to another local fundraiser and Ann Gacquin bought the calf at auction; she asked Liam to hold on to it, until another deserving cause came up and in the meantime, as calves do, the calf grew up and had her own calf. When Ann heard of this present cause she kindly donated the heifer and new calf – charity cattle, if you will.  I don’t have to emphasise the importance of Crumlin’s Children’s Hospital, so if you can at all get to D’Alton’s on Saturday night, bring plenty of money with you, buy loads of tickets, have a mighty night’s fun and make a contribution to what I’m sure will be a very successful fundraising event.

  I intend to make the long, maybe sad journey to Sligo on Saturday night to see Galway and Donegal, so I might not be back in time. If I am, I will hopefully see you all in Fuerty and, once again, meet all the Rossies.

Can anyone stop the Dubs?

Some weeks ago while gazing into my crystal ball, I predicted that the Leinster football championship was a foregone conclusion and that no-one would come within ten points of the all-conquering Dubs. Last Sunday I was proved wrong when a battling Kildare side got to within nine points of the seven-in-a-row winning Leinster champions.

  However, I have to say that I saw nothing last Sunday to suggest that the Dubs are in any way faltering and in fact, the list of well-known All-Ireland medal winners who didn’t start at all, is absolutely terrifying.

  Bernard Brogan, who came in and proved he is still untouchable as a scoring forward, Paul Flynn, Michael Dara McCauley, Eoghan O’Gara, Diarmuid Connolly, Johnny Cooper, and Kevin McMenamon, are just a few of the marquee players who were on the bench – and yet they weren’t missed at all. 

  Con O’Callaghan gets a start in the Leinster final and scores 12 points, six from play, Cormac Costello, who came in as a sub in last year’s All-Ireland final and scored three points seems to have disappeared altogether and the signs are ominous for the rest of the remaining counties as we head into the business end of the season. As for Kildare, Keith Cribbin, Danny Flynn and David Slattery were as good as you would see on any county team, while the exhibition of high fielding by the midfielder Kevin Feely was absolutely outstanding. I was surprised that very few of the sportswriters mentioned him at all in Monday’s papers.

  I didn’t see the Ulster final but again it went as expected (to be fair, the Rossies are the only ones who upset the predictions in any of the four provinces), and whatever way we look at it, it still looks as if the eventual winners will come from one of the big three, Tyrone, Kerry, or the Dubs. I really hope I’m wrong so come on Roscommon, or Mayo, or someone else, and strike a blow for the small counties.

Open Day delayed – for a great reason!

Finally for this week, my good friend Sean Beirne tells me that the big annual Open Day in Donamon Castle that was to take place on Sunday week, 30th of July has been postponed due to the outrageous action of the Roscommon footballers in beating Galway, winning the Connacht final and thereby qualifying for the All-Ireland quarter-final, which will take place in Croke Park on the same day.

  Sean (kindly) pointed out to me that a large number of Galwegians will be free on that day, but in view of the fact that the entire county of Roscommon will be in Dublin, the very wise decision to postpone the event was taken and it will now take place on the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend, 6th of August. It is still one of the great days of the summer entertainment season, so keep it in your diary, and make sure you get to Donamon Castle on that new date.

A blog worth viewing

Almost four years ago Geraldine Lavelle, a friend of my daughter, Lisa, was involved in an accident that left her with life-changing spinal injuries that have confined her to a wheelchair. Geraldine, who was only in her mid-20s at the time, has taken it on herself to try and raise awareness of spinal injuries and their effect on the people themselves, their friends and their families.

  Now she has started a very interesting blog, ‘spinalcordinjury.ie’. Her aim is to help anyone who has to deal with what she admits can be a very devastating occurrence and I would ask you all to take a little bit of time out and have a read of a very interesting, thought-provoking blog. 

 

A night to remember!

  

 

We had our lip sync challenge in Creggs last weekend. I wasn’t so sure about it during the build-up, but I was wrong; it is widely accepted that there has never been a better night’s entertainment in our village! Not since the halcyon days of the carnivals in the 1960s has as big a crowd attended an event in Creggs.

  Grace Curley, nee Cunniffe, came up with the idea, i.e. to raise funds for the Sunshine Room in Creggs National School, and in fairness to her she left no stone unturned in her efforts to make it a success. However, in her wildest dreams, she could never have imagined how successful it would turn out.

  Local legendary DJ Bobby Jennings started it all off as Queen, Eve Smyth, Laura Curley and Kate Hanley were The Supremes, while Eugene Hanley was House of Pain. 5ive were the footballing group of Conor Gore, Shane Dowd, Noel Gately, Enda Conneran and Gerry Keegan – they showed a level of fitness on the stage that we seldom see on the pitch. Elaine Hanley, as Cher, had the unenviable job of following the boys, but she was quite brilliant. Sister Act, comprising Dympna Hurley, Emma Curley, Edel Maloney and Bobby Jennings (again) brought the first half of a super night to a close.

  The second half started with the winning act, Guns N’ Roses, i.e. Shane and Grace Curley, followed by Anouska O’Grady, who was simply the best as Tina Turner. Then it was our turn – me and Jacinta Hanley (Gibby), as Kenny and a very well endowed Dolly. We were followed by the personality of the parish – the hair-banded, guitar strumming Tom Connolly, as Dire Straits.

  Next, Darragh Connelly could have been Liam Gallagher, so good was his take on the Manchester superstar, and then we had the amazing motorcycle entry of local TD Michael Fitzmaurice, as Meatloaf. Fitz, and an entourage that would have done justice to Beyoncé, did Bat out of Hell, and it is doubtful if any Meatloaf performance ever had as big, in every sense, an impact on an audience. It was befitting a true superstar, and brought the curtain, and nearly everything else, down on one of the great nights in the village.

  One of our own, the very elegant John Mulligan (from Galway Bay FM) was an excellent MC. The three local judges –Councillor Dominick Connolly, former Roscommon footballer, Karl Mannion, and Helena Donoghue – were as entertaining as they were informative.

  Grace and Shane were the very popular and worthy winners, but in truth we were all winners, because it was such a privilege to have been a part of a great night’s fun, one that will be remembered in our little village for a long time to come.

  If you didn’t make it in person, the video is being shown in Mikeen’s on Saturday evening at 8.30 pm. I’m sure you can still donate to a very worthy cause.

 

No golf scoring thanks to the coring

 

It’s Thursday afternoon last and it’s one of those June days that makes you think God has hit the gin bottle a bit too hard, and –feeling a bit down – has made us all pay with a strong, squally wind, and equally strong heavy and persistent showers. It’s a day fit for the bed, or the high stool, if you could find a daytime high stool any more, but for some unknown reason – except I suppose my slightly odd make-up – I wanted to go golfing, and so, some time after dinner-time, I hit for that beautiful golfing oasis that is the Castlerea Golf Club.

  On my way down, I encountered a shower so heavy that it would nearly have taken the paint off the old Almera, but fortunately, she hasn’t had a wash for a long time now, and the mud was caked so thick onto it, that not even the strongest power washer would get through to the black painted exterior, and so she, and I, arrived intact at the gates of Castlerea Golf Club.

  Amazingly, the rain had disappeared and the sun was making an appearance, and I said to myself it was my lucky day, as I reckoned not too many others would be mad enough to be out on such a changeable afternoon and that the course would be nice and quiet. As I arrived at the gates, I thought I was proved right as there were only two cars in the carpark. And then I saw the sign…the course was closed until further notice, as there was coring (whatever that is) taking place on the greens. I have never been as disappointed, but there was nothing for it, so I went back into the Almera and headed for home.

  On the way, I stopped into a shop in Castlerea, the name of which rhymes with, ‘Crispies’, and there I met a young lady who told me she always reads this column, and actually loves it, and, to my eternal shame, being so sad about not getting any golf in, I didn’t ask her her name or anything about her. If you read me this week, my sincerest apologies, and if you see me anywhere again come up to me and we’ll have a right auld chat – it was all down to the coring of the greens.

Well done, Rossies!

Finally for this week, well done to the Rossies on reaching the Connacht final, and I’m sure as we close in on the 9th of July, the craic will be ninety in our border village.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

 

Bring on Connacht final build-up!

 

When it comes to Gaelic football, I am the first to admit that I believe that the backdoor system has robbed the provincial championships of the real edge that knockout matches used to bring. I am very happy to say that Sunday’s game in Salthill between Galway and Mayo had an edge to it, one that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a full-blooded, fully committed encounter and, as a Galway man, while it was great to win it, I will say there can be little doubt that we had a huge share of luck.

  Mayo played with fourteen men for most of the game after Keith Higgins was sent off, but even though they were numerically inferior they probably should have won the game. They will still play a big part in the destination of this year’s Sam Maguire.

  As for Galway, it was a good win but realists will know they have a lot of work to do and the Rossies, should they get past Leitrim on Sunday, will relish the prospect of taking on the Tribesmen in the Connacht final on July 9th.

  We had outrageous craic in our border village last year with both Galway/Roscommon games and I can’t wait for something similar this time round as the Gerry Keegan-led Rossies look for revenge. It will be some month!

Lip sync fever to hit Creggs

Next Saturday night sees one of the most talked about events for many years taking place in the school hall when the eagerly-awaited lip sync concert, featuring some of the best-known people in the parish, including personality of the year, Tom Connolly; D.J. Bobby; former ‘Karaoke Queen’, Dympna Hurley; local TD, Michael Fitzmaurice and several more luminaries (nearly wrote lunatics) will raise funds for the Sunshine Room in Creggs National School.

  The Sunshine Room is an extraordinary achievement for a small rural village and deserves any support it can get, so this time no excuses, be at the school on Saturday night for 9 pm. From what I’ve seen in rehearsals, it will be woeful (Ed – wonderful?) entertainment.

  Jacinta Hanley and I will be giving Kenny and Dolly’s ‘Islands in the Stream’ the once over, and thanks to John Corcoran’s menswear, I will definitely win the ‘best turned out horse’ prize in my splendid tux.

* Staying on local issues, and the funds from this year’s Barrie Harris Walk were distributed among several worthy charities in Mikeen’s on Saturday and just over €12,000 was handed over. See my report and Andrew Fox’s photogaphs elsewhere in Weekend People.

Time to get real about childhood obesity!

It’s a strange Tuesday morning for me as, while Tuesday has always been my day off, it’s now one of three, as I’ve gone back to a three-day working week. After having yesterday (Monday) off as well, it feels like I’ve had a long bank holiday weekend. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it takes some getting used to!

  Anyway, I’m up early and with no work, I find myself parked in front of the telly at 8.30 am. I’m watching the Lions losing to the Highlanders in New Zealand by a solitary point. Of course we support the Lions as a single unit, but it’s only natural to look out for our own. Although looking at the Irish players in action I don’t think too many of them improved their chances of making the test team. Athlone’s Robbie Henshaw was probably the pick of the Irish but even he is facing an uphill battle to claim a test place.  I have to admit, it was strange watching TV at that hour and I don’t think it will become a regular habit.

  I usually buy a daily newspaper so as soon as the game was over I hit Mikeen’s (shop, not pub – for a change!) and got myself a Daily Mail. There was a headline that claimed two-thirds of Irish adults are either overweight or obese. Now as a long-time member of both clubs, it is easy to regard these facts as a bit of a joke. In fairness, at my age, I will hardly change my habits, but nevertheless the extra weight contributes to heart disease and diabetes, both of which feature prominently on my health CV.

  As I say, I might be past redemption, but very worryingly, more than a quarter of girls aged between 5 and 9 years of age are overweight. Surely parents, teachers, youth club leaders, politicians and everyone else should be trying to do something about those startling statistics. Great care should be taken to steer these kids, who are the future of the country, onto healthy and wholesome diets.

  Meanwhile, 22% of boys in that age group are overweight as well, so there is an enormous problem facing our young children and action must be taken.

  As for me, it’s time to put down the pan and have a belated Tuesday morning breakfast of rashers, sausages, eggs and a few slices of Kelly’s white pudding – maybe not what the doctor (the dietician, nutritionist, or fitness instructor) ordered, but exactly what’s required to kick-start my day.

‘Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Yes, it’s a long way to Tipperary – especially if you get lost!

 

It’s bright but not that early on Saturday morning and myself, Carol, and our son Mark are ready to hit for the beautiful south Tipperary village of Bansha, where Colin O’Rourke is due to get wed to his lovely fiancee, Louise McLoughlin. Colin, by the way, is the son of Michael and Carmel, proprietors of Mikeen’s, a place you know so well by now that you probably thought you’d be invited to the wedding – but sadly you didn’t make the cut.        

My daughter Tara has kindly offered me the use of her car, mainly because she thinks mine might not make the trip, and so I am now sitting behind the wheel in my own driveway ready to hit the road. The only thing is that her car is an automatic and not since I bought the most amazing car ever from Roscommon doctor, Padraig Brennan – a Renault 30, which means it was a brilliant three litre petrol guzzler – nearly thirty years ago, have I piloted an automatic car.  However it’s like riding a bike, or is it?

Ten minutes go by, blood pressure is rising in the car, but so far no movement to report! I am stuck, and despite making a number of phone calls looking for assistance, I fail to make contact with anyone and it now looks as if the wedding is going to have to go ahead without us. Finally, Carol tells me to get out, she hops into the driver’s seat and immediately the car decides to move and we are on our way. What I was doing, or maybe not doing, I haven’t a clue, but whatever it was it was my fault and not the car’s, but anyway we were now on our way and looking forward to a brilliant day at the wedding in the stunning surroundings of Kilshane House, a couple of miles from the village of Bansha.  

The wedding venue was booked out and so I had booked a B&B, Ballymacourty House, which was somewhere in the local area. We headed there first, as we all had to put on our finery and doll ourselves up for the celebrations. The only thing was I had no idea where the house was, we brought no map and so we relied on the sat nav, which Mark yoked up through my phone.

Now the sat nav got us there, but even now I can’t tell you how! We went through boreens that were hard set to take an ass and cart. We seemed to be going back the way we came and for a while it looked as if we mightn’t get there ‘till the barbecue the following day. If the blood pressure was high as we tried to take off from Crosswell (that’s where I live), by the time we found Ballymacourty House, we were all fit to burst. Anyway, we all got sorted, and while we failed to get to the church, we did finally make it to the extraordinary wedding venue that is Kilshane House.

A large Victorian house at the end of a big long driveway set in almost 400 acres of private parkland with its own lake and trout river, it truly is an awe-inspiring place. It would take a nature writer to fully describe the breathtaking beauty of the whole set-up but all I can say is, if you ever find yourself down that part of the country, make sure you go in for a look. It goes without saying that everything about the reception was out of this world and the attention to detail had to be seen to be believed – so much so that the staff checked to see if you had your napkin in place before you started to eat.

We had a lovely table with Jimmy and Nora Connelly, my brother Duff (Sean) and Fiona, and we were joined by Don and Phil Ryan, from near Ennis, whose son Dan was at the top table as a groomsman. We enjoyed the wonderful meal, although in my case, I ate far too much. We sang and danced and even had a pint or two, into the early hours, and remarkably made it back to the B&B and drew the curtains on a most enjoyable day. Mind you, for most of the guests, there was another full day to do, as there was music and a barbecue laid on the Monday. One day is enough for me in my advanced age, and we skipped away at an early enough hour, although funny enough I made it home a lot quicker than the downward journey.  

Before I leave the whole affair, I have to say that our B& B, Ballymacourty House, was really excellent and I can honestly say that I never got a breakfast anywhere to match it: four sausages, three old-style thick rashers, two fried eggs, loads of brown bread and as much coffee or tea that you wanted. Now that I’m fed, nothing left to do except to congratulate Colin and Louise and wish the happy couple a long happy life together, and thanks for a most memorable day out.

Before I leave the subject of weddings, sometimes we are told that the traditional wedding is becoming a thing of the past, well not so in our area as this weekend there were two weddings in our parish, when Patricia Keegan, daughter of the famous Sean (Bags) and Mary, married Gerry Grant, on Sunday, and Marguerite Heavey, daughter of Paddy and Ellen, got wed too. Congratulations and best wishes to both couples, and a long, happy life to them all.

Best rugby game I’ve ever seen!

 

On Sunday evening I happened to see the final of the rugby top 14 competition in France between Clermont and Toulon and I have never before seen anything like it. It was such an intense, brutal game and the level of commitment shown by all the players was bordering on the insane.

There was total disregard for personal safety, the level of excitement was almost unbearable, and when the eternal bridesmaids, Clermont, staggered over the winning line, it was such a great feeling.

I am not a fan of French rugby but that game was the best I have ever seen, so maybe I’ll watch a bit more of it now. But one frightening thing for the Lions on tour in New Zealand was the form of discarded All Black, Ma’a Nonu. He was simply unstoppable, although on the losing Toulon team, and if the All Blacks have better centres, it doesn’t bode well for the chances of the Lions, who have started this tour in a very disappointing manner. 

A big night in Creggs…

 

Finally for this week…on Saturday night the distribution of the Barrie Harris Walk funds takes place in Mikeen’s with music, food, fun and craic, so if you still have money to get in from the walk, get it in pronto, as this money makes such a difference to so many people and charities. It all kicks off around 10 pm and I want to see you all there!

Till next week, Bye for now!

Munster run out of steam – but Manchester United and Fuerty march on!

 

It’s Saturday evening, and my plan of getting the shop closed at 5 o’clock, has, for a change, worked out, and I am heading home and looking forward to the Pro 12 final, where it just must be written in the stars that Munster will be crowned champions.

  After a season in which they lost their beloved coach, former player, and true Munster legend, Anthony Foley, it was unthinkable that the visiting Welsh side, the Scarlets, would spoil the inevitable party, and I was looking forward to the resurrection of a new southern super team. Less than twenty minutes after the game kicked off, any prior notion of victory was well and truly gone, and, even at that early stage, it was obvious that our expectations were totally over the top, and that my new Munster are still a long way off the quality required for a successful trophy winning team. 

  A couple of weeks ago, Saracens came to the Aviva and totally dominated their Champions Cup semi-final against the men in red, but we all thought it was simply a reflection of the brilliant team that the Sarries are, and there was no way that any Pro 12 team could do the same. Sadly there was, and on Saturday evening the game was over nearly before it started. In the Indo today Billy Keane says he is torn between two emotions –  should he tear strips off the Munster men for their abject performance, or should he just, metophorically, hug them all, and thank them for their great efforts this year?

  I would do the latter. They played like a team that had run out of fuel; they seemed to have very little energy, their legs seemed heavy, and the more they tried to get something going, the more things went wrong on them. Anyone out there that has played sport will all have experienced days like that, when no matter how you try, it just keeps going wrong, so the Munster lads should just lick their wounds, enjoy whatever break they get, and aim to get back on the horse in the coming season.

  Earlier in the week, all of us suffering Manchester United supporters had the very unusual experience of winning a major European trophy, which carried the enormous prize of qualification for next year’s Champion’s League, but, obviously, with the scars of the horrific concert bombing a night or so earlier, it just hadn’t the same impact, and, not for the first time, it put life into its proper perspective. I’m sure that we will come to appreciate the importance, in a sporting sense, of the victory in the coming season, but I have to say it was a hollow win, against a young Ajax team that seemed completely overawed by the occasion.

  Before I leave sport, on Saturday evening, after the Aviva disappointment, I headed to Mulhern Park in Fuerty where our local football team were taking on our near-neighbours in an eagerly-awaited local derby O’Gara Cup game. There was a great crowd at the game, a game that was played in a remarkably sporting manner – considering local rivalries – and in the end victory went to a very impressive Fuerty side.

  As a Creggs man, I would say the final margin of nine points was a bit harsh on our lads, as there was only three points between them with a few minutes to go, but, nevertheless, I would have to say the Fuerty lads were supremely fit, very organised, and, in my opinion, are the best bet to win the intermediate championship. Mind you, I am told Michael Glavey’s are also playing very well so I’ll probably be wrong with my prediction, but so far our neighbours are definitely the best I’ve seen.

  The championship, of which two rounds have already been played, is, apparently, now being parked up until August, which seems a bit ridiculous to me, but, anyway, as I’ve said before, championship time gives a great kick to every parish and every village, and all I can say is roll on August, ‘till it all resumes.

Get the money in!

Bina Harris has asked me to give you a final reminder to get all your sponsorship money for the Barrie Harris Walk, in, to either herself or Mikeen Roarke, as quickly as possible, as the raised funds are being distributed on Saturday, 10th of June, in Mikeen’s, where we will have the usual night’s fun and entertainment.

  I keep saying that the walk has become the biggest fundraising event in our area, and so many charities benefit from the goodwill of the people, both local, and further afield, so get your funds in, and I’m sure that once again there will be a huge amount to be divided between a number of worthy causes.

Computers are grand, but…

Moving to air travel, and we have long since realised that technology has, more or less, taken over the running of all aspects of that business, and everything, from booking your ticket, to checking in and getting your boarding pass, is now automatically done at the click of a button, and, as long as everything is going well, it all works out perfectly. However, as last weekend proved (with British Airways), if something goes wrong it will result in chaos, and hundreds of thousands of passengers had their travel plans completely disrupted after a computer meltdown, and the error is going to cost the airline more than €60 million in compensation.

  There were mass cancellations in Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, and one senior pilot described it as the worst chaos he had seen in 29 years. It proves once again that while computers are great, when something goes wrong, it can be catastrophic. I don’t suppose it will make us go back to pen and paper, and old-style calculations, but it does show that no matter how far we claim to have advanced, nothing is foolproof, and mistakes can always be made.

Finally…some local eggs-citement…

Finally for this week, out here in Creggs we have been called cracked, or hard-boiled many a time, but this weekend, as the picture shows, we were also scrambled, as some person, or persons, got to work on the entry signs into the village and as a result at the moment you are coming into the village of Eggs.

  As a community we are coming out of our shells, we are going to find the yolk that did this to our signs, and if we do find them we will fry them in hot oil.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

There’s great value in soaking up Spanish sunshine!

 

 

It’s a little over two weeks ago on a Saturday night and I’m having a quiet pint (or two) in Mikeen’s, and the chat turns to holidays and things like the sun and sea, and such stuff, and the question is asked as to whether everything has sky-rocketed, price-wise, in Spain.

  The reason of course for such a question, is the continuing and continuous terror threat all over the Middle-East and holiday destinations such as Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and many more favourite places are now almost no-go areas and the word was out that as a result the price of holidays in Spain had almost gone through the roof.

  Today it’s Monday afternoon in the lovely Spanish resort of Cabo Roig, south of Alicante on the Costa Blanca and I am writing this getting ready to head back to the Emerald Isle after two absolutely glorious weeks here in the never-ending sunshine. If you are thinking of heading this way, I can guarantee that once you get here after shopping around to get the best price available on flights, that Spain is still great value and food and drink is still miles cheaper than at home.

  Here in Cabo Roig, the famous strip has an abundance of restaurants, from fast food to upmarket Italian, Indian, Moroccan, Thai, and Chinese, along with some top class steakhouses – and every budget is catered for. For example, there’s The Wok – which I told you about a good few years ago – where you could eat as much as you wanted for €8.95 still has the same option, now a euro extra. Some people might not believe me when I say you can eat as much as you want, but that is exactly the situation; you can spend the whole day in there if you like and have as many starters, main courses, and desserts as you can manage, and no one will tell you when to stop!

  Our favourite restaurant is the aptly-named Beef or Salmon, where you will get a superb four-course meal, including a ten-ounce flame-grilled sirloin steak, for two people for less than fifty euro. Throw in the lively strip with a number of Irish pubs where the branded drinks, like Hennessy brandy and Guinness itself, are priced marginally less than at home, but where you will buy Spanish ales and lagers for less than half our prices, add on the beautiful beaches and the unbroken sunshine and – if you’re a golfer – several courses round the area, and it’s easy to see why this part of Spain is so appealing to so many Irish folk.

  On this trip we met lovely people from all over the country including Michael and Mary Fleming from our own neck of the woods. For me the biggest thrill was to meet a man from Galway, Michael Connolly, who is a hurling legend, and his wife, Orla, along with Michael’s three brothers. Not for the first time, I realised that true sporting heroes are generally modest, down to earth, and really genuine people. Michael Connolly certainly was all of those and it was a pleasure to spend time in the company of himself and Orla and I invited him to Creggs when and if our junior hurling team ever resurrects itself. He kindly accepted the invitation, so who knows? Is there another Ollie King out there to bring hurling back to the parish?

  Before I finish with Spain and this trip, once again we hit on our own favourite Elvis, Greg Traynor from Edenderry, and he fairly had us rocking in the Slievenamon pub on Saturday night. The last time he had me rocking was in Mikeen’s on the 10th of December, the day after Tara’s wedding, and Saturday night was great craic – he wants to come back to Creggs some time in the future, so watch this space! We could be all shook up.

An act of cowardly murder in Manchester

 

Fast-forward to Monday night. We arrive back from Murcia, a godsend of an airport which is very similar to Knock, on a very pleasant flight, courtesy of Michael O’Leary and Ryanair. Even though the successful landing featured something that I thought had long disappeared, their irritating fanfare lauding their percentage record of on-time landings, we were happy enough to be back and looking forward to a speedy exit from Dublin Airport.

  And that was where we got an almighty shock. Our flight was in right on midnight but it looked as if every other flight from everywhere must have also come in at the same time because there were hundreds of people queuing to get through customs and security was unusually tight.

  Then, as we waited our turn, word began to trickle through of the atrocity in Manchester and suddenly our own impatience at the delay disappeared and our hearts and minds went out to everybody affected by this outrageous act of murder.

  The radicals who carry out these atrocities in the name of religion are totally misguided. Anyone who claims the cowardly murder of innocent children as anything other than murder is living in cloud cuckoo land, but, obviously, these terrorists are everywhere and a very real danger to civilised society anywhere in the Western World.

  And yes, Ireland is as vulnerable as anywhere else – and what’s even worse is the fact that nothing or no-one can predict when another suicide bomber will carry out some other devastating act of cowardice and kill several more innocent human beings, all in the name of Isis.

  Anyway, the world must stick together on this one and somehow the leaders of the strongest and most powerful nations on earth have to put an end to this international cancer.

Fine-tuning for ‘lip sync challenge’

Back to the delays in Dublin: I’m sure they were related to the happenings across the water. We noticed a number of people being escorted into private rooms for interrogation. Thankfully we eventually got past all the queues and headed for the peace and quiet of our native village, Creggs.

  Funny enough, the peace and quiet of Creggs is soon to be shattered when a number of local something or others take part in a massive ‘lip sync challenge’ in the school hall on June 17th. It’s all in aid of the school and the Sunshine Class.

  Myself and my neighbour Jacinta Hanley, affectionately known as Gibby, are due to become Kenny and Dolly for one night only and I will fill you in on the whole line-up in next week’s column.  

Country Rockin’ in Creggs!

Finally, for this week, the good women of Oran’s Mothers and Others Football Club are at it again. On Friday night, June 2nd, they are having a Country Rock night in Cuisle, Donamon. Another well-known member of the Brandon family, DJ Cush, is spinning the records and he has promised to play the best of music on the night.

  These get-togethers are rapidly gaining legendary status in the local area. Stetsons, boots, maybe even a horse or two, are all welcome on the night, but if you haven’t any of these things just bring yourself and a tenner along. It’s guaranteed to be a night to remember and if you can’t remember it, someone will fill you in.  

  I won’t be there, as I am on wedding business way down in Tipperary that day – but you have no excuse! Get out your jeans, boots and anything else that looks okay and get to Cuisle on Friday, June 2nd. It’s all kicking off at 10 pm.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

We’re up and running, but there’s no chance for GAA minnows this summer!

 

I’m writing this on Monday evening and all over the papers we have articles about the state of the All-Ireland football and hurling championships and everywhere I look I can see pundits and experts all in agreement that there is something very worrying about the health of both of these sports.

  In a very amusing piece in the Indo, Joe Brolly pokes fun at the Leinster Championship in particular, including an imaginary game between the Dubs and Carlow, whose goalie is only 16 and a double amputee. That, however, “can’t take away from the fact that he is a top class goalie.” 

  In all seriousness though, as much as we would like to pretend otherwise, it is a one-horse race – the Dubs will win it and not only that, will win all their matches by anything from 10 points upwards – and one would have to wonder how much harm the Dublin dominance is doing to players and teams in other counties. That is not the fault of the outrageously talented Dublin outfit and they can only beat whatever opposition comes their way, but nonetheless, a tournament that has so few real contenders has to be causing some concern to the GAA bigwigs and the dwindling attendances at some championship games will hit the association where it hurts the most: in the pocket.

  The other three provincial championships may be a bit more competitive but when it all boils down there are only two or three (I don’t know who the third is but Dublin and Kerry are the two) who can win the Sam Maguire. And yet, is this championship any different to the English Premier League, Scottish Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga or Italian Serie A, where, year in year out, the champions come from a few mega-rich teams? The furore over Leicester City winning last year’s Premier League title shows how unlikely it is that a team outside the elite few can win.

  Initially, I thought all this meant that I was wrong in saying that the dominance of the Dubs would harm the other counties. I thought about teams like Bournemouth and Swansea and other smaller teams who keep battling away against the odds, but then the penny, no, the pounds dropped…that their players are all highly-paid professionals who will get their huge wages, whether they win or lose. The lad from the county team which gets hammered by the top two or three will probably get loads of abuse and will still have to go into work or the dole office the week after. He is not entitled to ask after weeks and even months of total dedication, complete commitment and non-stop training if it was really worth it.

  Having said all that, the championship still excites, although I have never agreed with doing away with the knockout system. Whatever chance we had of an occasional upset when there was no back door, the safety net that the back door has given the big teams now ensures that no minnow can get through to the biggest day of all: All-Ireland Final day.  

  Someone someday will come up with a practical solution but until then, Carlow, Leitrim, Wicklow, Waterford and another 26 or so counties, battle on knowing they won’t see Croke Park in September!

What we didn’t know during our round at Templemore Golf Club!

A few months ago, as myself and Carol were coming back from a couple of days away in the beautiful Glen of Aherlow in Co. Tipperary, we decided to pull into the car park of Templemore Golf Club, and to enquire about the possibility of playing a round of golf on the lovely 9-hole parkland course.

  Now, normally on a Monday morning, and at a relatively early hour, it would not be too difficult to get a game, but, when we arrived, we were amazed to find that the car park was absolutely choc-a-bloc, and, for me to get parked at all, I had to wait for quite a while until some lad vacated a parking spot. Anyway, we got to play a round at the amazingly low price of €5 each for nine holes, and even though we didn’t exactly burn it up, we enjoyed it, and, in truth never gave it a minute’s thought since then.

  Today, however, I now see on the Sunday Independent that the Golf Club has in fact been run by senior members of the Gardai, and has had hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ euro poured into it and is under major investigation regarding alleged dubious practices in the past by members of the force.

  The reason the car park was full on that Monday morning was that the club was owned by the Gardai themselves, through a company called the Garda College Sportsfield company, and the cars parked there were not golfers’ cars at all, but cars belonging to trainee guards, and other members of the force. It seems there are a lot of questions to be answered about the financial dealings of the Golf Club, including why the agreed “strikingly modest” rent of €12,500 per annum has not been paid for eight years, and why the Sportsfield company got more than €300,000 in grants from that Garda Training fund during the years 2003 to 2014.

  Now the situation is so serious that there is a possibility the Golf Club may have to close due to the alleged financial mismanagement and alleged irregularities, which would be a huge blow to the ordinary club members who have done no wrong, and, at a time when the Gardai are suffering from all kinds of negative publicity, they could surely have done without these revelations.

  Obviously there are a lot of questions still to be answered, and no doubt in time all will be clear, but, in the meantime, I just hope that visitors like myself and Carol, will still be able to drive in, get parked, and play a round of golf – although if the finances are as bad as they seem, I imagine the price may have gone up a little bit!

'Till next week, Bye for now!

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