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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

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!

Back in the big time!

 

It’s a lovely Saturday evening and my day at work in the shop in Athlone is coming to an end, and I can feel the excitement beginning to kick in. I am just about to start two weeks of annual leave, nearly all of which I will spend in the Costa Blanca on the east coast of Spain, but that is not what is starting to excite me. No, it’s the fact that after a very long absence, Creggs footballers are about to play their first game in the intermediate football championship against old foes St. Barry’s at 7 pm in Kilbride – and it’s true what they say –there’s nothing like the championship to stir the blood in players and spectators alike.

 I managed to skip away at five o’clock – don’t tell the boss – got home for the hastily-constructed dinner and arrived into Kilbride just as the game was about to get underway.

  We started the better, and my young lad, Paul, struck for an early goal. We had a few more good chances for scores which we didn’t take, and slowly but surely the Tarmonbarry boys got a grip and were soon in a four-point lead and looking the more likely side. However, Creggs finished the half well, kicking three unanswered points, and when the referee blew for half-time, it was in the melting pot, all square and anyone’s game.

  There was a nice breeze, which favoured us in the second half and we kicked on in those thirty minutes (maybe it’s thirty-five) and at the end we had a very welcome win, in what was a tough, hard, but sporting contest. I have to say that for the smallest club in the county, we had a great support, and even though we know there are a lot of tough matches to come, it was still nice to register a win after such a long time in the wilderness of junior football.

  The Kilbride pitch was in great nick, although like all pitches a bit hard on the feet, parking was well organised and the shop where you could buy refreshments was open, which is a lovely touch, and the only gripe I have is a very minor and personal one.

  I like to watch matches on my own and so, at the last two games we have had in the Kilbride venue, I have tried to watch the game from the sideline, on the opposite side to the stand, but each time I have been refused entry. I understand the lads on the particular gate are told not to let anyone in and they must follow orders, but I can’t figure out what harm an old age pensioner would do by being allowed to go that side. As it happened, there was a lad videoing the game from over there, so what made me any different? However, I still enjoyed a very good game of football, and it is great to see our lads back in intermediate football.

A weekend of celebration for local families

Back to Saturday evening and as I headed home for my hastily-constructed dinner, I couldn’t but notice the number of bouncy castles and parties going on around Curraghboy, and, being the genius that I am, I figured there must be either Confirmation or Communion in the village on Saturday afternoon.

  I have to say it was great to see all the activity and the crowds, and it put paid to the commonly-held theories that all such celebrations are held in the pub and that it is all for the adults and not the kids. Well, from my observations, the very many children were enjoying themselves to no end and there are bouncy castles of every shape and size.

  I found myself wishing I was a gasun again; sadly I am not a gasun, and my ageing muscles and aching bones means that the only enjoyment I will ever get from them will be looking at others having fun on them.

  Well done to all who made their Communion or Confirmation at the weekend, wherever you were. They are still big days in every child’s life.

Is it Creggs or Spain?

It is now Sunday afternoon, and if I didn’t know better, I could be forgiven for thinking that I got my dates mixed up and that somehow I went to Spain last night and was already basking in the Mediterranean sunshine. My daughter Tara has just told me that it’s 21 degrees outside – and in fairness it is a rasper of a day. I hope it doesn’t mean we’ll be going to a couple of weeks of rain and cold.

  To tell the truth, I couldn’t care less even if we are, at least I’m away from letters and bills and all that type of stuff.

  Talking of daughters, our other girl, Lisa, celebrated a big birthday (can’t tell you) over the weekend, so we did the usual party thing. We went for a meal on Friday night and we had a lovely enjoyable evening out, followed by a few quiet pints in Mikeen’s. It was great fun, at least until the alarm went on Saturday morning.

And finally…

Finally for this week, I am told that those good ladies in the Oran Mothers & Others football club have something big planned for the June bank holiday weekend. As usual Therese Kenny has told me she’ll give me the details closer to the night, but in the meantime put it in the back of your mind, and I’ll fill you in fully in the near future.

‘Till next week, Bye for now!

 

This sport has its critics, but these guys were ‘box office’

 

One of the most divisive subjects in our house is whether or not boxing is a sport. I am a fully committed fan, but my wife, Carol, will not look at any fight, and claims it is a barbaric, cruel form of entertainment that is totally alien to the world of sport.

  I am well aware that she is not alone, and that very many lobby groups exist which effectively want to ban and outlaw all forms of professional boxing, and, in truth, they can come up with very persuasive arguments, particularly in the area of brain damage and long-term debilitating life-changing effects.

  In Carol’s defence, it is not that she is anyway squeamish, and she has broken wild horses as good as any man, but she thinks two grown, fit men – or women – hammering eachother in a ring, for loads of money, and for the enjoyment of others, is morally wrong – and maybe she’s right.

  Anyway, back to Saturday night, and the young fellow told me he had booked the big heavyweight clash between Anthony Joshua and Wladamir Klitschko, and needless to say it was a pay per view promotion, which, in fairness, he paid for. I like boxing, but paying twenty or more euro to see a fight would certainly test my enthusiasm.

  So, there I am, just in from work, and having the dinner, when he lets out a shout that Katie is on. The Katie, of course, is the darling of all Ireland, the lovely Katie Taylor, and I am amazed to hear that she is fighting at that hour of the evening. We are all being fed the line as to how big a star she is already, and how big she is going to be, but seeing her box in an almost empty stadium with absolutely no atmosphere was not very inspiring.

  I told you a couple of weeks ago about the odd bouts of fisticuffs in the dance marquees years ago, and there was always a bigger and noisier crowd around them than was in Wembley to see Katie win in a pretty impressive manner.

  In the world of professional boxing all the right words are being said about the Bray girl, and world title fights are on the way – maybe they are, but it has to be disheartening to parade her wares in front of a tiny, disinterested crowd, and, for her sake I really do hope it’s not all empty words, and that she does hit the big time as she so deserves to do.

  On to the big bout of the night, and, in fairness, it was one of the best heavyweight battles of all time, and Anthony Joshua is on his way to being one of the wealthiest sports people ever, and will be king of the heavyweights for a long time to come.

  The performance of 41-year-old Klitschko was unbelievable, and, in my opinion, he should bow out gracefully now after an extraordinary career. The last thing he should do is let the lure of another big pay day cloud his judgement as even if he was to be offered a return it’s highly likely he would be badly beaten up the second time round.

  It was a great night’s entertainment, at least for my side of the house, as there were also a few other good fights on the undercard, but, for me, long after the excitement of Joshua’s win has faded, the memory of seeing Katie Taylor fighting in an empty arena at teatime, will make me realise what a tough job it is to be a woman in a male-dominated sport, and how hard it will be for her to get the recognition her talent, bravery, and total commitment deserves.

Hair-raising stuff – for good causes

As I had a quiet pint in Mikeen’s towards the back end of the year, as the Creggs footballers were beginning to build the momentum that was to lead them to both league and championship success, I made a throwaway remark that if we won the championship I would get my hair cut.  One member of the company that night was the ex-trainer of the Creggs team, John Small, and he came up with the idea that at some time in the near future, he would organise a shave, wax, or dye fundraising night for charity (last Sunday night, still in Mikeen’s).

  John’s idea came to fruition, and more than €2,500 was raised for Cancer Care West and the Breast Cancer foundation. Five volunteers came forward – Killian White, who had his broad back and chest waxed, John Small himself, who got his legs waxed, Laura Keegan, who had her hair dyed a strong shade of pink, me, who did my impersonation of Bob Marley with having my hair plaited, and also getting my beard shaved off, and Eugene Hanley, who got rid of a lifetime’s growth on both his head and face. It was all carried out by the very capable hands of Grace Curley.

  Local independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice was the highly amusing MC on the night and the musical entertainment was provided by the one and only Tommie Donlon. It was a really good night. A huge crowd turned up, and two charities will be very glad to receive the very impressive receipts. We all had specially commissioned t-shirts, which were printed free of charge by XLNT Printing – fair play to them – and all I can say is well done to John and all those who gave him their support.

  Many years ago I had my hair dyed for People in Need – it was several months before it washed out. My daughter refused to allow me feature in any of her Confirmation photos, I played an Ard na Cregg rugby semi-final looking like a hairy orange and was subject of several smart remarks. For Laura’s sake, this time I hope it comes out a bit quicker. Anyway, I’m sure the success of the night will ensure there will be more of them, so here’s to next year.

Jack The Lower and the hot water bottles

I’m told the Lamb Festival was a huge triumph again this year with big crowds in attendance at all the events and the American Bluegrass band, who packed out PJ’s in Castlecoote on Sunday night, were the talk of the place. However my spies tell me they were suffering from the cold in town on Saturday night and that was where my friend, Jack the Lower, came in. He was spotted with two hot water bottles, which, I am reliably informed, were used to warm up the Bluegrass band members; I’ve heard of gas heaters, and electric ones, even extra clothing or hot whiskeys, but when all is said and done it’s hard to beat the hotty; an unusual but very effective way of solving a major problem.

Let’s enjoy these guys!

Finally, for this week, because of the beautiful sunshine I didn’t watch last evening’s Champions League semi-final, between the two Madrid mega clubs, and it wasn’t until later that I saw the latest extraordinary hat-trick scored in his extraordinary career by the brilliant Portuguese footballer, Ronaldo.

  I have never hidden my admiration for Ronaldo since his days with Manchester United, and still cannot understand the constant criticism that he is subjected to  by soccer pundits who wouldn’t be fit to lace his boots. Sometimes I wonder does jealousy come into it? 

  The other thing that annoys me is the never-ending comparisons with that other unbelievable player, Lionel Messi…as to who is the better player.

  To my uneducated eye, they are very different players, but each is outrageously good in their own right, and we should just be grateful we have had the privilege of seeing the two of them at their absolute peak over so many years. It’s safe to say we will never see two such talented footballers on the world stage at the same time again, so let’s just enjoy them while we can!

'Till next week, Bye for now! 

Anyone for Ennis? How I (kind of) became Ireland’s first rugby pro!

 

If you have ever run a marathon, which of course I haven’t, you will be familiar with the expression ‘hitting the wall’, which effectively means that at a particular point in the race, you are as good as finished, and almost completely unable to carry on; on this Monday morning, in a journalistic manner, I had hit my wall, and my mind was as blank (nothing unusual I hear you say) as an artist’s canvass.

  I usually get my musings into the office by midday or so on the Monday. Not this week. I could imagine poor old Dan Dooner, who took over from Martina when she baled out a short time ago (after ten years, unable to put up any more with my bad writing and spelling and overuse of commas) tearing out his hair, wondering where is it, and, worst of all, will it arrive at all? I had just about given up all hope of getting any inspiration, and when I tell you I was looking at TV3’s breakfast show, in the (usually) vain hope of seeing anything worthwhile, you will know how desperate I was. Then I saw before me sitting (not so pretty) on the couch two well-known professional rugby players – current Irish captain, Rory Best, and former (now retired) English and Lions scrum-half, Matt Dawson. The weekend that was in it, with Munster and Leinster both failing to make the Heineken Cup Final (I know it’s called something else now but to me it will always be the Heineken Cup), when each of them lost their respective semi-finals, to Saracens and Clermont, made me think of the life as a professional rugby player, and how things have changed since I became the first professional in these islands, way back in 1974.

  I was a penniless (no change there) young bank official way back then, working my way down, in Dundalk, at the time when my brother, The Rasher, asked me to join up with Ennis Rugby Club, where he was playing. As their regular scrum-halves were all injured, they just had to get someone. They were definitely desperate when they came looking for me. Anyway, off I went, and while they didn’t pay me any money, they did pay my train fares, my hotel bill, and for as much food as I could eat over the weekend – which I can tell you was a fair bit –so I can justifiably claim to have been a professional rugby player long before it actually came into being.

  Some years later, Peter Bracken, Carol’s nephew, became a real professional with Connacht, Munster, Wasps, and Bristol, and it was in his early years that I first realised the enormous difference between the new era and the old amateur one.

  Peter got a leg injury at one stage, and, to try to get it better, he was sent off to Poland for a week of cyrotherapy, where he spent the time in and out of a deep-freezing tank, a treatment which was the forerunner of the ice bath.

  Back in my amateur days, and even in my semi-pro Ennis days, when I would wake up with a leg injury, which made me limp for a while, I would ring in sick from work, because I couldn’t stand on the affected limb, and I would take to the high stool for a day of rest and relaxation, in a very committed effort to have a quick recovery. In case you are wondering, the club did not pay for my Monday treatment. As I didn’t pay either, some generous benefactor must have been picking up the bill! If not, I better never go back to the lovely Ennis bar that was Peter Considine’s. Did Ennis get their money’s worth? I would think so, as we made it to the semi-final of the Munster Junior Cup, where we lost to Dolphin in an amazing match which was played in a packed-to-the-rafters Thomond Park, and I don’t think they have got that far since.

  My weekend visits also helped the Queen’s Hotel, where my B&B/food bills were quite expensive, and Peter Considine’s bar sold plenty of porter, whether or not it was paid for, so, all told, we were all winners, especially me.

  Back to ice baths, and recently I met Vinny Egan, St. Croan’s goalie, who runs Connacht Ice Baths. He tells me he brings mobile ice baths, with Treatment Clinic, and mobile unit all over the place, and can go to any club, anywhere, and is extremely busy speeding up the recovery time for players all over the country. So, if you have lost faith in my high stool treatment, give Vinny a shout, and he’ll have you back on the field as soon as possible.

  It’s a big thing nowadays for clubs to get key players back in action as soon as possible and obviously ice baths have a huge part to play in this. It’s no wonder that they are in such demand!

Fundraisers in Athleague and Creggs – please support!

I want to let you know about two big fundraisers that are taking place in this locality over the bank holiday weekend.

  On Friday night (28th), the good people involved in St. Ciaran’s are holding a quiz night in The Bridge House, Athleague, with it all kicking off at 9 pm. The fundraiser is for the U-14 Feile team, who are representing Roscommon in Féile na nÓg at the end of June. Table of 4 is €40, it’s a good cause, and should be good fun.

  On then to Sunday night, and the big Wax, Shave & Dye event takes place in Mikeen’s when John Small, Laura Keegan, Eugene Hanley, and myself are all having something done: rumour has it that The Gunner, also known as Jim Roarke, is going to have something waxed. It’s not confirmed yet, but anything could happen on the night. There will be music and refreshments on the night, and all the monies raised will go to Cancer Care West, so make sure you make it to Mikeen’s on Sunday night, and give generously to a great cause. See you there!

‘Till next week, Bye for now!

 

A night on three towns to celebrate pension and free bus pass!

Many years ago on the 14th of April, a baby boy was born in Portiuncula Hospital to my dad, Bill, and my mother, Terry, and I, Francis Anthony Brandon was that child, and so it came to pass that last Friday, which happened to be Good Friday, I celebrated my 66th birthday, which simultaneously made me eligible for the old age pension and the free bus pass.

  Now normally that would have been enough to have a few pints in celebration, partly because of the free travel, but more particularly because I never thought I’d get anywhere near 66, but of course no pubs (not even Mikeen’s) were open, and so I had no option except to look at the Late Late Show. And, as luck would have it, it turned out to be the second big Country Music Late Late – and, as an unashamed lover of country music, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  Everyone in Irish country music was there except maybe Ray Lynam, Roly Daniels and Joe Finnegan, but, apart from those few, it seemed like the cream of the entertainment scene was present, topped off by the appearance of American superstar Charley Pride. I have got very fond of wee Daniel and his wife, Majella, on their bed and breakfast tour round Ireland, and you could see on Friday night that, big and all as Nathan Carter, Mike Denver, Jimmy Buckley, and all the rest have become, the Donegal crooner is still way out there ahead of them and, Big Tom aside, he is definitely our biggest and brightest star. I also liked the appearance of Charlie Landsborough, a lovely gentle singer, who also came across as a lovely gentleman.  

  The three ladies (grannies) of country brought the show to an end and Margo (you could see where Daniel got his drollness from), Philomena Begley, and Susan McCann, were just so much fun, and still able to wallop out the old hits! It was a great show and nearly took my mind off being an old-age pensioner.

  However, the good news is that the following night, members of my family thought I was looking a bit thin and so a few of us headed off to the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon to belatedly have a birthday dinner, and try and put on a bit of weight. Now I praise the Abbey so much in this column, that you would nearly swear I am on their payroll, but honestly I am not (yet), but once again the whole experience was delightful, and the food was even better. The hotel was absolutely buzzing as they had the Rose of Tralee selection on that night in the ballroom, as well as a large number of out of town residents, and, all told, we really enjoyed our visit.  

  Thankfully, we had a designated driver – thanks Tara – and we decided that, as it’s seldom we hit town, we’d pay a visit to the Hatch, and if Saturday night was anything to go by, the demise of the local pub may not just yet be a done deal. The Hatch was wedged with revellers of all ages. I met up with Tommy Joe Leonard, who used to play full-back for St. Joseph’s when I was trying to play at full-forward for Creggs, and it was the first time that I left him still able to walk and without every bone in my body shaking.

  Tommy Joe was the old-style full-back, as hard as nails but fair, but if you strayed into his area you’d better be able to look after yourself. He looked as fit on Saturday night as he did the last time I played against him and it was great to catch up over a couple of quiet pints.

  However, we had to try and catch up with the goings-on in Castlecoote, where the County Fleadh was taking place. Having paid a flying visit to all three pubs, it was obvious that it too was an enormous success.

  A final visit to Mikeen’s – he was open Saturday night – brought the curtain down on my birthday celebrations, and as I write this on Monday evening I have not been outside the door since. The big sign of advancing age is when you can’t do two nights in a row and despite the great plans I had at the end of Saturday of going to the Fleadh again on Sunday and finishing the weekend off at Jason Curran and Reigning Day in Mikeen’s, the old body gave up and I failed to get off the couch on Sunday at all.

Train turmoil!

It’s now, as I’ve told you, Monday evening and I’ve just got a text message from a friend of ours who asked me to highlight the terrible overcrowding on the train back to Dublin from Roscommon on this Bank Holiday Monday.  

  Apparently there were hundreds of train passengers who had to stand all the way to the city and I have lost count of the number of times I have heard Barry Kenny, the spokesperson for Irish Rail, make all kinds of excuses in the national media for overcrowding on their trains. Now it’s usually the Sligo-Dublin train that seems to have problems, and I know he would talk his way out of this one as well, but for someone with a simple mind (that’s me), surely on a bank holiday weekend it should be possible to forecast that there might be extra passengers on the train and another carriage or two would not have gone amiss? Now that I have my free travel, the price won’t bother me, but I’m told train travel is quite expensive, and surely if you pay big money, the least you would expect is a bit of comfort. If those who had to stand all the way to Dublin demanded refunds, maybe in time Irish Rail might just sort out the situation.

Supporting local causes

Back to last week’s piece about the fundraising efforts for the refurbishment of the Church in Newbridge. I made a slight error in telling you where the contributions are to go to; all donations to Fr. Louis Lohan, St. Patrick’s Church, Newbridge. As I said if you have any few bob to spare, please send them to Fr. Louis.

Shave or Dye in Creggs!

Finally for this week, out here in Creggs we are getting ready for a big shave, dye, and wax night, which is taking place in Mikeen’s on Sunday night, 30th of April.

  As of now, John Small, Eugene Hanley, Laura Keegan and yours truly (who is losing his beard but not his hair or moustache, just so you know) are going under the scissors, or the knife, and all proceeds go to Cancer Care West. There will be music and a raffle on the night, and it’s all for a great cause, so once again, give what you can; it promises to be great craic, so make sure you don’t miss it!

'Till next week, Bye for now!

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