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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

The painful truth about how we treat some of our citizens

 

It’s a very cold snowy Sunday morning, and even though I shouldn’t tell you, I don’t always make it to Sunday Mass, but yesterday, despite the treacherous road conditions that were all around us, I got up early (wasn’t out Saturday night) and made the 10 o’clock ceremony in Donamon Castle.

  As usual, there is something magical about the Castle, and with the overnight fall of snow glistening in the winter sunshine, it really was a bit special, but the thing that made the biggest impact on me was the fact that our priest told us that yesterday was the International Day of the Sick, a custom started by Pope John Paul 11 back in 1992, to encourage people to pray for those who suffer from illness (and also for their carers).

  Now, one of the easiest things for us all to do is complain about everything, and I have to say that, in my opinion, we complain about everyday stuff that really should not be worth mentioning at all. But recently I have become aware of the fact that, in this country, we have a large number of people who really seem to be the forgotten suffering. We have thousands upon thousands of our friends and neighbours who are suffering from chronic pain, pain that affects every part of their bodies, so bad that, in many cases the afflicted cannot function in any normal way. Many of them cannot get any sleep at night, or any other time, while others are so badly discommoded that they are permanently bedridden.

  Listening to the Joe Duffy (Liveline) Show during the last couple of weeks, and hearing the number of horror stories from ordinary Irish citizens about the excruciating degree of pain that that they are experiencing daily, would bring tears from a turnip.

  I am almost ashamed to say that I was totally unaware that we have so many of these suffering people. Now, up ‘till before the Christmas, a large number of these people got a huge amount of pain relief from a thing called the Versatis patch, a large patch made with a special gel which seeped into the skin and provided enormous relief, but which was only licensed to treat patients who had shingles, even though it was effective on very many different types of chronic pain-inducing conditions.

  Recently however, there have been changes introduced by the HSE regarding the availability of this life-changing drug, and while it’s not exactly clear as to what’s going on, or why, the upshot is that huge numbers of those who relied on it for some degree of quality of life can no longer get access to the Versatis patch.

  One of the primary reasons for its curtailment is, as usual, the cost of providing the drug, which is totally prohibitive, and which also ties in with the fact that Ireland seems to be paying outrageous prices for all medicines (as anyone who ever gets anything medicinal in mainland Europe can testify), but, whatever the reasons, it’s a decision that needs to be reversed, and let our forgotten suffering live with a little bit of dignity, and with a lot less pain.

  The fact that it is licensed only for treatment of shingles means that people who suffer from other types of pain are now not meant to get it, even though it helps in very many other cases, but today I am calling on all politicians to get involved in getting the Versatis patch back out there, and at least in this instance make a vital difference to those who need your help the most.

 

Count me in for Young Offenders (but not for Britney or Elton)

 

On to lighter matters: a while ago I told you about a very funny, Irish-made low-budget film called The Young Offenders. While I don’t think it got widescale nationwide release, it was a great bit of craic and a big hit, and I managed to see it on one of the many channels that everyone nowadays seems to have.

  Mind you, as I’ve said before, it can be amazing how so many channels can show so much rubbish, and oftentimes I go through the whole lot without finding anything worth looking at. However, The Young Offenders was really enjoyable, and made stars out of two young Cork actors, Chris Walley and Alex Murphy, and the great news is that there is now a six-part series going out on both BBC and RTE 2.

  The two main characters, Conor and Jock, are basically a pair of schoolkids – lovable rogues – who manage to get themselves into unbelievable, outrageous scrapes, and whose run-ins with the law, with major criminals, and with their school headmaster (played by PJ Gallagher), make for compulsive viewing.

  I was told that I am too old to be enjoying this level of childish fun, but this time I am ignoring Carol’s advice, and all I can say is give it a chance, have a look, and I will be very surprised if you don’t fall for its innocent charm.

  Sticking with entertainment, and I cannot get over the spiralling cost of concert tickets. I’m told that prices for the upcoming Britney Spears and Elton John shows are bordering on the insane. I’m told that black market entrepreneurs are charging up to and over €1,000 for a pair of tickets to each of those shows, so I suppose anyone that pays that type of money doesn’t either need, or deserve, my sympathy.

  I used to think that €30 to see the likes of the Three Amigos (getting to see them is on my bucket list), Foster & Allen, or Brendan Grace, was saucy enough, but I’ve changed my mind, and it now looks like great value.

And finally…

Finally for this week, and last Sunday’s National League battle in Salthill between Galway and Mayo, in which the referee showed three red cards and eighteen yellows, must have the Connacht Council licking their lips at the prospect of a championship repeat in Castlebar in the merry month of May.

  There is never too much love lost between the neighbouring counties, but at the moment, tensions seem to have really boiled over, and even in league and FBD matches we are seeing a huge numbers of red and yellow cards. In the white heat of a Connacht championship semi-final, God knows what mayhem might break out, so we are guaranteed a totally full house, and I for one, all other things being equal, will definitely be there.

  I am fairly certain that Paddy Power will have odds on the number of players who are on the field of play at the final whistle, and with both sides having a few hotheads in their ranks, I would say somewhere around the early to mid twenties could be worth a few bob!

  Anyway, it’s all guaranteed to give the Rossies a great chance to take home back to back Connacht titles, as either injuries or suspensions will almost certainly be a factor for whoever survives the Battle of Castlebar. Can’t wait.

 Till next week, Bye for now! 

 

Funny business: How I’ve gone full circle with Tommy

 

 

It’s funny how you can sometimes take a dislike to a person, for no real reason, and in my case poor old Tommy Tiernan is, or was, one of those unfortunate people who fell into that category.

  I developed a dislike for him without ever even seeing him live, and, no matter what, I just couldn’t take to him.

  The early appearances he made on the Late Late Show, in which he was famously irreverent about the Catholic religion and the Pope, and stuff like that, probably didn’t help. Whatever the reason, I just didn’t like him and continually maintained that he wasn’t fit to lace the boots of people like Brendan Grace, when it came to comedy.

  And so it is an amazing about-turn for me to tell you that I am quite a fan of his new chat show, in which he is supposed to have no idea about the identity of his guests. Initially I would have been a bit sceptical about that claim, but having seen a recent show, in which his guest was scientist Dr. Niamh Shaw –whose ambition is to go to Mars in the near future – there can be no doubt that Tommy had no idea who she was.

  The funny thing is that on this show he is almost normal, although not fully, and he can adapt to the circumstances he finds himself in. He can be serious if called for, and of course he can inject a moment of total lunacy at any given time. If you haven’t got to see the show yet, make a point of catching up with it as soon as you can.

  I must be getting either old, or senile, because I am also a new fan of Irish music royalty, Foster & Allen, and one of my favourite moments so far was when Tommy asked them about playing to Irish audiences, and Foster said they would get lads to go to see them if they were playing in Australia, but if they were at home the same lads would go to Longford if Foster & Allen were playing in Mullingar!

  Anyway, I am amazed that I have changed my mind so much about Tommy Tiernan, but I’m still not sure that I would ever go to see any of his stand-up shows.

  Talking of television shows, I like the new Sunday night drama Striking Out, and I must say that I think some of the criticism it is getting is a little over the top. In my opinion Amy Huberman is a talented and very watchable actress. 

  Between that show and Dancing with the Stars, which I hate to say I look at (admittedly with one eye on the Sunday papers), Sunday night television is almost passable, although when my two favourites, Bernard and Marty, bite the dust I might just slip out for a nice, quiet Sunday night pint.

Johnny had us jumping for joy

On Saturday afternoon we had one of the most extraordinary sporting moments of my lifetime, when Johnny Sexton dropped that match-winning goal in Paris. As I watched it at home, having managed to escape from the day job in Athlone a little early, I would safely say you could hear my roars at least as far away as the village of Creggs.

  I was lucky enough to have been in Cardiff on the occasion of Rog’s (Ronan O’Gara) incredible Grand Slam clinching drop goal in 2009, and I will never forget the scenes of sheer joy we witnessed that day. Last Saturday’s score, which in time may turn out to be just as important, unleashed some similar emotions, and will probably never be forgotten.

  Rugby is still a minority sport in this country, with Creggs technically being the only rugby club in Co. Roscommon, but it has really gained support over the last few years.

  Judging by the number of lads and girls who watched Saturday’s match in local pubs, the Six Nations must be a big help to our publicans’ dwindling coffers.

  I am jumping a lot of difficult hurdles now, but if Ireland and England were to meet in a championship decider on Paddy’s Day, what a massive financial bonanza that would be.

  Sadly, I will be over in Twickenham for that game, so I won’t be able to get to the local pub for a few – it can be a tough life.

Creggs march on (and a trip down memory lane)

Out here in Creggs, we are, as I told you last week, having a really wonderful rugby season. On Sunday last in Corinthians, the fairytale continued, when our lads beat the home side to qualify for the Connacht Junior Cup semi-final for the first time in fifteen years.

  To win the cup, which we last won in 1993 – twenty-five years ago – is a pretty tall order, as we are the only team from outside the top tier of Connacht junior rugby, but as we have seen umpteen times over the years in the FA Cup across the water, anything can happen in a cup match, and therein lies the magic of the cup.

  Back to Corinthians, and I was surprised to see that a picture of the team from 1974, on which I played alongside my brothers Kieran, and the Rasher (Dec), and Jack the Higher, is still adorning the clubhouse wall.

  Just in case you don’t believe me, I have forwarded a copy of the photo to my friend Dan in the People. If he doesn’t use it, he will be my friend no longer, but anyway it brought back some great, and not so great, memories of days long ago.

And finally…

Finally, for this week, I couldn’t make the huge meeting in the Hodson Bay Hotel on Monday night, which I am sure is covered elsewhere in this paper, and while it was a very noble and worthwhile effort, particularly on Michael Fitzmaurice’s behalf (ably assisted by Eamonn O’Cuiv), I am told by a reliable source that most of the speeches were made by self-congratulatory county councillors outlining all they had done for their respective areas, and also by members of various farming and business organisations, and that the ordinary person on the street barely got a look at a microphone.

  If that is true, it strikes me as a missed opportunity, because we have to listen to enough waffle from our politicians, without having to hear them again at that type of public meeting, although it was great to hear that the farmers got a bit of coverage through my neighbour, John Hanley. But if there is to be another meeting, maybe we should stop the councillors and other politicians from using it as a soapbox!

Till next week, Bye for now!

How my Roscommon GAA career went up in smoke

 

 

It’s a wild, wet, windy Sunday afternoon, and while most of the country are at the first round matches at the start of the new GAA National League campaigns, myself and a few other hardy souls find ourselves on the side of a remarkably good Dunmore rugby pitch watching a rough, tough, Connacht League rugby match.

  For Creggs rugby players, it’s now – in the famous words of Sir Alex Ferguson – “squeaky bum time”, as they lead the league with only three games to play. Judging by the great efforts put in by the Dunmore players on Sunday, if we are to go on to win the league, we will certainly have to do it the hard way.

  This was a real old-style rugby game, with no quarter asked or given, and the good news for Creggs is that we came home with a vitally important victory, and after a long, long break, we are very hopeful that we will have rugby silverware back in the village this coming year.

  Fast-forward to Sunday night, and I am watching the highlights on telly of an amazingly competitive football game between Kerry and Donegal, and my mind drifts back to 1974 when I wore the Roscommon jersey for the last time, at the age of 23, also in a league match against Kerry. To my eternal shame I think back to my preparation, or lack of it, for that particular encounter.

  Now I have to say that the players on that Roscommon team were totally dedicated to the team and the jersey, and, for the short time they put up with me, I was most certainly in a minority of one. 

  Anyway, without going into the full details, my preparation that weekend left a lot to be desired, and when I found myself in direct opposition to one Jimmy Deenihan, there was only going to be one winner. Shortly after half-time I was taken off, and it was my action as I was going off that most sums up the difference between me and the intercounty players of the present day.

  Before I had even got off the pitch I had lit a cigarette, and as one of my friends said to me afterwards, my intercounty career literally went up in a puff of smoke. Nowadays, players don’t do alcohol – I’m sure most don’t smoke – but things were very different back (particularly) in the 1950s and ‘60s – and an incident at another recent match I was at summed it all up very well.

  One of the players needed a sugar fix, which as a diabetic I am familiar with, and one of our more mature supporters went to the shop to get a Lucozade or something to solve the problem. But, as he came back, his mind drifted back to the days in the 1950s when he was a young lad following the fortunes of the Creggs football team.

  Anyway, he told us that young lads were very proud to be asked to hold packets of cigarettes for the players so they could have an energy-reviving pull at half-time, but the plum job was to be invited to hold a large bottle of porter, which one of our key players would drink during every interval break.

  As I watched the terrifically competitive match in Killarney on Sunday, I couldn’t but think that any porter consumed at half-time would surely have made a reappearance in the second half, but it goes without saying that whatever else players take, they certainly are not drinking bottles of porter. 

  Sometimes, you would wonder which is the better approach, but on Sunday night’s evidence, we are in for a few very interesting weeks as the hurling and football leagues take shape.

  Now if any team is looking for a ‘porter runner’, I know where you can get an experienced, enthusiastic, mature man, who knows exactly what is required.

Cheers! And good health to you all!

In a week dominated by debate about the Eighth Amendment and the use of smartphones by children, the removal of the drinking ban on Good Friday seemed to slip through without much fuss, and I have to say I am slightly surprised that it got such an easy ride.

  I would have expected quite a lot of resistance from various religious and anti-drinking groups. A year ago I wrote a piece bemoaning the fact that tourists coming to Ireland for the Easter weekend were unable to visit our internationally celebrated pubs on Good Friday, so I suppose I would be marginally in favour of the new legislation. Equally, I can say that only once in my lifetime did I ever have a drink in a pub on a Good Friday. In fact, technically I never had any drink in a pub on that forbidden day, because the one time I broke the rule was in a golf club, many miles away from here.

  Overall, I think it will be good for the licensed trade, and of course the publican can still choose to stay closed if he or she so wishes –and the punter can still choose to stay out of the pub.

  Staying with the subject of alcohol, and I must say that the recent appearance of Shane McGowan on Ray D’Arcy’s television show was something that made me cringe. The toll that a lifetime of drink and drugs has taken on him is pretty shocking. He is almost totally incoherent, and despite his extraordinary musical career I would think it would be more charitable to keep him off our television screens.

  Even though he’s only five years older than Tom Cruise, he looks a million times older than the American superstar, and watching Cruise doing his own stunts, including great footage of him smashing his ankle during recent filming on Mission Impossible 6, it would make you realise that it might occasionally be a good idea to mind our bodies.

  It’s probably too late for Shane, but with Operation Transformation sweeping the country, there will be ample opportunity for you all out there to get involved and do something about your health and fitness levels. As for me, I’m in the McGowan camp, and am gone past redemption: you can still do something to keep yourself alive and healthy.

And finally…

Finally for this week, on Saturday night last I found myself celebrating John Keegan’s 21st birthday party in Mikeen’s. It was great craic, with music by Simply Me (that’s a local band), who had the large crowd jiving the night away.

  Indeed I took the floor for a jive with the birthday boy, which, if we were on Dancing with the Stars, would have had us right up at the top of the leaderboard.

  Young John is one of the good guys, and it was fitting that a big crowd turned up on the night, and it was great to see his grandfather, local legend (and great Galway supporter) Michael McGovern in attendance, along with his six daughters and a number of his grandchildren.

Congrats, Johnny K, but the bad news is that it’s all downhill from now on!

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Going West…and a first experience of the magic of Matt Molloy’s

 

 

It’s a couple of weeks ago…and as Creggs Rugby Club have a big match in Ballinrobe on Sunday, 21st of January – which was, of course, last Sunday – I figure to myself that it would be nice to go to the game, and, instead of coming home, carry on to Westport, to spend a night in what is definitely one of the best social towns in the region.

  So I managed to get a booking in a nice central hotel at a reasonable rate, and relaxed, looking forward to a good rugby match and an enjoyable trip to Mayo. I didn’t know that we were going to have such heavy rainfall that a lot of games, in all codes, would fall foul of flooded and unplayable pitches, including our game in Ballinrobe.

  And so on Sunday morning we (me and Carol, my wife) faced the major dilemma of deciding whether or not to go, but after a bit (but not much) of soul-searching, we said we would travel, and so we hit off, via a lot of flooded roads, to see what the craic would be like in Westport.

  The last time I stayed there was just fifty years ago, when I played rugby with the local rugby club, and we held our training sessions in the function room of a local hotel, sessions that consisted of togging out, putting on tennis shoes (trainers nowadays), doing a few sit-ups and push-ups, having a couple of unopposed lineouts and scrums, looking at a few totally unintelligible drawings on a blackboard, and drinking copious amounts of pints afterwards, before collapsing into some sort of a bed, kindly laid on by the proprietor of the hotel.

  By the grace of God, the hotel owner was also the President of the rugby club, so he was only too happy to arrange accommodation for myself and my brother (The Rasher). I used to travel from Ballinrobe, and he would come from Castlebar. At the time, both of us were employed by (I wouldn’t exactly say working for) the Bank of Ireland.

  Anyway, fast-forward to last Sunday, and we got into town just about four o’clock, and for me, the priority was to try and see the delayed Munster game against Castres. As luck would have it, our hotel was showing the soccer match between Spurs and Southampton, and so we headed off to try and find a pub that was showing the rugby. A nice place called Walshe’s looked after that particular need, and even though it was only 4 pm, there was a big crowd in there…with racing, soccer, snooker and rugby all being shown on different tellies. The barman was a lovely young fellow, and, although we only had a coffee – and a couple of nice pints for me – it was an enjoyable pitstop.

  On then to Sunday night, and all my life I have heard about Matt Molloy’s pub, but until now I had never been in it. After Sunday night, I will certainly be back. We got there before the crowd, as they say, and so we were fortunate enough to get stools at the counter, and I have to say the atmosphere was wonderful and the craic was even better.

  One of the two friendly barmen told us that there is music there every night of the year, and, sure enough, musicians started to arrive with guitars, fiddles, accordions and tin whistles, and before we knew it the place was hopping with the best of Irish and traditional music.

  Everyone was very friendly, and we met people from all over Ireland and from all corners of the world, and when we left we vowed that it won’t be fifty years before we’re back again; if it is, it’ll be some miracle, because I will be 116 by then. Sometimes a person can be disappointed when he or she finally gets to visit a place that has been on the bucket list – for me Matt Molloy’s lived up to all expectations, and we had a great night’s fun. If you ever find yourself down that way, call in and you will enjoy it.

  We had a pint with a lad who is a barman in Paddy Murphy’s pub in Rotterdam, and, me being me, before we left we were definitely going to call to see him sometime soon. As I’ve said before, if I have a few pints I’ll go the moon, but when I wake up the following morning I go nowhere.

  Today, before we headed off, we had a look around the town, and it is easy to see why it’s so popular with so many tourists, both foreign, and Irish – there are loads of interesting looking pubs and shops, and the place is spotlessly clean, there’s no shortage of accommodation (albeit it was a Sunday night in January, maybe it’s different in the summer), and it just has a special feel to it.

Give Grobler a break

Changing subjects, but sticking – sort of – with the unique story that is Munster rugby, and I have to say that the media frenzy over their signing of convicted drug user and abuser Gerbrandt Grobler has me slightly bemused, and I think it has commanded way more attention than it deserved.

  Certainly what the then 20-year-old did was wrong, when he took a performance-enhancing banned drug. However, having been caught, he admitted his mistake and has served his two-year punishment. Maybe the system is wrong, but rules are rules, and so he should be allowed to carry on with his career and hopefully be a useful addition to the Reds for the remaining five months of the season.

  It is my belief that drugs play a huge part in a lot of professional sports, with athletics and cycling almost tainted beyond repair, and while rugby has kept a pretty clean reputation so far, surely it is also possible that some players are using borderline substances to gain an edge on their opponents.

  It also says something about the Irish mindset, that in a week in which a student –with four previous assault convictions – who broke a girl’s jaw in an unprovoked assault, walked out of court with a suspended sentence, and a drunk driver five times over the limit, who killed one person and seriously injured another, was similarly handed down a suspended sentence, there is more newspaper coverage of the rugby player who hurt no one, except himself (and his family) than there is of the other two outrageous legal decisions.

  Sometimes, it seems to me, there are obviously media-driven agendas, for whatever obscure reasons, and this attention to Grobler seems to belong to one of them. Personally, I feel it’s time to move on, hope he has learned his lesson, and if he keeps his nose clean, let him carry on with his career. Should he fail another test, then he should be thrown out of the game and banned for all time.

  Alan Quinlan, a true Munster great, feels that Grobler should talk to young players, explain to them about the massive impact his major misdemeanour had on him, his life and his career, and in that way, by influencing them away from drugs, turn a negative into a positive.

  It seems a good idea to me. Hopefully the next newspaper coverage of Grobler will reflect on his actual rugby performances.

 

It’s not Fake News: Trump is great craic!

 

It’s just about a year ago since, according to Michael Wolff in his ‘Fire and Fury’ book, Donald Trump surprised himself, his backroom team and the rest of the world by becoming President of the United States. You would have to say that, whatever about being safer, the world would certainly be a lot duller if Hilary Clinton had made it to the White House.

  ‘Fake News’ has become Trump’s answer to everything no matter what he says about anything, including his derogatory description of Haiti at the weekend. Just like his speech in which he reportedly said that African nations were “s***hole countries” – you can be sure that will be passed off as ‘Fake News’ also.

  However, his recent little spat with Kim Jong Un, the highly volatile leader of North Korea, about the size of their respective nuclear buttons, in which Trump claimed to have a bigger and more powerful button than Jong Un, would appear to be a little childish and it would hardly inspire confidence in his leadership qualities.

  Nonetheless, if he doesn’t plunge the world into chaos, and if we can avoid another world war (a big ask, in my opinion), I have to say he’s great craic, very different to any president we’ve seen before and for newspaper editors around the globe, he must be a godsend – he sure is good for headlines!

  Regarding our own President, Michael D is beginning to annoy me a little bit. I am a great admirer of Michael D Higgins, and I think he has done a wonderful job as our main man, but with an election due this calendar year, surely it’s time he says whether he intends to go again or not. It is on record that he said, in 2011 when he was elected to the Áras, that he would only hold the office for one term. If he still feels that way then to my mind he should stick to his word. It’s time to tell the world so we can let our other would-be Presidents get on with it.  

  Matt Cooper, in the Mail the other day, wondered if we will ever have a political President anywhere again, with the Americans talking of having a chat show host, Oprah Winfrey, as a possible runner in 2020. Here it’s Miriam O’Callaghan that’s being touted as a realistic candidate – personally I couldn’t care less who or what becomes our Head of State, provided he or she is a positive ambassador for our little country.

  I do think it’s time we knew where we stood regarding a Presidential election but no matter how much pressure I’m put under, I’m telling you now I will not be a runner!

Local fund lifts the January gloom

The month of January is, traditionally, a month where we feel sorry for ourselves – we usually have over-spent, over-eaten, and over-indulged in alcohol, and the chickens come home to roost in the cold, harsh, dark, dreary, and miserable January days. The trousers that fitted perfectly in November are now getting stuck halfway up the thighs, the bank account that for a little while (after getting a couple of weeks’ pay, and a little extra due to the Christmas bonus) looked as if it belonged to someone else, is now even worse than normal – and that’s saying something! It’s fair to say that everything is looking and feeling fairly grim.

  That was before I met a Lecarrow resident, whom I won’t name, and he told me the very inspiring story of the Lecarrow Benevolent Fund, which is definitely one of the great local community success stories. Now the theory behind it is so simple that you would wonder why every parish doesn’t do it!

  Basically a committee is in place in Lecarrow, which through its own fundraising efforts, has a fund, which, in simple terms, is used to help out people in their own immediate area and further afield who, for whatever reason, are in need of a financial dig out. Now obviously we didn’t go into the actual nuts and bolts as to how the scheme works but in an era which is dominated by greed and selfishness it is heartwarming to hear of a community which is prepared to do so much to help their own in time of need.

  I know this fund has been in existence for quite a long time now so obviously a lot of people have been helped over the years and all I can say is well done to everyone involved, it’s a wonderful initiative, and maybe it’s time to roll it out in other local communities – now that’s food for thought.

St. Ciaran’s GAA needs you!

Finally for this week, Justin Conlan asked me to remind you all in the Creggs, Fuerty and Athleague areas, that the St. Ciaran’s GAA AGM takes place at Mulhern Park on Friday night next at 9 pm. Everyone is invited to attend.

  As soon as young players in this area are finished with underage football they split up and play with either Creggs or Fuerty, depending on which place they are from. It should never be forgotten the part St. Ciaran’s (the local underage GAA club) plays in their development and it needs all the support it can get.

  The underage structure has been very successful down through the years, and an example of the quality of the players it currently produces is that in a county challenge match played over Christmas against NUIG, three of the six starting Roscommon backs, Shane Dowd, Aengus Lyons and Philip Neilan were all St. Ciaran’s players. Now I am aware that it was only a challenge, and maybe none of that trio will be there when championship time comes round (or maybe they will) but either way, it still shows that the club is developing some top class talent.

  So, if you have time on your hands and would like to help out in any way, get to Mulhern Park on Friday night at 9 pm and I’m sure you will be more than welcome.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Club v County as GAA problems worsen

 

 

It’s the first real Monday of 2018, last Monday being New Year’s Day and a Bank Holiday, and, judging by a lot of recent newspaper articles, the organisation that is probably the most important one in the country, the GAA, seems to be facing into what can only be described as a challenging period.

  The biggest problem is the manner in which inter-county teams have pretty much taken over, to the detriment of the local club scene. There is a definite unease amongst the clubs, who are having to do without their star players for long periods of the year, while those players are, effectively, controlled by their county managers. The end result is a club structure which seems to be unhappy with the overall fixture setup.

  The problem is now so serious that one article I read in a national newspaper this week suggested that county players, as with rugby players who get picked by the provinces, automatically give up their club allegiance and only resume their club careers when their inter-county careers are over. It’s a fairly dramatic solution, but at least club managers would know exactly where they stand and applications for postponements, because a club was missing their county men, would be a thing of the past.

  Now I am well aware that it must be a nightmare to organise the many GAA club fixtures that take place week in, week out, all over the country, but whatever else happens it should always be remembered that the local club is the foundation on which the national organisation is built on.

  Sticking with the county scene (and indeed some clubs as well), the level of commitment demanded has often been a source of wonder to many people, and a recent interview by Tipperary All-Ireland winner, Kieran Bergin - in which he says he would never have taken up hurling if he knew exactly what ha was letting himself in for - gives a unique insight into the sacrifices of an inter-county player. He says he was literally owned by the county management, and that his social life was put on hold for all the years he was on the county panel, and, while obviously he could have walked away, he now finds it hard to understand how so many young lads give up everything to try for success as an inter-county player.

  I have often said that that a couple of pints a week or so before any match won’t do any harm at all, and that total abstinence, which is demanded by a lot of county and even club managers, is totally ridiculous. Bergin also questions why the lad, who gets the number 30 to 34 jersey, which means he’s not really involved on match day but still is expected to train flat out with the county team, can’t be released to play all his club games, which seems reasonable enough to me. 

  This is something that has been causing concern for some time, and I know I won’t come up with the answers but the club versus county problem seems to be coming to a head.

Joe foresees a pay-per-view future

Staying with the GAA, and Joe Brolly is definitely one of those unique types of people that are either loved or hated, with me coming down on the ‘love’ side.             As we look at the problems that the organisation is facing he is very concerned with the commercialisation of the GAA brand, and he feels that big companies like AIB and Sky Sports are effectively taking over the GAA.

  He foresees the day that there will be no free broadcasting of our national games, that it will all be pay-per-view with Sky in full control. He also says the day will come when the All-Ireland finals will take place in ‘Sky Park’, and he fears that the whole package will be priced out of the ordinary person’s reach.

  The GAA was founded on the principle of volunteerism and amateurism, and without the unpaid lads who line the pitches, put up and take down the flags and nets, make sure the dressing rooms are clean and the water is turned on for the showers, it would be a very different organisation. But even though it will never be admitted, nowadays there are loads of GAA members, from coaches to managers and trainers and most certainly top players, who are benefitting financially from their involvement with the game. The question has to be asked as to how long the unpaid volunteers will continue to give of their time and effort.

  I am not against anyone getting paid for the considerable demands they put on themselves and their families but I think it’s high time it was all out in the open to let the public know exactly what is going on. I am also aware that some managers only get legitimate expenses, but a bit of transparency would clear up a lot of loose talk. A few years ago it was said a certain county manager was on €100,000 a year with a company car thrown in, which was almost certainly not true, but the problem is that no one can be sure.

  Anyway, I believe that Joe Brolly and Colm O’Rourke care enough about the game they played so well that they will continue their fight against its commercialisation and ensure the GAA keeps its place as the heartbeat of our local communities.

‘Micko’ made for great TV

It’s now Tuesday afternoon and even though it was never meant to happen, it looks as if this column is going to be nearly all about the GAA because, in tandem with hundreds of thousands of viewers last night, I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary ‘Micko’, about legendary Kerry footballer and manager, Mick O’Dwyer, which was shown on RTE and which captured the essence of O’Dwyer the footballing man.

As much as was possible, it showed how much the GAA meant to the Kerryman, which, was effectively everything. But for me, the most telling thing about it all was that at the end of an unparallelled career, the last team he managed, at the age of 79, was the local U-14 side, who he was proud to inform us won the Division 5 league. I think that tells us all we need to know, not only about the great Micko, but also about what the GAA, in it’s purest form, means to the ordinary, everyday people of Ireland.

  Well done RTE, It was an hour of absolutely riveting television and let’s hope we see more of this type of interesting documentary.

Get yourself to Vinegar Bill’s next gig!

Finally, for this week, on Saturday night, I headed to a jam-packed PJ’s in Castlecoote, to see and hear for myself what all the excitement was and is about Vinegar Bill, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. Vinegar Bill are, I suppose, a type of folk group, and they went down a treat with the huge crowd. If you see them advertised any time soon, make sure you go and see them, but be warned, go early, their big following will be there already!

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Counting the cost of Christmas cards

 

Another Christmas has come and gone, and as the dust settles on another year, the cost of posting Christmas cards is causing me, and a few of my regular readers, quite a bit of concern, so much so that I have been asked to make an appeal to the Minister involved, Denis Naughten, to take a serious look at dropping Christmas stamp prices for next year.

  I freely admit that I would be a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas, and since I was a boy I would always look forward to sending and receiving the festive cards. But this year I was told by the staff in a couple of post offices that the number of cards posted was very much down, and, despite the handiness and convenience of a text message, most people that I spoke to were of the opinion that the sales were down because the cost was prohibitive.

  I appreciate that An Post is a business and needs to try to make money, but one of my readers feels that if the Minister dropped the price of Christmas stamps by a decent amount, you would see a lot more cards being posted. The knock-on effect would be that places in my locality, like the Divine Word Missionaries, who print and distribute cards, and P and G Cards in Athleague who wholesale them, would benefit accordingly. Anyway that’s my thought on the matter, so we’ll see if Denis Naughton agrees with me!

Donamon’s Mass appeal

Staying with the Christmas activities and, once again, I found myself attending mass in Donamon Castle on Christmas morning and, as I’ve told you before, it is one of the most uplifting and inspirational events of the whole year.

  Now I want to say that I’m told our own midnight Mass, in Kilbegnet Church, was also very well received by the large attendance but on Christmas morning there is something special about the Donamon Mass, and this year was no different. The altar was beautifully decorated, the full house created a lovely warm atmosphere and the music and singing provided by Annette Griffin, her amazing mother Frances, and John Staunton was just awesome. I met so many people who echoed my sentiments and found the whole experience to be so rewarding.

  In case you think I am a religious fanatic, I most certainly am not. I’m just an ordinary country lad trying my best to figure it all out - and failing a lot of the time – but on this one day of the year, I have to admit I really enjoy the visit to the Castle and benefit quite a bit from the beautiful ceremonies.

Great night as Wards return

Changing subjects totally and out here in Creggs, we as a community are extremely proud of the success and achievements of the Ward brothers, Robert and Michael, who together with Padraig Burke, are heading up one of Ireland’s biggest construction and civil engineering companies, Ward and Burke, with huge projects ongoing in Ireland, the UK, America and Canada. The company provides excellent employment opportunities for many workers, from all around the local area.

  A number of years ago, Robert, his wife, Mary, and their three daughters moved to Canada, and so it was a very pleasant surprise to hear they were coming home for Christmas and celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with a bit of a do in Mikeen’s just before the holiday. I have to say it was one of the great nights, with a large number of Robert’s former teammates from both Creggs rugby and GAA clubs (clubs who still benefit from the very generous sponsorship of Ward and Burke) in attendance. The area known locally as ‘the Mountain’, which is where the Ward family come from, was very well represented with most, if not all the neighbours, out to meet and greet the family, and it was great to catch up with so many former friends and teammates.

All partied out!

Staying with parties, and birthdays, I helped my good friend, Jack the Lower, Jack Hegarty, celebrate a major milestone last week in John Doorly’s. I was also on hand to celebrate with Seanie Lohan, who had the cheek to outfield me for a high ball in the build up to the Galway v Roscommon match last summer, as he turned 50 in Mikeen’s last Saturday night!

Barrie Harris Walk a great success

Back to Christmas highlights, and the annual Barrie Harris Walk was one of the best attended ever - a beautiful bright, slightly frosty morning made for absolutely perfect conditions, and even though there was a bit of fog, the top of the Mountain was just lovely, and for me, it was the most enjoyable walk ever.

  I had the usual refreshments stop in Mary D’s, where all kinds of goodies were on offer. I failed to make it to either my brother, Billy’s, or Mickey Maloney’s, whose doors were also open. I got back to the village, in the slow lane, and made it back up for some of the Stephen’s Day’s festivities later in the evening.

  As always, the walk is all about raising money for several deserving charities, so hopefully, once again, the money raised will make a huge difference to so many underprivileged people. If you haven’t given anything yet, it’s not too late.

The perfect end to 2018

On New Year’s Eve, my wife Carol celebrates her birthday and this year we all headed to the Abbey Hotel for a bite to eat, and yet again, the quality was just marvellous. We all wondered how they did it, as the restaurant was packed, there was a large crowd dining in the bar, and to top it all, there was a wedding on as well! And yet, the service, food quality, and the whole dining experience were up to the usual high standards.

  Well done to Adrian and his staff, we really enjoyed it, and it set us up nicely to ring in the New Year in the company of Paul Browne and his disco in Mikeen’s later on. Along with a large, enthusiastic crowd, we rang out the old and rang in the new, and now we look forward to a nice 2018 and I wish you all well for the future.

  I hope my heart surgeon doesn’t get this paper, as he might get the wrong impression of my Christmas activities! But from today I am going back to my normal humdrum life and it’s all over…for a week or two at least - my dedication to health and fitness is legendary!

Happy retirement James!

Finally for this week, over Christmas, my neighbour, James McKeague retired from driving after 43 accident-free years with Bus Éireann - his safe driving record is quite extraordinary! I wish James a long and happy retirement and best wishes for the future to himself, his wife Kathleen and his family! It’s a career and life to be very proud of so well done James, and congratulations.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

That was the year that was: My lowlights and highlights of 2017

 

 

It’s hard to believe, but we are only a week away (as I write) from yet another Christmas Day, and as the year draws to a close, I suppose it’s time to have a look back at some of the highlights and lowlights of 2017, and remember moments that brought good and bad emotions during the year.

  As a Galway man, and wearing a Christmas hat of maroon and white, the Tribesmen figure in both sections of the year’s memories. It goes without saying that one of the lowlights was the day in Pearse Stadium in July when the Rossies absolutely hammered the Galway footballers, winning their first Connacht title since 2010.

  The funny thing is, as Creggs man and a long-time friend, Ger Dowd, was involved with the management team of the Rossies, the sting wasn’t quite as bad as it might have been, and in truth I got over it very quickly.

  It also helped that the Galway hurlers were going so well all year, winning the National League and the Leinster Championship, before the biggest highlight of the year, on the 3rd of September, when they beat Waterford in an epic battle to take the McCarthy Cup for the first time since 1988.

  People say to me that Creggs is not hurling country, so it always deflates them when I reveal that I was a brilliant hurler (according to myself), and nearly won a county junior hurling final, only for Ballygar beat us after a replay some time back in the Dark Ages. So the excitement, emotion and sheer joy on that September day will live with me as long as the Lord leaves me on this earth. I will never forget it.

  Changing sports, and in March, our annual tour of Six Nations Rugby matches took us to the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, and we brought a touring party of 14 hardy party animals for the big match between Wales and Ireland. The game itself would not be a highlight, as I had to look up the result just now to see who won (Wales by 22 to 9), but the tour lived up to all expectations and certainly qualifies as a huge highlight.

  Still with personal highlights, it was an enormous thrill to pay a fleeting visit to the amazing city of Nice in October, and for two days to have a little look at how the other half lives.

  I had often heard of the unbelievable architectural beauty of the Riviera city, and of the amazing quality of its buildings, but I have to admit that nothing prepared me for the sheer beauty of the seaside city.

  We found out very quickly that the ‘Old’ city is the place to go, as it retains all its old qualities, while the ‘New’ city, which we only passed through, is pretty much the same as any other modern city.

  The other thing we found out is that you will always find an Irish pub, and Ma Nolan’s was as welcoming a pub as I have encountered anywhere. The pint of Guinness was €6.90, while the little drop of Hennessy came in at €7.50, but the staff were absolutely fantastic, and so friendly that, for two nights at least, we nearly forgot the price of the drink.

  The last highlight for me was the success of the annual fundraising dance which we ran in Dowd’s, Glinsk, on the 1st of October, and which raised €5,300 for Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund, the money being divided equally between the two worthy charities.

  I know it’s just a little sample of what took place during the year, but as we head into another Christmas, let’s hope there are more good moments to come in 2018.

  Talking of good moments, in my opinion one of the great moments of every year is Mass on Christmas morning in Donamon Castle, and this year, yet again, the fantastic singer, Annette Griffin, aided and abetted by her mother and John Staunton, will be providing the music.

  I make no apology for saying that listening to Annette on Christmas morning is one of the great treats of any year. If you can at all, don’t miss it. Please God I will see you there.

Here in Creggs, the biggest lowlight of the year has been the large number of local deaths during the year. We have lost an awful lot of good people in 2017. A number of them were way too young to be taken from this life. Let’s remember them and pray for them and their loved ones over the Christmas period.

Switching to the subject of television, and I pride myself on the fact that, nearly four years ago, I was one of the first, if not the first, person to alert the local readership about the tremendously powerful drama, Peaky Blinders, which the BBC were producing and showing on a weekly basis.

  I highlighted the extraordinary acting performance by our own Cillian Murphy, amongst others, in a very strong cast. My own favourite is Paul Anderson, who plays the completely dysfunctional Arthur Shelby.

  Series’ one and two were absolutely brilliant and compelling viewing. The third series seemed to lose its way completely, so much so that I gave up on watching it, and this year when season four began I was almost apathetic, and only looked at it out of a mild curiosity.

  The good news is that the producers apparently realised they had made a bags of season three, and took the necessary steps to rectify it, and I have to say that it’s all back on track and every bit as good as it was at the beginning. Murphy gets better and better as the main man, Thomas Shelby, and, as the final episode of this series looms on Wednesday night, I can’t wait for it all to start up again in the autumn.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s once again countdown time to the Barrie Harris Walk, and all roads will lead to Creggs on St. Stephen’s Day, when the annual trek up, down, and around the mountain, takes place.

  The proceeds go to local, national, and international charities, and the walk has become one of the biggest earners for all those worthy causes, and, in the process, has become one of the biggest social events of the year.

  It all kicks off at 12 o’clock midday from Mikeen’s, so get those sponsorship cards filled, and make the 23rd walk the best ever – see you there next Tuesday.

Happy Christmas…

All that’s left for me to do is wish you all a very Holy Christmas, and a healthy and happy New Year.

‘Till next year, Bye for now

When is the right time to hang up those sporting boots?

 

 

A couple of weeks ago, the day after Nemo Rangers had given Kerry’s Dr. Crokes a fair old beating in the Munster club football final, I saw a sad headline on the Irish Independent that pretty much said that the great Gooch Cooper was no longer up to it, and that even the club game had now passed him by.

  A few nights ago, not in Creggs I hasten to add, I had a chat, peculiarly enough in a pub, with a lad of 27 years of age, a really good footballer, who told me he was thinking of packing up the game. He had a few niggling injuries, a bit of pressure at work, and he was seriously thinking about calling it a day.

  Now my initial reaction was to tell him to forget about retirement, and to play as long as he was able to, but today, as my two not so new hips carried me slowly on my walk up the lovely area that is Lenamarla, I wondered was my reaction the correct one?

  There was a great hullabaloo when the Gooch retired from intercounty football, with many pundits saying he could play on for a few more years, but the evidence now points to the fact that he was right to go. And, of course, for everyone, including my 27-year-old, that is the hardest part of all – to know when to quit!

  Now I realise that for me to mention myself in the same paper as the Gooch – never mind in the same article – is almost bordering on the sacrilegious, but as the fresh air of Lenamarla filled my lungs and cleared my head, I found myself back more than 25 years ago, up in Enniskillen, still playing scrum-half for Creggs, and, what’s worse, still thinking I was good enough.

  By then I was about four stone overweight, not able to run and totally unfit, and if the pace of the Munster final passed the Gooch by, the Enniskillen match left me stuck to the starting blocks; I was so far behind the play that I could have been playing in the farmer’s field next door, and if the rest of the lads were in 5th gear, I spent most of the day in reverse.

  At the end of the game I knew my time was up, but by the Tuesday evening, I had convinced myself that I was just unlucky – I had just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time (all day), and it wasn’t really my fault, and the next day it would be much better.

  Thankfully, the selectors didn’t see it my way, and on that Tuesday evening as I headed out to training, they paid me the very rare compliment of calling to my door to tell me that I was dropped for the following Sunday.

  Funny enough, even though deep down I knew it was coming – and well overdue – I was gutted and very annoyed, although in hindsight I should probably have gone years earlier! And so, that is why I’m not sure if my advice to the 27-year-old lad is right or wrong. In the words of the song from The Clash, ‘Should I stay or should I go now?’

  As for the Gooch, I think he made the right decision, and as for me, I think the selectors did too. Although in my defence, when the late, great Dr. Joe Daly managed to get my leg across a two-foot high wall at the Galway Sportsground (he nearly needed a hoist), and got me on the field of play in the 1993 cup final as a second-half substitute, I managed to play a small part in bringing the last junior cup that Creggs won back to the village. It’s high time another one came, and who knows? Maybe this could be the year.

A magnificent night at The Green

Sticking with the rugby for another little bit, and on Saturday night, thankfully before the snow brought chaos to the area, we had another magnificent night in The Green when our local lads won a titanic battle with Tuam in a match that was reminiscent of many a tough game in the past.

  The 10 points to 3 winning scoreline was just about deserved, and very important in our quest for league honours.

  Sometimes we get over-dramatic about events that happen on the pitch, but for me, the commitment we showed in the last five or six minutes matched anything I have ever seen on any pitch, at any level.

  Tuam literally pounded our line, and there were numerous times that I was convinced they had to score, but on every occasion someone got in a last-ditch tackle, or a hand in to smother the ball, or just put their bodies on the line. Amazingly, we held out, and I can tell you the wonderful result was celebrated every bit as enthusiastically as the lads had defended.

  With about four or five games to play, we are in a good position in the league at the moment, but whether we win it or not, this team has given all of us old-stagers a huge lift and there is a terrific buzz around the place thanks to their endeavours on the pitch.

  Back to the chaos locally, and St. Ciaran’s’ big U-20 football game against Tulsk fell foul of the weather, as did the Senior Citizens Party! Now I’m sure the details of the re-fixture of the football match is somewhere else in this week’s People, but the good ladies who look after the Senior Citizens’ Party tell me that, weather-permitting, it will go ahead this Sunday, 17th of December in Kilbegnet Hall. Let’s all hope the frost and snow will have disappeared by then.

Great to have seen this duo in their pomp

Changing subjects, and, in the ridiculous world of professional soccer, I am surprised to have seen very little about the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo last week won the Ballon d’Or award, making him the best player in the world for a fifth time.

  Now, what made it so noteworthy in my opinion, is the fact that himself and Lionel Messi have shared the last ten awards between them, which in itself is an extraordinary achievement. 

  However, what makes it even more amazing is that in nine of those ten years, the person who didn’t win it was the runner-up – the only exception being 2010, when Iniesta took the runners-up award.

  So it is unbelievable, in this day and age, with such wonderful footballers all over the world, that two players could dominate world football to such an extent, and I suppose it is our privilege to have been around for all of those ten years, and to have seen those gifted players in their pomp – and it looks as if they aren’t finished yet, as both are still playing at the height of their powers.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s now Tuesday afternoon, and while the thaw has set in to some extent, parts of the roads – and indeed the footpaths – are still ‘lethal’.

  Earlier, as my wife Carol was walking on a slippy footpath in Roscommon, she almost fell over. A gentleman who was walking behind her, whom she didn’t know, told her to hold his hand, and he brought her safely to the car.

  Once again it shows that the age of chivalry is not dead, and small acts of kindness mean an awful lot, so, on her behalf, thanks to the unidentified Good Samaritan – you made her day.

 

‘Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

Good Samaritans were on hand to pump up the Volvo!

 

 

It’s one of the busiest Friday evenings of the whole shopping year in Athlone. As I’m making my way home, the traffic is mental, and everything (including myself, and the up-to-now-not-so-trusty-new-old Volvo) is moving at a snail’s pace. Then, just as I get to the big roundabout near Monksland, it decides to pack up completely and more or less die. Somehow I get about ten yards past the roundabout, put on my flashers and watch in horror as the built-up traffic attempts to get past in the little space that was available on my outside. I wonder what in God's name will be the eventual outcome of my serious dilemma.

  As I am sitting there, feeling like a prize twat, a knock comes to the passenger window and a young lad says to me that I’m in a very dangerous place, and that I had better get out of there as quick as I can. When I told him that there was no power coming through – except maybe enough to boil a kettle – he said he would stop the traffic, which was coming both ways, and that I was to try to get across the busy road to the safety of a big, open gateway. You could only say that I limped across to the gateway, and having got there, the car died completely – not a meg of any description.

  And so the young lad, and another man who was with him, got jump leads and started me up. In the meantime, the second lad had rang a mechanic, and asked him to come our way. A few minutes later the mechanic arrived, had a look at the car, did something to it and told me that it needed a couple of things done, but that it would get me home.

  So off I headed. My good Samaritans wouldn’t take anything for their help, and the elder of the first two lads gave me his phone number and said to ring him if I broke down again, and he would run me home. As it happened, I made it home safely and in one piece, but I will never forget the incredible kindness shown me by three complete strangers on that Friday evening. I will not deny that when the first knock came on the window, I wondered was I about to be mugged, because sadly that's how we tend to react in this modern society, but I have to say the experience has really restored my faith in human nature (not so much in Volvos), and all I can say is thanks a million to the three lads. I will forever be in your debt. I now know who the three were, but I don’t want to embarrass them by naming them, but you know yourselves who you are.

  Anyway, you would think that that would be enough excitement for one day, but later on that evening I was a bit away from home, and went into a shop for a couple of bits and pieces. Unfortunately, I had unknowingly left a bunch of keys –including those for my shop – behind me, and had travelled home blissfully unaware that my keys were now quite a bit away. I’d settled down to watch the Toy Show, and just as it was about to start, I got a phone call on my mobile from a strange number. It was a young girl from the shop, who had managed to trace me through all the yokes we now carry on our key rings, and who went the extra mile to ring to let me know that she had my keys. I headed off straight away, collected my bunch, and the shop was opened on time on Saturday morning.

  So was it karma that turned two potentially disastrous incidents into two special memories? I don't know, but I would say I was just lucky to meet good people at the right time, and it proves, despite all we hear, that kindness and generosity of spirit is still alive and well.

 

A great win in Castlebar, great memories of Cloonfad

 

On Saturday evening we went to Creggs Rugby Club’s huge game in Castlebar, a top of the league clash against a home side that had come to The Green earlier in the year, and had won a hard-fought encounter by a ten-point margin.

  I’d headed off straight from work (this time, not in the not-so-trusty-old Volvo) and arrived just in time for the 7.30 kick-off. I’m sure there is a report elsewhere in the paper on a famous victory for our lads, so all I will say is that the present team embodies everything that is good about sport: heart, guts, bravery, commitment and a tremendous work ethic. And I have to say that all these traits are there in abundance within the team, and they truly are a credit to Pat Cunningham (their coach) and to themselves and their club. Next Saturday night in Creggs they have another massive game, against Tuam, and I just hope the local support is as big as this team deserves.

  As for my wife Carol and me – we were both banished from the environs of the pitch for cheering on Creggs in a forbidden area! I’ve been going to matches for a long time now, and this is the first time I got sent off (as a supporter), but, as with a lot of things, political correctness is gone a bit too far.

  On our way to Castlebar, it was sad to drive through the village of Cloonfad and realise that Keane’s pub, a place with huge Creggs connections, is no longer open. I have told you before of travelling back from big GAA matches in the Mayo Capital, and no-one from our side could pass through Cloonfad without a visit to Keane’s – and oftentimes the visits would last for several hours. I suppose it’s a sign of the times, but I was a little sad to realise that one of the great traditional watering holes is no more, although I will admit that many a time as a gasun, waiting for the adults to come out of it while I was being stuffed with minerals and crisps, I wished it never opened!

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week…it’s hard to believe it but it’s time again for the Senior Citizens Party, which takes place next Sunday, 10th of December, in Kilbegnet Hall. It all kicks off at 2 pm, and everyone is welcome.

  Last weekend the Pride of Place Awards – which honour the efforts of communities to make their own places better places to live in – took place, and at least one of the nominees was lauded for holding an annual senior citizens party. I thought to myself they could not hold a party near as good as the ones that have taken place in this area for many years now.

  Our senior citizens are the people who have laid the foundations for the new generation to follow, and it’s only right that they should have their day out. In fairness, the local committee make sure the annual party is one of the great days of the year. Everything is laid on: the best of food, drink, music and craic – all free gratis – and it all adds up to a special occasion.

  So, if you are free to go on Sunday afternoon, even if you aren’t fully qualified as a senior citizen, head for Kilbegnet and I guarantee you will have a day to remember!

  Each year there are a few faces missing from the previous year, so think of them on Sunday, but turn up all the same to keep a fabulous tradition alive – and enjoy yourselves!

‘Til next week, Bye for now

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