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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

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!

All hell would break lose… but they were the good old days!

Regular readers will be aware that I have written before about the days (or nights) of the village carnivals, when, for a fortnight or so every summer, never-to-be-forgotten excitement came to our normally quiet, dull villages when the showband stars of the time arrived in their brightly-coloured buses, togged into their beautifully tailored suits, and – for a few hours – entertained hundreds, sometimes thousands, of their fans in the specially erected marquees –complete, for the benefit of the dancers, with their shiny maple floors.

  Now I was a young gasun when the carnivals were at their peak, and even though I would go to some of the dances in Creggs – mostly by sneaking across the surrounding fencing and slipping through the canvas on the sides, thereby avoiding having to pay in – I have to admit that at that time I had no interest at all in the opposite sex. So why did I go? I used to like to listen to the bands, maybe like to look at the female lead singers, sometimes I’d get a mineral in the mineral bar, but mostly I went to see the almost inevitable fight.

  As sure as night follows day, late on as lads were getting contrary at getting no women, and being well full of Guinness, or beer, or even an odd shot of whiskey, a fight would break out and for a while, until the lads on the fences intervened, all hell would break loose.

  Immediately on the start of the fight an imaginary ring would be made by the dancers around the protagonists and usually two, but sometimes three or four lads, would throw a few punches, a drop (often a good drop) of blood would be spilt, the shirt that mammy spent ages ironing for the dance would be torn to bits, you’d have some lads being held back, others being egged on, until eventually everyone would be shuffled out of the marquee and the combatants would fade off into the night.

  I would always stand at the back of the crowd making sure I didn’t get in the way of a stray punch. I would gaze in awe at the fearsome, bare-chested fighters (usually bare-chested as the shirt had been ripped off them) as they sorted out whatever (usually imagined) grievances they had.

  The next night, probably with different lads, but often with the same ones, it would all happen again, but the good thing is that the format was always the same! A bit of pushing and shoving, a bit of roaring abuse, an odd slap, a lot of bluster, and, apart from a bloody nose or a black eye, no harm done; as they say, it was all good clean fun. Those were the good old days, but later on the whole scene changed; fists were no longer the weapon of choice, bottles and glasses took over, and, later on again, knives and even guns became the norm, and the taking of life over minor disagreements seemed to nearly be accepted.

  All this came into my mind today when I read of two appalling decisions taken by members of the judiciary to effectively allow two people who ‘glassed’ others in nightclubs, causing horrific injuries to their victims, to walk free with suspended sentences and be at liberty to carry on with their lives. I have to say that the one thing that fills me with dread is the thought of having a broken glass thrust into my face with force and how any Judge could allow someone who actually did such a thing to walk free is beyond my comprehension. Is it any wonder we have lost faith in the legal system?

  In one of the cases, where the victim lost the sight of an eye, even after an appeal, the original verdict of a suspended sentence was upheld by three eminent Judges, so all I can ask is – what were they thinking? Sticking with the legal system, I am amazed at the compensation claims that we are continually reading about in the papers – there is no doubt that the so-called compensation culture is at its highest right now, and some of the recent claims have bordered on the ridiculous. Thankfully, in this case, the Judges seem to have a bit of cop-on and have thrown out a load of these outrageous claims –just a pity they wouldn’t be as wise in more serious cases.

Party people!

You have often heard the old story of waiting for ages for the bus and how two then come together, (although presently no one comes at all), and so it was, that where sometimes there might be nothing happening in Creggs, last Saturday night we had two big parties in the village.

  My nephew, James, celebrated his 18th birthday with a bash in his home, while down in Mikeen’s, former Creggs Rugby Club stalwart Ivor Heavey was having a ‘do’ for making it all the way to 40. Each party was very well attended and because I take my writing duties so seriously I did a while at both of them and thoroughly enjoyed my night out, and I wish both James and Ivor by now belated happy birthdays.

  Down in Mikeen’s, McVeigh, a band consisting of another former Creggs front row forward, Kevin Garvey, and Alan McDonagh, were busy entertaining the crowd, and they went down a bomb with the party-goers. Their musical programme was varied and very interesting, and I think it was the first time ever that I heard an opera song (done brilliantly, I might add) in a pub set.

  Kevin sang one of those famous Italian opera songs, so famous that I don’t know what it was, and he was rewarded with a standing ovation for his efforts. I’m told that they are adding two more to their line-up for an appearance this weekend in Kate’s Bar in Castlerea, so if you are down that way, call in to listen to them and you won’t be disappointed – Kevin was a good rugby player, but he’s an even better entertainer.

Appeal for help on Church project

Finally, for this week, Delia Harkin from Newbridge, a parish which my own ancestors came from, has asked me to tell you about the efforts the parishioners are making to repair and restore the local (St. Patrick’s) Church. The church is in bad need of repair and it is estimated it will cost up to half a million to fix it, and while the good people of Newbridge have put together €200,000 towards the work, they are appealing for any financial assistance they can get. 

  Parishioners, former parishioners, newcomers, in fact anyone who can help, are invited to make a contribution, which will be confidential, so if you can help in any way, please contact Delia Harkin (Secretary), Gunnode, Newbridge, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, or ‘phone her at 086-4093670. It’s a good cause; so if you have a few bob to spare, send it to Delia.

                       

‘Till next week, Bye for now!

 

My diagnosis for Children’s Hospital: A monumental error

Ten years ago when I started to write this column, I decided that I would leave politics to the politicians. And it’s only been on a very odd occasion that I have delved into that dark and, occasionally, controversial world. However, when a monumental error is made, which will impact on the welfare of thousands of Irish families in the future, it simply cannot be ignored.

  I am talking about the decision to site the new Children’s Hospital in the grounds of St. James Hospital in the inner city, in an area where parking and accessibility is already a major problem. I am told that everything about the location is wrong and that when it is up and running, sick children and their parents will face a logistical nightmare trying to get to the hospital. It may be that they will have to park well away from their destination, and take the dart, bus, luas or taxi to get to where they want to go, which will put enormous extra stress on people who already have enough to deal with.  

  The Mater was the original site chosen for the new hospital and when planning permission was refused for there, it was then proposed to seek submissions from six hospitals in the Dublin area. How the Government went with the James Street site is a mystery, as it is widely accepted that Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown ticks all the right boxes; accessibility, a huge area available for development, and no parking problems.

  Rumour has it that the pediatric consultants refused to travel out to Connolly which, if true, reflects badly on those consultants. Others would say that it would be cheaper, more efficient, and much more suitable for parents and children to build from scratch outside Dublin, but, one way or another, the decision as it stands will result in enormous hardship for people who already have serious problems on their plates. I don’t know if it’s gone too far to have any changes made but, from all I have seen and read, we are making a massive mistake.

Munster and Leinster on title charge…

As a rugby follower, it was a great weekend for the supporters of both Munster and Leinster as they each put in very impressive performances in qualifying for the semi-finals of the competition that I still regard as the Heineken Cup. Leinster appear to have an unending supply of young, talented and, very importantly, Irish backs, and they were far too good for a disappointing Wasps team, and the future, once again, seems very bright for the province. Mind you they face a very difficult task in the semi-final when they have to travel to take on the brilliant French club, Clermont Auvergne, in Lyon.

  Munster were a bit like the parson’s egg, good in spots, in their victory over Toulouse, and will know that they need to really up their performance before meeting the reigning champions, Saracens, in the Aviva. I can only imagine the atmosphere that will be there for that game, and even though both provinces will be underdogs, I cannot rule out an Irish final. What an occasion that would be.

Springing into action on the fairways

For many years I used to look forward to the winter because the short evenings meant you couldn’t be expected to do any sort of work after it got dark, and so it was very easy to park in front of a warm fire, turn on the telly, and basically have a doss every evening of the week – not recommended by any of the many doctors that have attended me over the years.

  However, as I got older my perspective changed and nowadays nothing excites me like the arrival of spring and the long evenings, which, amongst other things, allow us to once more head back to the golf course. And so, today I made my first appearance of the new year on the beautiful Castlerea course and I can’t think of anything more enjoyable.

  Last evening, on a pre-masters programme in Augusta, Georgia, a commentator asked a 10-year-old girl why she had taken up golf and she simply said because it’s so much fun. And even for dinosaurs like myself, the answer is still the same; it’s great fun. You get to spend hours in the lovely fresh air, it’s very relaxing, and you are walking in a beautiful parkland setting, and it doesn’t matter if you can’t hit the ball out of your way.

  I now tell myself to think like Rory McIlroy when I’m playing, but so far we don’t seem to be on the same wavelength. However, all you out there who don’t want to play football, who don’t like walking, but who would need to do some exercise, get yourself a few golf clubs and balls, hit for your nearest golf club, and I guarantee you will soon be hooked. If you go to Castlerea, tell Mickey Freyne that I sent you and he will make you very welcome, and who knows, you might be the next McIlroy.

Great entertainment in Glenamaddy

If you remember, last week I told you about my impending trip to Glenamaddy to the Theatre Festival, to watch the Corofin (Clare) Players as they put on the well-known Martin McDonagh play, The Cripple of Inishmann. I can only tell you it was just a fantastic night’s entertainment. Everything you could want in a play was present, loads of laughter, often at the expense of the clergy, sadness, unrequited love, brilliant acting, full house, great atmosphere, all taking place in a most intimate arena.

  I am ashamed to say that until that night, I was unaware that such a beautiful theatre existed in our neighbouring town. I don’t know if they won any prizes at the festival, but if they didn’t, the other entrants must have been out of this world – all the actors and actresses were just so good that they could easily have been professionals, and unusually, there wasn’t a weak link among them. Billy, my brother, sowed the seeds for my theatrical visit and I can only say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

See you at the quiz…

Finally for this week, the Tidy Towns are holding a follow-on table quiz in Mikeen’s this Friday night. The proceeds go to fund the great work the committee does in improving the layout of the village, as all the shrubs, flowers, plants, and trees that look so beautiful don’t come cheap and have to be paid for. We all benefit from the efforts of Carmel Roarke, and her committee members, so let’s see everyone from the village in Mikeen’s.

  It’s time we gave them a boost by turning up for this table quiz and letting the committee know their great work is really appreciated. Once again, I’m your quizmaster and Dowdy, fresh from the Rossies’ great win over Cavan, will set the questions. The personality of the year, Tom Connolly, will be in attendance so all you need to do is make sure you are there on time on Friday night, 7th of April in Mikeen’s, and make it a night to remember!

‘Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

Traumatic week in Derry, a city close to our hearts in Creggs

There has always been something about the city of Derry that has made it a special place, even for those of us who live down here in the south, and even though we may have never ventured across the border to see and visit its hallowed, famed and historic walls. Maybe it was the beautiful Rosemary Browne, who as a schoolgirl under the stage name of Dana, sung her way into the hearts of the nation when she won the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest with the lovely ‘All kinds of everything’ that set me on my lifelong love of the northern city, but one way or another, it has always been a place in which I have had a special interest.

  I suppose because I am from the generation that remembers what they call ‘The Troubles’, people like the great John Hume, also a Derryman, made big impressions on me as a young lad, and boxer Charlie Nash, and of course singer-songwriter Phil Coulter are other great sons of Derry who made huge names for themselves in their respective fields all over the world. Then in the early 1980s, down here in Creggs, we welcomed the one and only Adrian Leddy to our little rugby club. Adrian was a stalwart of the City of Derry Rugby Club and before too long he had annual trips going both ways as we went northwards to Derry for the weekend, and the Derry lads came to us for visits. When the final history of our rugby club is written, they will feature in our all-time great club folklore.

  The love affair that developed between Derry RFC and Maureen Pigott’s bar, and indeed Maureen herself, is legendary, and the fun they had there will live long in my memory.

  And so to this week, a week that saw Derry back in the headlines of the world, this time for the death of former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness, and also for the untimely passing of the City of Derry soccer captain Ryan McBride, at the tender age of 27 years.

  Now it is not for me to comment on how history will judge Martin McGuinness, but judging by the thousands who turned out for his funeral from all over the country, it is obvious how his fellow countrymen viewed him and his part in achieving peace in Northern Ireland can never be forgotten.

  I won’t pretend that I knew Ryan McBride, but from what I have read about him he represented all the values that appear to have disappeared from the modern game of soccer. He was tough, uncompromising, committed, and brave, and in these days of diving, feigning injury, and overpaid primadonnas, he was a throwback to the days when soccer was still played by men who classed themselves the same as their working class supporters. I always remember the story about Bill Foulkes, who was a similar tough centre-half as McBride with Manchester United in the 1960s, and he lived in a row of terraced houses near the ground and would join the fans and walk with them to Old Trafford with his boots hanging over his shoulders. To get near today’s players you’d have to get past bouncers and security officers and probably policemen, and then they wouldn’t talk to you anyway.

  However, back to Derry, and you could feel the raw grief felt by the entire city as they buried the two iconic figures last week and I have to say it was a grief felt by a lot of people around the country, and I can only hope they will rest in peace.

  As for Adrian Leddy, he is still a huge part of Creggs Rugby Club and I am reliably informed that by next Saturday, 1st of April, he will be entitled to the free travel – so make use of it Adrian, and Happy Birthday.

Aidan deserved to win Dancing with Stars

I seem to be the only man who admits to having watched Dancing with the Stars, and while Kerry footballing legend Aidan O’Mahony, left, would probably be the first to admit that he was the third best dancer in the final, in a strange way he was a most deserving winner of the trophy.

  His two opponents, Denise McCormack, and Aoibhinn Garrihy, are both well-known actresses, who would be well used to acting schools and in the case of the Red Rock actress (McCormack), dancing classes, while O’Mahony obviously hadn’t a clue at the start, and so for him to get to the stage that he got three 10s for his final dance was a monumental achievement and made him a worthy winner.

  I suppose you have to be a dogged competitor to win five All-Ireland medals and he certainly proved that he was prepared to give his all to come out on top and be crowned King of the dancers. Well done Aidan and I, as a male fan, really enjoyed the series. 

My drama date

Tonight, Tuesday (as I write), I am going to the Glenamaddy Drama Festival to have a look at the famed Martin McDonagh play ‘The cripple of Inishmaan’, which is being performed by the Corofin Players from Co. Clare.

  My brother Billy went to see it a few weeks ago in Roscommon and he said he nearly burst himself laughing, and he told me not to miss it if it was around the place again. So I’m off to it later on, and next week I’ll tell you if Billy got it right – I have a feeling it will be worth it, so here’s hoping.

And finally…

Finally for this week, Bina Harris asks me to remind ye all to bring back your sponsorship cards for the Barrie Harris Walk as she wants to sort it all out and distribute the funds to all the needy and worthy charities. So get out the cards, and especially the money, and get them back as soon as possible.

  Also all you quizzers out there, don’t forget the Tidy Towns table quiz in Mikeen’s on Friday, 7th of April – ye’d all come if it was the following Friday, Good Friday, but it’s not! So, no excuses for the 7th. I’m retained as quizmaster, so see ye all there.

An uphill battle we must take on!

For many years I have read, with (I’m ashamed to say) barely more than a passing interest, local newspaper reports on the efforts of the communities in the Sliabh Ban and Dysart-Taughmaconnell areas to stop the development of wind farms on their doorsteps. And the names of Ted Kelly and Mike de Jong became familiar to us all as they led the fight to try to prevent the erection of the controversial wind turbines.

  A few weeks ago the news broke, mainly through the efforts of Cllr. Orla Leyden, that Coillte, the semi-state body, had plans to introduce what they call a sustainable commercial development, which really is a posh name for a wind farm, in our local area – and immediately the alarm bells started to ring.

  A meeting took place in Castlecoote at which a large crowd turned up, and following on from that, another meeting was arranged for last Monday night in Kilbegnet Hall, outside Creggs. I went along, a little bit late, but I was in time to see an excellent presentation by Orla Leyden, extolling the many positives our area has as regards environmental, tourism and sporting potential. She highlighted so many natural resources that we have on our doorstep, that I began to wonder was she talking about the area that I have lived in all my life. She certainly was, and she told us that, along with others whose names I don’t know, she has presented a detailed plan to Coillte for the development of tourism, and other associated benefits.

  The meeting was, as they say, thrown over to the floor – and it was at that stage that the horror that these wind farms represent became apparent to me. To their eternal credit, there were several people at the meeting from both Sliabh Ban and the Dysart communities, and as the Sliabh Ban residents spoke, the reality of what we are facing hit home in a very powerful way.  

  Stories of unimaginable noise, losing sleep, headaches, and various other tales of discomfort were all detailed by the Sliabh Ban locals.

  On the issue of regulations, basically there should be no houses inside a kilometre from a 100 metre turbine, or as the turbines on Sliabh Ban are 130 metres high, there should be no dwelling inside 1.3 kilometres in that area. That, apparently, hasn’t happened. There are claims too that the monitoring of noise levels on the mountain hasn’t happened either.

  The sense from the meeting was that the majority of politicians will do nothing to help –except make empty promises – that regulations regarding the construction of the pylons are not enforced, and that basically we are on our own. One speaker said we are facing an uphill battle, but if we are, let the battle begin.  

  Now I only went to the meeting out of curiosity, and I have to say I left with very many alarm bells ringing, and it is obvious to me that despite the spin that will come from Coillte about the lack of interference in our everyday lives, we would do well to do our best to fight this development all the way.

Revealing insight into Alzheimers

Before I turned into Mick Wallace, I used to be the Karaoke King, and for a good few years Dympna Collins and myself travelled the highways and byways of counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, playing in pubs all over the place. We would have the craic as singers of various quality – and in various stages of inebriation – did their best to do justice to whatever songs they chose to sing.

  Looking back now, there were a number of favourite songs that would come up on a regular basis, like On Top of the World, Suspicious Minds, Hound Dog, and one of the most popular of all was the Rhinestone Cowboy, by American country legend, Glen Campbell, right. Now all of this had long since passed from my mind, as it is the guts of twenty years since we hung up the microphones and the records.

  And I never thought much about it since, until I happened to tune into an amazing documentary on some Sky station on Saturday night. Some six or seven years ago, Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and his family took the brave decision to make sure he kept touring while he was able to do so and to make a film documenting the progression of his illness, and so we were treated (maybe not the right word) to a very raw documentary which totally exposed the horrible disease that Alzheimers is.

  The extraordinary thing was that the singer was able to do 150 shows during those few years, and, in nearly all of them, while he sometimes didn’t know where he was, he hardly ever forgot anything to do with music. To the amazement of his doctors, he could still play his guitar, and remember the words of the songs. The documentary didn’t attempt to hide any aspect of the illness, including his occasional temper tantrums, which would have been totally out of character, and in his last ever performance, he finally succumbed to the disease, and as his wife of thirty-two years admitted, it – the final show – was a “trainwreck.” 

  His fans, however, were not bothered, and were glad to have one last look at the country superstar. As for me, it made me have a look at my own life and realise that sometimes the humdrum and the boring continuity of an ordinary everyday existence isn’t so bad, and as we are always told but often forget, our health really is our wealth.

  I had often heard of Alzheimers, or dementia, but in truth, it took this documentary to make me realise what a horrible disease it is, and what a toll it takes, not only on the patient but also on the patient’s family. It was a brave decision to allow the cameras such access to a true legend, but it was definitely worth it, and it opened my eyes to something that might well have stayed hidden if the documentary had not been made.

We owe such a debt to these and other heroes

A few years ago while spending a couple of days in Bundoran, we watched as a coastguard helicopter put on a demonstration of rescuing a number of people from the water. Now of course it was an exercise, but all the elements of a real rescue were present.  

  The helicopter had to hold steady, maybe only fifty feet or so above the raging seas, the winch operator and the winch man had to operate in tandem together, and as we watched I remember marvelling at the skill level and dedication of everyone involved.

  All this came back into my mind this last few days when the news broke of the loss of Rescue 116, a coast guard helicopter off the coast of Mayo, and the enormity of the tragedy brought home the massive debt the entire community owe these very brave men and women, who risk their own lives every time they go out to help someone in trouble.

  The recovery operation is being hampered by the bad weather, but all I can hope is that for the sake of the three families waiting for the bodies of their loved ones, the recovery effort is successful and they can get some closure. 

  We all appreciate the great worth of the emergency services, of all kinds, including the ambulance and fire services, but as a result of this terrible tragedy we may look at them all in the future in a slightly different way.

Slam dunked!

On to sport and after the very poor performance in Cardiff the previous weekend, the way in which our Irish men’s rugby team put an end to another English Grand Slam was a delight to see.

  It restored our pride in the national team and ranks, for me, with the great performances put in by Irish teams over the years. Sadly I wasn’t there due to that thing they call work, but it was an amazing atmosphere and on telly, the noise level was unbelievable, and it proved once again that the Irish are at their best when their backs are to the wall and when very little is expected.

And finally…

Finally for this week, on Thursday last the Tidy Towns Committee held a very enjoyable and successful fundraising table quiz in Mikeen’s, and they are doing it all over again on Friday, 7th of April! I have got my contract as quizmaster renewed, so once again, we will see you all in Mikeen’s on that night.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Irish defeat can’t dampen my love for Cardiff

It is a lovely sunny Monday morning and I am back in the real world, at work in the shop, Lynn Antiques (in case you’ve forgotten), after spending the weekend in that most wonderful Welsh Capital – my favourite city anywhere –   Cardiff. Before I say anything at all about our tour or about the very disappointing rugby, I must tell you why it’s my favourite city. If God told me he’d send me back for a second run at it, but I couldn’t make a reappearance in Ireland, I’d ask him to drop me off in Cardiff.

 

  First of all, everything is within walking distance, the Principality Stadium (always thought it was the Millennium Stadium, but they must have changed its name), and the Cardiff Arms are more or less back to back, so I could go to all the big rugby games. The people are lovely and they can all sing, there is a great shopping area that I didn’t see this time, and the pubs offer everything you would want. But the crowning jewel is the magnificent park just off the city centre.

  A few weeks ago, I went to Dublin for a visit to my daughter, Lisa, and she brought us for a stroll in the Phoenix Park, and I am ashamed to say that I never knew how big or how impressive that park is and, in fairness, it’s also very accessible from the centre of the city.

  Anyway, I headed off on a beautiful Friday morning for a walk in the Welsh park, over the big bridge across the River Taff, along the daffodil-lined footpaths, down past the many soccer pitches, intrigued by the numbers of grey squirrels that seemed to be everywhere. And it was almost surreal to think that less than a kick of a ball away, 82,000 rugby supporters were looking forward to the big game at eight o’clock that evening.

  The sheer size of the park meant that even with my two hips in good working order, I only saw, or got to, a tiny part of the total area. But I have to say it was sheer bliss and a most beautiful start to what turned out to be a disappointing match-day. And going back to the match and the eight o’clock start, I read a piece on one of the Welsh local papers yesterday about the great success it was, and how the closed roof, and the huge amount of alcohol consumed by most of the spectators, made for a fantastic atmosphere. I couldn’t disagree more with the writer in his assessment, and if he spoke to the members of our little touring party, he would have painted a very different picture!

  One of our members was unfortunately in the way of a flying column of vomit (hope you are not too sensitive), which came from a very drunken Welshman, who was seated several rows above us, and along with landing on the balding head and lovely new jacket of our man, it also hit several more unlucky punters who were also in the line of very accurate fire. The drunken vomiter was escorted horizontally from the stadium, and you would think that would be that; but you would be wrong, because directly in front of us were a few lads who, as well as drinking for Ireland, were continually standing up and spoiling our view.

  Now as far as I know, the introduction of all-seated stadiums was to make it easier to see the action, so as these boys kept standing up, another member of our party was getting more and more annoyed, and eventually he decided it was time to sort it out and he gave them a bit (actually quite a big bit) of his mind. For a time I thought there was going to be a good old-fashioned brawl, but eventually things settled down and we managed to see the rest of the match, unencumbered by either standing supporters or flying vomit.

After the game

After the game as I left the stadium, I joined a good few onlookers who were enthralled at the efforts of an Irish couple who were literally trying to walk up the road – notwithstanding the huge number of people that were milling all over the place and almost carrying them along. Our green-clad pair just couldn’t make any headway at all. They were so ossified they took two steps forward, and then at least five backwards. I don’t know if they are still vainly trying to get out of Cardiff, but my advice to them in the future would be to go to the earlier kick-off and stay out of the pubs, or if they can’t do that, at least leave their colours at home.

  We made it into the clubhouse of the Cardiff Blues, and even though there was a good crowd there, we got a nice corner for ourselves and drank a few nice pints of Guinness until the bouncers cleared the house at the stroke of midnight and all were out inside ten minutes.

  Saturday morning found us back in Cardiff Arms Park for an 11.30 kick-off between the Irish and Welsh women, and after the poor effort the evening before, the women put in a most committed performance and deservedly beat the home side by 12 points to 7. Some of the rugby was of the highest order and it was a great advertisement for the women’s game, so it was a pity that we couldn’t get programmes anywhere, and to get tickets to the game we had to queue for ages to buy them in the only outlet that had them. Maybe the crowd was bigger than expected, but they could learn from the GAA, who would have had multiple ticket-sellers all over the place. But that is a minor enough complaint and we were all very impressed with the quality, standard, and physicality of the women’s game.  

  Once upon a time, if anyone told me that I would enjoy a women’s game more than a man’s, I would have said they were crazy, but that is what happened in Cardiff and I am surprised to realise that it looks like I will get to the end of this piece without having to make any report on the actual defeat the men’s team suffered.

  For us, one of the special moments of the weekend came when four of us were invited into the famous trophy room of the Cardiff Blues. We were allowed as much time and space as we wanted to look around, take pictures, and wallow in the nostalgia and memory of some of the greatest Welsh legends.

  One amazing article was a 1905 All Blacks jersey, which was worn in the international between the teams, which Wales won, and our guide told us the jersey in question is worth a staggering one hundred thousand pounds. For some reason our request to try it on was politely, but firmly, declined.

  Anyway, it’s all over for another year, and all thirteen of us made it home safe and sound and happy to have had another very enjoyable tour behind us.

And finally…

Finally for this week, just a reminder that on Thursday night, 16th of March, the Tidy Towns Committee are holding a table quiz in Mikeen’s, starting at 10 o’clock, and everyone is invited. I have the honour of being the quizmaster, and I look forward to seeing you all there.

'Till next week, Bye for now! 

 

We could do with some good news on those ‘bad news Mondays’

It’s another Monday morning and as if it wasn’t miserable enough already, everything I heard on radio and television since I struggled out from under the blankets, well before the hour of eight, would nearly make me think there is a media conspiracy to carry on the long-held belief that Mondays are only to be endured, certainly not enjoyed, and that we should all go around with long faces and heavy hearts.

 

  As I sat down to the bowl of Rice Krispies with plenty of full fat milk and a dollop of cream (I’m watching my weight), the telly was focusing on the sad subject of post-natal depression – a condition that is extremely common, often misunderstood, and very difficult for sufferers to deal with. And yet, much as I sympathise with all of those who are afflicted with the ailment, I wasn’t thrilled to be hearing all about it as I ate the breakfast and so I flicked over to the first radio station that came to hand, which happened to be RTE 1, where I listened to some lad tell about his battle with depression, and how he had, several times, attempted to commit suicide.

  Now I am only too aware of the enormous blight on our society that suicide has become, particularly in young males, and I am full of admiration for places like Pieta House, and all of those who work so hard to help the vulnerable at risk patients. However, once again I thought it might be better to keep such topics until later in the evening when I (and other listeners) might be a little more awake and receptive.

  For some reason the opposite seems to happen in the media on Fridays when we have shows like Joe Duffy’s funny and fiver Fridays – and it seems to me it’s the wrong way around. By Friday, with the weekend arrived, most of us are already in good form and don’t need any pick-me-up whereas Monday is a day we could do with a lift.

Manic Monday to follow Irish rugby win?

 

Many years ago, on our tours to some match or other, we found ourselves in Liverpool and Manic Monday was a huge thing. All the pubs reduced their prices, and from what we could see, Monday was a great day all over the city.

  Anyway, purely by accident our annual tour is on next weekend when we hit Cardiff for a weekend of rugby so it’s safe to say that come next Monday, not even a Manic Monday will be enough to lift my spirits. Let’s hope the rugby team will have done that for us in the Friday evening match, which kicks off at the unusual time of five past eight. 

An apology to graceful Katherine

On to entertainment, that’s if you call ‘Dancing with the Stars’ entertainment, and even though I have never met her, I feel like I owe Katherine Lynch an apology – I always thought, based on her television show portrayal, that she was the most vulgar, loud, horrible person ever seen, whereas on the dance show she has been quite normal and she took her departure on Sunday night with grace and good humour.

  I see today that she was glad to go and she is right because, in fairness, four of the remaining five are all better dancers – the exception, Des Cahill, will probably win it on the back
of the popular vote, which sort of makes a joke of it all.

Gilligan should be treated like everyone else

Talking of jokes, I see in this week’s papers that John Gilligan, pictured below, has applied for job seekers’ allowance and I can only hope he has to go through the same wringer that everyone else has to go through to get what they are entitled to. I’d say his answers to where he has tried to get work recently, and to whom he has applied for a job, will make interesting reading. I have no problem with his applying for the dole but I just hope his application is treated no differently to anyone else’s.

Setting the bar high…

Out here in Creggs there is great work taking place in the rugby club with the whole clubhouse being revamped and a little bird has told me that there is a possibility that the bar may re-open in the near future, and I have to say it would be a great boost to us all, and the village, if that were to happen. We had many a good bit of fun there, over the years, and I would dearly love to sit on a high stool and relive old memories over a pint or two in the future –  here’s hoping it comes to pass.

We can do more for rural Ireland

 

I make no apology for returning to a subject which is very dear to my heart – and that is the continuing decline of rural Ireland. While there is no doubt that rural communities are being neglected shamefully when it comes to such basic rights as infrastructure and transport, it dawned on me over the weekend that maybe we should be doing a bit more to help ourselves.

  On Saturday night, I was in Mikeen’s bar and it was like old times – the place was packed and it was great craic. My recipe for a good night: good Guinness, good food and good music were all present and I realised that the excuses we give all the time for the decline of the rural pub are really only that.

  Fair enough, the reason everyone was there was because it was a big birthday party for Theresa Devaney, and congrats and best wishes to Theresa, and we had a great night, but all the excuses we trot out like the drink-driving and the smoking ban, and everything else, didn’t stop the people from getting there, and home, last Saturday night.

  So is it possible we are allowing ourselves to stop going out simply because we couldn’t be bothered? It may take a little effort, and even a small bit of planning to go to the local but if you want to have a local to go to maybe it’s time we made the effort again.

  The same applies to your local post office because if we don’t use it, it too will close; and as the song says ‘we’ll only miss it when it’s gone!’ (Not sure what song that is, but you know what I mean).

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, the Creggs Tidy Towns committee, who are doing trojan work in having the village looking so well, are holding a table quiz in Mikeen’s on Thursday, March 16th, the night before Paddy’s Day.

  The money raised will go to help with the cleaning, planting and tidying of the village and they need every help they can get, so get off your ass and get to Mikeen’s where it all kicks off at 10 pm. There will be the usual raffle and great prizes. I will be asking the questions and I expect to see you all.

'Till next week, Bye for now! 

Those were the days… now it’s sad to see my Alma Mater close

In September this year, if God grants me the health, or I suppose even if he doesn’t, it will be a full fifty-four years since I first climbed the steps into the hallowed halls of Cistercian College, Roscrea – also known as Mount St. Joseph’s – as a terrified 12-year-old gasun, who up ‘till then had never been away from home, except to spend a week or two with my aunt and uncle, funnily enough, also in the county of Tipperary.

 

  Roscrea, at the time, had the reputation of being a school for the rich and the elite, and maybe it was. There is no doubt, however, that the annual fees would have been a huge burden on the finances of my national schoolteacher father. Somehow I managed to get a partial scholarship, which took some of the pressure off my father. And so, on the back of the partial scholarship, I found myself taking my place amongst the sons of the rich and the famous and starting off on a career that, I have to admit, never turned out the way the teachers in C.C.R. might have hoped for or envisaged!

  Life as a boarder in an all-boys school run by Cistercian priests probably conjures up all kinds of horrific images, but nothing could be further from the truth. The five years that I spent there were, truly, five years that I really enjoyed; however, were you to meet any of my teachers – I’m sure some of them must be still alive – they would tell you that I might have enjoyed myself a little bit too much.

  Everything was well structured, from morning prayers, to classes, dinner, recreation and study. For me, the two areas that I really threw myself into were dinner and recreation! The food was simple enough fare, with my two favourite dinners being slumgullion, which was a kind of a stew and shepherd’s pie, which was and still is, a pie made of mince meat, onions, and mashed potatoes. It was on Mondays though when we had jacket potatoes along with some type of meat or fish, that I made my mark. For some reason, even though I was as thin as a rake, I could eat spuds to beat the band and many is the time the after meal grace couldn’t be said until I had finished eating.

  Rugby and hurling were the big sports in Roscrea along with a great athletic history, but for me at that time, soccer was my main love. It is still a source of great pride to me that in my final year, the Creggs Thunderbolts soccer XI won the schools senior league, under, of course, my captaincy.

  I also managed to get caught crossing the wall to the out of bounds shop across the road, I got punished for smoking a few times, a couple of times for skipping study and academically my main claim to fame was that I came last in the gold medal debate – a very prestigious debate, which was won by my first cousin, Leo Crehan.

  Anyway, my five years flew by and for the most part I enjoyed my time there. I also learned something that has stood to me all my life and that is that most people accept you for what you are and not what you have, although to my eternal shame, when my father arrived down to visit me in his brand new Vauxhall Viva NIM 3, I asked him to park up at the guesthouse, for fear the sons of the Mercedes and BMW owners would see it. I have never forgiven myself for doing that to my dad, who was justifiably proud of his new car.

  My brother Billy followed me to Roscrea a few years later and his son James is, along with being the number 8 on the college rugby team, also presently there studying for the Leaving Cert and several other local lads also came through the Tipperary college.

  And so, a week or so ago as I watched the evening news on the telly, I was saddened to see that my old Alma Mater is closing its doors and will no longer be functioning as a secondary school. Now, I won’t pretend that I was the most active past-pupil of all, and in fact I have never gone back to pay a visit to the school since I left (50 years next September), but I am very sad to hear of its forthcoming closure and I will certainly go back for a last look before it closes its doors for the last time.

  It’s ironic that having waited 100 years to win the Senior Cup in Leinster schools rugby, it’s closing down two years later. I’m told that there is some type of movement, from the past-pupils, to try to come up with a plan to save the school but, as of now, C.C.R. is soon to be a thing of the past and I for one, am sorry to see it go.

I wanted a different kind of six-pack

As a man whose only interest in a six-pack in my younger days was in the ones that had corks on the top of them, I have found out this weekend (a bit late) why I never had a huge appeal to the opposite sex.

  According to Stephen Barrett, an exercise physiologist (whatever that is), young lads now have a massive emphasis on building their upper body because of the perception that this is the physique that the opposite sex likes. He says the effort to get rippling muscles and sculpted physiques can sometimes lead to depression and eating disorders as it may not be possible for everyone to look like an Adonis. Apparently looking good in selfies has become vitally important and weightlifting and powerlifting has become the norm for the younger male generation.

  The bottom line is that care needs to be taken in trying to get the perfect body so I will boil the kettle now, have the coffee and a bun or two and carry on as I have done for more than sixty years. As they say: there’s no point in closing the stable door, when the horse is long gone. 

 

Rossie criticism amazes me!

On Saturday evening I watched Mayo and Roscommon do battle in a Division One league match in Castlebar (on telly of course) and I am amazed at the level of criticism being levelled at the management team by some Rossie supporters.

  I thought Mayo were very good, stronger than Roscommon physically, and there is no doubt that they will be back again at the business end of things when Sam Maguire is being handed out next September – and I would not be one bit surprised if they were to win it.

  The funny thing is that David Clarke, the Mayo goalie, made four wonderful saves to deny Roscommon goals and Keith Higgins made another. If they had gone in, and bearing in mind that all 14 Roscommon points came from play, it would have put a very different perspective on the performance.

  One of these days they will convert all the goal chances they are creating (hope it won’t be in the summer against Galway) but in the meantime, I think they are doing well in a very difficult league. All I can say about Mayo is they must have nightmares over dropping goalie Clarke for that All-Ireland final replay – they would surely be All-Ireland champions now if he had been left in goal.

Great night of music at the Abbey

Finally for this week, Jimmy Kearney of the well-known and very popular Lancers band, has asked me to remind everyone out there that the annual fundraising dance for the Lourdes Invalid fund takes place in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon next Monday night at 9 pm.

  Music will be provided by The Lancers, Frank Nelson, Patsy McCaul, and Carmel McLoughlin, all of whom are amongst the cream of Roscommon bands. There will be a raffle and spot prizes on the night and admission is only €10.

  I have mentioned many times the great work the Lourdes invalid fund does and I ask you all to dig out the dancing shoes and get to the Abbey on Monday next (6th March). The show will start and finish on time so even if you have to go to work on Tuesday, you will have plenty of beauty sleep – no excuses!

‘Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

Following in footsteps of The Dubliners (and the man from Moldova)

Many is the time we would bemoan that there is nothing on; no party, no nothing, nowhere to go (although I am happy enough to go to Mikeen’s), but the weekend just gone by was like the old tale of the two buses – you wait ages for one and then a second one appears at the very same time.

And so it was that on Friday night, a load of the staff from this newspaper and whatever the likes of me is called (Editor’s note: We’re happy to go with ‘Valued freelance columnist’) headed to P. Kelly’s to have a dram or two and bid adieu to Martina as she headed off to pastures new with the HSE. I told you all about Martina last week, but somehow it escaped my attention until Friday night that the renowned radio commentator and well-known GAA personality, Willie Hegarty, is her brother, and she told me she is rightly proud of the bould Willie.

We had a lovely night in Kelly’s, good drink, good food, and great craic, and I ran into Jack the Higher who was there along with a large gang from the Council, who were also bidding farewell to a work colleague. However, I left early-ish, as I was due to fulfil a promise I made to my nephew David over the Christmas period. David plays All-Ireland rugby up in the Capital city with Old Belvedere and I had long wanted to go and see him in action, and so, on Saturday morning, myself and Carol found ourselves on the 9 am Bus Eireann service from Athlone (no free travel yet) and bound for the lovely Anglesea Road venue, where Belvedere were to host their cross-town neighbours, Clontarf.

My trips to Dublin are not complete without a visit to Eddie Rocket’s for the Power Rocket breakfast, (don’t tell my heart specialist, my nutritionist, my dietician, or my wife – only kidding, she was there) and as usual it was well worth waiting for. Duly fortified, it was off to Belvo for the game. Sadly Clontarf were way too strong for the home side and won well; David, however, was brilliant in defence, with a number of tremendous tackles, including at least two try-saving ones, but he was to pay the price for his heroic defending when he went off in the second half, suffering from concussion.

We didn’t get to see much of him in attack as Clontarf bossed them in the pack, but as we left I could certainly say he is plenty good enough to play at that level – and if the rest of the team showed as much defiance and commitment, they might have done a good deal better.

Anyway, after the game we had a look in the clubhouse but, as it was packed to capacity, we decided to give a miss to the post-match celebrations and headed to De Brun’s in Castleknock where we had a bite to eat. The place has a good reputation, and in fairness to it, it lived up to our expectations. Then it was out to our daughter Lisa’s house, where we got ready for the night and shortly after 8 pm we were settling down in an already crowded O’Donoghue’s on Baggot Street, a pub made famous by the fact that The Dubliners set out on their musical journey many years ago from within its hallowed walls.

And the good news for me, as it’s at least 40 years since I was last in there, was that very little has changed – the first thing that hit us was the sound of traditional music being played by a large group of musicians just inside the front door, and the place itself had hardly changed at all. We managed to get ourselves seats at a little table, and I enjoyed a number of top quality pints of Guinness; by now there was live music in the three different downstairs bars, and a gentleman with long grey hair (he reminded me of someone), bombarded us with the peculiar sounds he was able to knock out of his mouth organ. I would have to admit I have heard better, but in a pub where a true Dub told me he could feel Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly’s presence, I was not going to run down any musician and felt privileged to be back in a place where musical history was made a few decades ago.

Time is catching up with me and, unusually, I pulled out of O’Donoghue’s before closing time, and was back in bed not too long after midnight, but I have to say I enjoyed one of my rare visits to the Capital and – even though I know it won’t happen – I resolved to go back again before too long and sample some more of the exceptional nightlife. The other great thing about towns and cities is the availability of public transport, and once again it highlighted the huge problems the people of rural Ireland face with the drink-driving laws.

Now I do not advocate drink-driving in any way, but as most rural areas have neither buses nor taxis, it is very difficult for lonely people to get out to socialise, and maybe a little leniency with the drink-driving laws might be of some help. Minister Shane Ross is trying to get an absolute nil drinks limit in and I think he should leave it as it is; it has always been my opinion that speed is a bigger factor in the many road accidents that ruin so many lives.

Anyway, a man from Moldova drove us home and, in fairness to him, he knew his way around the city the same as if he was a bred, born and reared Dub.

The truth about Enda and me

It’s yet another Monday morning and as I drove from Creggs to Athlone I realised for the first time that I have something in common with our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Both of us are about to become pensioners, but apart from us both having the free travel, that is where the similarity, sadly, ends.

 After working for close on fifty years, since 1968, I will get the weekly sum of €233, almost the full contributory pension, until I depart this mortal earth; Enda will get an annual sum of €124,000, almost two and a half thousand a week, until he too passes on along – with a little matter of a lump sum of close to €400,000. Now, if you know me, you will know that I would not be the slightest bit jealous (well maybe a little bit) about Enda’s good fortune, as he has given the people of Mayo, and latterly Ireland, a lot of his time and indeed his life since he was first elected to the Dáil in 1974.

  However, those people who feel he should be allowed to pick and choose when he steps down as leader of Fine Gael are totally misguided, as even the dogs on the street know he is now a lame duck Taoiseach – and, in a time of huge political instability, that’s the last thing we need; in my opinion he should go now and not waste any more time. He can console himself with his lump sum and maybe his beloved Mayo might even win the Sam Maguire.

And finally…

Finally for this week, and back to Dublin, where obviously the building boom is back again.

It was amazing to see the number of high rise cranes dotted all over the city. It was reminiscent of the Celtic Tiger years at their best and, especially in the docks area, building seems to be going on everywhere.

It’s no wonder we are being told that things are on the up and up, and all I can do is hope it doesn’t go belly up, like it did last time round. We’ll wait and see.

‘Till next week, bye for now!

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