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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

Rough medicine: Did this man really deserve a jail sentence?

 

 

On Thursday of last week a small report in the national newspapers told us that a family doctor in north county Dublin had been sent to jail for sixteen months for failure to pay almost €100,000 in income tax.

  The doctor, Dr. Bassam Naser, who has lived in Ireland for thirty years, and who has seven children, admitted his wrongdoing and was prepared to pay the €100,000 that he owed –and indeed had a cheque in court to cover the entire amount. Despite this, and the fact that he does a huge amount of charity work for his native Palestine, and that he has a vibrant popular medical practice, the Judge in his wisdom felt that he should send this man to prison.

  Now I am aware that people should pay their taxes, and I am not privy to all the relevant information that the good Judge had in front of him, but in this case I cannot see any benefit in sending a hard-working family man to jail.

  Every so often there is a list of tax defaulters published in the national newspapers, and in many cases the amounts involved can be much greater than the €100,000 that the doctor owed – and I have never heard of any of those people being incarcerated.

  I would have to say that back in the day tax evasion seems to have been almost a popular way of life amongst a lot of our ‘bigger’ business people.

  On the same page in the paper, there was a story of a 20-year-old lad who stole a bus while drunk, drove it around the M18 motorway, crashed it into a wall, doing more than €5,000 worth of damage to the bus (and the wall), and who then walked free from court – well, with fines totalling €600 and a four-year driving ban.

  Now, again I accept he made a stupid mistake, and more than likely won’t re-offend, but why he avoided prison when his drunk-driving could have resulted in a major accident (particularly on a motorway) – and the doctor didn’t – makes me once again wonder at the workings of our legal system.

  There seems to be a lot of disquiet about the prison sentence handed down to Dr. Naser, so  maybe something might yet be done. Personally I hope he is pardoned, let him pay what he owes, get on with his daily work, and continue to give what appears to be an excellent service to his many happy clients.

  Just out of curiosity I decided to have a look at the last list of tax defaulters published in Stubb’s Gazette, and in the last few years there were judgements of up to €750,000, several in the €300,000-€400,000 bracket, loads more above €200,000, a good number around the €100,000 figure, and as far as I could see they all came to some agreement with the Revenue, were listed as tax defaulters, and no-one was either sent to jail or criminalised.

  Why there is one law for the ‘Good Doctor’ and another one for the hundreds if not thousands of other tax avoiders beats me, and my gut reaction is that it’s very unfair and not morally correct.

Thank God for sporting heroics

All I can say is thank God for all the magnificent sports people who week in week out put on amazing entertainment in so many different sports to keep all of us sport fanatics glued to the TV screens. 

  Normally, with another local Galway- Roscommon derby on the horizon next Sunday, and the start of the 2018 Soccer World Cup also happening this week, those would be the events which would be occupying my mind on this lovely Monday morning.

  However, over the weekend there were a few happenings in other sports that captured my attention, notably the achievement of tennis player Rafael Nadal, when despite an agonising attack of cramp in – of all places – his serving hand, he won an incredible 11th French Open.

  I am not a regular viewer of tennis matches, so when I used my parental prerogative to watch the last couple of sets – instead of the Dublin and Longford mismatch – I have to admit that my popularity in the home was at an all-time low. However, the Spaniard overcame every obstacle and deservedly made his own piece of history, and at 32 years of age he – along with Roger Federer – is proving that the elder statesmen are still capable of dominating a game that is generally regarded as a young man’s sport.

  In boxing, Tyson Fury made a winning comeback in a fight that was a complete joke, when he forced Sefer Seferi, a limited opponent who was nearly 5 stone lighter than Fury, to retire after 4 rounds of comic book boxing. As I watched the action (not sure that’s the right word), the only thought in my mind was…if by any chance Fury slipped and fell on his opponent he might conceivably kill him – he definitely wasn’t going to do any major damage with his punching.

  Talking of punching, an unusual incident took place on Sunday during what was described as a weighing room fracas in Goodwood, when two jockeys, Raul Da Silva and Jim Crowley, had a disagreement which ended with Da Silva punching the former champion jockey, splitting his lip, and incurring a 21-day riding ban for ‘violent conduct’. We are always being told about the great camaraderie that exists between all the jockeys. Obviously not in this case, but why they bothered beats me – as Da Silva had finished last of nine runners, with Crowley in fifth place.

  That was certainly a battle of two lightweights, but back to next Sunday’s Connacht final and we have two heavyweights in Western football going head to head in a mouthwatering clash in the Hyde. I have my ticket got, must dig out my fading Tommy Varden jersey, and be ready for another Titanic battle.

  I won’t be popular with followers of the Tribesmen, but I am not convinced that they are deserving of all the hype they are getting, and bearing in mind that the Rossies beat them by nine points in Salthill last year, I am giving a very hesitant and reluctant vote to Roscommon, and I fear we’ll have another sad Sunday evening in Mikeen’s listening to the pontifications of our victorious neighbours.

  However, hope springs eternal, and maybe Damien Comer and the lads can dig deep and avenge last year’s defeat. Wouldn’t I, like Kevin Keegan famously said, love that!

And finally…

Finally for this week, the funds from the Barrie Harris Walk were distributed at a ‘do’ in Mikeen’s on Saturday night last, and we had a great night of music, porter and craic. To my cardiologist’s delight, I polished off several sandwiches, lovely cream eclairs and a few slices of Bina’s fabulous apple pie.

  I am back in training for the next St. Stephen’s Day Walk, and Saturday night’s break-out on the confectionary front is my last for at least a week or two as I have to mind my figure. Anyway, it was a great night, the Walk as usual was a great success, and almost €12,000 is being distributed to many worthy charities.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

A day with the ‘horsey set’ – and reflections on that phantom goal

 

It’s the Bank Holiday Monday, and I’m up with the lark (well maybe a slightly lazy lark), feeling fit as a fiddle (maybe a slightly rusty one), after a Sunday night spent at home (not a pint to be seen), watching the Sunday Game, and like the rest of the country, enjoying some extraordinary hurling drama, drama that I will get to a bit later on in the piece.

  Anyway, on Monday the big question was “where would we go?” There was a festival on in Loughglynn, the big fair day and loads of other attractions in Athleague, the final day of the Bloom Festival was on in Dublin, all attractive places to spend a few relaxing hours, but in the end we didn’t go to any of them – instead we hit for Mullingar, where a big international showjumping competition was taking place.

  Now I knew there had been qualifiers for several different classes taking place all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but nothing could, or would, have prepared us for the sheer size of the whole event.

  The first thing we saw was literally hundreds of horse lorries, horseboxes pulled by jeeps, vans, cars and SUVs, and there were people (old and young) everywhere, and as for ponies and horses…there had to be thousands of them there.

  Our girl, Tara, who had a very successful show, had arranged to meet us, but we didn’t realise there were four big outdoor sand arenas, all hosting different competitions, along with warm-up areas, bars, fast food outlets, ice cream sellers, horse clothing stalls and hurdy gurdy stalls all over the massive area. It took a few minutes and a few phone calls before we finally met up.

  Anyway she was involved in a competition in which 176 horses had taken part over the three days, so as that was only one of several different competitions, it will give you an idea of how many horses and riders had come to Mullingar. So she headed off to do her stuff and we pottered round the place.

  There was a major international show taking place on the Main Arena, with prize-money of €25,000, so the attendance there was huge, but we rambled from arena to arena and had great fun watching all the classes from ponies with children as young as four years old to fellas as long in the tooth as myself. I have to say it was a great day’s entertainment.  

  The Mullingar Equestrian Centre is just out of this world, and worth a visit if you get the chance. The organisation, from parking to looking after very busy toilets, to even picking up the rubbish, was first class, and before I finish I have to say that we had the nicest burgers we ever tasted from the Arena’s food area. In total, there was €100,000 on offer, and with the prize-money so big, needless to say the riders and horses came from all over the country  and further afield too. In our short enough visit we met people from Tyrone, Waterford, Donegal and Tipperary.

  Now I am the first to admit that I am not a horsey person, but I did enjoy the day out. If Mullingar was anything to go by, the horse industry seems to be in fairly good health, even to my uneducated eye.

  Anyway, back to the hurling drama, and as we watched one of the jumping competitions we got talking to a young couple with three children, who were seated beside us. They were from Bernaderg, Padraig Joyce country, and it transpired that the man, Paul, was the son of Oliver King, a great Galway man who had been a guard in Creggs and who had introduced a lot of us to the game of hurling way back in the 1980s. It also happened that Oliver was the umpire at the Tipp/Waterford match, the one who didn’t flag (lucky for him) the controversial goal, so he’s blameless, but in this day and age, with so much riding on the result of these big games, it was one of the most outrageous umpiring and refereeing errors of all time.

  The Waterford manager, Derek McGrath, was amazingly forgiving about it all, but surely goal-line technology has to be brought into most if not all of the major hurling grounds. Thankfully when Oliver lined out for Creggs in the junior hurling championship our backline was so watertight that no ball ever got near the goal, and as a result we never needed any major umpiring decisions. Come to think of it, we never had any umpires so controversy never arose.

Like Karius, I  had concussion…

 Talking of goals, and errors, way back in the 1980s I let in one of the softest goals of all time in the County Final against Ballinameen. What happened? I let a long-range kick bounce off the ground, and thinking it was going wide, I made no effort to stop it. Of course it ended up in the back of the net.

 

  It was something similar to what the Liverpool goalie (Karius) did in the recent Champions League final (although he at least tried to save their third goal), but now it seems that, according to doctors in the U.S., he was suffering from concussion after a clash with Sergio Ramos (who else?).

  For a long time the goal that I conceded has been heavy on my mind, but I finally know what happened, and I am now declaring that I too was concussed on that fateful day (as I certainly had a headache the following morning). Like Karius, I am not to blame for that unfortunate concession.  

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, don’t forget the Barrie Harris funds are being distributed this Saturday night in Mikeen’s in Creggs.

  There will be music, refreshments and craic, and all are welcome. It will kick off about 9.30 pm, so we’ll see you there.

Till next week, Bye for now!

‘Real’ plight for ‘Pool: Karius and Bale…you couldn’t make it up!

 

 

Exaggeration and sport definitely go hand in hand, and even at low levels of competition, some sporting achievements grow legs, and especially in rugby. Tries by prop forwards, which, in reality, were nothing more than a push and a grunt from a yard or two, eventually involved a couple of 100 yard sprints, several outrageous dummies, before a scoring finish, completed by a flying dive, that would do justice to an Olympic high-diving final.

  Even in my unremarkable rugby career I once upon a time dropped a goal for Dundalk against Longford, in a Provincial towns cup game, from just about the halfway line, which in fairness was quite a decent kick!

  In Dundalk at the time, one of the great characters was a fellow called Paddy Boland, who was universally known as ‘the Bowler’, and who had, for some reason, good time for me. Before I left the Co. Louth town, the Bowler would tell anyone who cared to listen that my kick was scored from all of one hundred yards. It is doubtful if it was even half that far, but time and several pints of the best McArdles ale gave it the extra fifty or so yards.

  Another time, when I was enjoying a very short football career with Roscommon, Telefis Eireann showed highlights of the Rossies’ league match of 1974 – in which I took part – against the then All-Ireland champions, Cork.

  A number of our Creggs rugby lads were watching the game in the rugby club in Sligo, and by some miracle, I scored a goal and a couple of points, and so moved by my performance was a member of the audience, a Ballinasloe man who was also a selector with the Connacht junior rugby side, that he announced to all and sundry that I would be playing with the Connacht juniors, and that I, as a scrum-half, had a forty-yard pass. Now, he was totally carried away, because firstly I wasn’t picked for the Juniors, but, more importantly, my maximum pass, even with a gale-force wind helping me, would have been closer to forty feet (some might even say forty inches) than forty yards.

  All of these things flashed through my mind on Saturday evening as I watched Liverpool’s valiant bid for European honours being dismantled by a combination of Mo Salah’s injury, a goal by Gareth Bale that has to be the best ever scored in a Champions League final, and two of the greatest goalkeeping errors of all time, and I thought to myself that no amount of exaggeration can ever come close to the reality of the actual events.

  Now I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a long-time supporter of Manchester Utd., but for some reason I have never bought into the supposed hatred that exists between Liverpool and Utd. I actually have a high regard for the Merseyside Reds, and I was definitely not amongst the Utd. fans who hoped for a Madrid victory.

  Now because we had such a wonderful couple of years with Ronaldo, I would still have a soft spot for him, but as I settled down to watch the final, I really wasn’t bothered as to who would win, and all I was hoping for was a match worthy of the occasion. And so the stage was set for a great game, and for the first half hour or so, it looked as if Liverpool were by far the better team. They had the much-vaunted Madrid men chasing shadows. Then everything changed when the wonderful Mo Salah went off injured – and from there to the finish the game had a totally different feel. 

  And yet Madrid were doing nothing to suggest they were capable of winning their three-in-a-row, until the Liverpool goalie, Karius, made the first of two unbelievable mistakes that nothing could prepare him or the supporters or the management team for. The two errors he made will never be forgotten by any of the millions of people who saw them, and as I say, the enormity of the mistakes can never be exaggerated. My immediate reaction is to be sorry for Karius, and I genuinely hope he can get over the terrible personal disappointment that he suffered, and maybe he can still have a decent career, but probably not in Liverpool. And then we had the Bale overhead kick that was just sensational, and all of a sudden, and totally undeservedly, Real Madrid were celebrating their own momentous achievement and Jurgen Klopp and his men were left to dwell on what might have been.

  I like Klopp, and I was proud to see him singing with a group of supporters at six o’clock the next morning –definitely my type of manager. I for one believe he will conquer England and Europe in the next few years.

A hero amidst the horror

The brutal murders of Jastine Valdez, Ana Kriegel and Cameron Reilly in the last few weeks have both shocked and horrified the nation, and begs the question as to what kind of society we have become.

  All three incidents resulted in three young, innocent lives being lost in the most appalling circumstances, but I have to say that the possibility that Cameron Reilly was actually killed in front of a number of witnesses, male and female, who watched as he was strangled to death, and did nothing to prevent it, and have kept their mouths shut since, is just mind-boggling.

  If it is true, then I sincerely hope the Gardai can get to the bottom of it and ensure that everyone there pays the price for their actions – or in this case their inactions.

  Compare that to the heroism displayed by Mamoudou Gassama, the 22-year-old illegal immigrant in Paris, when he scaled a four-storey apartment building with his bare hands to save a four-year-old child from falling to a certain death, without any thought for his own safety. How good to know that in a world that seems to have less and less regard for morals, or human goodness, there is still an odd one out there that can restore some faith in human nature – I am delighted to see that the French have acknowledged the young man’s magnificent deed by making him a citizen, offering him a job with the Fire Brigade and arranging a private meeting with the French Michael D., President Emmanuel Macron. As they say over there Bien joue – that’s ‘well done’ in French.

And finally…

Finally for this week, our own First Lady out here in Creggs – Bina Harris – tells me that the distribution of the proceeds of the Barrie Harris Walk will take place in Mikeen’s on Saturday, 9th of June at 10 pm, and there will be music, all kinds of goodies, and a bit of craic. Everyone is invited.

  In this area, the Barrie Harris Walk is by far the biggest and best fundraiser, and each year contributes hugely to several local and indeed national and international charities, and the walk itself has become such an important event that people travel from all over the country to take part each St. Stephen’s Day.

  So make a date in your diary and head to Mikeen’s on Saturday, 9th of June, and we’ll see you there for a few pints and a bit of fun – might even get a song from the legendary Danny Burke.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

No Stones left unturned in frantic attempt to locate Ed tickets!

 

 

 

What a week we have had on the entertainment front with Ed Sheeran finishing off his nine-show tour of Ireland, during which he performed to 400,000 people (and grossed earnings of about €35 million) and as soon as he was finishing up in came four legendary rockers, the Rolling Stones, who I’m told absolutely blew 70,000 fans away in their Croke Park gig.

  I have to say that, in their different ways, I regard both acts as heroes. How one man and a guitar can put on such a wonderful show as the English-born redhead, Sheeran, always does (so I’m told) is quite astonishing, but it’s nearly more amazing that four elderly (I’m being kind) gentlemen whose combined ages total 294 years, with the youngest member of the group a mere 70 years young, can still wow an audience of 70,000 people.

  A lad I know who is a full-on Stones fan, and who has been to several of their shows down the years, told me that the gig in Croker was as good as he had ever seen or heard. It seems that like good wine they are getting better with age.    

  Anyway, back to Ed Sheeran, and last Sunday week my daughter went back to Dublin and inadvertently left an envelope with three tickets to the Wednesday night concert sitting on the mantelpiece in our sitting room. There was a small panic, but then we remembered there is a Post Office service called Express Post that (I am quoting directly from the receipt that I got) is guaranteed to get your delivery to its destination in the Republic of Ireland the next working day.

  And so, shortly after 9 am on last Monday morning, I paid the €8.25 fee in the Post Office and off went my three tickets to Dublin, and off I went home happy in the knowledge that, yet again, I had come to the rescue and another mini-crisis had been averted.

  Tuesday came and went, and when no tickets had made it to D15 there was no panic whatsoever – they would surely make it on Wednesday.

  My daughter was working through the night and when she got home about 11 am on the Wednesday and no letter had arrived, the alarm bells (and my mobile phone) began to ring. Thanks to Claire in our local PO I had kept my receipt, which had a tracking number, and so I began a series of phone calls to the Dublin phone number thereon, and I found out that it had definitely got as far as Dublin 12, but there the trail ended.

  As I write this on Monday evening of this week, seven and a half days later, that is where the tale ends. Why it never got to D15 they had no idea, but they promised they would look into it; that was last Friday and the very nice girl in Dublin that I spoke to just now has come to the conclusion that the letter is lost and unlikely to turn up at this stage. Even if it does, the concert is long over and the tickets would not be much use. In fairness, she told me how to go about getting my €8.25 back.

  I am very well aware that no blame lies with anyone in our local post office, and indeed I suppose no blame really lies with anyone, but all that surprises me is that in 2018 we cannot be sure that a letter posted in Creggs will make it to Dublin. Several people have said to me that if I had sent it by ordinary post (costing one euro) it would probably have got there, but I suppose we’ll never know. All I can say is my experience with Express Post has left me less than impressed.

  However, remarkably, there was a twist in the tale, as a friend advised me to send an email to Ticketmaster explaining my predicament, and some time after 3 o’clock on Wednesday evening I sent off my first communication. Several emails later I am delighted to tell you that the three tickets were re-printed and my daughter and her friends made it to the concert, and after all the drama, they said it – of course – was the best ever. 

  So all’s well that ends well, and while I have heard the odd criticism of Ticketmaster, I must say they were extremely helpful to us and went out of their way to ensure the matter was sorted out in a satisfactory manner.

Parking the bus (but still travelling along the road)

 

 

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am all set (even had an early dinner) to really enjoy the football game that everyone said would be one of the games of the summer…the local derby between Galway and Mayo.

  I am writing this on Monday evening – and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the horrible game that we had to sit through on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon. I suppose, as a Galway man, I should laugh – because, bad and all as it was to win such a turgid affair, it must be terrible altogether to lose it.

  The expression ‘parking the bus’ has managed to work its way into the English language to describe soccer teams who are overly defensive, but on Sunday there were so many buses parked that I doubted if Bus Eireann would have any left to take people back to anywhere. As a result, we had one of the most boring games I have ever had to look at.

  In fairness, Galway managed to put one excellent move together, which resulted in Johnny Heaney’s match-deciding goal, and maybe in that one move we saw a glimpse of what the Tribesmen could be capable of. It is my opinion that Sligo in Markievicz Park will be a tough task for Galway, but if they get through that one, unless there is a huge improvement the Rossies will have far too much for them if they meet in the Connacht final.

  As I watched both teams slow the game down to walking pace in the second half, and as players passed the ball backways and sideways, I was reminded of a story the great Galway supporter, and local photographer, Gerry O’Loughlin told me when I met him in Roscommon town in the tyre centre owned by one of the greatest Rossie footballing families of all, the Lohans, whose sons Stephen, Eddie and Gerry all wore the primrose and blue with honour and pride.

  Anyway, Gerry O’L told me of a well-known Mountbellew goalkeeper, back a little while ago, who, as well as bringing out his gloves and his cap, would also bring ten cigarettes and a box of matches – in his socks. During the game whenever things were quiet and the ball was at the other end of the field, he would light up and have a pull. As I watched the ball go over and back across McHale Park on Sunday, I thought to myself that had this man been in the Galway goals, ten fags would not have been enough. He would have to bring twenty, as the only balls our goalie had to deal with in the 70 minutes were a few backpasses from his own players. I don’t think he ever had a save to make from anyone wearing the Green and Red of Mayo.

  Before I leave the Castlebar match, the tendency every year is to write off Mayo, and every year they come back to confound their critics. This year it may be a step too far. If it is, it should not take away from the fact that this Mayo team was one of the best ever from the West and were very unlucky not to have taken home the Sam Maguire.

  As for Galway, this jury (that’s me) is very much out, but I suppose on mature reflection, any day we beat Mayo has to be seen as a good day.

A great day in  Lovely Leitrim!

It’s Friday afternoon of last week, and myself and Carol (my long-suffering wife) are heading off to the lovely Leitrim town of Mohill, where Mairead Morgan, daughter of my next-door neighbours Tommy and Eileen, is about to tie the knot with Stephen Flatley, a Dubliner with – as I find out later – a large number of Oran roots.

  The ceremony takes place in the very impressive parish Church in the middle of the town, and then it’s off to the renowned and internationally acclaimed Lough Rynn Castle for a reception that was every bit as good as you would expect from a venue of such repute.

  It was our first time to pay a visit to the Hanly-owned castle, as even though Brian O’Driscoll and his lovely wife Amy Huberman got married there a few years ago, our invitation must have got lost in the post, and we didn’t make their hooley. This time however, I made it in good time, and I have to say everything totally blew me away. As someone who passes some of my time on the sales floor of an antique shop (Lynn Antiques in Athlone), I took a special interest in the surroundings and the fabulous furniture, and I have to say it was so amazing to see such an array of exquisite pieces, but impressive as that end of it was, it was the brilliant service and attention to detail that really set the place apart.

  Nowadays, there are very many top class wedding venues all around the west and the midlands, and all of them are thoroughly professional and do an excellent job. The sheer elegance and I suppose opulence of Lough Rynn makes it a very special location, and I was happy to see that it lived up to all my expectations. Needless to say the food was superb, and the music and dancing was top class. We had a great crowd of my neighbours in attendance, and all told it was a great day.

  All that’s left is to wish Mairead and Stephen a long, happy life together. As they say ‘May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back’.

And finally…

Finally for this week, as a family we said farewell to our sister-in-law, Theresa, who sadly passed away on Monday week after a long battle with illness.

  All I can say about Theresa is that the local parish priest in Clonberne, Fr. Tommy Cummins, summed her up perfectly in his Homily when he said she was a kind, sweet and gentle soul – and that’s exactly what she was.

  We will all miss her, but obviously Peadar and their children will miss her the most, and all I can say is may she rest in peace.

Football, and the game of life: A tale of two legendary managers

 

 

 

Sometimes, in my deeper moments (not too many of them) I have a look at myself and I wonder if sport plays too big a part in my life, because, in truth, almost all of my interests involve some kind of sporting activity.

  For example, nowadays I rely on a bit of walking, and even less golfing, (although I intend to change that this year) for my physical exercise, but the truth is that I have a ridiculous interest in every sport, from GAA to rugby to soccer – which isn’t too bad – but tennis, snooker, golf, athletics, boxing, horseracing and showjumping also feature in my ‘sporting repertoire’.

  I try to keep myself updated at all times on what is going on in the sporting world. And so this week, we have had some amazing moments to savour, from Leitrim’s great escape in New York to Tony Bellew’s destruction of the legend that once was David Haye (in the world of boxing), to the wonderfully entertaining World Snooker Final, in which 42-year-old Mark Williams beat his old rival John Higgins by 18 frames to 16 – and, finally, we had a moment of magic from Simon Zebo to help Munster make it over the line in their Top 14 quarter-final tie against Edinburgh in Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon.

  On the subject of Leitrim’s win in New York, on Monday morning I was up early, having had an alcohol-free Sunday night, and I heard some fellow on one of the early-morning TV shows waxing eloquently about the wonderful commentary on Shannonside Radio by the one and only Willie Hegarty. There is no doubt that Willie is a one-off and a celebrated local treasure.

  However, amongst all the sporting activity on the actual fields of play that took place last weekend, it was the fortunes (or misfortunes) of two football managers that made the biggest impact on me. Obviously the sudden illness that struck down former Man. Utd. manager Sir Alex Ferguson was a massive shock, as all the football world viewed him as indestructible, and the outpouring of good wishes since then has shown, despite his hard man image, that he is really highly thought of and well loved by everyone involved in the beautiful game.

  However, for me the man of the week was the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, who, in the emotion of his last game at home as the Gunners manager, still had time to mention his arch-rival, Fergie, in his final speech. His dignity in bidding farewell to a club that effectively fired him was just fabulous.

  In my opinion there is no doubt that Wenger’s teams, all through his tenure, played the most attractive football of all, and, even if the Premiership title only came their way three times in his 22 years there, he did win seven FA Cups and –more importantly – his teams played football as it should be played.

  I wonder does Jose Mourinho get the Roscommon People? It might inspire him to get Utd. to play a bit of attractive, attacking football. I expect to see Wenger back in management again, and as for Sir Alex, as a United fan, I can only hope he makes a full and complete recovery.

Why I’m with the Healy-Raes on this one…

On to other matters, and I see where Shane Ross is setting up a pilot ‘drink-link’ bus service in some parts of the country which would bring people to and from rural pubs. 

  The Healy Raes think it’s only nonsense, and for once I think they are absolutely right. An occasional bus service in a rural area will not solve anything, and I still believe the only way to go is to give special taxi or hackney licences to someone in a local area, at a reduced cost (insurance, tax, and any other hidden charges) if such a person is prepared to provide a good service to his or her community.

  The country pubs are still dying on their feet, but you would have to wonder if there is any political will out there to try to help a very grave situation. Surely there should be enough brain power in the corridors of power to come up with a workable solution.

  Not too many years ago, we were lucky enough to have an unofficial hackney man in this area, and he brought people safely to their homes after a night out. Something along those lines might still be the answer now.

A big night for Creggs RFC

More than 40 years ago a little rugby club was formed out here in our little village, and today it is still going strong and is now about to embark on one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by a club of its size.

  To go back to our early days, we played at first in a field given to us by our parish priest – at the back of the local Church in Kilbegnet – while later on we had a pitch in Kilmore which had a heavy electricity wire crossing the middle which diverted many a ball from its original flight path, and caused quite a bit of controversy. Later on, the club acquired land in the village itself, and The Green has been the home of Creggs RFC for a number of years now.

  However, as the time has gone on, numbers at underage have greatly increased, and to keep up with the enormous growth at both underage and senior levels, in September the club hopes to unveil the first 3/4 G pitch in Connacht, along with two new sand-based pitches, a development that will of course cost an enormous amount of money.

  To this end, Creggs RFC are holding a massive draw, with a total of 26 prizes, which takes place on Saturday night next in the Rugby Club. So if you have a tenner to spare, buy a ticket and support a club that has greatly exceeded its original expectations.

  Funny enough, the season just ending has been one of the most successful on the playing pitches in the 44-year history, with great success at every level, resulting in us being nominated as the Connacht club of the year, along with Ballina (winners) and Sligo. So, the future look bright in every way, and as I say, all support is very welcome. Here’s to Saturday night, and hopefully you will take home one of the wonderful prizes on offer (but leave one for me).

And finally…

Finally for this week, I’ve been asked to remind everyone out there who raised any money for the Barrie Harris Walk that the committee wants to get the matter sorted out as soon as possible, and ask you to get your cards and money back to any committee member as quickly as you can.

  The Barrie Harris Walk is still one of the biggest charity fundraiser efforts in this area and each year many local charities benefit from the funds raised so please get the money in and continue to make this a vitally important and successful community fundraising effort.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Winds of change in (still) sunny Spain!

 

 

 

It’s Saturday night of last week, and Carol and myself are on the 2.30 Citylink bus to Dublin Airport, from where we are heading to Alicante – hopefully leaving the horrible Irish weather behind us for ten days or so.

  For some reason the bus goes into the city centre before going back out to the Airport, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but nonetheless we are deposited at the departure area with plenty of time to spare for our 6.30 am flight.  

  We check in and have the full Irish breakfast, which – remarkably – is good value (for an airport) and we then make our way to the security area. The chaos that greeted us there had to be seen to be believed. There were hundreds of people queuing up to get through, as every flight in the place must have been going out at 6.30, and for some reason the security people seemed to be checking most of the hand luggage bags. Of course they decided to go through Carol’s, and it took us ages before we eventually got our clearance to go ahead.

  By now it was 6.20 am, and I was strolling along with not a bother on me (although Carol was telling me to hurry up) – when all of a sudden the news came over the loudspeaker that flight whatever-it-was to Alicante was now closed.

  My leisurely stroll turned into a full sprint (not really, but a little bit more than a walk) and after flying down a seemingly never-ending walkway, and a few flights of stairs, we found ourselves at the Ryanair gate, where, thankfully there was one girl still on duty. She was kind enough to allow us through. We were the last ones to get on – by the skin of our teeth – but off we went and three hours later we were enjoying some of the beautiful Spanish sunshine.

  And that, funny enough, was another thing that has definitely changed over the years, because there is no doubt that this climate change thing is affecting every part of the world. Spain has had extremely windy weather for the last number of months, and in the ten days that we have been here, we have seen more wind (although they say you can’t see wind) and rain than we saw in the fifteen previous years of our visits. However, a lot of the positives are still in place; the cost of eating and drinking is way less than at home, there is still loads of warm sunshine, the craic is still ninety, and best of all, the postman can’t find you – so all the bills that are constantly flying in through the letterbox are forgotten about for a little while at least.

  The Irish pubs on the Strip, particularly the Bog Road and O’Riordans, are full of interesting people too. As I sat at the counter  in the Bog one night, I got talking to a fellow beside me. It turned out he was one Buster Carroll, a man I had played rugby with in Dundalk all of forty-four years ago. We had great craic reminiscing on some of the times we shared all those years ago, and I have promised to visit him in Dundalk in the near future. Knowing me and my ability (when I have a few pints) to make plans to go everywhere – which I never follow through on – the chances are that I’ll never make it to Dundalk, but it was great to meet him and catch up after so many years.

  My brother, The Rasher, was out here as well, as was my daughter Lisa, and her boyfriend Brian, and so we had a few nice family nights, the highlight of which was dancing the night away to our good friend Elvis (Greg Traynor), on a couple of nights in the Slievenamon and the Randy Leprauchan.

  Anyway, as I am writing this we have only one day left in the Costa Blanca, and by the time you get to read this, I will be trying to work my way through the bundle of lovely letters the postman, Michael Melia, has left for me – can’t wait to get home.

Wishing soccer violence victim Sean a full recovery

Even though I am a Manchester United supporter for a long time now, I have always had a liking for our great rivals (and almost enemies) Liverpool. To this day my two visits to Anfield rank amongst the greatest sporting occasions of my life. I have said it before – that the singing of You’ll Never Walk Alone just before kick-off is one of the most powerful, emotive things I have ever heard, and is a memory I will never ever forget.

  And so to see the new Liverpool totally dismantle a woeful Roma side last week in the Champions League semi-final, when the attacking display from the Reds was simply awesome, should have been another sporting memory. In reality, it was overshadowed by the appalling violence carried out by the Roma supporters which left Dunboyne man, Sean Cox, fighting for his life, and which, a week later, he is still doing. Now obviously it’s impossible to police every club’s followers, but the Roma thugs are well-known for their mindless violence. Surely the trouble should have been anticipated in advance and extra reinforcements should have been called in.

  I am writing this on Tuesday evening, with the second leg due to take place tomorrow, and I can only hope it goes ahead without any of the trouble that marred the Anfield clash. Why is it that soccer matches always seem to attract trouble makers and trouble, while you can have crowds of 80,000 and more at rugby and GAA games without a hint of violence?

  The Man. Utd. side of me says I should wish for a Roma comeback, but I can’t think like that and I hope the Liverpool men make the final, and, much more importantly I hope Sean Cox wins his battle and makes a total recovery.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s now Wednesday morning, and after all the years coming to the Spanish resort of Cabo Roig, last night I came across a late-night bar called The Caribbean, and we had the greatest bit of craic of all time dancing to the exclusively Latino music.

  I have always claimed to be one of the top jivers in the Creggs area, but after last night I realise I should have been from somewhere in South America. I don’t like boasting too much, but I am confident that there were dance moves produced in The Caribbean last night that have never been seen anywhere before. Can’t wait to go back there!

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

How my encounter with Big Tom revealed a kind gentle giant

 

 

As a young lad, back in the 1950s and into the ‘60s, I spent a lot of my school holidays on the large farm that my uncle, Michael, had in North Tipperary. It was there that I would start my (fairly good) social life – in my teens – in company with some of the local lads that lived in the local area.

  At the time, the Las Vegas ballroom in Templemore was the big local attraction and as often as we could, myself and Donal Kennedy (who lived next door) would hit for the weekend dances in the Reynolds’ owned dancehall. I told you before of a very scary night when Donal met a young lady and disappeared – and I had to walk the fourteen miles home. No problem there except that the very lonely road took me by the haunted house known as Heenan’s, and I don’t think I have ever run as fast (before or since) as I did that night…past the forbidding front of the two- storey house, with every hair on my neck standing with sheer fear and downright terror.

  Anyways, it goes without saying that Big Tom  and his band were often playing there (The Las Vegas, not Heenan’s) to full houses, but it was in the old Ormond Hotel in Nenagh in the very late ‘60s, or maybe even early ‘70s, that I had my one and only encounter with the country music legend.

  Now it wasn’t an especially memorable encounter, as it took place in the men’s toilet at the end of a Big Tom gig, but it left a permanent mark on me – because at the time I was a little bit of a cheeky lad and not really a fan of the big man. Fuelled by a little bit too much to drink, I tried to have a go at the Gentle Giant and his music, but all I got back was a completely relaxed, even kindly reaction, and, by the time I left that men’s loo  I realised that Big Tom was way above that type of petty and cheap criticism.

  And, as has been so evident this week, as the country and the world reacts to his death, he really was a humble, lovely man, who was at home with the lowest member of society (me, that night), as he was with the top stars – even royalty – that he would come to meet at later stages in his amazing career.

  Many times down the eleven years during which this column has been coming your way, we have talked about the magical days and nights of the local carnivals, and the huge part they played in the lives of so many communities. There can be no doubt that not only here, but across the Irish Sea too, Big Tom played as big a part as anyone. In fact, just as with the late Joe Dolan, the devotion of his fans is legendary, and the genuine shock and sadness at his death is a true reflection of his standing in the world of Irish entertainment.

  As for me, it took a long time for me to become a fan, but nowadays, if you ever visit me in the shop in Athlone, you could well have to listen to Gentle Mother or Four Roads to Glenamaddy, or one of the many other songs I have on some of Big Tom’s tapes. As he departs from this stage, I am glad to be able to say I spoke to him once and that I experienced – even in a small way – the humility and kindness that set Big Tom apart! May he rest in peace.

Great ‘Late Late’ tribute…but why was Ronan there?

On this Saturday morning I am still buzzing from the fantastic Late Late country music show that went out last night (Friday) on RTE television. If ever there was a fitting, timely tribute to any man (Big Tom), last night’s show was certainly a well-deserved tribute to the big man from Castleblaney.

  The cream of Irish country music were all there, and it was a show I would love to have been at. The outpouring of grief at Big Tom’s death, but also the joyful celebration of his life, was just lovely to see. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  The difference in generations was very evident in our house last night, because even though three of our four children were in the house, not one of them had any interest in joining us to watch the show, and they only came into the sitting room when Ryan Tubridy and his guests were gone off the air.

  One of the things that caught my attention was the relatively small number of women who make it in the world of country music, with only seven or eight featuring on the show. These included the newest kids on the block… Lisa McHugh (my favourite) and Cliodhna Hagan, along with old-time greats Gloria and Philomena Begley. Philomena is some craic  and a real trooper too.

  On the other hand, there were several male stars on stage. The highlight for me was the duet by Daniel O’Donnell and Michael English, which was really brilliant.

  The other big talking point – for me and Carol at least – was this: what in the name of God was Ronan Keating doing on a country music show? While he sang a duet with Lisa McHugh, I didn’t think he should have been there along with all the real country music stars who were on the show. I can think of loads of others – like Brendan Shine, Mick Flavin, Hugo Duncan and Brendan Quinn – who weren’t there, all of whom have contributed greatly to the rise and rise of country music, and all of whom would have deserved to be on the show a lot more than the Boyzone singer.

  However, I am probably being a bit picky now, so forgive me Ryan! It was a fantastic production, and if my hips and the gout and the blood pressure and the ticker and the diabetes had all been perfect, I would definitely have spent the night hopping around the sitting room. As it was, I sat quietly in my armchair, but I have to say it was one of the best shows I have seen in a long, long time. Roll on next year, and I will move Heaven and earth to get a ticket.

And finally…

Finally for this week, and it’s back to the world of professional football, where the stepping down of Arsene Wenger as manager of Arsenal shows once again that there is no room for loyalty or compassion in the harsh confines of the club boardrooms.

  It is apparent today that the French man went before he was pushed, which is a very sad way to end a wonderful career. Even as a Man. Utd. fan I am happy to say that his teams played the most delightful attacking football and were an absolute joy to watch. They were also pretty successful, with three Premiership titles and seven FA Cups going to the Arsenal under his leadership.

  I suppose after twenty-two years in charge it may be time to move on, but I think Wenger  deserved better than to be made feel he had to go, and I for one admired the way he had all his teams playing football as it should be played. There was no parking the bus – as defensive football is now described – under Wenger, and I applaud him for that and hope he stays in football for a few more years at least.

  Au revoir Arsene, bon voyage, et merci beaucoup (that’s a bit of French, Leaving Cert 1968).

Till next week, Bye for now!

Saluting the selfless people who brighten up our world

 

 

 

 

The older I get (by the way I clocked up another birthday last Saturday but it’s okay if you didn’t send the card) the more I realise that so many bad things are happening in the world, from domestic violence to cyber bullying to appalling acts of war.

  And so many people live their lives in a permanent state of fear, be it someone in mortal fear of his, or her, partner, or children who dread every day they have to go to school knowing they face another day of unrelenting bullying, or all the citizens of war-torn regions, where every day is a challenge just to stay alive.

  Of course the media will publicise all the bad things that happen, no matter what form they take, and so it was a great pleasure for me to see the People of the Year Awards on television on Sunday night and realise that there are also so many good decent selfless and caring human beings in this country.

  Now I am not one of those who are blinded by Grainne Seoige’s good looks or charming smile, and as a presenter I can take or leave her, but I have to say that she is brilliant at these type of shows, and I thought she was an excellent host, along with Aidan Power (who I had never heard of before last night). It restored my faith in humanity to see and hear of so many acts of bravery, kindness, and just natural goodness.

  I know I shouldn’t pick any recipients above the others, but I thought the joint young Person of the Year Harry and Molly Flynn from Kilkenny were just amazing, and the award for Catherine Corless and her fearless work in exposing the truth about the Tuam babies was very well deserved.

  Also among the award winners were the people of Ballaghaderreen, being recognised for their kindness in welcoming the Syrian refugees into their town, Colette Byrne, who set up a website Widow.ie to help grieving people come to terms with the death of a partner, Ifrah Ahmed, who campaigns to stop female genital mutilation, rugby referee Joy Neville, the Irish Coastguard – and several others.

  Each and every one was a deserving winner, and all of them were there because they put others’ welfare before their own.

Local heroes expose multimillionaires!

On Saturday evening I made it to Rockfield to see Oran pip our lads by a point in a tough, hard-fought derby game in the Intermediate Championship.

  Even though we lost, I enjoyed the competitive edge in a game that while maybe not the highest in quality terms  was interesting all the way through and one which could have gone either way.

  The pitch was very heavy, and it was difficult to hop the ball, but each of the players gave their all and left nothing behind them on the field of play.

  Then on Sunday afternoon I watched the multimillionaires of Manchester United go through the motions against bottom of the table West Brom – and lose 1-0 at home –  and I doubt if they even cared that by losing that game they gave the title to their neighbours, Manchester City, and will have made life miserable for at least a week for one half of Manchester.

  On Saturday evening our lads went back to Mikeen’s, had a few pints and a bite to eat – and a good bit of craic. I wondered where would the United millionaires go  after their pathetic display against managerless West Brom. They could hardly show their faces in the city, so I suppose they had to slink home and console themselves that they had earned thousands upon thousands of pounds since last week, and know that no matter how poorly they play they will continue to draw their immoral wages, at least until their contract runs out…

  Give me Rockfield or Creggs, or any other local club ground, in any sport, any time, and at least we will see lads give all they have – no matter how little it is – for the honour and glory of their little village.

I shouldn’t say this, but…

If ever a man should keep his mouth shut  and say nothing about medical stuff, then I am that man, because without modern medicine and the breakthroughs that have occurred down through the years in many different areas, there is no doubt that I would be a long-time permanent resident in Kilbegnet graveyard, and I would now, as they say, be pushing up the daisies.

  However I am still above the ground, not too far mind you, and at the moment suffering from a bad cold – maybe not a flu, but close enough – and it has me wondering about the benefits of the flu jab.

  Now I am not in any way suggesting that the jab does not work, and there are thousands upon thousands of our elderly people, of whom I am one, who benefit each year from getting it. But for some unknown reason on the two years that I have got the jab recently, each time I have got a slightly watered down version of the flu virus.

  The funny thing is I haven’t bothered with it for about five or six years because of how sick I got the last time…but this year I said I’d get it again, and lo and behold, I also got the flu, or at least a bad cold. Again, in none of the years in between had I even the slightest cold, so I just wonder was I unlucky or is it possible that the flu jab is not all it’s cracked up to be.

  I am a great believer in hot lemons, and a spoon or two of honey poured in, but this time, after two weeks or more, I am still coughing and spluttering, and my nose is so runny it could solve the Dublin water crisis. So therefore, I’m wondering what’s going on! Whatever it is, I will not be taking up my offer of next year’s flu jab.

A warm welcome to Tom and Jenny

In Creggs we have recently been delighted to welcome our own celebrity couple, nutritionist Tom Coleman, who has worked with (amongst others) rugby international Jamie Heaslip and ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor – and his wife, Venezuela-born Jeeny Maltese, who has a passion for food, health and beauty, and is called the ‘Latin Nigella Lawson’ by many.

  Recently Jeeny has become a television favourite with appearances on a number of prime time shows, and last Saturday night the duo hosted a very successful cookery demonstration in the School Hall, with all proceeds going to the renowned Sunshine Room. Sadly we were otherwise engaged in Rockfield, and couldn’t make it, but I am told there was a massive crowd and that everyone enjoyed it. Well done Tom and Jeeny, and a belated welcome to Creggs.

  I have always fancied myself as a bit of a chef (ask Kevin Gavin about my world-renowned peppered steak) so please God I’ll make the next one.

Fashion Show – for a great cause

Finally for this week, my good friend Sean Beirne has asked me to tell you all about a big Fashion Show which his sister, Anne Marie, is organising. In aid of the Roscommon/Mayo Hospice, it’s taking place in the Abbey Hotel on Thursday, 26th of April, starting at 7.30 pm.

  Mary Claire Grealy and Niall Canning are the comperes, it’s a great cause, tickets are only €10 and are available at local Bank of Ireland branches in Co. Roscommon. I’m sure you can also pay on the door.

  All I can do is tell you all to go and make it a night to remember. Anne Marie asked me to model the swimwear, but sadly for you, I have another engagement on the night, so you’re out of luck!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Is ‘the painful truth’ that McGregor is bigger than his sport?

 

It’s a nice, warm Monday morning and, believe it or not, it’s actually dry. I nearly started this column with a little fib (nothing new there says you), because I almost said that I had never seen a Conor McGregor fight – something which would certainly put me in the minority of Irish people – but that would have been incorrect.

  Sadly, I was amongst the millions that paid to see McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, thereby putting hundreds of more millions of euro into his already bulging bank accounts, but thankfully I can tell you that I have never looked at the so-called sport that he partakes in.

  In this ‘sport’, almost anything goes in the ring and it seems that you can literally assault another person in the most brutal way possible. I’m told that a lot of the stuff that goes on would certainly result in an arrest if it occurred out in the open, but as it’s all done under the UFC rules, everything is totally above board, and there seems to be no restriction on the amount of pain and brutality one human being can inflict on another.

  However, despite my disgust at the totally unedifying sport, I am man enough to admit that I would have had a certain amount of admiration for his achievement in turning himself into one of the most recognisable, wealthiest, and (hate to say it) popular Irish people in the world, so in a way I’m not too unhappy at his most recent fall from grace.

  This time, while I have no doubt that it was a publicity stunt that went too far, his violent actions in the United States could cost him a fair few dollars in lawsuits, and if it was anyone else it’s fair to say that he would probably do a good bit of jail-time. However, on the assumption that fame and wealth can have a bearing in these situations, and also because of the huge following he has stateside, I believe he will stay out of prison. Still, the episode as a whole could be a very costly one.

  Recently, in a slightly different type of cage fighting (Mixed Martial Arts), a young Portuguese fighter, Joao Carvalho, died as a result of blunt force trauma received in a fight in Dublin when he was struck by 41 blows to the head – with the last nine unanswered ones – before the ref stopped the fight in the third round. Those figures are beyond belief, and how anyone could see sport in such wanton violence beats me.

  However, McGregor will continue to make many more millions, and this episode will soon be confined to his glorious(?) history, and if he does still have a golden future, he will certainly confine to the dustbin the line we often hear about all sport – that ‘no one man is bigger than the sport itself’. In McGregor’s case that is blatantly untrue.

 

Forget Pep and José, we had our own big derby!

Last Saturday was known as Derby Day in The Premiership across the water, with both the Liverpool and Manchester derbies taking place (how ‘United’ won against Manchester City is one of the great mysteries), but out here in our neck of the woods the big derby was our O’Gara Cup game against our neighbours Fuerty in Mulhern Park.

  It was a 6 pm start. Early-evening matches are the bane of my working life, as they mean I always have to finish a bit early (very hard on me). But, with a little bit of time juggling, I arrived at the venue with a bit to spare, and even though it was a little bit one-sided in favour of our neighbours, I enjoyed the evening – and as usual the banter on the sideline was good fun.

  We concluded that Fuerty are definitely the best team in the Intermediate Championship, that we need to do a bit (a good bit) more training, and that if we can get fit and restore all our injury victims to action, all might not be lost.

  We have another derby match this coming Saturday, this time against Oran in the championship. I will have to close early again that evening. I can’t wait. There is no better craic than having a rattle at your neighbours in a big game, and, win or lose, heading for the pub for the postmortem.

Suffering in Syria

I must confess that I am poorly informed about the ongoing war in Syria, but the horrific images on the television at the weekend of innocent children and women (and indeed men) who were suffering from the effects of chemical gas poisoning were enough to make any normal person wonder how human beings could inflict such suffering on their fellow humans.

  To see children trying to catch their breath, while others were being hosed down in an effort to get rid of the effect of the gas, with other images showing many lifeless bodies with foam coming from their mouths was shocking and upsetting, and surely the civilized world cannot still sit back and allow these atrocities to continue.

  I am no politician, but isn’t that what the Trumps and the Mays and the Putins of this world are supposed to be doing? With all their wealth and power, they should be helping the weak and putting an end to all this stuff – stopping this horrible type of unforgiveable cruelty.

And finally…

Finally for this week, the price for playing with your local football team can come in many different ways…

  This week I met a former Creggs player, much younger than I am, who told me that one Sunday evening after a game he joined myself and a few experienced drinkers (can’t name them for legal reasons) for a few (good few) post-match pints.

  He had to milk his neighbour’s cow in an unlit cowshed later on that evening. So he headed off, got the milking stool (one of the three-legged ones) and proceeded to do the job.

  All was going as planned until the cow’s owner, an elderly neighbour, called in to inspect the operation, and, with the light of his torch he was somewhat surprised to see that the stool was upside down, and our footballing friend was seated, somewhat uncomfortably, on the three legs.

  He explained it was dark when he got there –so he couldn’t see – and he claims he milked the cow perfectly, but he never again joined us for the after-match drinks…still can’t figure out why!

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

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