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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

A protest too far

It’s Monday morning – and out here in Crosswell, the telly is on the blink, and so we are listening to the radio. One of the big talking points is the “very frightening” protest that took place on Sunday afternoon outside the home in Co. Wicklow of Health Minister Simon Harris. 

  Now the dogs on the street know about the controversy the minister finds himself embroiled in, i.e. over the massive overspending on the new Children’s Hospital, and the misinformation he provided to the Dáil regarding when he found out about the spiralling costs…but no matter how angry people are over the huge mess, there surely can be no justification in targeting a politician’s home.

  What makes it even more disgusting is the fact that Harris’s wife, Caoimhe, and their three-week-old daughter, Saoirse, were in the house at the time. While we all have a right to protest, we do not have a right to impinge on a politician’s private life. There is nothing wrong with approaching the minister in public places and telling him that you don’t agree with him or his performance, and of course the ultimate place to protest is at the ballot box. And judging by all the controversies that are flying around the place, including the never-ending Brexit saga, the political analysts are predicting that a chance to vote in a general election may be coming sooner rather than later. That’s where we should be making our protests.

  As for the Children’s Hospital, not only is the cost of the project causing major problems, but in my opinion the location – on the site of the old St. James Hospital right in the city centre – is totally ridiculous.

  As someone who experienced the problems my daughter had when working in the hospital with regard to parking and accessibility, I pose this question: how much worse is it going to be when parents and relations from all over the country are turning up to admit, and visit, their sick children? If there is no parking available there now, what will it be like when the new facility is eventually up and running? I shudder to think.

 

Rainy day in Knock…

Last Tuesday, despite the slightly inclement weather, Carol and myself decided to make our more or less annual visit to Knock. So we hit off a little before midday in the newly ‘NCT passed’ Volvo, looking forward to the peaceful walk round the lovely Marian Shrine. However, as we headed off in the general direction of the renowned Mayo village, the weather took a decided turn for the worse, and by the time we got there the rain was literally pelting down on top of us.

  In all the years we have been going there we had never seen it so deserted. A handful of hardy pilgrims was all that could be seen…a couple of old women (probably younger than me) making their way, despite the downpour, between the different Churches while clutching tightly to their wind-blown umbrellas; a few men saying their prayers where the original apparitions took place; and a mother and her young child sheltering in the doorway of the Basilica.

  Even the stalls, which hold a huge attraction for me – especially the one that has one of the biggest ranges of Irish country music DVDs, CDs, videos and tapes anywhere in the country – were closed, and only the three or so traditional shops on the Main Street were open for business, selling their thousands of different religious products. Although on last Tuesday they too were unusually quiet. We were on the trail of a big Sacred Heart picture – as a present for a friend of ours – and thankfully we managed to get one.

  Before we left the rain-soaked village, we went for a much-needed lunch in the Old Ground Restaurant, the only place that seemed to be open. In contrast to the rest of the town, it was quite busy, and we enjoyed a lovely meal as the rain outside got heavier and heavier.

  Funny enough, as we passed the Day Care centre near the Basilica on our way back to the car, the music was blaring out all around the place and it seemed to be wedged with people of all ages – but tempting as it was to join them, the weather won and we (almost literally) set sail for our own little village.

  I am not the most religious person in the world, but, rain or no rain, we enjoyed our visit, and it won’t be as long again before we are back.

Ploughing bound for Hanley farm

 

On to local matters: a few years ago (in 2014), the Hanley farm, just down the road, put Creggs and the surrounding areas on the map when they hosted the International Sheep Dog Trials. More than 20,000 people flocked to the fine Roscommon farm, and this week I hear that the County Roscommon Ploughing Championships are coming to the same place in the early part of the month of April.

  The National Ploughing Championships is now the biggest social event that takes place in the entire island of Ireland, and the County Championships are similarly well supported in all the individual counties. It is a great news story for our area to hear that it is set to host this year’s event. The exact date and more details will be announced in the coming weeks, but for now we are more than happy to invite you all to Creggs for an early April day out.

  We look forward to seeing you all, and please God Marty Morrissey won’t be here to show us his great skill as a ploughman, or to show off his dancing skills! Maybe Willie Hegarty might get the gig.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Passing on global warming and Brexit, embracing great sport!

 

 

 

There are many occasions when I have a little chat with myself, and tell myself that for a man of my age I have a very limited knowledge of the important things in life, like politics and economics and global warming and Brexit and stuff like that. Meanwhile, I am totally immersed in all kinds of sporting matters. As someone who gets a load of newspapers every week, I unashamedly admit that my first visit every time is to the sports pages.

  In fact, many is the time that when I discard whatever paper I happen to have, the important news pages will not have even got a passing glance. And so today, Monday (as I write), I am happily reflecting on an action-packed sporting weekend, but mostly on the rugby action, both internationally and locally, which (sadly for me) saw my two most favoured teams taste agonising defeats.

  On Saturday we had the big Six Nations clash between Ireland and England. Having escaped early from work, I was seated in front of the telly with a nice warm fire burning in the hearth, and all set for an epic encounter…now, if you read my column last week, you will know that I had great concern about the ability of Joe Schmidt’s men to beat the Auld Enemy – as it turned out, my misgivings were well founded. 

  The more physically powerful English came out with all guns blazing and were worthy winners, although it must be said that of the four tries they scored, we handed them three, and the ref had a big part in their fourth. However, yet again, the monstrous belts that lads took had to be seen to be believed, and as I write this on Monday evening, there are injury doubts over at least four or five of the Irish players. One thing worth noting is the fact that CJ Stander, who comes in for a lot of criticism because he wasn’t born in Ireland – and, therefore (according to his critics) hasn’t his heart in the green jersey – played for a large part of the game with both a fractured cheekbone and eye socket.

  The post-match inquests centred on the obvious lack of experience Robbie Henshaw has as an international full-back, a fact that was ruthlessly exposed by the English kickers, and on the school of thought (to which I subscribe) that suggests this reverse may not be a bad thing. Sometimes expectation can be an overwhelming burden. After all, if we had continued on our victorious way through the Six Nations tournament, we would be the team to beat when the World Cup comes in November. Now the English will carry that burden, and it may well be the best thing that ever happened to us.

  Anyway, the great thing about sport is there is always a next time, and in this instance the Irish team have a chance to get back on track when they travel to Edinburgh to take on the Scots on Saturday. I expect we will see a positive reaction, and this time, although the Scots are flying, I think we may just about get a welcome and much-needed victory. It’s a test of Schmidt as well as the team, and I believe he will mastermind a winning response.

 

Turning the clock back in Creggs

 

 

Staying with rugby, but on to local matters: on Sunday afternoon our own Creggs team took on the Connemara All Blacks in a vitally important Connacht League match, and even though we narrowly lost, it was in my opinion one of the greatest days in the 45-year history of the club.

 

  Back in the 1970s, and more particularly the ‘80s, the Creggs-Connemara rivalry was legendary, and  as someone who had the pleasure (sometimes not so much pleasure) of playing in several of the games of that era, I can say that there was always something completely different about playing the All Blacks. Their team was always tough and hard but fair, and their supporters were the sort of supporters any club would like to have…totally committed to their team, but never abusive to the opposition, and always respectful of their opponents – and hail, rain or snow, they were there in support of their local heroes.

  And so it was on Sunday when three busloads from Connemara, along with several cars carrying the team and supporters, arrived into our little village – and it was as if the clock was turned back thirty years or so. The game itself was one of the best I have seen at any level in many a year, the atmosphere was amazing, and if I spoke earlier about the huge hits that the international players took on Saturday, the ones that went in on Sunday were every bit as hard. I just don’t understand how lads would be able to get up on Monday morning and head off to their day jobs.

  I know there will be a full report elsewhere in this week’s People, so all I will say is that it was a match that could have gone either way, and the delighted All Blacks were honest enough to admit that they were very lucky. As a sign of the unbelievable physicality of the exchanges, both teams lost a number of players through injury, and the toll on our lads was particularly severe. With a big cup match against Monivea next Sunday, our strength in depth will be severely tested.

  At the end of a wonderful encounter both teams were applauded off by their respective supporters and it was just so uplifting to see the appreciation of both sides by the huge attendance. Anyway, typical Connemara, they didn’t just up their sticks and leave our village – they piled into Mikeen’s, where they stayed for quite a while. It was great to meet up with Henry O’Toole, one of the best rugby players of our, or any other era, and a man who had three sons playing against us on Sunday. Earlier, I had run into Aidan O’Halloran, who had the unusual distinction of playing for both clubs in his time, and before the last of the buses left Creggs, I met up with Corkman John O’Brien, husband of Anne Hannigan, with whom I worked for many a year in the good old Bank of Ireland days. Indeed our chat was responsible for holding up the bus’s departure for a good few minutes.

  By then, the news that the Rossies had done the business had come through, and so a few of us hit for Roscommon to join their celebrations in the Hatch, and I have to say we had great craic. Jack the Higher and Jack the Lower and myself had been due to meet up for a Christmas get-together, but now that none of us are working full-time, it’s very hard to find any spare time, so it didn’t happen. However, we decided to have our Christmas Party on Sunday night, and were joined by Adrian Leddy, Anthony Duignan, my son Mark, and young Brian Coady, along with several Rossies, and it was so successful that we are going to have another Christmas party in the Hatch in April. We were a little disappointed that between the three of them – Larry, Seamus and Mick – they couldn’t come up with a Christmas cake, but I suppose we didn’t give them much notice. No excuse in April.

  And so it came to an end, a day that saw hundreds of people visit our little village. The Roscommon Hunt were also there! As a Creggs man, I was so proud of our rugby team, our rugby club, and our local community – and if everyone says rural Ireland is dead, call to Creggs next Sunday afternoon and you will see a community that is flying the flag as high as it can go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine you want to build a house. You sit down with a builder and agree a price. Say it’s €200,000. He goes off with his instructions and starts his work. A month into the job he calls and tells you that he made a mistake and that the house will now cost you €800,000 – and it may even go to €1 million. It’s just crazy beyond any explanation. That would be the end of that.

  That’s more or less what has happened with the National Children’s Hospital project that has caused so much controversy in the past month. The price has gone up to four or five times the original estimate in the space of six months or so. Why does this always seem to happen in this country when public money is being spent?

  I had to laugh out loud when I heard Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say at the weekend (and with a straight face too) that there would be people held accountable for the mistakes that have been made in connection with this project. What planet is he living on? When did anyone ever take responsibility for wasting taxpayers’ money in this country? I have the answer to that one. Never.

  The people who are responsible for this scandal will be treated the same way as everyone else who has squandered taxpayers’ money over the years has been. At best they will be moved sideways, but most will be promoted – and all will retire with big fat pensions.

  We will have a ‘review’ to find out what happened, and that will cost an arm and a leg too. The review will seek to find out what mistakes were made so that we never make them again. What a laugh that is. Sure we never learn from our mistakes in this country.

  The infuriating thing about this scandal is that this hospital is badly needed and this project must go ahead. But that the costs were let spiral out of control to the extent that they have is quite unbelievable.

  The figures in connection with this scandal are staggering. It will be the most expensive medical facility ever built anywhere in the world. A hospital which is under construction in Adelaide in Australia is expected to cost €1.5 million per bed, which is considered very expensive. Not when our National Children’s Hospital comes into the reckoning though. At the moment the price is €3 million per bed – and rising.

  I am not a construction, medical or financial expert, but like every other ordinary person I am struggling to get my head around the scale of this scandal. In the Sunday Independent at the weekend there was a list of the estimated costs (so far). It was 80 million for this, 90 million for that, 55 million for the other…in a list of about 30 different headings. It was mind-boggling to look at in black and white. Remember, this is your money and my money.

  I am not naïve enough to believe that a top class Children’s Hospital could be built on the cheap. These projects are very expensive and this one has to be done, but we have cocked this one up big time. Work has already started and it’s too late to put the brakes on now. But people being held accountable? You must be joking. On to the next scandal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine you want to build a house. You sit down with a builder and agree a price. Say it’s €200,000. He goes off with his instructions and starts his work. A month into the job he calls and tells you that he made a mistake and that the house will now cost you €800,000 – and it may even go to €1 million. It’s just crazy beyond any explanation. That would be the end of that.

  That’s more or less what has happened with the National Children’s Hospital project that has caused so much controversy in the past month. The price has gone up to four or five times the original estimate in the space of six months or so. Why does this always seem to happen in this country when public money is being spent?

  I had to laugh out loud when I heard Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say at the weekend (and with a straight face too) that there would be people held accountable for the mistakes that have been made in connection with this project. What planet is he living on? When did anyone ever take responsibility for wasting taxpayers’ money in this country? I have the answer to that one. Never.

  The people who are responsible for this scandal will be treated the same way as everyone else who has squandered taxpayers’ money over the years has been. At best they will be moved sideways, but most will be promoted – and all will retire with big fat pensions.

  We will have a ‘review’ to find out what happened, and that will cost an arm and a leg too. The review will seek to find out what mistakes were made so that we never make them again. What a laugh that is. Sure we never learn from our mistakes in this country.

  The infuriating thing about this scandal is that this hospital is badly needed and this project must go ahead. But that the costs were let spiral out of control to the extent that they have is quite unbelievable.

  The figures in connection with this scandal are staggering. It will be the most expensive medical facility ever built anywhere in the world. A hospital which is under construction in Adelaide in Australia is expected to cost €1.5 million per bed, which is considered very expensive. Not when our National Children’s Hospital comes into the reckoning though. At the moment the price is €3 million per bed – and rising.

  I am not a construction, medical or financial expert, but like every other ordinary person I am struggling to get my head around the scale of this scandal. In the Sunday Independent at the weekend there was a list of the estimated costs (so far). It was 80 million for this, 90 million for that, 55 million for the other…in a list of about 30 different headings. It was mind-boggling to look at in black and white. Remember, this is your money and my money.

  I am not naïve enough to believe that a top class Children’s Hospital could be built on the cheap. These projects are very expensive and this one has to be done, but we have cocked this one up big time. Work has already started and it’s too late to put the brakes on now. But people being held accountable? You must be joking. On to the next scandal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Television has changed…and yes, I prefer the old days!

 

 

A very long time ago, when I used to spend a lot of my school holiday time on my uncle’s farm in Tipperary, the only television set in the area was in George Johnson’s house about a mile and a half away, near the little village of Barna. If the Tipp hurlers were playing in an All-Ireland final, or maybe even a semi-final, myself and Uncle Mikey would head off and join twenty or so other locals to watch the match in the Johnsons’ kitchen.

  It’s funny how times have changed, because those visits were nearly an event in themselves. The Johnsons would have all the chairs laid out neatly like you would see in parish halls nowadays when plays or concerts are taking place. There was an unwritten rule that you must be seated in good time well before the match started, and on the odd occasion when someone would arrive late, they would be well and truly chastised.

  At half-time, Mrs. Johnson, the woman of the house – a lovely jolly lady – would bring out plates of ham sandwiches and cups of warm tea, and all would be devoured while the events of the opening half were discussed. There were no panels or pundits back then, so you did all the analysis yourself, or at least all who went to Johnsons did. When the tea and sandwiches were done for, everyone settled back and got ready for the second half. When the game was over, the same thing happened – more tea and sandwiches – and no-one rushed away until the whole thing was thoroughly analysed. It could be well into the evening before Mikey and I made the return journey home.

  I hadn’t that much interest in Tipperary hurling back then, but I used to love the ham sandwiches, and the Johnsons had a great big farmyard where a young lad who had no iphone or any other type of modern gadget to curtail his imagination, could spend hours on end just messing round and making his own fun. Oh how things have changed in the countryside, where most of us hardly know our next-door neighbours now, and where no-one ever calls to visit any more.  

  I suppose of all the things that have changed since those happy days it’s unlikely that anything has changed as much as television. At first there was no daytime television at all, with programmes only starting in the evening, and of course then we only had RTE 1, which launched on New Year’s Eve 1961, until RTE 2 came on board seventeen years later in 1978.

  Nowadays we have hundreds of channels. Daytime television is an accepted part of our modern society, there are more and more sports channels appearing almost weekly (all of which we have to pay for), every act on a pitch is examined in minute detail, and reality TV, which I cannot stand, has nearly cornered all the light entertainment market. Throw in a myriad of quiz shows, never-ending series’ of cookery shows – which have made household names of chefs like Neven Maguire, Darina Allen, Gordon Ramsey and loads more – and what we now have is an extensive range of unwatchable stuff on our TV screens, with only an odd decent show like Blue Bloods or NCIS to keep me occupied.

  Nothing is sacred now in the television world, and two programmes in the last week made me think back to the days when it all started out. The first was on one of the early morning shows (actually more like mid-morning) and if I didn’t see it myself I would not have believed it. Among the guests were a wedding planner (another modern phenomenon) and her client, which, normally enough, was a young enough lady. What wasn’t so normal was the fact that the lady in question was going to marry her duvet, which she explained she was head over heels in love with.

  Pascale Sellick is having a “lavish ceremony”, on February 10th in Devon, England. She is not telling anyone what the groom, i.e. the duvet, will be wearing, and everyone, including me and you, is invited to a free wedding party afterwards. I have seen and heard many a daft thing on telly down through the years, but that, in my opinion, took the biscuit. I’m looking up the flights to Devon at the moment, as I would imagine it should be some craic – can’t wait for the groom’s speech!

  The other thing that made me think back to the early days of television was the coverage of the Mayo-Roscommon football match last Saturday night in Castlebar, when the wind was so strong that the camera could not be kept steady. As a result it was almost impossible to keep watching the game.

  It was strange to realise that even with all the improvements in technology and with the most up to date cameras, the weather can still affect the quality of the production. In truth, the shaky pictures would give you a headache. The wisdom of playing the game at all in such conditions would have to be questioned, but I suppose with almost 11,000 turning up, it had to go ahead. Back in the 1960s, when there was probably only one camera in use, it wasn’t uncommon to have shaky, grainy pictures, and nowadays while it is a bit unusual, it was reassuring, although also a bit worrying, to realise that nothing can neutralise the power of the elements.  

  As for the game itself, the nasty side of me would say that it was a blessing to miss some of it because of the bad coverage, but in fairness no-one should have to try to play in such barbaric conditions, and judgement on either team should not be made on the back of such a contest.

  The Rossies have a really big game next Sunday in the Hyde against the ‘Dub beaters’, Monaghan, and that should give their supporters a better idea as to where the team is at. The only definite so far is that we are going to see a much more defensive set-up from the Rossies this year, and, in view of the results in the Super 8s last year, that can be no surprise. But I wonder will the performances lose the undoubted excitement of the last few years? We must wait and see.

  In an overall assessment of the opening National League football weekend, it seems that we still have a lot of really negative set-ups in place, with Galway, sadly, still playing with everyone behind the ball. As someone who got no enjoyment out of following the maroon and white last year – because of the defensive tactics – I think that this year I will again be relying on our hurlers for any entertainment.

 

Can we beat the Auld Enemy?

 

This weekend the Six Nations rugby tournament kicks off and I am anticipating the battle to beat all battles when Ireland and England lock horns in the Aviva on Saturday.

  Much as I hate to say it, there is no guarantee that we will win. The opening game in any tournament can be tricky, and so while I am confident that we can see off the Auld Enemy, I will not be rushing into Paddy Power with much of my hard-earned money.

  One thing for sure is it will be no place for the faint-hearted, and I only hope that in World Cup year we escape without any serious injuries.

 

And finally…Super Sunday at The Green

 

Finally for this week, out here in Creggs we are looking forward to our own rugby battle on Sunday afternoon, when, in what may be the biggest and most important game held here for almost thirty years, we host our old enemy Connemara in an encounter that may well have a decisive bearing on the outcome of this year’s Connacht Junior One League.

  I won’t go into the breakdown of the league table, but Connemara and Creggs are so close in every way that we could be twins, and should our visitors win on Sunday they will open a gap that may well be uncatchable.

  However, I am quietly confident in the ability of our very young team, and with the backing of the huge crowd that I expect to see in Creggs on Sunday afternoon, I believe we will take a huge step towards bringing a long-awaited league title back to the village. I hope to see you all there on Sunday. Please give our lads the support they need and deserve. I can’t wait!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Comedy king Brendan can still Grace any stage

 

 

It has to be almost forty years since I saw Brendan Grace play to full houses in Bradley’s in Creggs and Dowd’s in Glinsk. At that time I must admit I thought he was the greatest thing since the sliced pan, and just the very sight of him would have me bursting out in laughter; however, I had not seen him live for about 25 years or so, and in truth I wondered whether the great man still had it, or had ill health and advancing years taken its toll and dulled the edge off his performances?

  And so, on Thursday night of last week, four of us left Creggs, heading for The Radisson in Athlone, where the Brendan Grace Show was taking place at 8 pm. As we headed up the country, I was hoping that we would find the magic was still there. A huge crowd was already seated when we got there, and we found ourselves right at the back. It goes without saying that there was a fellow who must have been more than six and a half foot tall sitting straight in front of the five foot eight me, and I spent the next almost three hours trying to peer around the back of his head.

  A trio called Showband Nostalgia – featuring Frankie McDonald (who spent 39 years with the great Joe Dolan), fellow Athlone man  Dessie Egan, and a singer called Caitlin, who I have seen a lot on some of the many Country music stations – started the ball rolling. In fairness, they went down well with the large crowd, many of whom were quite young, with a selection of tunes that were big Showband hits back in the 1960s or so. Then at 9 o’clock the big moment arrived, and the white-suited star made his way to the stage.

  It is fair to say that my initial reaction to his arrival was somewhat muted, as he was obviously in some discomfort walking, and needed the support of a walking stick, and had to sit down. As he said himself “for 48 of my 49 years I was a stand-up comedian but…” However, the good news for me and for everyone else is that the show was thoroughly enjoyable, and Brendan showed that he is still more than capable of holding an audience in the palm of his hand. For just under two hours he rolled the clock back – and it was every bit as entertaining as it was all those years ago. He had a lot of new stuff, but when, towards the end of the night he rolled out the Father of the Bride, followed by Ireland’s oldest schoolboy, Bottler, the place went wild, and it was obvious to us that no matter what other characters come or go, those two must be there forever.

  Just before 11 pm the curtain came down (not literally), and Brendan must have fairly shifted, even with the stick, because by the time we got to the hotel foyer he was already out there meeting and greeting his fans, posing for pictures and selling his merchandise. He had a great offer of three CDs and a DVD for €10, and I’d say everyone bought one on the way out. He signed ours… and I have to say we all headed home in a very happy state. For me, the big test was that my youngest son, Paul, and his girlfriend, Fiona, who were seeing him live for the first time, enjoyed him as much as my wife Carol and I did.

  On the night I realised that, stick or no stick, Brendan Grace is still my King of Comedy. He is on a nationwide tour at present, and while I have no idea where he’s going to be, if you see him advertised anywhere near you, buy the tickets and go and see him. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Beware of ‘scam artists’

 

I suppose as long as mankind has existed there are always people out there who try to figure out ways to get their hands on other people’s money, and nowadays we hear about what we like to call scammers or scam artists, which really are glorified names for thieves or gangs of thieves. It seems those scambags (that’s my own new word) are extremely active at the moment.

  On Tuesday of last week a reader of this column received a phone call from a Dublin number, supposedly about trouble he was having with his computer. As luck would have it he was having problems with Eir 1, the television channel, and when the guy said he was going to sort out his Eir Broadband, like most of us, my reader assumed it was to do with his TV channel.

  The guy on the other end of the phone talked his way through our man’s computer for almost a half an hour, and made loads of changes to it, which information was apparently being recorded by other gang members, until finally he said the fee was only €5, but that it had to be paid on the spot by credit card. At last alarm bells started to ring, and my friend said he didn’t have his card with him, but would send on the details when his wife came home. Needless to say when she did come home, they checked out the number and found out that it was a scam. They rang Eir, who confirmed that they never ring anyone without having being contacted by their customer, and that basically the gang were trying to get hold of all the man’s financial records.

  Since Tuesday of last week, (I am writing this on Monday) – presumably because he answered the call in the first place – no fewer than 21 spurious calls have been made to his landline, and the numbers are so like our Irish numbers that you would almost certainly answer them.

  For example, there are loads of 090 numbers, including 0906608687, which could easily be mistaken for our own local code, and while I was actually in the house talking to this man, a call came in from what appeared to be an Athlone number (0906440649); every one of those calls were scam calls from foreign numbers, and we could get no real information about them. So the main thing is to exercise great caution when answering any unfamiliar phone numbers, be on your guard at all times, and tell no-one anything about you, your bank cards, your personal details, and especially anything about your financial records. There are no guidelines as to what to do when you are targeted in this way, so my unfortunate readers had to get his computer completely cleared and are considering parting with their landline, which they have had for fifty years or so.

  All I can say is beware, and don’t answer any call that you are not sure about. It could save you a lot of stress, hardship, and even money.

 

Where’s The Gunner off to?

 

Back to local matters, and on Saturday night there is a party in Mikeen’s to say goodbye to Mikeen’s brother, Jim, known affectionately as The Gunner, who is heading off on a road trip around Europe for an indefinite period, to nowhere in particular and to more or less wherever he ends up.

  Himself and his new camper van are hitting the road next week, so to make sure he goes, his friends are having a party for him.

  There will be music by Sean Donoghue, and it is sure to be a good night’s craic, everyone is invited and all I can do is wish The Gunner well, and may the road rise with him. We will miss him round the place, but as they say ‘When you gotta go you gotta go’. Hopefully we will see you all there on Saturday night, and we’ll send Jim on his merry way.

 

And finally…when Michael met Philip

 

Finally for this week, whether you like them or loathe them, you have to admit that the Healy-Raes as a family have livened up our political system, since Jackie Senior arrived into the Dáil in 1997. In recent days (I’m not sure which day) Michael’s interview on Liveline was pure radio gold.

  Apparently we had some report out in connection with our carbon footprint (whatever that is) that more or less said the cattle herd in Ireland has to be got rid of, and, as a nation we have to reduce our intake of beef, and red meat, by a massive 90%.

  Philip Boucher-Hayes was standing in for Joe Duffy, and the sparks fairly flew between the pair with the double barrelled names, but no matter whar scientific facts Boucher-Hayes put to the Kerry man, Healy-Rae was having none of it, and no report was going to stop him from having his daily feed of beef or steak.

  I’m sure you can listen to it on some modern media platform. All I can tell you is the tears were rolling down my face with the laughter, and I realised that even in the modern world where everything is backed up by facts and figures, it’s refreshing to think that no matter what, you have a man like Michael Healy-Rae who simply won’t be turned from his long-held beliefs. Good on you, Mick!

 Till next week, Bye for now!

Crimes and coal: Did you hear the news?

 

 

It’s Saturday afternoon, and while I was quite busy earlier in the day, I am taking time out to read the paper. Three separate items catch my attention.

  Up in Belfast a fellow attacks his mother-in-law with a hatchet, causing her serious head and face injuries. Only for the handle flew off he would have killed her. Fortunately, he was caught and charged with grevious bodily harm, and was sentenced to a spell in Her Majesty’s prison.

  On the same night, a shopkeeper in Clones was the victim of an aggravated burglary, in which he was attacked by two armed robbers, who, having knocked him across a box of oranges (he was a fruit merchant), escaped with what was described as a small sum of money. The merchant was seriously injured, but  fortunate that the guards arrived while the robbery was in progress. Even though the perpetrators escaped, they went without a large sum of money and some expensive jewellery that the merchant had in a safe.

  The other thing that caught my eye was the price of fuel, in particular the prohibitive cost of coal. A meeting in Dublin was attended by a large crowd, with the people present protesting at a 25% rise in the price. The meeting unanimously decided to boycott the previous suppliers and to look for new sources.

  Now all of these things would appear, on the face of it, to be normal everyday things which are happening all the time, but what makes them different is the fact that I took all of them from the Weekly Freeman dated January 11th 1908. Reading through it, it simply proves that some things never change, and a lot of the stuff is just repeated again and again.

  The only big difference is the political correctness of the modern era. A lot of the language used back then would have you thrown in jail nowadays. Anyway, I have a full year’s papers to go through, and the truth is it’s great craic, and the most enjoyable read I have had in a long time. I can’t wait to keep reading. I will give you an occasional titbit to keep you up to date with the happenings of the world more than 110 years ago. That is unless someone decides to buy them in the meantime.

 

She’s one tough lady!

 

Still on Tuesday and the news bulletins are all talking about the big vote taking place in England this evening on the subject of Brexit. While I don’t claim to have much of a clue, it does appear as if Theresa May is not going to secure even the backing of her own party. But even if that happens, it seems she has no intention of resigning as Prime Minister, and I just wondered what type of thick skin do you need to be a politician.

  For normal, everyday people – no matter what we say –rejection, in any shape or form, is not a very nice thing, but for politicians – at every level – it is just an occupational hazard. Whether or not you agree with them, you must admire their ability to deal with the ups and downs of public life. It must be soul-destroying to top the poll at one point and then lose your seat the next – to go from top dog to also-ran. I suppose the trick is to see it as a rejection of your party rather than of yourself!

  Many years ago local legend Jackie McGovern used to try to encourage me to go for the Council for his beloved Fine Gael, but I could never see myself in that role. The fact that no-one else other than Jackie approached me probably helped me with my decision not to run, but I genuinely believe that you must be made of special stuff (which I’m not) for that way of life. Whatever happens Theresa May tonight – or in the future – she keeps showing that she is one tough lady.

 

Time for ‘cop on’ rather than ‘catch and fine’?

 

 

It’s Tuesday afternoon, back in today’s world, and a familiar theme is annoying me again. It’s the crackdown on speed limits in rural areas…and the difficulty drivers have in obeying them.

  Firstly let me say that I am totally against speeding. I believe that speed is a very dangerous thing and I’m convinced that ‘high speed’ drivers should be treated very harshly by the lawmakers.

  What is concerning me is the 50 to 60 kilometre limit areas. I believe there should be a little leeway in those areas. Since I got my penalty points and an €80 fine, I have become very conscious of the limits, and try to obey them everywhere I go. Yet today, going through Castlecoote, while I dropped down to 50, I found it very hard to stay under it, and had to continually keep an eye on my speedometer to make sure I didn’t creep up a little bit.

  And to my mind that made me a bigger danger than I already was, as by looking at the clock I wasn’t looking at the road, and so I wasn’t giving my full attention to my driving. I just felt if there was a small bit of leeway or old style cop-on, rather than a rigid ‘catch and fine’ policy, it would have been a lot easier on me – and a lot safer for other road users.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, on Monday I found myself going on a magical mystery tour of the counties Longford and Westmeath, and I visited places I had either never seen at all or had forgotten about.

  When the midday hunger pangs set in, we were in the village of Rathowen, and we pulled in for lunch in Feerick’s Hotel. I suppose it was a good sign that the sizeable carpark was full. When we went in, we were pleasantly surprised. A big, friendly man was serving the lunch, and when I said to him that we were starving and not to spare the food, he did exactly what I told him! 

  We both had the beef, which was lovely and tender. It put me to the pin of my collar to finish it, but pride would not let me send any back, and I did it justice by cleaning my plate. I can only say that if you find yourself in that neck of the woods – and you are hungry – call into Feerick’s and you will be well looked after.

  From the photos on the wall, there must be a Mayo connection somewhere, but I won’t hold that against it. I also think that musical genius Mick Foster is from around there, but there was no sign of him yesterday. However, Mayo or not, give Feerick’s a visit – and tell them I sent you!

 Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Goodbye to all that…‘til next year!

 

 

It’s Monday, January 7th, and little (and big) Christmas has come and gone. Today is the day we say goodbye to the Christmas tree and the lights – to all the decorations. As we gather everything up to send all back up to the attic, I must confess that this year I am more than a little sad. I suppose it’s down to the very rapid passage of time. As each year passes, I’m beginning to realise that there can’t be that many left, and that I have to make as much as I can out of them all, and, hand on my heart, (although with all the stents I have in maybe I should leave the old ticker alone) I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire festive season. 

  It was one of those that passed without any drama, apart from the telly breaking down, and the dishwasher and the washing machine, and the chimney fire, but they all got sorted, and thankfully everyone was healthy and well and we all had a lovely, enjoyable Christmas. I don’t remember being here for the taking down of all the stuff for a good few years, and the most amazing thing was the huge amount of decorations we have accumulated over time. We carried bag after bag up the stairs, and this year we promised we would remember whose room we put them into! I said that we put stuff in the attic, but that’s mainly the tree – a fine but fake one – and the Crib pieces. Every year, despite having a small house, we can’t remember where the many decoration bags go, and all hell breaks loose as we try to find them. Even though I probably wasn’t there at all when they were put away, I still get the blame for losing them! So this year I wrote it into my phone, and please God on the 8th of December next year, if I’m still here, I will find them straight away and get rid of any related stress.

  Anyway, as I say, the 6th of January is the official end of the celebrations, but I am beginning to think that I am not the only one who was missing the festive excitement, because last evening, as I made my way cross-country to Kinnegad, I couldn’t get over the number of houses that were still all lit up. It’s obvious that more than me were reluctant to take down the decorations. However, for me, it is fully behind us, and now we have a whole new year to look forward to.

 

In praise of hi vis jackets!

 

One of the things I like to do at least 4 or 5 times a week is go for a walk in the rural area where I live. One of the automatic things that I do is put on a hi vis vest or jacket. I would have thought that it would be more or less accepted that such a vest should be part of every walker’s night-time attire. However last week, in the Daily Mail, one of its columnists – who advocated the use of hi vis by all walkers – told of being abused roundly on social media for doing so.

  Now I’m not sure why so many people objected so strongly to his advice, but today as I went for a walk of about 35 to 40 minutes on a quiet country road, I decided to count the number of vehicles I encountered. One large tractor, one JCB, two vans and seven cars passed me by. Now it wasn’t dark today, and visibility was pretty good, but it would be crazy for me or any other ‘me’ to be out walking on or country roads after dark  without both a torch and a hi vis. Sometimes common sense should prevail over twisted political correctness.

  Everywhere we look, Shane Ross is bringing in legislation to supposedly make our rural roads safer, and yet more pedestrians and cyclists are being killed – and in my view, walkers who go out with dark clothing and no visibility aids should be fined just as much as errant drivers. 

 

Surviving the NCT…

 

It’s now Tuesday morning – and still dark – as myself and the sometimes trusty old Volvo head off to Castlerea, where she, i.e. the Volvo, is to undergo the NCT at 8.30 am. Now I wasn’t any way worried about it or anything, but still I had a restless enough night’s sleep, and in my dreams I could see a big sticker being put on it, which would mean the car was being grounded…and me having to try to get a lift home.

  Thankfully the outcome wasn’t that bad, but, amazingly, after a year without any bother, that was the morning the boot decided to refuse to open, and along with a couple of other minor defects it all means I have a return journey to do inside 30 or so days. However, I have to admit I was happy enough with the verdict, and please God my Volvo will carry on for a little while yet.

 

And finally…a pudding dilemma

 

Finally for this week, out here in Creggs for the last few years, Kelly’s (Newport) White Pudding has been the undisputed pudding champion at the local harvest festival, and has romped away with the title despite great competition from other pudding makers from all around the country. In the opinion of this writer, it’s an honour thoroughly deserved.

  The traditional Sunday morning fry would be almost unthinkable without a few slices of Kelly’s best, but I suppose it’s a sign of the times that they have now come up with a vegetarian version of the White Pudding, and they are selling 50,000 of these around the country each year – with not a morsel of meat to be found in any of them.

  As one of the organising members of the Creggs Pudding Festival, I imagine we will have to have an Extraordinary General Meeting to see if this newcomer will be allowed to partake in our national competition, but as an ordinary fry-eating member of the public I can categorically tell you all that no vegetarian White Pudding will ever feature on my breakfast plate, and their traditional Champion Pudding will, ‘till death do us part, be the rock on which I will build my Sunday morning fry.

 

Till next week, Bye for now! 

Dishwasher Man leads comeback after our Christmas mishaps!

 

 

 

 

It’s a cold, miserable, damp Wednesday, 2nd of January, very different from the amazingly mild weather we have had over the Christmas, and as I am sitting at the kitchen table writing this piece, it’s hard to believe that after the great anticipation and excitement of putting up the tree, and of Santa’s visit and the opening of all the presents, it’s as good as over. In a few days’ time everything will be packed away, and life as we know it  will return to normal.

  I have to say that the festive season was really enjoyable, but, as with most families, we had our own stresses to put up with – and for some unknown reason, this year was one of those years. The television dish went blank for a week, the dishwasher stopped washing, the washing machine almost blew up (and was declared terminally ill), and the chimney went on fire, all in the few days before the Christmas. However, thanks to the great efforts of various people, including Hughie the TV man, and Kevin the Dishwasher man, we got all sorted and were able to watch all the rubbish on telly over the holidays, and to wash the dishes after the turkey and ham had been demolished.

  The washing machine had to be replaced, and in fairness to one of our local electrical retailers and his staff, the new machine arrived on the Saturday before Christmas, and as I write this piece I can hear it working away out in the back kitchen.

  Of all the things we would have missed, apart from all the food and drink, the washing machine would have been the most lamented, so huge thanks to Tommie Kelly and his lads for coming up trumps at their busiest time of the year.

  That brings me to the chimney fire on the Friday evening before Christmas. I was working in Athlone when Carol rang to say the Dishwasher man, Kevin, who had arrived to fix it, told her the chimney was on fire, and that huge volumes of sparks were flying up into the atmosphere. Being made of solid stuff, I advised her to let it burn itself out, and added that it would be nice and clean for Santa’s visit. She agreed to go down that route, until a few minutes later she heard an outrageous bang in the chimney, and herself and Kevin agreed that it was time to call the Fire Brigade.

  Barely more than 20 minutes after she made the call, the Brigade was on the job, and I cannot praise or thank them enough for the great work that they did. They were so professional in every aspect, including leaving the room spotless, and before they left they checked to see that everything was in order and that the danger was totally averted. Santa had no problem making his way down the chimney on Christmas Eve, so heartfelt thanks to Pat Hoey, Gary Smyth and the other six lads – one of whom was in the bath when he got the summons – who looked after us so well. I hope he managed to get back to it (the bath) over the rest of the Holy Season.

  Meanwhile, with all the material stuff that comes with it, it can be easy to forget that for people of a certain religion, the festive season is also about the birth of Baby Jesus, and, while I am the first to admit that I am not as committed to my faith as maybe I should be, at the same time, on Christmas Day I made sure to attend Mass in Donamon Castle. It was just a beautiful experience. The musical journey that Annette Griffin, her mother Frances, and John Staunton took us all on was quite special, and there was a lovely feelgood atmosphere amongst the huge attendance. It truly was an uplifting hour or so. 

Ole, Ole, Ole… Solskjaer now the Special One?

For those of us who are Manchester United fans, the New Year has arrived with a little bit of hope, thanks to the attacking football that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got them playing since he took over from the Special One, Jose Mourinho. And while this year is over and done with, in my opinion there is now some hope for a more exciting, and possibly even successful, future.

  For some reason I am not the normal United fan who automatically hates Liverpool, nearly like the unionists and nationalists in the North used to hate each other, and so I am happy enough to see the Merseysiders walking away with this year’s title. If they even draw tonight at Man. City, I think the race is as good as over. As for us (Manchester United), a top four place is highly unlikely, but hopefully we will continue to play attacking football in the old United tradition.

Big night at The Green

Out here in Creggs, the rugby season is now fully on the boil, and the next four or five weeks are critical in terms of possible league or cup success.

  On this Saturday night, on the wonderful new 4G pitch, we play Castlebar, who will be gunning for revenge after we recently beat them in the Cawley Cup final. It’s a must-win encounter, so try to get to The Green, see the excellent facilities up front for yourself, and help our lads get the win they so badly need.

Happy New Year

It has now become a family tradition that we go out for dinner on New Year’s Eve. Afterwards, I discovered the delights of Heineken Zero, a non-alcoholic lager which tastes very like the real stuff. That left me free to drive back from the Abbey Hotel to Mikeen’s, where I could park the old jalopy, have a pint or two of the black stuff, listen to the musical entertainment (provided by Paul Browne), see out the old, see in the new, and get chauffuered home at the start of yet another New Year.  

  At this stage of my life it’s an achievement to be still here, so I’m happy enough with that, and – not forgetting the many great people who passed on in 2018 – all I can do is wish you all a happy New Year, and may you still be here this time next year.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Creggs Rugby Club’s own ‘Mullinalaghta moment’

 

 

Another weekend has come and gone, and it’s now Monday evening, as I write. What a weekend for Creggs Rugby Club! On Sunday in Glenina, the pitch where city club Galwegians ply their trade, we had our own Mullinalaghta moment, when we claimed a major Connacht junior trophy for the first time in 25 years.

  In a hard-fought game played in tough weather conditions, our lads beat a game Castlebar outfit by 19 points to nil, scoring three absolutely wonderful tries – which would have graced any rugby stage. When the Cawley Cup was presented to our captain, Kevin Brandon (my nephew), it was just great to realise that the barren years had finally come to an end.

  I’m sure there is a full report somewhere else in the Roscommon People, so all I’m going to say is congrats to Pat Cunningham and his management and coaching team, to all the players, most of whom are in the very early 20s, or even their teens, with one or two elder lemons to provide the all-important bit of experience. Hopefully, we are looking at a very bright rugby future here in Creggs.

  At this point in time we are very involved in the Division 1A League, in which we are currently in second place, and we are playing Sligo in Creggs later in the season in the Connacht Junior Cup.

  Sport is notoriously fickle, but no matter what happens in the rest of the season, we have had a very successful campaign, with many more big games to come. Can’t wait.

  Meanwhile, a milestone at our club grounds on Friday evening, as we had the first ever training session at our new 3G or 4G pitch. I am not sure which it is, and don’t ask me any technical questions about its make-up, but by God, is it impressive.

  The new lights are just unbelievably good, and there isn’t a trace of a shadow anywhere. When I had my first look at the completed pitch I had to pinch myself to think that this was Creggs.

  A large number of past stalwarts, including quite a number of those who started the ball rolling (forgive the pun) in Dowd’s pub more than forty years ago, had gathered for the occasion, and for all of us who had played on the field behind the Church, and up in Kilmore where the ESB wire across the pitch caused many a kick to change direction, it was hard to believe that the journey had come this far.

  I won’t even try to describe the pitch to you, but if you find yourself passing through Creggs, I would beg you to take five minutes out, walk down to the pitches, and I guarantee you – you will be amazed.

Not a wild goose chase…

It’s Friday evening in Creggs – and the rain is bucketing down on our little border village – but no-one is taking a blind bit of notice, and if you were a stranger who accidentally strayed into the Main Street you would wonder to yourself as to what is going on. The place is packed, with cars parked the length of the village on both sides of the road.

  It reminded me of the carnival days (maybe that should be nights) back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, when the crowds would flock from all over, and when great showbands like the local Rhythm Stars, the Premier Aces, and Johnny Flynn, amongst others, would have the marquee hopping, with the huge numbers entertained until the early hours.

  There was no music last Friday night, but the Cookery Demonstration in the school hall – hosted by husband and wife duo, Tom and Jeeny Coleman – was an enormous success. It was attended by many would-be chefs, who I’m told, as part of the demo, were taught how to cook a goose. As my goose is cooked for a long time now, there was no need for me to be there! That, of course, is a joke, because I was at the other end of the street, where, in a manner of speaking, we turned on the Christmas lights, because Friday night saw the first official training session on the new 3 or 4 G pitch!

Shane and the speed limits

Shane Ross is once again annoying the people – particularly country people. This time, it’s his new proposals on speeding which are causing concern. They are well enough documented, so I won’t go into the minute details. However, as someone who recently fell foul of an €80 fine, and a Christmas present of three points on my driving licence, I firmly believe that the entire road network needs to be re-examined and reassessed with a view to devising acceptable and proper speeds.

  Everywhere we look there are ridiculous speed limits imposed – usually too low, but occasionally too high – or like the one where I was caught where the speed dropped from 100 to 60, and a few metres further on to 50, all on a perfectly straight road with no real obvious reason for the sudden drop. I was doing 59 in the 50, and I feel I was just an easy target. Everyone would like to see road deaths reduced to zero, if possible, but there must be realistic speeds applied to all our roads, and I don’t think that is the case, at least not at the moment.

And finally…

Finally for this week, don’t forget the Mass on Christmas Day in Donamon Castle, with music and singing by the fabulous Annette Griffin, John Staunton and Frances Griffin. As it starts at 10 am there is no reason why you can’t attend your own local Mass as well. All going well I will see you there.

  That’s it for this year, so have yourself a wonderful Christmas, stay safe, enjoy it, but not too much…hopefully I will do the St. Stephen’s Day Walk in Creggs, and I will talk to you again in the New Year.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

A GAA mauling in Monaghan…as ‘British Army’ looked on!

 

 

It’s Saturday the 8th of December, traditionally the big Christmas shopping day, and as I head to Athlone to the day job, I hear out of the corner of my ear (on Shannonside Radio) mention of the Co. Monaghan townland of Aghabog.

  My mind immediately transports me back to the early 1970s, to a Gaelic football match I played there all those years ago. At that stage I was a young innocent bank clerk, working in the Bank of Ireland in Park Street in Dundalk, and, even though I wouldn’t have been exactly legal, I would occasionally play a match or two for a local Gaelic team. As they never used to win a game it didn’t matter who played for them, and there was never any likelihood of an objection.

  Anyway, this particular evening, a few carloads of us headed off to Aghabog after work to play the locals in some sort of a tournament game. I can remember, as was the custom back then, togging out beside a stone wall, and leaving our clothes in the car. There was no such thing as dressing rooms or showers anywhere that time, so togging out in the open was the done thing and it was up to yourself to preserve your modesty. A number of us got togged out before we realised that one of the cars hadn’t made it, and for a little while we were secretly delighted and hoping we couldn’t field, as it was obvious the locals were a hardy bunch – and relishing the thought of giving the townies a bit of a lesson. Sadly, about a half an hour later the missing car made it, and in my life I don’t think I ever lined out with as unenthusiastic or uncommitted a bunch of lads. Our worst fears were realised as the Aghabog lads tore us asunder. They won every single battle, and by half-time we were ready to call it quits and throw in the towel.

  Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse…it did. All of a sudden two British Army helicopters arrived overhead to see how we were doing! They hovered so low above the field that, if we had got any kick at the ball, we would have had to keep it low, for fear we might hit the pilots. I presume, as we were playing in the Republic, that they were out of their jurisdiction, but it didn’t seem to matter, as they maintained a very visible presence for the entire second half. Eventually, after they had done a few flyovers – which were greeted with a load of derision by the locals – our misery was brought to an end. I don’t think I was ever as glad to see the back of any football pitch.

  The funny thing is that only a year or so ago I met a fellow from Aghabog, and he told me that he was playing in that very game, and that he remembered it well. I told him that I too would never forget it, even if for very different reasons. He also told me that, in the meantime, the local club has got new grounds/dressing rooms, and thankfully the British Army helicopters are no longer turning up to have a look at the matches. 

 

Mullinalaghta magic

 

Sticking with small GAA clubs, and, as it’s now Monday morning, there is only one story that matters in the world of Gaelic football, and that is the remarkable win in the Leinster Senior Club Football Final by the half-parish of Mullinalaghta – with a total population of 447 – over Dublin kingpins Kilmacud Crokes in Tullamore on Sunday afternoon.

  Eamonn Sweeney in the Indo described it as “the greatest club story ever told”, and I would have to agree with him, as for all of us who live in half parishes or full parishes all round the country, and who see first-hand how hard it is to keep little clubs going, this had to be the most uplifting win ever. It showed that miracles can still happen in sport, and that with the right commitment anything can be achieved. It was just wonderful to have a real-life David once again taking down a Goliath. The difference in every way between the two clubs could not have been greater, but at the end of the day it was fifteen against fifteen, and the massive outsiders were full value for their win. As I write this, I’m sure the celebrations are still going strong.

  Here in Creggs we have a huge connection with the Mullinalaghta win, as one of their panel members, Luke Meehan, who played a part in almost every game they played this year, is a star player with our firsts rugby team. They, like Mullinalaghta, are making a mockery of their small village status and are blazing a trail through Connacht rugby.

  All I can say – on behalf of every small rural club in the country – is thanks Mullinalagta, well done, and may you see off another club giant, Dr. Crokes of Killarney, in the All-Ireland semi-final in February.

 

Cookery Demonstration in aid of Creggs NS

 

On this Friday Tom Coleman, one of Ireland’s best-known and most successful nutritionists, and his wife Jeeny, who is a regular guest chef on different TV shows, are holding a Christmas Cookery Demonstration in the hall in Creggs National School. There will be local food producers and Christmas craft stands. It all starts at 7.30 pm. Tickets are only €10. All proceeds go to the national school. This is a night not to be missed.

  Tom and Jeeny recently welcomed their first child, Kai, into the world, so heartiest congratulations to them. It is a major honour for Creggs to have them hosting this demonstration, so get there in your hundreds and make sure it’s a night that we will remember for a long time to come.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, one of my favourite events of the year is Christmas Day Mass in Donamon Castle. I am delighted to tell you that Annette Griffin, her mother Frances, and John Staunton, will all be performing there again this year.

  Annette is one of Ireland’s best singers, as her long-held position of head of entertainment in Ashford Castle will confirm, and with beautiful musical accompaniment by Frances and John it is an absolute treat to look forward to. I will remind ye again next week, but put it in your diary, and please God I will see you in the castle on Christmas Day.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Food for thought: Was justice done in the case of the €1.50 Pringles?

 

 

 

 

It’s Sunday morning as I write, and as I am having a little look at the front of the Sunday papers, I’m drawn to an attention-grabbing headline on the Sunday World – ‘Woman jailed for opening €1.50 box of crisps blasts legal system’. Underneath it, we are told she got a two-month term while ‘dealers and paedos walk free’.

  It’s been a long time since I bought a Sunday World, as I am very much an Indo man, but this time the story captured my full attention. As a result, I headed home for the obligatory full Irish with a copy of the paper under my oxter, excitement building as I prepared to read about yet another miscarriage of justice.

  Down through the last number of years I have highlighted several cases of ridiculous sentencing by the judiciary, and on the face of it it certainly looked as if we had another example of legal wrongdoing here. However, after reading the full story, I have to admit I am not so sure.

  You see, the young lady involved had 31 previous convictions for theft, criminal damage and handling stolen goods, and at the time of the offence she was barred from the Tesco store where the theft of the Pringles took place. So, while on the face of it the offence was a very minor one, I suppose the dilemma facing the Judge was – where do you draw the line?

  On one hand I would be very sympathetic towards the young lady, but on the other hand, there must be a deterrent put in place to let everyone know that serial theft will not be tolerated. Also, we shouldn’t forget that there are small retailers being put out of business on a regular basis through the actions of organised robbing gangs. It is not too long since we ourselves in Lynn Antiques in Athlone were the victims of a major theft, carried out in a most professional way by a gang of five or six people. We were very lucky that the Gardai apprehended them before they had time to get rid of their ill-gotten gains. So, while I genuinely felt sorry for the defendant, for once I think the Judge was forced to make a decision, that – while unpopular – under the circumstances was the correct one.

  As it happens, the woman got bail and won’t be locked up for Christmas, and as she is going to appeal, she may never have to serve any jail time. If she’s lucky enough to avoid the ultimate punishment, I hope she learns her lesson and leaves stuff that doesn’t belong to her on the shelves. At the end of the day, no matter how small the item, theft is theft, and it is a miserable, low act.

 

Magical Christmas atmosphere on our day trip to Dublin

 

It’s Monday morning, and more than a year and a half after I got the free travel, I am finally making use of it and travelling by train. I find myself boarding the 8.38 am service from Roscommon to Heuston Station, and am quite surprised at the large numbers who are also heading to the capital city.

  In truth it has been nearly 40 years since I last used the rail network, and it has certainly improved quite a bit in the intervening years. After a very comfortable, smooth journey we disembarked in the city in a good bit under two hours.

  For me, one of the great joys of going to Dublin is breakfast in Eddie Rocket’s, and so the first place I headed to was the O’Connell Street branch where (don’t tell my doctor) I enjoyed the full Eddie Rocket power breakfast.

  After that we did the usual window shopping trip, with the Christmas stalls in Henry Street proving particularly interesting to me. It goes without saying that we ran into several local people, most of whom warned me not to mention them in the paper, but one who didn’t was Ballygar man Johnny Martin, who was happily visiting his newly-born grandchild.

  The atmosphere in the city was just magic, with unbelievable lighting in every street, shopping centre and mall. The GPO was an amazing sight –all lit up – and I have to say it was a most enjoyable experience. Now that I have finally got started, Irish Rail will be seeing a lot more of me in the future.

  On the way home I realised that a huge number of people are commuting daily to the city for work. Indeed several of them were using their laptops on the way home to do their business –compliments of free WiFi from Irish Rail – before heading back up to Dublin the following morning. It’s tough going, as a lot of them have to be on the train at 6 am or so in the morning (to make their offices in time), but as a girl who was sitting beside us explained, the cost of accommodation in Dublin leaves them with no choice, as they simply can’t afford to live there.

  Anyway, it was great to see how things are in our capital city, and all I can say is I enjoyed my visit. Nonetheless, stay local when you are doing your Christmas shopping – your own area needs you most.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s hard to believe it but another year has almost passed, and Mary Kelly has reminded me that one of the biggest social events of the year, the Senior Citizens’ Party, takes place this Sunday, 9th of December in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet. It all starts at 2 pm. There will be music, food, drink and loads of craic.

  Thanks to the hard-working committee it’s all free gratis, and everyone is welcome. Just as with the free travel, I am fully qualified to attend the hooley on Sunday. Hopefully I will make it, but even if I can’t, you better make sure you are there and have a wonderful day’s fun – you deserve it!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

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