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Great hurling stories – then and now!

 

A long time ago, probably in the late 1970s, the Creggs Junior Hurling team, captained by its founder and probably sole selector, Ollie King, and backboned by such wonderful hurlers as myself and The Rasher, set the hurling world alight and qualified for the County Junior Final, where we came up against our near-neighbours Ballygar.

  In one of the greatest games – that bits a lie – ever seen (by at least 20 lucky supporters) the match ended in a welter of excitement, and the referee declared it a draw, and so it had to go to a replay, which was to take place on the following Sunday week. Unfortunately Creggs Rugby Club had an important league match on that Sunday and as there were six of us involved in both codes, in order to have a team, we had to find six hurlers as quickly as possible.

  The Rasher used his Clare connections, and so on the morning of the replay, as we headed off to Tuam for the rugby match, a well-packed car from Ennis was heading to Creggs. Six members of the very well-known family – the Beirnes from the Mountain – took to the field for that replay, and after another titanic struggle, the cup unfortunately headed off to Ballygar, thanks, if I remember correctly, to a super performance by Kilmore’s Seamus Kelly.

  One of the Beirnes from the Mountain turned out to be a certain Barry Smyth, who happened to be the centre-half back on the Clare senior hurling team of the time, and despite the disappointment of losing the Roscommon Junior Final he later had a very good intercounty career. Anyway, fast-forward to September 28th 2013, and Clare senior hurlers are crowned All-Ireland champions after an epic replay against Cork, and another young Ennis lad, Shane O’Donnell, becomes an overnight sensation and superstar when he scores 3-3 in that match.

  Last Saturday night my nephew Colm and Shane O’Donnell had a joint 21st Birthday Party in Ennis, and I had the pleasure of meeting and having a bit of a chat with the Clare hurler. They are playing Offaly in the qualifiers on next Saturday evening, and Davy Fitz only let him go to his own 21st on the condition that he didn’t drink, which he certainly didn’t, and it once again highlights the extraordinary sacrifices intercounty players have to make nowadays.

  Even though it’s two years since his All-Ireland heroics, the young O’Donnell was in serious demand for photos and selfies, but in fairness to him he handled every request with patience and good grace, and even though he didn’t actually say it, I got the feeling that he was very honoured to be in the company of another great hurler (that was me) who had almost won a Roscommon Junior medal.

  We had a great night in Ennis, and congrats to the two lads – I gave Shane a few tips as to how to improve his game so I look forward to seeing Clare play later on to see if he took my advice on board. Maybe if all goes well for him, Davy Fitz might find a place for me on his management team.

  Talking of management teams, the present Creggs one masterminded one of the great shocks on the local football front when last Saturday evening our lads beat a very strong Castlerea team in the O’Gara Cup by a point, 3-7 to 0-15. Well done to all the players and especially Gerry, the two Johns, and Steven – maybe at last the ghosts of 1983 can be laid to rest.

 

Summer Cabaret…

 

Back to stars and superstars, and in this locality Annette Griffin singer, harpist and TV star is as big as there is, and as I told you last week herself and John Staunton are presenting a Summer Cabaret Dinner & Show every Wednesday evening in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, starting on Wednesday, 8th of July.

  There will be music, song, comedy, food and the summer line-up is amazing – Patrick Feeney, Brendan Shine, Tenor Sean Costello, John & Annette, The Riverdance Themed Turley Duggan Dance Academy and the fabulous comedian, Frank Forde, are some of the wonderful artists who will feature every Wednesday, along with the excellent House Band, ‘The McWilliam House Band’.

  The show, which starts at 9 pm (Dinner at 7.15 pm), is suitable for all ages and guarantees an unforgettable night of music, song, and dance. Dinner and show tickets are only €45, while the show itself is €25. Group discounts are available, and after the show you can dance the rest of the night away in Kavanagh’s Bar to the sound of Trevor Moyles. It sounds like a really exciting night out so make sure you hit for Claremorris on any (or every) Wednesday night till the month of September.

 

Palpable grief at

murder of locals

 

Monday morning here in Athlone is usually what I can only describe as fairly mundane and boring – nothing much happens until around midday, and if you get to talk to anyone it’ll be about the weather, the terrible telly programmes that are on during the summer, and, depending on whether or not the other person likes sport, the results of the major games that took place at the weekend.

  Today however, is very different and it is safe to say that Athlone is in a state of shock – the horrific murders of well-known local couple Larry and Martina Hayes in the massacre on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia on Friday, has cast a shadow over the midlands town and there is a palpable sense of grief and sadness all around the place.

  I didn’t know the Hayes family, but I do know Martina’s brother, Billy Kelly, and as I drove into work this morning I heard him being interviewed by Joe Finnegan from Shannonside Radio, and it was distressing to hear the hurt, pain, helplessness and anger in his voice.

  I suppose we look at the News and see all the terrible atrocities that are taking place in the name of some Islamic religion or other, all over the Middle East, and while we might be a bit perturbed, in reality we just shake our heads and think to ourselves “Thank God it’s over there”.

  Well, as and from last Friday that safety net is well and truly gone, and as Billy said this morning these people could literally strike anywhere, and no one anywhere is safe anymore – it’s a chilling thought, but we all now have to live with it.

  It’s ironic to think that any other time the whole town would be buzzing with the unbelieveable victory the Westmeath footballers had on Sunday, when, after well over a hundred years of trying, they finally managed to beat their neighbours Meath in a Senior Football Championship match. However, as laudable an achievement as it is, and any other time it certainly would be, today it doesn’t seem to matter very much, and, I suppose it puts everything into perspective. All I can do is express my sincere sympathy to the Hayes and Kelly families. May Larry and Martina rest in peace.

 

‘Till next week,

Bye for now 

    

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