In February 2007, more than ten years ago, the Roscommon People hit the streets and the first piece that I wrote for it concerned the Irish soccer team and their abysmal performance in the European qualifiers against the part-time footballers from San Marino.
I wrote about the highly-paid Irish players, a number of them from top English Premiership clubs, and how they showed little pride, application or commitment to the job and how they were blessed to get a 94th minute winner (2-1) against the fishermen, bankers, builders, and other odd job men who were playing for San Marino, a team that a few weeks earlier had conceded 13 goals at home against the Germans. The last-gasp winner was scored by Manchester City midfielder, Stephen Ireland, a man who ended up with more grandmothers than sense and who later claimed he “feels nothing for the national team, and couldn’t care less whether they win or lose.”
On Monday night in Cardiff, an Irish team that had no player from any of the top clubs, a few from teams who would be classed as poorer top level clubs, a good few from championship clubs and missing their one true superstar, Seamus Coleman, gave one of the great performances of my lifetime, and, while no-one could claim that it was a technical masterclass, it was full of all the things that were missing all those years ago in San Marino. Guts, pride, total commitment were all on show and the bravery that everyone involved exhibited in a hostile environment was great to see.
I always struggle to figure out why our soccer pundits are so against Martin O’Neill and his tactics, as I believe he is a total realist and realises the limited talent he has at his disposal. He plays the game to the team’s strengths. What is unquestioned is the fact that his teams give everything they have for him, and I for one, rate Monday night’s win right up there with the great sporting moments. What the play-offs hold God only knows but one thing’s for sure: this team won’t fail through lack of effort.
I have sat in the sitting room on many a great sporting night, but the roar that went up last night when James McClean hit his wonderful goal surely ranks with the highest decibel levels ever recorded in Creggs. Roll on the play-offs and who knows, the Green Army might make it all the way to Russia.
Brexit hits Ballinasloe…
It’s one of my big regrets that I have never gone to the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, and as the dust settles on yet another year of the annual extravaganza, I am putting it on top of my to-do list. Next October, God willing, I will make it my business to go for a look.
For a long time now it has been known as the biggest horse fair in Europe, and year in year out we have had thousands of visitors flocking to the Galway town from all over the world, but especially from the European mainland, and the United Kingdom.
Buyers from England, Scotland and Wales were the very welcome additions to our own Irish buyers, and they snapped up a huge number of our horses over the last few years. After a few bad years, the market was showing signs of a timely revival. But I’m told that this year the UK buyers stayed at home, and as a result the trade in Ballinasloe was pretty subdued – and it seems it’s all down to Brexit and the falling sterling rate.
For a while sterling was so strong that it paid the British buyers to come over here, buy our horses and bring them back across the Irish Sea. Now with the gap in the currencies almost closed, it simply doesn’t pay them to come and as a result a large number stayed at home.
Funny enough, even in the shop in Athlone, I used to have a few horse fair regulars from across the pond, but this year they never showed, and everyone I met told me that the number of both horses and people in attendance was well down on previous years. I only hope that the writing isn’t on the wall for one of our greatest national institutions, and that when I finally pay it a visit, it won’t be on its last legs.
Meanwhile, back in Creggs…
On now to matters local, and back to the recent fundraising dance, and we are delighted to confirm that thanks to your never-ending generosity, we have the brilliant sum of €5,130 to divide between Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund.
We are handing over the bank drafts in Dowd’s, Glinsk on Wednesday, 18th of October at 9 pm and all are welcome for a cup of tea and a chat.
Also, Bina Harris has asked me to let you know that the Craft Fair during the Harvest Festival will take place in the school on the Bank holiday Monday from around 10 am.
Finally for this week, Paddy and Maureen Lally’s daughter Sinead has just opened her own hair salon in Castlerea. Congrats Sinead! We wish you well in your big venture, and I might just drop in for a short back and sides.
Running for ‘Join Our Boys’
My good friend Jack the Lower (Hegarty) has asked me to tell you that his daughter, Aoife, and loads of her friends are taking part in the Dublin City Marathon on the bank holiday Sunday in October, and they are all doing so to raise funds for the Join Our Boys campaign. Sponsorship cards are available now, and I would urge everyone to support this amazing cause.
On Sunday, Aoife and about 40 others did a run from Athlone to Roscommon to highlight the upcoming marathon, and it was a great success.
A few ladies pushed young Archie all the way in a buggy, and I’m told they intend to do the same at the Dublin run. It’s a great effort by the girls, and especially young Archie.
So congrats to all who will be taking part on the day, and if you are asked to make a contribution, just remember how lucky you are – and please give all you can.