It’s Thursday evening of last week, and, after a quick turnaround after work, Carol and myself hit off for the historic village of Aughrim, where on the 12th of July 1691 the bloodiest battle that was ever fought on Irish soil took place, between the Williamites and the Jacobites. There were over 7,000 people killed, and the resounding victory for the forces of William III was the turning point which effectively ended the resistance of those loyal to James II, who had earlier been deposed as king.
However, it was not for a history lesson that we headed for the Galway village, but rather for a night of music and song in Valerie’s, where, just as in 1691, a large crowd had gathered but thankfully, this time it was all about fun and enjoyment, and I have to say it was just a fabulous night’s entertainment.
The first big source of joy to me, and other people of my vintage, was that the show was taking place in an old style marquee, and just for a moment I was back in my youth at the local summer carnivals with all the showbands playing.
However, as soon as the show started with a set by Meath country singer, Matt Leavy, I was right back in the present and even though I had never seen or heard him before, I was very impressed with him and his 25-minute set went down very well with the appreciative audience.
The main reason that we found ourselves in Aughrim was the fact that Twink’s daughter, Chloe Agnew, (Twink being a longtime friend of Carol’s) was also on the bill. Having been a member of the Irish super group, Celtic Woman for a good few years, she is now on her own, and a highly regarded performer in Los Angeles.
Personally, I thought she might struggle with an ageing country audience, but I needn’t have worried, she was every inch a star and kept the theme going by doing all country songs, finishing with a fabulous medley of Dolly Parton numbers. In truth, she is a real classy performer.
Carol and I met up with her for a chat after her set and she was really delighted to be in Aughrim, and thoroughly enjoyed the unusual experience of appearing in a marquee.
Next up was Foster and Allen and it was the first time that I had ever seen them live (don’t know how I missed them for the 44 years they are performing) and they were just brilliant - great musically, but also great craic. You could see how easy it came to them - they did a number of their best-known songs, and the full house really warmed to them.
Mick Foster sang a new (to me) song about an accident a lad had had in the middle of the night, involving a mousetrap on a chamber pot (don’t ask), and it brought the house down. I can only say they are some entertainers, and at some stage I will try to see them in a full Foster and Allen show.
All week I had heard that the one and only Nathan Carter was going to make a guest appearance, and for once the rumour mill was accurate! His full band, his mother, grandfather and grandmother were all there, and seeing him also for the first time live, I wasn’t disappointed. His energy, life, personality and, of course, his singing was indicative of his superstar status, and even though my musical ear is non-existent, Carol couldn’t get over the quality of his band, which brought an end to a wonderful night’s entertainment. As a fellow I met in the loo said to me: ‘Who’d think you would ever see such a show in little Aughrim?’
As I headed back home, I thought to myself that having been known for hundreds of years as the venue for our bloodiest battle ever, from now on it may well be known for music and craic! Fair play to Valerie and her crew for having the guts to put on such a brilliant show. If my old stents keep doing their job, and if she does it all again next year, I will definitely be back!
The whole thing was on for the weekend, with a highly-rated American all-girl country band there on Friday night, as well as other performers on Saturday night, so I just hope the crowds turned up all weekend, and kept the tills ringing. It costs a lot to put on these type of weekends, and people like Valerie deserve to be supported.
A year’s a long time in world rugby
Onto rugby, and it’s hard to believe that only a year ago we were second favourites for the World Cup, and supporters here were eagerly looking forward to the finals in Japan and talk was of reaching our first ever semi-final, and perhaps winning the whole thing out.
However, in the wake of the heaviest defeat we have ever suffered against our ‘old enemy’, England, there is an undeniable air of despondency about our chances with people now saying that we may not even get out of our group, and may be on our way home before the quarter-final stages.
Now it’s hard to accept that our Grand Slam winning team of 2018 has fallen back so far that the bookies have us as the eighth favourites to win it out now, but, sadly, the evidence all points to the fact that we are way behind even a number of our Six Nations opponents. The truth is that we seem to be way off the pace. Why this has happened is hard to figure out, but for a long time now the two players who were rightly regarded as the best in the world in their positions, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, have been suffering with injuries and loss of form and, in my opinion, if they fail to recapture their best form in time for Japan we indeed could be on an early flight home.
Hope however springs eternal and maybe, just maybe, this team may rediscover the form and attitude that brought the Grand Slam just over a year ago. I’m sure the many supporters who are actually spending their hard-earned money to go to see the Irish team in the group stages are praying it will be worth it. When I put it to a friends of mine that they might try to get their money back before they went, such is the poor form of the Irish team, I was told in no uncertain terms that the trip to Japan is going ahead regardless! That person is still looking forward to the potential trip of a lifetime and rightly so!
Rory’s feeling like 15 million bucks!
Talking of money and still sticking with sport, I watched enthralled on Sunday night as Rory McIlroy won the Fed-Ex Cup, and in the process picked up a winner’s cheque of a mind-boggling $15 million. It just goes to show the mentality of top golfers like McIlroy that money wasn’t his main motivation at all. His focus was to beat the World Number One, Brooks Koepka, and he wasn’t slow in letting the world know how much beating Koepka meant to him. I’m sure the $15 million was nice - but according to Rory at least, the win was even nicer!
I myself have just returned from playing nine holes on Castlerea’s lovely course but the only resemblance between my game and the one that Rory plays is the ball and clubs - nothing else is even remotely alike!
Anyway, Rory’s victory has once again propelled Irish golf to the very top of the world game following hot on the heels of Shane Lowry’s recent win in the British Open, and there is no doubt that thousands of tourists will visit our shores over the next few years to sample some of the delights our world class golf courses have to offer. It’s great to have so much positivity in the world of Irish golf, and all I can say is long may it last.
Always look on the bright side of life...
Finally for this week, the news for optimists is good as researchers in Boston have shown that looking on ‘the bright side of life’ can actually help you to live longer, with optimism adding between 11% and 15% to most people’s lifespans.
I always thought I was optimistic enough but as these results show, optimists are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, tend to be thin and not fond of a drink!
As I’m out on all three counts, maybe it’s time for me to re-evaluate!
Till next week, Bye for now!