It’s a wet, wild, windy Sunday afternoon, and I find myself hitting for the Mayo town of Castlebar, where our rugby team are playing the home side in the semi-final of the Connacht Junior Cup. Winning would mean that we would be heading back to the Sportsground in Galway for the final, for the first time in 26 years.
It’s funny how memories always come flooding back on occasions such as this. As I passed by the place where Castlebar had their pitch back in the 1970s, my mind drifted all the way back to our first cup game in the 1978/79 season. Back then they played opposite the now defunct Castlebar Airport – on the way in, near McHale Park – and I have told you before that for our first big appearance in the quarter-final of the cup, we travelled without any jerseys, and played the first half in our Sunday shirts, vests, odd jerseys, and in my case a Courtelle, a Paris fashion item which was sold to me by Anto Pettit. Sadly it was ripped asunder in a tackle, long before Jimmy and Nora Connelly combined to have the jerseys in Castlebar for the second half.
One of the main features of that game was the number of low flying small aircraft coming in to land on the airstrip, which was just across the road at the end of the pitch. They would be so low as they made their final approches that a high kick could well have led to disaster. Anyways, we didn’t bring down any plane, and, remarkably, we won that first ever cup game between the two clubs, and eventually made it to the cup final where we lost narrowly to a very good Ballina team.
Since those early days, Castlebar have moved a good few miles…out the Ballinrobe road – but despite the change of venue, it is still one of the most difficult places to go, and last Sunday was no different.
There will be a report somewhere else in the paper about a tough, dogged, full-blooded encounter, but, eventually, despite a somewhat unconvincing performance, we made it across the winning line and we can now look forward to another battle with Connemara, in Galway, on Sunday, 24th of March. It will hopefully, give us an excuse to pay a visit to Sean Donoghue’s pub in Abbeyknockmoy, where we used always stop for a pint or two back in the days that now seem like a lifetime ago (and sadly they are).
I hope it’s a good omen, but, yesterday as I was rooting through an old cabinet, I came across the league and cup medals that I was lucky enough to win with Creggs during those heady days, and I really believe this young team can go on to write a glorious new chapter in the history of this marvellous little rugby club. Here’s to March 24th and, win or lose (hopefully win) it’s great to have a big day out to look forward to. I can see myself on a high stool in ‘Abbey’ on the way home.
Enjoyable night in City of the Tribes
On Sunday, after the match in Castlebar, myself and Carol headed for the western Capital (that’s Galway) where we were due to spend the night. Of course, even though it was a Sunday night in February, it was still flat out busy.
The taximan who brought us into the city centre told us that Monday and Thursday are the busiest nights because of the huge student population. Monday because they have been back after being at home for the weekend where they were properly fed, had their clothes washed, and got a few bob from their hard-pressed parents, and Thursday because they had to spend whatever they had left before going home again on Friday for a re-run of the previous weekend!
However, he also said that last Sunday night was the busiest he had seen for some time, and judging by the crowds in the pubs and restaurants it was easy to appreciate that. After a hearty meal in The Cellar we did a mini-tour of some of the pubs that were recommended to us by people who are used to the city nightlife. Taaffes was way too busy and noisy for us, and so we crossed the paved cobblestones for my first ever visit to Tig Coili, and it certainly lived up to its billing. There was a big crowd, excellent traditional music, and even better porter – which was like drinking cream milk – and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
However, we felt it would not be right to park in the one place on our very rare trip to Galway, and even though the rain was pelting down (as it seems it only can in Galway), we braved the elements to call to Garavan’s, a lovely old pub with a more mature clientele, before calling it a day (night) after sampling the fare in O’Connells (pictured above), on Eyre Square, a place that had a mixture of young and old and – as with the others – was vibrant, lively and very enjoyable.
The overwhelming feeling all over was that the City of the Tribes is still one of the best places in Ireland, or anywhere else, for a night out, and I hope it won’t be as long before I sample its delights again.
Learner drivers: Draconian penalties
On to more serious matters: the new tough penalties which have been brought in against unaccompanied learner drivers are causing quite a bit of annoyance, especially among rural communities.
As with the new drink-driving limits, Shane Ross stands accused of trying to destroy what’s left of rural Ireland. Of course there are two sides to every disagreement, and Ross will argue that all he is doing is to try to improve road safety, but for parents who can’t be constantly available to accompany their learner driver children to work, college, sporting activities – or anywhere else – the new penalties are certainly very draconian and inconvenient.
There must be a way of solving this problem. The waiting time for driving tests seems to be way too long. I heard a lady from Tipperary claiming that the waiting time in her area can be up to six months, while the normal time is somewhere between eight and twelve weeks. There is no doubt that those waiting times are way too long, so maybe there should be a relaxation of the rules for those who are waiting for their tests. I’m no politician, but something must be done to solve what is now a major issue.
Finally for this week, Michael Nolan asks me to tell you all about a Table Quiz for Ros FM 94.6 in Cuisle, Donamon, on Friday night, 22nd of February at 9 pm. Tables of 4 are €40.
Ros FM is run by volunteers and needs all the help it can get, so your support would be greatly appreciated.
Till next week, Bye for now!