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Time for a pint on Good Friday …especially this year?

All across the media, there is a lot of controversy about the Centenary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising, and quite a lot of the problems seem to centre on the cost and the extent of the planned celebrations and where they will take place, with a number of commentators concerned that the overwhelming majority of events will be located in our Capital city, Dublin.

  Now I would have no great problem with that part of it as, after all, the GPO would be the place most associated with the Rising – at least in the minds of lukewarm historians, like myself, who wouldn’t know as much about the circumstances as I should. However, one undeniable fact is that the Centenary will bring huge numbers of people to Ireland and more specifically, Dublin, for the Easter weekend and one of the big questions now is whether or not they will be able to have a pint or two on Good Friday?

  Now I have no idea why the custom has been there, certainly all my life, that the pubs close on Good Friday, and in truth it has always been the accepted thing and in my time I have known publicans who were delighted to have the day off. The tradition was so well ingrained into our minds that only once in my life have I ever had a Good Friday pint, and just in case you might think otherwise, it was many, many miles away from Creggs and many, many years ago.

  However, for a few years now, the argument has been made that, particularly in the cities and big towns where tourists are visiting, it’s a bit ridiculous that they can’t get a drink in any of our world-renowned pubs – and I’m beginning to think that it’s maybe time for a change – and especially for 2016.

            Apparently legislation would have to be brought in to allow the pubs to open on that day – and it may already be too late – but, even if it is too late, surely they could open anyway and let the Gardai turn a blind eye? That way a publican could make up his or her own mind as to whether he or she opened or not, but I’m sure at least in the major tourist centres enough would open to ensure that the visitors and indeed our own could raise a glass and toast the heroes of 1916.

            I might even break the habit of a lifetime and have my second ever Good Friday pint. We’ll wait and see!

Hugh’s blackboard jungle

Once upon a time I was a sort of a rugby player, whose best performances were reserved for the safety of the clubhouse bar and whose long career owed much to making sure that I was never over-extended in training ­– in fact my first proper rugby club was when I played with Westport way back in the late 1960s and we actually trained in the bar of a local hotel.

  The coach at the time was Hugh O’Malley, a man who also owned the Ormond Hotel in Dublin. Hugh was the first man I ever saw making use of the blackboard to go through his moves.

  We would train on a Friday night and as there were no floodlit pitches back then we would tog out, go up to the function room bar and go through our paces on the dance floor. For the next hour or so, we would gaze intently at Hugh and his blackboard, vainly trying to figure out his complicated (to us) manoeuvres. When all was over, we would then go to the proper bar, drink a load of pints, discuss our new moves and hit for the TF (Traveller’s Friend) in Castlebar on our way home.

  Hugh could never figure out how we never implemented his wonderful moves! It may have had something to do with a loss of memory, after several of his best post-training pints of good Guinness.  

            I am reminded of all this on a Monday morning, when for the umpteenth time in the last few years, the health of Irish out-half Johnny Sexton is again called into question.

  As a fully paid-up member of the non-tackling union (another reason for my long career), it is frightening to see the belts that professional players are taking nowadays. 

  One of my readers contacted me before Christmas to make the point that there should be different tackling rules for amateur and professional players.  

  He made the point that other contact sports like boxing have more safety regulations to protect participants who have to go to work on Monday mornings – exactly what he had in mind I’m not sure, but this morning, as Johnny Sexton worries about the long-term effect another massive blow to his head may have, maybe it’s time to have a look at what he was saying and make rugby safer for everyone, professional and amateur.

  I’m off for a few laps of Mikeen’s – I have a few moves to work on!

Can we address this drugs anguish?

On the subject of having a few pints now and again, I make no secret of the fact that I am not averse to an odd pint of the black stuff, but for some unknown reason I never experimented with any kind of drugs – even back in the ‘60s as a young lad, I didn’t bother, although, at that time, drugs like L.S.D., cannabis and hash (maybe that’s cannabis by another name) were freely available.

  Today things seem to be different and a recent survey of 3rd Level students suggests that a high percentage of them will at one stage or other have a go at using some of the illegal substances that, admit it or not, can be got in every village, large town and city in our country.

  Because I never tried any of them, I suppose I really haven’t a clue what I’m writing about, (not a lot new in that, says you), but the tragic death of young Cork student, 18-years-old Alex Ryan, after he took a hallucinogenic drug known as N-bomb, exposes the enormous dangers that are out there for our susceptible children.

  I am well aware that it’s almost natural that young adults will give way to peer pressure, and experiment, but there has to be a way of keeping totally unsupervised street drugs (which basically means there’s no way of knowing what’s in them), away from innocent, first-time users.

  I don’t know what the answer is. Some countries legalise the sale of drugs, which brings the whole process out in the open and reduces the enormous financial earnings available to unscrupulous dealers, thereby reducing the risk of contaminated batches of drugs finding their way onto the streets – and, in my ignorance, I would see some benefit in such a move.

  However, before I get into trouble, I’m sure there may be a better way, but we must find the solution soon, or more youngsters like Alex Ryan will lose their lives and more families will have the unbearable pain of burying a loved one for no reason other than the fact that our legislators failed us.

  Anyway, it’s a tragic loss of a young very promising life and I express my sorrow and condolences to his family. May we never see it happen again.

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