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Two Irelands: Rugby day out in shadow of gangland culture

It’s a long time since I sent my first report on our annual rugby tour, as I made my way to Falkirk in Scotland, where my nephew, Eamon Bracken, along with our own Creggs player, Michael Diffley, were playing for the Irish U-20s against the host nation. Of course at that time, it was to the now no more Roscommon Champion. This weekend we kept up the touring tradition by heading off to the Aviva Stadium to watch our Irish rugby team do battle with their Welsh counterparts in the opening series of the Six Nations.

  This time however was very different to the first one, as I only featured in the first part of the tour because, courtesy of the early direct bus from Dublin, I was back in Creggs in time to see our local lads lose out to Ballina in a keenly-contested quarter-final of the Connacht Junior Rugby Cup on Sunday afternoon.

  On a day when fingers were more like icicles – than fingers – and on which you would need a home heating system in your jacket to stay warm, the standard of play was amazingly high, and if our team lost, they certainly finished the game with their pride and reputation intact. The final score of 10 points to 3 was harsh enough on the home team and no one could have complained if the game had ended, as the international did, in a draw. However, it wasn’t to be and Ballina are now looking forward to a home semi-final next Sunday. 

  As for us, it was great to see our young team play so well and attractively, as they have done all year, and if they can keep this team together, it won’t be long ‘till Connacht success is achieved again.

  Anyway, back to the tour to Dublin, and while the rugby game was in my opinion a really good and intense battle, it was overshadowed for me by the extraordinary activities that took place in the Regency Hotel in Drumcondra on Friday afternoon.

  The world and its mother now knows about the Love/Hate-style murder and shootings that took place there at the weigh-in of a major boxing tournament, but I suppose it’s because I was staying right beside the Regency that it had such an impact on me.

  When I arrived out to my weekend place of rest the area was absolutely crawling with Gardai, plain-clothes detectives and members of the armed Gardai unit. The entrance to our place was closed off, as it seemed the gang made their getaway through our apartment complex, and as they must have been carrying out forensics (I know that from N.C.I.S.), we had to do a major detour to get to our place. Even at that, we were quizzed every time we appeared, and by the time I left on Sunday morning, I was nearly on first-name terms with some of the Gardai!

  This latest episode in the gangland war that is going on in our Capital city is arguably one of the worst and most frightening of all the terrible events that have taken place and once again showed that these gangsters have no regard for human life. There were children and women, as well as several other innocent bystanders, including news reporters and cameramen, at the boxing weigh-in and it was probably pure luck that no one else was injured or killed.

  Today I see questions being asked as to why if reporters were there expecting some type of a confrontation, which apparently those who run these boxing tournaments seem to attract, the guards weren’t forewarned and ready for trouble. Maybe it’s just as well as if they were there, we might have had an old-style western shootout and it could have resulted in wholesale carnage. Anyway, it seems all hell is about to break loose in Dublin and there will be many more lives lost before the dust settles. Let’s hope it’s all over sooner rather than later.

Early to bed…

On the social side of our tour to the rugby international last weekend, being in Dublin is like being in a different world – pubs so packed at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon that we could hardly get in – and everywhere we went, the buzz was just electric!

  The big difference in our present-day tours is that where one time we would be out ‘till the early hours, nowadays we are all safely tucked into bed long before midnight.

  Despite the big game in Creggs, the village was well represented in the city and the Roarke clan were there in force to honour my old mate Jim, who was celebrating a major birthday – I’m not going to give it away, but it’s somewhere between fifty and seventy! Answers on a postcard please!

Well done, Rossies!

Finally for this week, even out here in Galway land, we have to applaud the Rossies on their great win in Killarney on Sunday over Kerry and, like it or not, the primrose and blue are looking good for at least a Connacht title!

  On the local front, the new season starts this weekend with the first round of the Tansey Cup and we wish our team and their new management the best of luck!

  Will this be the year that our long wait for a Junior Championship win comes to an end (1983 was the last)? Here’s hoping!

Till next week, bye for now

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