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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

How I went from cheering The Kingdom to toasting the High Kings

 

 

 

From the moment I got up last Saturday morning there was nothing much in my head other than the All-Ireland football final replay.

  If the truth were told, I was hoping that the Kerry lads would halt the Dubs’ five-in-a-row bid. I really had no particular reason to support The Kingdom, but I suppose we all like to see the underdog cause an occasional upset.

  Anyway, at about 12 midday a couple came into the shop, and after a bit of a chat I found out that the lady was a Galwegian and the man was from Kerry. So I put two and two together, getting five, as I wrongly assumed that they were on their way to Croke Park.

  The woman told me they had only got one ticket, and that her sister, also a ‘Galway girl’, had got her hands on that, and had left earlier in the morning to travel by bus on her own to Croke Park, and would be making the return journey later that night after the match was over.

  Now I won’t deny that my first reaction was that she was a very selfish woman and that she should have given the ticket to her Kerry brother-in-law, and I said so to the sister – in no uncertain terms – particularly as she, being a Galway girl, can hardly have had any real interest in the outcome. Her answer took me by surprise when she said her sister was hoping the Dubs would win because she wanted to be present when history was made, when the Dubs would become the first ever team to win the magical five-in-a-row.

  It made me have a re-think about my own position, and later in the evening when history was made I have to admit that I looked at the Dubs in a new light. I realised that they are most certainly the best team ever to have graced the game of football, and while I don’t want their dominance to continue forever, I do acknowledge what a wonderful group of young men they are – wonderful ambassadors for the GAA – and I can only congratulate them on their amazing achievement.

  A year ago, I wrote that not only would they do the five, there was no reason to think that it wouldn’t stretch out to six or seven. Today my sentiments are exactly the same. I cannot see this Dublin team losing their crown for a few years yet.

* The great thing about sport is that there is always something else coming around the corner, and out here in Creggs we have a big Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final against our neighbours, Oran, to look forward to on Saturday evening next.

  Then on Sunday morning at 8 am, our Irish rugby team will start their World Cup campaign against the Scots over in Japan. It makes me wonder what would the likes of me do if there was no such thing as sport!

 

No, I’m not  ‘gone cuckoo’

 

My recent revelation about the presence of the cuckoo in Crosswell (that’s where I live) has caused consternation in Mikeen’s, with several people telling me that it’s me that’s gone cuckoo, and that by the month of September, even if he ever came he would by now be long gone.

  An old ditty which says the cuckoo flies away in July had all the bird watchers in a tizzy, and the amateur ornithologists in our midst were ‘certain sure’ that I had got it wrong.

  Some of them seemed to know what they were talking about, and for a little while I wondered could I possibly have heard a musical pigeon…until the lad who told us there were no crows in Leitrim joined in. He had most of the bird people believing him, and when he convinced them that you would get a few crows around Carrick-on-Shannon, but nowhere else in the county, that was enough for me – and, no matter what evidence they try to dig up, I know what I heard, and I repeat that only a week or so ago, I heard the crystal clear sound of the Crosswell cuckoo.

 

 

A great celebration of life and times of Mary Black

 

A number of my friends and acquaintances can’t stand the longer winter nights, when, at its worst, it’s dark at 5 o’clock. I suppose they have a point, but at the same time the long nights give us the chance to rekindle the wonderful roasting open fires, and also the time to watch more television programmes.

  Now I’m the first to admit that some of the present television offerings leave a lot to be desired. Only last night I had the dubious pleasure of watching an episode of Ear to the Ground, which was a repeat that focused on Christmas of last year, and which featured a load of turkeys that I’m sure were destined for the 2018 Christmas Day oven.

  However, earlier in the week, I happened to tune in to a documentary on the singer, Mary Black, and I can only say it was a brilliant insight into the life and times of one of our top, and longest lasting entertainers. It didn’t try to sugar-coat the struggles she has had with lack of confidence and depression.

  One of the most telling observations that the singer made was the fact that her depression was at its worst when everything, career-wise and family-wise, was at its best. As she said, there was nothing financially, or otherwise, troubling her, and yet the depression was still there.

  She also at times questioned her right to be popular and successful, and it was heartening to see someone who, while acknowledging she had a good voice and was quite talented, never wanted great fame or fortune, but was happy to have her own loyal followers and to make a living doing something she obviously loved.

  I would never claim to have been a fan of either Mary, or her sister, Frances, but I admire the former for allowing the documentary to be so truthful about her insecurities. It is a credit to her that she had such a successful career – playing the Albert Hall in London a number of times in the 1990s, and later joining forces with six other top Irish female artists to record the iconic Woman’s Heart album.

  Two of Mary’s three children – Danny, lead singer with The Coronas, and Roisin O – have followed her into the music industry, and they are both hugely successful in their own right, so the Black musical legacy will live on.

  I was hugely impressed with Mary and her honesty, and, knowing RTE’s great fondness for repeats, this will surely be shown again. If you missed it, make sure you have a look next time. It won’t disappoint.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, we are up and running with our tickets for the big fundraising dance in Dowd’s of Glinsk, on Saturday, October 12th. There will be music by The Lancers, and all funds are going equally to Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund.

  The number of families locally that have suffered from cancer, either directly or indirectly, is frightening, and so many members of our community have benefited from the wonderful facilities in the Inis Aoibhinn Residence in Galway.

  Meanwhile, the Lourdes Invalid Fund assists pilgrims to go to Lourdes at the end of August each year, and it is our privilege to do some little thing each year to help both organisations in even a little way.

  Your generosity over the last 15 years has been humbling, and I have no doubt you will once more come up trumps. We are looking forward to renewing a lot of acquaintances on Saturday, 12th of October, and hopefully before that you will meet us at your door over the next few weeks as we arrive with our very colourful newly-designed tickets.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

We give out about the weather…but do we realise how lucky we are?

 

 

It’s Monday evening…and here in the west of Ireland, it’s a sunny, bright (though cold) September evening, and even though it’s normal for us to give out about the weather, the truth is that we have very little to complain about, as we hardly ever experience any major weather-related disasters.

  Last week Hurricane Dorian absolutely ravaged The Bahamas, and although, so far, the official death toll is only in the mid-forties, leaders there believe hundreds, if not thousands, remain missing, and they predict that a “staggering” death toll will be the end result. Photographs on national and international media outlets show the total and utter devastation that has followed on from the visit of the hurricane, with homes completely flattened like paper houses, and basic life necessities like food and water in short supply, and a massive humanitarian aid mission is required to try to keep the desperate survivors alive.

  And so it would be easy to believe that these natural disasters tend to only occur in poverty-ridden islands, like The Bahamas, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea, but, as Irish Independent journalist Rachel Farrell, has recently discovered, the most powerful state in the world, the United States of America, has suffered enormous damage from weather-related incidents over the last 10 years or so. Almost 7.3 million Americans have been displaced in those ten years, with many losing their homes altogether, some living in hotels, some relying on strangers to help them, but many of them still have no place to go.

  There is a national emergency fund, FEMA, which set up to try to alleviate the suffering of the millions of displaced residents, but the sheer scale of the numbers, in both actual and monetary terms, means that progress is too slow, and many of those who are already homeless may always remain so. On top of those unfortunates, it is calculated that every year a quarter of a million people in America will have to leave their homes as a result of various disasters. These will be added to the already enormous list, and nobody knows when, or if, they will ever be re-housed.

  As we face into a winter where we may have a bit of frost, or, God forbid, an inch or two of snow, it’s time for us as a nation, to be grateful for the exceptionally kind climate that we are blessed with, and even though we have had some people displaced here due to flooding in recent years, as a rule of thumb we are very lucky with the weather we have, and the very little damage that it does.

 

Camogie was class!

 

On Sunday last I found myself watching, enthralled, as the camogie players of Galway and Kilkenny played out a thrill-a-minute All-Ireland senior camogie final, which the Galway girls won by a flattering six points, but it was the quality, commitment and intensity that both teams brought to the table that amazed me.

  At the risk of being deemed sexist, I would have expected loads of skill, with maybe not as much physicality, but the exchanges were every bit as tough as any man’s game, and a wonderful advertisement for camogie. Why they don’t just call it hurling, I don’t know.

  Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and full credit to the Galway girls. A couple of their players were just fantastic, especially Niamh Kilkenny and captain Sarah Dervin, but in a tiny way my heart went out to the Kilkenny team who were losing their third final in a row.  Mind you, when I thought of all their men have won under Brian Cody, I lost whatever bit of sympathy that I had.

  Staying with the camogie, and Galway were on the receiving end of a terrific comeback in the intermediate final, when Westmeath overturned a seven-point half-time deficit to win their first ever title at that grade (by two points).

  It was however the reaction of their manager, Johnny Greville, that made it so memorable, as his delight and sheer joy at the victory was just magical. I can’t do it justice in a few written words, but I’m sure you’ll find it somewhere in the land of social media, and, if you do find it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Anyway for me it was my first time to watch the camogie finals, but after Sunday, it won’t be the last.

 

Happy to hear the cuckoo!

 

Recently I have watched television programmes which have highlighted the damage being done to our natural habitats, and how birds like the corncrake, curlew and the cuckoo have more or less disappeared from our countryside. And so it was with a large amount of joy that, this morning, at about 7.15 am, I heard the unmistakable sound of the cuckoo.

  I know that sometimes she can sound a bit like a pigeon, but this morning there was no doubt – the sound was perfectly clear, and could not have been anything other than the sound of a bird that we tend to regard as a bit of a parasite. (This is because the cuckoo has the reputation of taking over the nests of other birds). That may or may not be true, but regardless, I definitely heard a cuckoo this morning – and was delighted to do so. A sceptic (or two) wondered if I was dreaming, as 7.15 am is a bit early for me, but I have no doubt…I was wide awake and heard what I heard. Wouldn’t it be great if they were to make a comeback?

And finally…

Finally for this week, we have only four weeks to the big dance in Dowd’s of Glinsk…so from Monday next we will be hitting the highways and the byways, and calling to as many doors as we can get to. Hopefully your generosity will be as good as it has been for so many years now.

  Two great causes, Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund, have benefitted greatly over the years, so please God we can once again dig deep and help people who are less fortunate than we are.

  The Lancers are all set for the night, which, by the way, is October 12th, so put it in your diary…and we look forward to seeing you all over the next week or two.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

Monday Morning Blues? Just watch the news!

 

 

I never suffer from the ‘Monday Morning Blues’, but last Monday I definitely got out of the wrong side of the bed and probably should have actually stayed between the sheets and ignored the alarm when it went off just after 7.30 am! I woke up with a sore throat, a slightly fuzzy head, and a rattling cough. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the shower was cold, the oil boiler wasn’t working and the lad who told me two months ago that he would come and fix both the shower and the boiler won’t answer my calls and seems to have vanished off the face of the earth!

  However, one thing my late mother always taught me was that there is someone, somewhere, always worse off than you and when I went downstairs and turned on the TV last Monday I realised straight away she was right…

  Hurricane Dorian was ripping the Northern Bahamas asunder, with record winds tearing down power lines, whipping roofs off homes and other buildings, turning cars upside down, and generally wreaking unimaginable havoc on the local population. Hundreds of people were left homeless, and were forced to relocate to schools, churches, and other shelters.

  Closer to home and we there was a huge fire in a multi-storey carpark in Cork which destroyed at least sixty cars, and which left hundreds more abandoned in the gutted remains of the building. Many of the cars have to be removed individually by special crane, but obviously nothing can happen until the building is examined and declared safe.

  On top of all that we had news of yet another mass shooting in America, when for the second time in four weeks, the state of Texas was rocked by the brutal murder of seven people with another twenty-two injured, including a toddler who was shot in the face. It all started after police pulled the shooter over for not using his car’s indicator. Whatever was going on, his response was to open fire on the policemen, hijack a postal van, and shoot indiscriminately at passers-by, until he himself was shot dead outside a cinema complex in the town of Odessa.

  Suddenly my sore throat seemed less annoying, my cough and my fuzzy head were much better and even the boiler and cold shower weren’t as big a problem as before. Mind you, I am still trying to contact my plumber who’s still ignoring my calls, so there’s no guarantee that tomorrow I won’t be back to square one.

Church acknowledges Marion’s healing

Changing subjects, I have often told you that one of my favourite places anywhere in the world is Knock Shrine, and in truth, it has nothing to do with religion as such, but more to do with the peace, tranquility and serenity that just seems surround the place.

  However, some years ago, on a visit to the shrine, I bought a book entitled ‘I was cured at Knock’ by Athlone’s Marion Carroll. In her book, Ms. Carroll told of a visit she made to Knock, in September 1989, at a time when she was wheelchair bound, incontinent, blind in one eye, and partially blind in the other, and with her muscles wasted and her speech and throat badly affected. Against medical advice, she attended the Anointing of the Sick in the Basilica, and, after receiving a blessing, walked pain-free from her stretcher!

  Well, yesterday for the first time, the Church acknowledged that the seriously ill woman had been healed in Knock, and while falling short of declaring it a miracle, did say that it ‘defied medical explanation’. As with most church matters it took a while - 30 years to acknowledge that the healing took place – but I think it’s a very welcome development.

  The Anointing of the Sick takes place each day during the pilgrimage season at 12 pm and 3 pm Mass, and many people go there to pray for themselves and sick friends and relations.

  There is obviously no guarantee that anyone will ever again be cured, but the very fact that the Church has acknowledged that Ms. Carroll was will give hope to many more sick people, encouraging them to travel to Knock, and that can only be a good thing.

Castlerea’s golden girl returns from Madrid

What about the performance of Castlerea’s Aoife O’Rourke, who became the first Irish female boxer since world champion Katie Taylor to win an Elite European Championship gold medal when she overcame Poland’s Elzebieta Wojcik in the middleweight final in Madrid last Saturday evening. It is a monumental achievement for the Castlerea Boxing Club member, and please God she will get to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, continue in Katie’s steps and bring home another gold medal!

Minor mishap and major omission!

Speaking of bad Mondays, I would think that the Galway minor footballers, who lost Sunday’s All-Ireland final in extra-time after going a goal ahead with only a couple of seconds left in normal time, endured a pretty bad one! On the other hand, the Galway part of me was wondering if the senior final could go to a replay then why not the minor one?

  Devin Toner, whose omission from the Rugby World Cup squad is bewildering, and Kieran Marmion, whose omission, while not as bewildering but still unexpected, must also have experienced the Monday Morning Blues and rightly so!

  When all things are considered, I, and most of my readers (I hope) really have very little to feel ‘blue’ about!

The ‘ups and downs’ of being Pope!

Sticking with Church matters, and over in Rome on Sunday the Pope was late for his regular Sunday morning audience after he was trapped in a lift. The Pontiff was left there for 25 minutes before firefighters rescued him, allowing him to keep his Sunday appointment.

  One of many people’s biggest fears is getting stuck in a lift, but the 82-year-old Pontiff didn’t let it get him too down, and he asked for a round of applause for the firefighters before carrying on with his duties, albeit a little late.

Finally for this week…

It’s almost time for our annual fundraising dance for the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West. We will be hitting the road very soon and calling door to door with our tickets, looking for your support for the sixteenth year in a row. The dance, with music by the very popular Lancers is on in Dowd’s, Glinsk, on Saturday, October 12th and as usual, we look forward to your ever-generous support.

Till next week, Bye for now!

No battle but plenty of great music in Aughrim!

 

 

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!

Hefty insurance costs are a threat to local businesses

 

 

One of the biggest problems facing every type of business in Ireland at the moment is the cost of insurance, most particularly the cost of public liability, with many businesses finding their renewal premiums are spiralling out of control, and, all over the country closures are taking place, with people out of work as a result.

  A couple of months ago, Martin Mulligan, whose family run a shop on the Roscommon side of Athlone, revealed that he was flabbergasted to find his annual insurance bill had more than quadrupled - it had risen from €7,000 a year to a financially crippling €30,000, a sum that made the proprietor actually consider closing up.

  At the time, local Senator, Terry Leyden, raised the matter in the Seanad, claiming the Government needed to tackle the rising premium costs as well as tackling the ever increasing number of fraudulent claims.

  Only a few weeks ago, I saw where a long established event promotion business in Dundalk had closed after 29 claim-free years, and in this case the problem was not the price, but rather the fact that no company would quote for his business at all. This was primarily a bouncy castle type events company, and the proprietor said that while he had managed to pass all his bookings on to other presently insured businesses, he predicted that a lot of them would also have to close when their insurance would come up for renewal.

  And so, as the pressure grows on small local businesses and even community festivals, and especially those catering for large crowds, I have to applaud the efforts of two publicans (at least) who have erected marquees beside their premises, and are having their own summer music festivals.

  On Friday night last, as I dropped into Mikeen’s for a few quiet weekend pints, I met a group of local revellers who were about to board a bus and head for Jimmy Screene’s pub in Guilka, near Menlough, where Mundy was performing in the marquee, and where Patrick Feeney and Paddy Casey have already played over the last week or two. I’m told that our gang had a great night at Mundy, and thoroughly enjoyed their outing.

  Not too far up the road in Aughrim in Co. Galway, at Valerie’s, there was also a marquee erected and it has a couple of fantastic shows lined up. On Thursday night, Foster and Allen, Chloe Agnew, daughter of our good friend, Twink, Matt Leavy and an unknown guest superstar are appearing, and, please God, I’m hoping to head down there myself. There is also a big American country band there on the Saturday, and a local party night on Sunday, and all I can say is well done to both of those pubs, for having the courage to promote such big music weekends, and I really hope the crowds flock in huge numbers to both places, and hopefully they will continue to do so for many years in the future.

  Jimmy Screene was a top rugby player with Buccaneers who got a number of Ireland ‘A’ caps, and I am told that when it comes to food, his Guilka venue is among the best around - maybe sometime in the near future I will check it out, but, in the meantime, despite the huge insurance costs, these two venues are fighting back, and fair play to them.

  As I said, loads of community carnivals and festivals are falling by the wayside due to the outrageous insurance costs, so Terry Leyden is right and it’s time fraudulent claims were investigated and the claimants were punished accordingly, and it’s also time that legitimate claims got reasonable awards, not the crazy sums that are being awarded presently. 

 

Tipp are tops as Cats are licked

 

On to sporting matters, and the All-Ireland hurling final, which we had all anticipated so eagerly, turned out to be a disappointing affair with the Richie Hogan sending off dominating the post-match discussions. As with all controversial decisions, there are people coming down on both sides. In my humble opinion, the sending off, while regrettable, was correct, but I don’t think it affected the result that much as Tipp were a much better side, and would have won anyway.

  However, once again, even though it was a one-sided final, the unbelievable bravery, commitment and total fearlessness that our hurlers show is amazing, and as someone who suffers greatly watching the antics of soccer superstars like Paul Pogba and other overpaid Man United underperformers, wouldn’t it be great to give some of them a helmet, a hurl and a sliothar, and let them experience the intensity of even a junior hurling match.

  Pogba must be one of the most irritating sportsmen alive, and as he and Alexis Sanchez, among others, pocket their obscene weekly wages, I wonder has he ever seen T.J. Reid or Joe Canning or any of the Mahers, and if he has, what he makes of the punishment they take all for the love of their native counties.

  Anyway, my late mother was a Tipp woman, and, as I told you before, my uncle Mikey brought me all over Munster back in the late fifties and early sixties to watch the Tipp hurlers and so I cannot deny that I have always had a soft spot for them, and I was delighted to see them beat the Cats. Let’s hope Galway can get back into the frame next year, and maybe bring the MacCarthy Cup back to the west.

 

Big Tom tribute night in Glenamaddy

 

On Friday, September 27th in the Oaklands Hotel, Glenamaddy, Julie Healy is having a Big Tom tribute night, with very special guest John Rex Reeves, a singer-songwriter nephew of the late superstar, Jim Reeves, who is a top country star in his own right, and who was inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012. He has toured England, Scotland, Norway, and Australia, has had eight records in the American national charts and has had a very successful musical career. This is his first time in Ireland, and he is looking forward to getting here, and I know he will get a great Irish welcome here in September.

  The supporting line-up, which includes Michael Lyster, Michael Commins, The Conquerors Showband, Johnny Carroll, PJ Murrihy and loads more, is just extraordinary, and this promises to be one of the best nights ever in the locality. The show starts at 8 pm and tickets are selling fast, so if you want to be there call Julie on 087-9049388.

 

Dance the night away for Cancer Care West!

 

Finally for this week, for the sixteenth year in a row, we are having our own fundraising dance for Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund in Dowd’s of Glinsk, on Saturday, October 12th with music by Jimmy Kearney and the Lancers. We will be calling door-to-door very soon with our tickets. Admission is optional, but we are very glad to get any contribution for two very worthy causes. Over the years are supporters have contributed the amazing total of €70,000 and, as always, we look forward to calling, meeting you for the chat, and thank you, in advance for your great support.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

Michael’s motivational tip(p)s…and Bobby in flying form!

 

 

 

Two memorable documentaries…

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes we can jump to conclusions as to what certain public figures are like, and quite often we row in with the popular assessment, without really knowing anything at all about a person’s life or personality when he or she is away from the media limelight.

 

  Undoubtedly one of the people who falls into that category is Clare hurling legend Davy Fitzgerald, a man whose extraordinary passion for hurling has led him to being labelled everything from a ‘madman’ to a loose cannon. His sideline demeanour during a big game certainly does nothing to take from that image.

 

  As one of the greatest goalies of modern times, ‘Davy Fitz’ won three Munster titles, two All-Irelands, and three All Stars, before turning his hand to management. As a manager he had great success with Waterford, whom he won a Munster title with in 2010, bringing them to a first All-Ireland final appearance in 45 years. He then took up the mantle as manager of his native Clare, winning the All-Ireland in 2013, and a National League title the same year (their first in 38 years), before taking over Wexford in 2016, and leading them to this year’s Leinster Championship, their first provincial win in 15 years.

 

  And yet, despite all he has done and achieved, Davy has been regarded more as a ‘hot-head’ than as the superstar he certainly is. Mind you, incidents like the one where he went on to the field during the league semi-final against Tipperary in 2017 to have a go at the ref, but ended up confronting one Tipperary player (Niall O’Meara) and jostling another one (Jason Forde), only served to copperfasten his reputation as a wild man, and to divert attention from the brilliant hurling figure that he is.

 

  And so it was great to see the other side of Davy in a wonderful recent documentary ‘When Davy met Michael’. Michael O’Brien is a visually impaired lad from Killarney, whose absolute hero is Davy Fitz. The two met on the Late Late toy show, after which the Wexford manager invited Michael to come to the Wexford dressing room before a vital league game against Tipperary (again) and give the team a motivational speech before they took the field.

 

  If ever we had an example of dealing with adversity it was the way in which 11-year-old Michael let absolutely nothing stand in his way, and the documentary was one of the most uplifting programmes I have seen in a long, long time.

 

  The young Kerry lad was such an inspiration to everyone everywhere, and the daunting experience of addressing a team of top intercounty hurlers didn’t faze him at all, so much so that after his stirring words they went out and beat the Tipp lads!

 

  As for Davy, his instant rapport with Michael was a joy to see, and the bond between them had to be seen to be believed. Judging by the public reaction to the programme, there was an enormous outpouring of every possible emotion – there were tears, laughter, joy, pride, and above all admiration for both of them – and even though it’s an absolute guarantee that we will see the wide-eyed Davy on the sideline again this year, somehow, having watched the programme, I will be less inclined to have a go at him.

 

  The behaviour of his Wexford hurlers during the young lad’s speech, and the complete attention and respect they gave him, was a credit to each and every one of them, and I can only tell you that if Galway don’t win next year’s McCarthy Cup, I really hope Davy, Lee Chin and his Wexford team do. Can you imagine what that would mean to young Michael O’Brien?

 

  I’m sure RTE will show it again before too long, and while we all like to give out about repeats, this is one which, if you didn’t see it the first time, you should make sure you get it to see second time around – it truly was an inspiring, heartwarming, lovely programme and a huge credit to everyone involved.

 

 

 

Sky’s the limit for lovable Bobby

 

 

 

Staying with documentaries, a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to see ‘The man who wanted to fly’, the story of Cavan octogenarian Bobby Coote who, while spending his days making violins and fixing clocks, has never given up on his lifelong dream of taking to the skies.

 

  With the help of his neighbour Sean he builds a hangar and a runway, and, despite much derision from his brother, Ernie, buys himself a micro-light plane, and sets about fulfilling his slightly crazy ambition.

 

  The eccentric brothers are just wonderfully entertaining characters, and the twists and turns the story takes before Bobby finally flies and lands his airplane on the homemade runway in front of a large crowd of enthusiastic neighbours and friends – and a by now proud and emotional brother – is just spellbinding television. Once again, if you missed it first time around, make sure you see it whenever it makes its way back to our screens.

 

  Not for the first time it made me realise that oftentimes the most interesting and extraordinary characters are right there beside us in rural Ireland, and it’s great when TV producers go that extra mile and search for, and find, this type of brilliant material and turn it into truly unforgettable television.

 

 

 

Fundraiser for Glenamaddy Day Care Centre

 

 

On to local matters: out the road in Glenamaddy, Mae Murray tells me there is a Day Care Centre, started many years ago by the legendary local GP, Patrick Geraghty (RIP), which is the only one of its type in Ireland. There are two minibuses which collect people from an 18-mile radius, bringing them in to the centre each day, Monday to Friday.

 

  Once there, they can enjoy a welcoming cup of tea. There’s a nurse on duty, help with their shopping and washing, and a four-course dinner on offer every day. There are all kinds of activities laid on, including various talks and games, and it seems to be a wonderful local initiative.

 

  Mae also tells me she has two relations receiving treatment in the Oncology Unit in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, and to show her appreciation of both facilities she is holding a fundraising dance in the Community Centre in Glenamaddy on this Saturday night, 17th of August.

 

  The hugely popular Mary Coughlan and her band will supply the music, and tickets are available at both the Day Care Centre and the Community Centre. There will be a door prize, spot prizes, and a raffle, and it promises to be a great night’s entertainment for two very worthy causes. For more information you can contact Mae on 087-2489327.  

 

 

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, it’s back to Creggs…Larry Kilcommins tells me that on Wednesday next, 21st of August, in conjunction with Heritage Week in Creggs, Dr. Gerry Beggan will give a powerpoint presentation on historic monuments, former place names, and forgotten legends of the Upper River Suck. It’s in the local Heritage Centre (7 pm). Admission is free. It promises to be a most interesting and informative night, so if you have any interest in local history get to the Heritage Centre and enjoy Dr. Beggan’s excellent presentation.

 

 

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder in the mall: Will Americans ever change their gun laws?

 

 

 

It’s Friday afternoon. Carol and I are visiting our daughter in Dublin, and as you do on these occasions, we head off to some big shopping centre where Lisa (our daughter) says there are sales everywhere (music to Carol’s ears), and for a couple of hours we mingle with the huge Bank holiday crowds, do a bit of window shopping, a bit of real shopping, have a break for a coffee and scone, and generally enjoy a nice, peaceful, lazy afternoon.

  Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon, and over in El Paso, Texas, a similar scene is taking place in a Walmart shopping mall, and shoppers are going about their business. It’s probably exactly the same scenario as we had experienced the day before. Then, a man casually walked into the mall, and opened fire with an assault rifle at random…in a matter of minutes, 20 people are dead and 26 injured. Among the dead is young mother Jordan Anchondo, who died as she tried to shield her two-month-old baby from the attack. The suspect is Patrick Crusius, described as a hate-filled anti-Hispanic white supremacist.

  Apparently, the gunman wanted to kill as many Mexicans as he could. In fact there were three Mexicans amongst the victims. The killer, we are told, didn’t want to kill Americans, but reports indicate that the majority of his victims were indeed Americans.

  A number of hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, as revellers were queuing to get into a bar, a second gunman, Connor Betts, opened fire on unsuspecting innocent victims. He killed nine people, including his own sister.

  Following this carnage, America’s gun laws are yet again coming under huge scrutiny. I am well aware that there is a powerful lobby, fuelled by enormous financial muscle, which doesn’t want any change to the very liberal rules which apply to gun purchase and ownership – but surely, after 251 mass shootings in the country so far this year, something has to change?

  As for all of us, who throughout last weekend attended festivals, carnivals, bars and nightclubs all over the country, while it rightly never enters our heads, it’s nice to reflect on the fact that we can do so in relative safety, with only long queues and maybe the odd row between a couple of drink-fuelled lads to upset us. For those people in America who do the very same thing, there now has to be the nagging thought, even if it’s buried deep in their head, that there might just be someone in the crowd who is planning to carry out another terrible atrocity. Not a nice situation, and one that the politicians over there surely ought to address right now. However, we won’t hold our breath.

 

Fun (and buns) at the fair!

 

It’s now Monday afternoon, and I am just back from a visit to Ballygar – where the Fair Day is taking place – and I have to say it was a visit that I thoroughly enjoyed. The weather, which hadn’t been great earlier in the morning, had cleared up quite a bit, and there was a huge crowd roaming the streets…looking at the massive amount of stalls, having fun on the amusements, and generally enjoying themselves – and the atmosphere was just lovely.

  I got away from the amusements as quickly as I could as there was a flying machine going around that reminded me of a trip I took on one on a Sunday morning a good few years ago, when I thought I was going to die. It was the following Thursday before I recovered, so even looking at one flying around in Ballygar was almost enough to make me sick all over again.  

  I met loads of people who were out for the day, and among them were two of Ballygar’s finest footballers – triple All-Ireland medal winner, Sean Cleary, who was there with his wife Ann and his brother Shay, and also Tomas Heavey. Tomas, whom I often played against during his football days, never wanted to let me have the ball, and used to knock lumps out of me to make sure I didn’t get it! He was promoting a book, ‘From Ballinamore to Ballygar and Newbridge’, a history of the parish of Ballygar, Newbridge, and Toghergar from 1800 to 1918. Written by Michael A. Martin, it looks to be a ‘must buy’ for all local people. Sales were flying when I was there, so I’m sure it will be a bestseller!

  Our good friend, Myra Fitzmaurice, was on a stall for the tidy towns selling all kinds of cakes and stuff, and I couldn’t resist a few of the most gorgeous cream buns. I’m just boiling the kettle now, so I will take a little break from my writing and have the cup of tea and bun.

 

(A few minutes later…)

The tea is over now, and the bun(s) proved to be delicious, and just for a moment my mind drifts to this coming weekend when the All-Ireland football semi-finals take place, and I can’t figure out how all of a sudden there is a feeling that Mayo can shock the five-in-a-row chasing Dubs.

  I realise that the men from the west have given the Dubs really hard games before, but they still haven’t beaten them, while this Mayo team has already lost to Roscommon and Kerry this summer. Now, while I admire Mayo enormously for all they have done in the last few years, I really think the champions will have way too much for them and will win easily enough. I also admit that I hope I am wrong, and if ever a man looked forward to eating some humble pie, then I am your man.

  The other game is harder to call, but I hope the Kingdom overcome Mickey Harte’s Tyrone and set up a mouth-watering All-Ireland final.

 

And finally…TC’s great birthday gesture

 

Finally for this week, Glinsk’s Tom Cunningham, better known as TC, has asked me to tell you about a big fundraising dance he is holding in Dowd’s of Glinsk on this Friday night, 9th of August.

  Tom will have turned 60 (hope he doesn’t mind my telling you) by the time you read this, but rather than have a big birthday party, he has decided for very important personal reasons, to hold this fundraiser, proceeds of which will be going to the Irish Cancer Society and Ability West.

  Music on the night is by Jimmy Kearney and The Lancers, admission is optional, and local TD Michael Fitzmaurice will conduct an auction. Light refreshments will be served.

  I can only say fair play to TC for this wonderful gesture, so now it’s up to you (and me) to get to Dowd’s on this Friday night – and make it a night to remember. See you there.

 

 

Till next week, Bye for now! 

 

Forget work…I’m applying to join Love Island!

 

 

 

It’s another Monday morning and even though I don’t watch it and have no interest in it, I am well aware that tonight is the last night of Love Island, and that Ballymahon girl, Maura Higgins, is still there and in line for the first prize of £50,000.

  The amazing thing is that some people are predicting that the prize-money would only have been the tip of the iceberg for Maura, and that she has untold riches waiting around the corner as a result of her Love Island adventure.

  In fairness to her, I really hope all the good things that we are told are coming her way do so. It seems, however, that reality TV is the key to unlocking doors, with many former reality stars now multi-millionaires and celebrities in their own right. Love Island has made me realise how fortunes can even be made without having to actually work at all!

  In all the papers this week we can read about Maura and her romantic interest, dancer Curtis Pritchard, but there is also a fair bit of coverage for a 15-year-old lad called Jaden Ashman, a teenager from Essex in England, who scooped €1,000,000 by finishing second in an online ‘Fortnite’ gaming competition, where the first prize, a mindboggling €3,000,000, was won by 16-year-old American Kyle Giersdorf.

  Sadly, I don’t have a clue how to play this game as Super Mario is the only game I ever saw close up, but apparently 40 million people worldwide took part in the 10 weeks while the competition was on, and in total there was a prize fund of $30,000,000!

  At one time, young Jaden’s mother threw out his Xbox and even broke his headset, because she was so anxious that the young lad would do some homework. However, earlier this week she admitted that even though she thought he was “wasting his life”, she now realised there was some point to spending so much time glued to his computer!

  Anyhow, as someone who has worked all my life but never figured out how to make money, maybe there’s hope for me yet – I don’t  think I’ll ever figure out how to play online games, so I’d better get the application form for Love Island! I’m told all the men have six packs so I’m off to the off-license and I’ll post off my form in the next few days. If my application is successful I’ll keep you posted!

 

A great day out in Donamon

 

Finally for this week, I made it to the 25th Annual Open Day in Donamon Castle last Sunday, and even though I couldn’t stay for the full day, I was there long enough to enjoy some great music and a lovely bun and cup of tea. I met lots of happy people who were thoroughly enjoying themselves and managed to see plenty of the attractions on offer including having my picture taken with the most beautiful bird – the fact that it was an owl was only incidental – and she, or he, was really a sight to behold!

  It was later that evening when I heard that Fr. Pat Hogan is taking leave of Donamon, as his nine-year appointment is up, and I can only say I was very sorry to hear the news.

  Fr. Pat is a true gentleman, a lovely priest, and a great supporter of this area, and, while I wish him well in all he does in the future, we will miss him greatly, and hope that some day he may find himself back amongst us. We wait in hope!

 

Summer Cabaret Show next Wednesday

My good friend Annette Griffin tells me that the renowned Summer Cabaret Show, in association with Western Care, returns for one night only to the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, on Wednesday, August 7th, with doors opening at 8 pm and the wonderful show starting at 9 pm sharp.

  This year’s unmissable show is produced by Annette and John Staunton, and features some of Ireland’s top talent including Gerry Guthrie, Brendan Shine, comedian Shaun Connors, fiddler Billy Condon, the Turley Duggan dancers, the beautiful voice of Annette Griffin herself, along with the McWilliam Park House Band. Tickets are only €25, and they are available from the hotel itself, from Western Care, and from Crann Mór Centre Ballinrobe. I highly recommend it.

  Sticking with entertainment and Julie Healy tells me she is organising a Big Tom tribute night in The Oaklands Hotel, Glenamaddy, on Friday, September 27th, featuring a huge line-up of Irish musical talent, topped off with special guest, John Rex Reeves, nephew of the late great American singer, Jim.

  I will tell you more as the time approaches but now you have two great nights to look forward to, so keep both dates free!

 

Tag fundraiser scores with the locals!

 

Now that I have finally figured out how to secure my financial future, I can reflect on the weekend just past, which saw two unbelievable senior hurling All-Ireland semi-finals, but which also saw a very enjoyable tag rugby event, which took place in Creggs Rugby Club on Friday evening. The proceeds of the event (€1,500) went to the Sunshine Room in Creggs National School.

  Sometimes it is easy to take for granted the amazing developments that have taken place at our local school which have turned it into one of the most talked about schools in the west of Ireland. Creggs now has something we are all so proud of complete with a hydro pool, an AstroTurf pitch, and the Sunshine Room, which caters for students with special needs from as far away as Ballaghaderreen and Athlone.

  It was great to see so many enthusiasts turn up on Friday evening, helped in no small way by the beautiful weather. After a terrific tournament the winning team was Brian Diffley’s ‘Pink Ladies’, who collected fabulous trophies, sponsored by our new Club President, Aidan Farrell.

  My lad, Paul, had cobbled a team together and they acquitted themselves well considering most of them had little experience of tag or indeed any rugby, weren’t too fit, and one or two of them were coming to the end of whatever you come to if you hadn’t had a rugby career! But whatever they may have lacked in skill, they more than made up for in commitment and effort.

  I have to say it was terrific fun and everyone really enjoyed it, so well done to Ger Dowd and his organising committee. The overwhelming reaction was that everyone would love to see it repeated, and maybe even become a regular feature during the summer. Like my probable appearance on Love Island, if there are any developments I will keep you informed, but for now it was great craic and a very worthwhile fundraiser for a very worthy cause.

Shane lifts nation’s spirits…and Gaelic Football at its best

 

 

It’s a fresh, fairly windy Tuesday morning, and even though it’s a couple of days since his momentous win in golf’s Open Championship, the feelgood factor brought about by Shane Lowry’s amazing victory is still being felt all around the country. It is doubtful if there has ever been a more popular winner of anything, be it sporting or otherwise!

  Now I have never met the lovable Offaly man, but over the years I have had umpteen Clara people come into the shop where I work in Athlone, and I can truthfully tell you that I have never heard a bad word about him. The overwhelming verdict is that, despite his fame and wealth, Shane has never changed and is still the same humble lad that he has always been, and has never lost touch with his Offaly roots.

  The numerous online videos which are doing the rounds, showing clips of the celebrations since Sunday, also seem to confirm that he is a normal 32-year old midlander (apart from the Claret Jug, and the millions of euro that he already has), and the homecoming this evening (Tuesday) in his home town will be a never to be forgotten special occasion.

  In my opinion, what Shane achieved at the weekend – and especially taking into consideration the appalling weather we saw at Royal Portrush on Sunday – ranks with the greatest Irish sporting achievements of all time, and has undoubtedly lifted the spirits of the entire nation.

  On a personal level, as a golfer who has yet to hand in a scorecard anywhere (apart from in the Creggs Rugby Club Classic), I feel certain that Shane’s win will inspire me to greater things, and  while it might be a bit late for a professional career, I now have great confidence in my future golfing life. Anyway, congrats Shane, well done…and thank you for the lift you gave us all!

  Before I leave the sporting events of last weekend, the Super 8s confirmed lots of stuff that we already knew, especially that the Dubs are almost frighteningly good, and most likely they will win the five-in-a-row. But for sheer entertainment and excitement, the match on Sunday between Kerry and Donegal would be hard to beat. It was an absolutely wonderfully enthralling game. I would go so far as to say that it restored our faith in Gaelic Football, and for all of us who have grown sick of turgid, defensive football, it was a joy to behold – and proved that if lads were let play the game without the fear of making mistakes it could still be the great game it used to be.

  On Sunday we saw no extra defenders…it was ‘one on one’ most of the time, there were loads of wonderful points scored (each team scoring one goal and twenty points), and while I know we will see lots more negative sideways play, at least this game was like a breath of fresh air. When next I see the Galway footballers going sideways and backways, I will close my eyes and imagine I am in Croke Park watching Kerry and Donegal – and life won’t seem so bad!

My immense pride in Creggs as community excels

It’s 5 pm on Tuesday evening, and I am just home from the Pride of Place event that took place this afternoon in the schoolhall in Creggs.

  I have to tell you that seldom in my life have I seen such an amazing turnout at anything anywhere, and seldom have I experienced such a sense of community spirit as was evident among the huge crowd that was present.

  Businesses, sporting clubs and other community-based organisations – up to thirty or more – had stands in the schoolhall, which the judges paid visits to, and the atmosphere all over was so positive it was just wonderful.

  After a marvellous speech by chairperson Sean Beirne, we were treated to a 35-minute video presentation highlighting the many benefits that living in Creggs has to offer. Practically everyone in the parish turned out for the occasion, with many more of our exiles making the journey home for the occasion, and there was more sandwiches, buns, cakes, teas and coffee on offer than would feed a hungry army. You could just feel the pride in our area that was clearly felt by everyone in attendance.

  I’ve lived here all my life, with the exception of a few years in my late teens and early twenties, and I have never hidden the pride or love that I have for my area, but today was something special, and I will never forget the 23rd of July 2019, when our little community put its best foot forward.

  TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Eugene Murphy were in attendance along with newly-elected county councillor Declan Geraghty, while also there was the living legend and former councillor Danny Burke. From Lecarrow, Billy Kelly and his wife Carol came over to support us.

  Will we win the competition? I obviously don’t know, but win or not it makes no difference, as for the last month or so this little village surpassed itself – and today crowned it all. I am proud of Creggs, proud to be from here, and as I write this I am absolutely buzzing, and am now heading to Mikeen’s to meet with some of the many people who made the journey home.

And finally…

Finally for this week…another reminder of the big Open Day in Donamon Castle on this Sunday. After 12 noon Mass there is an amazing array of musical talent, fun and games to keep you entertained for the afternoon, with a new addition being the old-style kitchen and working forge. To make it even more attractive, parking is free.

  This is the 25th year of the Open Day, and it’s getting bigger and better. So get on your bike, hit for Donamon, and bring a few bob with you as the big raffle tickets will be on sale, along with books, and my favourites – currant buns and lovely cakes. If I eat any more of that stuff my cardiologist will surely be looking for me to check me out! I hope he doesn’t read the Roscommon People!

 

Til next week, Bye for now!

How music and rugby have helped the ‘process of peace’

 

 

 

On the 10th of April, 1998, the Northern Irish peace agreement was signed, bringing an end to a conflict that had spanned over thirty years, and which had brought untold grief, hardship, and sheer terror to thousands of people. This agreement heralded a new beginning for the divided communities of the war-torn region.

  Twenty years later, it’s easy to forget just how horrendous the events of that period were. However, in the last week or so, I watched two completely different documentaries which shed some light on the importance of both music and rugby in helping to keep some degree of normality alive for the suffering population during those dark days.

  The first one was a documentary by Ardal O’Hanlon about the extraordinary era of the Irish showbands. The film covered a lot of the different aspects of the showband story, also showing how the massacre of the Miami Showband in 1975 as they returned from a gig in Banbridge, Co. Down, changed the social landscape in the North for ever. Up until then, the showbands were playing week in, week out in dancehalls north of the border, despite the Troubles. The prevailing feeling was that, as entertainment providers, they were pretty much guaranteed safe passage. However, in the words of our Country Queen Margo, and perhaps echoing the lyrics of Don McLean’s huge hit, ‘American Pie’ – that was the ‘day the music died’. Immediately after the terrible Miami massacre, the bands all stopped going to the north. In the act of killing three members of that showband and injuring two others, the murdering gang also killed the entire live music industry.

  Up until this, rugby clubs from the south had continued to play up north. However, this incomprehensible atrocity brought that to an end as well. Yet remarkably, to this day – as Brian O’Driscoll’s riveting documentary showed – even the most Orange of Northern people support the Irish rugby team. Brian himself struggled to understand how Orangemen – who told him they were British citizens – could also say they would love Ireland to beat England, but that’s the way it is.

  Rugby alone (of all the major sports) seems to bridge the six-county divide. I suppose it’s because there is only the one team on the entire island, while soccer has both a Northern and Southern team, and of course Gaelic games are seen as a nationalist sport.

  Anyway, it all brought me back to my playing days in the late 1960s and early ‘70s when I was lining out with Dundalk. At least half our fixtures were up north, with a good lot in Belfast, and some in Portadown – the latter at that time was regarded as possibly the most anti-Irish place in the whole province.

  However, while they were aware that we were mostly from the south, the welcome we would receive in those clubs was unbelievable. You would never be allowed to put your hand in your pocket; food and drink was all on the house – which, for a young lad in his 20s, was very much appreciated. For at least a few hours every Saturday, sectarian hatred was put to one side, and peace reigned in those highly-charged areas.

  Sometimes when we played in Belfast, and had to go through known loyalist areas, a fleet of cars would pick us up from the train and we would be told to lie down on the back seat, covered with coats and blankets, so that nobody could see us. Looking back on it now, it should have been scary enough. I suppose we were young and carefree, and all we thought about was playing rugby, and eating and drinking as much as we could for free before ducking back in under the blankets and hoping for no drama on the way back to the train.

  I have to say that both programmes were absolutely riveting, and, while Ardal’s end product was much more fact-based, I found it no less interesting. Brian made a serious effort at trying to understand rugby’s place in Northern Ireland society, a difficult job indeed. If and when they are both shown again, try to have a look and I promise you will find both of them to be compulsive viewing. 

 

 Wimbledon wonders!

On Sunday, while there was an absolute bumper GAA programme in both hurling and football, it was the epic, amazing men’s singles final in the tennis at Wimbledon that provided drama the likes of which we are privileged to see only very few times in a lifetime.

  For more than five hours, two of the greatest players we have ever seen went head to head in this enthralling final, and at the end of it, Novak Djokovic had pipped 37-year-old Roger Federer to the title. In truth, both of them contributed equally to one of, if not the, greatest tennis matches of all time.

  As someone who was physically and emotionally drained after spending most of those five hours on the couch, hopping on the remote from one station to another, it is just mind-boggling to contemplate the physical and mental conditioning of those two warriors. I can only take off my hat to both of them – especially Federer, who, as he approaches 38 years of age, still remains at the top of his sport, and is an example and inspiration to so many. There is no doubt he will take a while to recover from Sunday’s massive disappointment, but he will be back, and as an avid sports lover (except maybe cricket), I look forward to more epic matches between the best players in the world.

  Rafa Nadal is the third member of the Super 3, who between them have claimed 51 of the last 59 Grand Slam titles. As of now, there seems to be no-one else about to challenge their dominance.

  Anyway, it was sport at its absolute best, and a pleasure to watch. I have no doubt that Sunday’s final will be talked about for many years to come.

 

Pride update!

Back home to our local village, Creggs, and as I told you last week, we are full steam ahead for the Pride of Place competition. Nothing I have ever seen before has sparked such a response from the local community, and if nothing else comes of it, the improvement in the village and its immediate surrounds is just remarkable.

  Last Wednesday night and the previous one, there were upwards of 60 locals out doing their bit to clean and tidy up the place, and if you had left Creggs on Wednesday morning and didn’t get back ‘till Thursday you would think you were in a different village, such was the transformation!

  It will be all over in a couple of weeks, but at a time when we are told rural Ireland is dying on its feet, the people of Creggs are showing that with the right leadership and community spirit, anything is possible. Creggs is certainly not showing any sign of a visit to the mortuary. 

And finally…

Finally for this week, just a reminder that the 25th Annual Donamon Open Day takes place on Sunday, July 28th, with Mass at 12 midday followed by an entertainment line-up that would do justice to a major festival.

  My good friends Annette Griffin and John Staunton are performing at the festival Mass, and I don’t have to tell you how talented they are. Among the impressive line-up of musical entertainers you have Jake Carter and his band, Mick Flavin, Carmel McLoughlin, the Ryan Turner Band, along with a number of top local talents.

  All the usual attractions will be there, including the bouncy castle, pony rides, book stall, the big raffle for great cash prizes, an auction, craft village and much, much more. It will all take place under the watchful eye of your MC, the one and only Danny Burke.

  All will be revealed in next week’s Roscommon People, but for now just pencil it into your diary, if you have one, and be in Donamon (where there’s also free parking!) on Sunday, July 28th for a wonderful day’s fun!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

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