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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

Dishwasher Man leads comeback after our Christmas mishaps!

 

 

 

 

It’s a cold, miserable, damp Wednesday, 2nd of January, very different from the amazingly mild weather we have had over the Christmas, and as I am sitting at the kitchen table writing this piece, it’s hard to believe that after the great anticipation and excitement of putting up the tree, and of Santa’s visit and the opening of all the presents, it’s as good as over. In a few days’ time everything will be packed away, and life as we know it  will return to normal.

  I have to say that the festive season was really enjoyable, but, as with most families, we had our own stresses to put up with – and for some unknown reason, this year was one of those years. The television dish went blank for a week, the dishwasher stopped washing, the washing machine almost blew up (and was declared terminally ill), and the chimney went on fire, all in the few days before the Christmas. However, thanks to the great efforts of various people, including Hughie the TV man, and Kevin the Dishwasher man, we got all sorted and were able to watch all the rubbish on telly over the holidays, and to wash the dishes after the turkey and ham had been demolished.

  The washing machine had to be replaced, and in fairness to one of our local electrical retailers and his staff, the new machine arrived on the Saturday before Christmas, and as I write this piece I can hear it working away out in the back kitchen.

  Of all the things we would have missed, apart from all the food and drink, the washing machine would have been the most lamented, so huge thanks to Tommie Kelly and his lads for coming up trumps at their busiest time of the year.

  That brings me to the chimney fire on the Friday evening before Christmas. I was working in Athlone when Carol rang to say the Dishwasher man, Kevin, who had arrived to fix it, told her the chimney was on fire, and that huge volumes of sparks were flying up into the atmosphere. Being made of solid stuff, I advised her to let it burn itself out, and added that it would be nice and clean for Santa’s visit. She agreed to go down that route, until a few minutes later she heard an outrageous bang in the chimney, and herself and Kevin agreed that it was time to call the Fire Brigade.

  Barely more than 20 minutes after she made the call, the Brigade was on the job, and I cannot praise or thank them enough for the great work that they did. They were so professional in every aspect, including leaving the room spotless, and before they left they checked to see that everything was in order and that the danger was totally averted. Santa had no problem making his way down the chimney on Christmas Eve, so heartfelt thanks to Pat Hoey, Gary Smyth and the other six lads – one of whom was in the bath when he got the summons – who looked after us so well. I hope he managed to get back to it (the bath) over the rest of the Holy Season.

  Meanwhile, with all the material stuff that comes with it, it can be easy to forget that for people of a certain religion, the festive season is also about the birth of Baby Jesus, and, while I am the first to admit that I am not as committed to my faith as maybe I should be, at the same time, on Christmas Day I made sure to attend Mass in Donamon Castle. It was just a beautiful experience. The musical journey that Annette Griffin, her mother Frances, and John Staunton took us all on was quite special, and there was a lovely feelgood atmosphere amongst the huge attendance. It truly was an uplifting hour or so. 

Ole, Ole, Ole… Solskjaer now the Special One?

For those of us who are Manchester United fans, the New Year has arrived with a little bit of hope, thanks to the attacking football that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got them playing since he took over from the Special One, Jose Mourinho. And while this year is over and done with, in my opinion there is now some hope for a more exciting, and possibly even successful, future.

  For some reason I am not the normal United fan who automatically hates Liverpool, nearly like the unionists and nationalists in the North used to hate each other, and so I am happy enough to see the Merseysiders walking away with this year’s title. If they even draw tonight at Man. City, I think the race is as good as over. As for us (Manchester United), a top four place is highly unlikely, but hopefully we will continue to play attacking football in the old United tradition.

Big night at The Green

Out here in Creggs, the rugby season is now fully on the boil, and the next four or five weeks are critical in terms of possible league or cup success.

  On this Saturday night, on the wonderful new 4G pitch, we play Castlebar, who will be gunning for revenge after we recently beat them in the Cawley Cup final. It’s a must-win encounter, so try to get to The Green, see the excellent facilities up front for yourself, and help our lads get the win they so badly need.

Happy New Year

It has now become a family tradition that we go out for dinner on New Year’s Eve. Afterwards, I discovered the delights of Heineken Zero, a non-alcoholic lager which tastes very like the real stuff. That left me free to drive back from the Abbey Hotel to Mikeen’s, where I could park the old jalopy, have a pint or two of the black stuff, listen to the musical entertainment (provided by Paul Browne), see out the old, see in the new, and get chauffuered home at the start of yet another New Year.  

  At this stage of my life it’s an achievement to be still here, so I’m happy enough with that, and – not forgetting the many great people who passed on in 2018 – all I can do is wish you all a happy New Year, and may you still be here this time next year.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Creggs Rugby Club’s own ‘Mullinalaghta moment’

 

 

Another weekend has come and gone, and it’s now Monday evening, as I write. What a weekend for Creggs Rugby Club! On Sunday in Glenina, the pitch where city club Galwegians ply their trade, we had our own Mullinalaghta moment, when we claimed a major Connacht junior trophy for the first time in 25 years.

  In a hard-fought game played in tough weather conditions, our lads beat a game Castlebar outfit by 19 points to nil, scoring three absolutely wonderful tries – which would have graced any rugby stage. When the Cawley Cup was presented to our captain, Kevin Brandon (my nephew), it was just great to realise that the barren years had finally come to an end.

  I’m sure there is a full report somewhere else in the Roscommon People, so all I’m going to say is congrats to Pat Cunningham and his management and coaching team, to all the players, most of whom are in the very early 20s, or even their teens, with one or two elder lemons to provide the all-important bit of experience. Hopefully, we are looking at a very bright rugby future here in Creggs.

  At this point in time we are very involved in the Division 1A League, in which we are currently in second place, and we are playing Sligo in Creggs later in the season in the Connacht Junior Cup.

  Sport is notoriously fickle, but no matter what happens in the rest of the season, we have had a very successful campaign, with many more big games to come. Can’t wait.

  Meanwhile, a milestone at our club grounds on Friday evening, as we had the first ever training session at our new 3G or 4G pitch. I am not sure which it is, and don’t ask me any technical questions about its make-up, but by God, is it impressive.

  The new lights are just unbelievably good, and there isn’t a trace of a shadow anywhere. When I had my first look at the completed pitch I had to pinch myself to think that this was Creggs.

  A large number of past stalwarts, including quite a number of those who started the ball rolling (forgive the pun) in Dowd’s pub more than forty years ago, had gathered for the occasion, and for all of us who had played on the field behind the Church, and up in Kilmore where the ESB wire across the pitch caused many a kick to change direction, it was hard to believe that the journey had come this far.

  I won’t even try to describe the pitch to you, but if you find yourself passing through Creggs, I would beg you to take five minutes out, walk down to the pitches, and I guarantee you – you will be amazed.

Not a wild goose chase…

It’s Friday evening in Creggs – and the rain is bucketing down on our little border village – but no-one is taking a blind bit of notice, and if you were a stranger who accidentally strayed into the Main Street you would wonder to yourself as to what is going on. The place is packed, with cars parked the length of the village on both sides of the road.

  It reminded me of the carnival days (maybe that should be nights) back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, when the crowds would flock from all over, and when great showbands like the local Rhythm Stars, the Premier Aces, and Johnny Flynn, amongst others, would have the marquee hopping, with the huge numbers entertained until the early hours.

  There was no music last Friday night, but the Cookery Demonstration in the school hall – hosted by husband and wife duo, Tom and Jeeny Coleman – was an enormous success. It was attended by many would-be chefs, who I’m told, as part of the demo, were taught how to cook a goose. As my goose is cooked for a long time now, there was no need for me to be there! That, of course, is a joke, because I was at the other end of the street, where, in a manner of speaking, we turned on the Christmas lights, because Friday night saw the first official training session on the new 3 or 4 G pitch!

Shane and the speed limits

Shane Ross is once again annoying the people – particularly country people. This time, it’s his new proposals on speeding which are causing concern. They are well enough documented, so I won’t go into the minute details. However, as someone who recently fell foul of an €80 fine, and a Christmas present of three points on my driving licence, I firmly believe that the entire road network needs to be re-examined and reassessed with a view to devising acceptable and proper speeds.

  Everywhere we look there are ridiculous speed limits imposed – usually too low, but occasionally too high – or like the one where I was caught where the speed dropped from 100 to 60, and a few metres further on to 50, all on a perfectly straight road with no real obvious reason for the sudden drop. I was doing 59 in the 50, and I feel I was just an easy target. Everyone would like to see road deaths reduced to zero, if possible, but there must be realistic speeds applied to all our roads, and I don’t think that is the case, at least not at the moment.

And finally…

Finally for this week, don’t forget the Mass on Christmas Day in Donamon Castle, with music and singing by the fabulous Annette Griffin, John Staunton and Frances Griffin. As it starts at 10 am there is no reason why you can’t attend your own local Mass as well. All going well I will see you there.

  That’s it for this year, so have yourself a wonderful Christmas, stay safe, enjoy it, but not too much…hopefully I will do the St. Stephen’s Day Walk in Creggs, and I will talk to you again in the New Year.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

A GAA mauling in Monaghan…as ‘British Army’ looked on!

 

 

It’s Saturday the 8th of December, traditionally the big Christmas shopping day, and as I head to Athlone to the day job, I hear out of the corner of my ear (on Shannonside Radio) mention of the Co. Monaghan townland of Aghabog.

  My mind immediately transports me back to the early 1970s, to a Gaelic football match I played there all those years ago. At that stage I was a young innocent bank clerk, working in the Bank of Ireland in Park Street in Dundalk, and, even though I wouldn’t have been exactly legal, I would occasionally play a match or two for a local Gaelic team. As they never used to win a game it didn’t matter who played for them, and there was never any likelihood of an objection.

  Anyway, this particular evening, a few carloads of us headed off to Aghabog after work to play the locals in some sort of a tournament game. I can remember, as was the custom back then, togging out beside a stone wall, and leaving our clothes in the car. There was no such thing as dressing rooms or showers anywhere that time, so togging out in the open was the done thing and it was up to yourself to preserve your modesty. A number of us got togged out before we realised that one of the cars hadn’t made it, and for a little while we were secretly delighted and hoping we couldn’t field, as it was obvious the locals were a hardy bunch – and relishing the thought of giving the townies a bit of a lesson. Sadly, about a half an hour later the missing car made it, and in my life I don’t think I ever lined out with as unenthusiastic or uncommitted a bunch of lads. Our worst fears were realised as the Aghabog lads tore us asunder. They won every single battle, and by half-time we were ready to call it quits and throw in the towel.

  Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse…it did. All of a sudden two British Army helicopters arrived overhead to see how we were doing! They hovered so low above the field that, if we had got any kick at the ball, we would have had to keep it low, for fear we might hit the pilots. I presume, as we were playing in the Republic, that they were out of their jurisdiction, but it didn’t seem to matter, as they maintained a very visible presence for the entire second half. Eventually, after they had done a few flyovers – which were greeted with a load of derision by the locals – our misery was brought to an end. I don’t think I was ever as glad to see the back of any football pitch.

  The funny thing is that only a year or so ago I met a fellow from Aghabog, and he told me that he was playing in that very game, and that he remembered it well. I told him that I too would never forget it, even if for very different reasons. He also told me that, in the meantime, the local club has got new grounds/dressing rooms, and thankfully the British Army helicopters are no longer turning up to have a look at the matches. 

 

Mullinalaghta magic

 

Sticking with small GAA clubs, and, as it’s now Monday morning, there is only one story that matters in the world of Gaelic football, and that is the remarkable win in the Leinster Senior Club Football Final by the half-parish of Mullinalaghta – with a total population of 447 – over Dublin kingpins Kilmacud Crokes in Tullamore on Sunday afternoon.

  Eamonn Sweeney in the Indo described it as “the greatest club story ever told”, and I would have to agree with him, as for all of us who live in half parishes or full parishes all round the country, and who see first-hand how hard it is to keep little clubs going, this had to be the most uplifting win ever. It showed that miracles can still happen in sport, and that with the right commitment anything can be achieved. It was just wonderful to have a real-life David once again taking down a Goliath. The difference in every way between the two clubs could not have been greater, but at the end of the day it was fifteen against fifteen, and the massive outsiders were full value for their win. As I write this, I’m sure the celebrations are still going strong.

  Here in Creggs we have a huge connection with the Mullinalaghta win, as one of their panel members, Luke Meehan, who played a part in almost every game they played this year, is a star player with our firsts rugby team. They, like Mullinalaghta, are making a mockery of their small village status and are blazing a trail through Connacht rugby.

  All I can say – on behalf of every small rural club in the country – is thanks Mullinalagta, well done, and may you see off another club giant, Dr. Crokes of Killarney, in the All-Ireland semi-final in February.

 

Cookery Demonstration in aid of Creggs NS

 

On this Friday Tom Coleman, one of Ireland’s best-known and most successful nutritionists, and his wife Jeeny, who is a regular guest chef on different TV shows, are holding a Christmas Cookery Demonstration in the hall in Creggs National School. There will be local food producers and Christmas craft stands. It all starts at 7.30 pm. Tickets are only €10. All proceeds go to the national school. This is a night not to be missed.

  Tom and Jeeny recently welcomed their first child, Kai, into the world, so heartiest congratulations to them. It is a major honour for Creggs to have them hosting this demonstration, so get there in your hundreds and make sure it’s a night that we will remember for a long time to come.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, one of my favourite events of the year is Christmas Day Mass in Donamon Castle. I am delighted to tell you that Annette Griffin, her mother Frances, and John Staunton, will all be performing there again this year.

  Annette is one of Ireland’s best singers, as her long-held position of head of entertainment in Ashford Castle will confirm, and with beautiful musical accompaniment by Frances and John it is an absolute treat to look forward to. I will remind ye again next week, but put it in your diary, and please God I will see you in the castle on Christmas Day.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Food for thought: Was justice done in the case of the €1.50 Pringles?

 

 

 

 

It’s Sunday morning as I write, and as I am having a little look at the front of the Sunday papers, I’m drawn to an attention-grabbing headline on the Sunday World – ‘Woman jailed for opening €1.50 box of crisps blasts legal system’. Underneath it, we are told she got a two-month term while ‘dealers and paedos walk free’.

  It’s been a long time since I bought a Sunday World, as I am very much an Indo man, but this time the story captured my full attention. As a result, I headed home for the obligatory full Irish with a copy of the paper under my oxter, excitement building as I prepared to read about yet another miscarriage of justice.

  Down through the last number of years I have highlighted several cases of ridiculous sentencing by the judiciary, and on the face of it it certainly looked as if we had another example of legal wrongdoing here. However, after reading the full story, I have to admit I am not so sure.

  You see, the young lady involved had 31 previous convictions for theft, criminal damage and handling stolen goods, and at the time of the offence she was barred from the Tesco store where the theft of the Pringles took place. So, while on the face of it the offence was a very minor one, I suppose the dilemma facing the Judge was – where do you draw the line?

  On one hand I would be very sympathetic towards the young lady, but on the other hand, there must be a deterrent put in place to let everyone know that serial theft will not be tolerated. Also, we shouldn’t forget that there are small retailers being put out of business on a regular basis through the actions of organised robbing gangs. It is not too long since we ourselves in Lynn Antiques in Athlone were the victims of a major theft, carried out in a most professional way by a gang of five or six people. We were very lucky that the Gardai apprehended them before they had time to get rid of their ill-gotten gains. So, while I genuinely felt sorry for the defendant, for once I think the Judge was forced to make a decision, that – while unpopular – under the circumstances was the correct one.

  As it happens, the woman got bail and won’t be locked up for Christmas, and as she is going to appeal, she may never have to serve any jail time. If she’s lucky enough to avoid the ultimate punishment, I hope she learns her lesson and leaves stuff that doesn’t belong to her on the shelves. At the end of the day, no matter how small the item, theft is theft, and it is a miserable, low act.

 

Magical Christmas atmosphere on our day trip to Dublin

 

It’s Monday morning, and more than a year and a half after I got the free travel, I am finally making use of it and travelling by train. I find myself boarding the 8.38 am service from Roscommon to Heuston Station, and am quite surprised at the large numbers who are also heading to the capital city.

  In truth it has been nearly 40 years since I last used the rail network, and it has certainly improved quite a bit in the intervening years. After a very comfortable, smooth journey we disembarked in the city in a good bit under two hours.

  For me, one of the great joys of going to Dublin is breakfast in Eddie Rocket’s, and so the first place I headed to was the O’Connell Street branch where (don’t tell my doctor) I enjoyed the full Eddie Rocket power breakfast.

  After that we did the usual window shopping trip, with the Christmas stalls in Henry Street proving particularly interesting to me. It goes without saying that we ran into several local people, most of whom warned me not to mention them in the paper, but one who didn’t was Ballygar man Johnny Martin, who was happily visiting his newly-born grandchild.

  The atmosphere in the city was just magic, with unbelievable lighting in every street, shopping centre and mall. The GPO was an amazing sight –all lit up – and I have to say it was a most enjoyable experience. Now that I have finally got started, Irish Rail will be seeing a lot more of me in the future.

  On the way home I realised that a huge number of people are commuting daily to the city for work. Indeed several of them were using their laptops on the way home to do their business –compliments of free WiFi from Irish Rail – before heading back up to Dublin the following morning. It’s tough going, as a lot of them have to be on the train at 6 am or so in the morning (to make their offices in time), but as a girl who was sitting beside us explained, the cost of accommodation in Dublin leaves them with no choice, as they simply can’t afford to live there.

  Anyway, it was great to see how things are in our capital city, and all I can say is I enjoyed my visit. Nonetheless, stay local when you are doing your Christmas shopping – your own area needs you most.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s hard to believe it but another year has almost passed, and Mary Kelly has reminded me that one of the biggest social events of the year, the Senior Citizens’ Party, takes place this Sunday, 9th of December in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet. It all starts at 2 pm. There will be music, food, drink and loads of craic.

  Thanks to the hard-working committee it’s all free gratis, and everyone is welcome. Just as with the free travel, I am fully qualified to attend the hooley on Sunday. Hopefully I will make it, but even if I can’t, you better make sure you are there and have a wonderful day’s fun – you deserve it!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Mick and Martin: a tale of two managers with contrasting squads!

 

 

It’s Thursday of last week, and the world of Irish soccer seems to me to be more than delighted at the departure of the dream management team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, while the clamour to replace them with Mick McCarthy is deafening.

  I, for one, cannot understand what he has done to make him such a wanted man. We are told of his great record with Ireland in the past, and of his subsequent wonderful achievement in winning nothing – but keeping Ipswich in the Championship –and so I decided to have a look at the panel of players McCarthy had to work with when he took Ireland to the World Cup finals in 2002.

  Mick had a squad full of top Premiership players such as Shay Given, Steve Finnan, Roy and Robbie Keane, Jason McAteer, Richard Dunne, Steve Staunton, Niall Quinn, Damien Duff, Ian Harte, and many more instantly recognisable names from England’s top clubs. Compare that with the players that O’Neill worked with, none of whom were with any of the top Premiership clubs, and only a handful of whom were in the Premiership at all. The few that were attached to Premiership clubs hardly ever made their first team. In truth I had never heard of most of O’Neill’s panel (well, only in an Irish context).

  In my opinion, O’Neill’s achievement in getting us to France for the Euros in 2016 was remarkable. He did this with a team of journeymen, with a very odd bit of genuine talent thrown in. Cyrus Christie, Ciaran Clarke, Stephen Ward, Richard Keogh, David Meyler, Stephen Quinn, Aiden McGeady, along with a couple of half-decent players like Shane Long, Robbie Brady and James McClean, brought us on a memorable trip to France, and we were only beaten 2-1 in the last 16 by the hosts and present World Cup champions.

  I am no lover (any more) of soccer, but while the last year has been abysmal on the international front for our national side, it is my opinion that we don’t have the talent to compete with the better teams any more, and that our expectations are totally unrealistic. Maybe, rather than blaming the management, it’s time to look at the FAI as a whole, and figure out why John Delaney is still in his highly-paid job – and time also to question how our rugby team, with a much smaller playing base, can be in such a strong place, while the soccer team gets worse and worse! Maybe Captain Fantastic can work miracles, but I have my doubts.

  Almost a week has passed since I wrote the first bit about the Irish soccer manager saga, and in the meantime, the appointment of Mick McCarthy has been rushed through. He must be laughing all the way to whatever bank he keeps his few bob in. According to the national papers, he could – if everything goes perfectly well for him and Ireland – be in line for more than four million pounds sterling for two years’ work. For a recently unemployed football manager, not a bad arrangement! In truth, I wish him well. It would be nice to see the Republic of Ireland soccer team back in the final stages of European and World Cup tournaments, although I am not convinced we have the necessary talent to get there.

  It was also a week where Irish rugby got the news that was no surprise to anyone, that is of the pending departure of Joe Schmidt. While we have another eleven months left under his leadership, there is no doubt that when he goes he will be a huge loss.

  We have a Six Nations Championship and a World Cup to negotiate before Joe rides into the sunset, and there is no doubt that he will have this Irish team focused to the very end.

Westport is next stop after a rugby classic

 

Sticking with rugby, but much closer to home, in Creggs last Saturday night I witnessed as good a game of rugby as I have seen in many a long year, when our home team played host to a hugely-motivated Monivea side.

  At the end of what I can only describe as a war of attrition, we came out on top on an 18-8  scoreline. If any of the players were able to walk on Sunday, I would be surprised. The belts that were given – and taken – were just amazing, and I thanked my lucky stars that my rugby playing days were long over.

  As I downed a few celebratory pints in Mikeen’s later that night, it was great to realise that the future of our little rugby club is in such good hands.

  It’s all off to Westport this Saturday evening for what will surely be another battle, and I just can’t wait. I hope the trusty (?) old Volvo is up to such a major run. However, just in case, if you see a 06 grey Volvo broken down anywhere, make sure you stop and see if there’s anyone in it.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, out here in Creggs we are coming to terms with the news that, after 23 years, the annual St. Stephen’s Day Barrie Harris Walk has come to an end.

  Bina and her family have asked me to convey their thanks to everybody who participated in any way over those 23 years. They want to thank all those who took part in the walk itself, the committee members who oversaw the organisation of the event year in year out, the people who collected money for so many charities, and all those who made the walk the biggest annual event in our parish calendar.

  Over the 23-year term, many charities have benefitted greatly from the huge amount of money that was raised, and, as Bina and her family bow out, it is only right to acknowledge the incredible contribution they made, in so many ways, to the success of the Barrie Harris Walk.

  The good news is that there is a new walk starting on this St. Stephen’s Day, and on this Thursday night there will be a meeting in Mikeen’s (at 9.30 pm) with the purpose being to make plans for this new event.

  Everyone is welcome to come along and volunteer their services in helping with the organisation of the new walk. You can take it that a walk will go ahead on St. Stephen’s Day – under a new guise – but that, after 23 years, the Barrie Harris Walk is officially at an end.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

‘Lightning’ can strike twice…in my not so trusty Volvo

 

 

 

One of the things I remember from my childhood is the saying ‘Lightning doesn’t strike twice’. I never had any reason to either believe or disbelieve it – it was just one of those sayings. Back then there were loads of those types of sayings that I never really thought about.

  However, last week, as myself and the occasionally trusty old Volvo were making our way home from work in Athlone, metaphorically at least, the good old lightning did strike a second time!

  Just about a year ago, as I approached the major roundabout heading towards Monksland, the computer went bananas, and after giving me all kinds of messages, the car just switched itself off, and I broke down in the busiest lane of traffic that anyone could imagine. That particular evening an off-duty Garda came to my assistance and managed to get me off the road and into a nearby gateway.

  Then last week, in exactly the same spot, the same thing happened…a multitude of lights started flashing on the dash, messages about anti-skid and total brake failure appeared, and before I knew it I was broken down in the very same place and millions of cars were trying to get by me. This time it was an official Garda car that came to my aid (I wonder have they some magic eye in the sky that tells them I’m broken down again), and I found myself back in the same gate, stranded, but thankfully still alive.

  Anyway, the good news is that this time, I remembered that I had ‘Breakdown assistance’ included in my insurance policy, and I cannot praise Axa enough – I had a breakdown man out to me in no time, my car was taken away, and the following morning it was delivered to my own garage man, who has the unenviable task of sorting out the computer and getting it to tell my car it can go again. God be with the days when everything was manual, and computers were only used in high finance/busy offices, and if the car broke down it did so because it was banjaxed, and not because some microchip went haywire and told your car to stop. I have to find a trusty old Volvo, with the emphasis on old, somewhere. Just realised my 06 model is too young…

 

‘Visiting Gardai said they’d be back… hopefully not in uniform!’

 

Last Saturday was one of those days when, right from the early morning, there was an air of expectation around – and it was nothing to do with Theresa May or Arlene Foster or Leo or Brexit – but rather to do with the fact that the All Blacks were in town. Everyone was anticipating a massive battle later in the evening, when they were due to face our Irish lads in an eagerly-awaited international in the new headquarters of Irish rugby, the Aviva Stadium.

  By the time it came to pull the doors of the shop behind me, a little earlier than normal, I was literally at fever pitch, and as the minutes to kick-off passed slowly by, I was more excited than I have ever been before any game, be it rugby, football, hurling, or (God forbid) soccer, and I couldn’t wait for the action to get underway.

  By now, everyone knows that Ireland won a match that was every bit as good as I had hoped for, and for commitment, skill, bravery and heart it has to be the best victory ever.

  It’s obvious that Joe Schmidt learnt a lot from the last World Cup, principally that you have to have cover in every position. Against Argentina three years ago, when we lost four or five of our main men we had no-one (of similar quality) to replace them. Now we can put lads in who are every bit as good as the first choice players (with maybe one or two exceptions), and that is why we can look forward to a decent crack at next year’s competition.

  After the game I headed to an absolutely packed Mikeen’s, where I encountered a bus-load of Gardai who were staying in Hannon’s Hotel for the night, but who had headed to Creggs – because of its rugby heritage – to watch the game. They were from every corner of the island of Ireland, and they couldn’t get over the atmosphere in Mikeen’s during the game. It was great to hear how much they enjoyed themselves, and they vowed to come back again; hope they’re not in uniform!

  As luck would have it, one of the touring party had a connection with the Limerick hurling team, and they had the McCarthy Cup with them, and our own Limerick lady, Nora Connelly, was more than delighted to welcome the cup to Creggs, and she even allowed them to take a picture of her with the cup. We had it here last year with Galway – and hopefully we will take it back again in 2019.

 

Memories of Sonny

 

Last week the great Sonny Knowles passed away, and Joe Duffy’s entire Liveline programme on Thursday was devoted to stories and tales about the popular entertainer. There can be no doubt that he appears to have been a true gentleman, and a very genuine guy.

  As people said, he appeared in all the major venues around Ireland – and further afield – but what no-one mentioned was that he performed, not once but twice, in our little village of Creggs. The first time he was here was with the Pacific showband in the mid-1960s, at a time when the then lead singer Sean Fagan was number one in the charts with the Jim Reeves hit, Distant Drums, and my big memory is that the two stars, Fagan and Knowles, refused to eat in Ma Kennedy’s with the rest of the band, and the Carnival Committee had to hire (and pay for) Paddy Cuddy’s taxi to take them into the Abbey Hotel for a feed!

  Later, in the late 1970s, at which stage he was Ireland’s King of Cabaret, Sonny was the first major artist to appear in Bradley’s here in Creggs, and even though it’s almost forty years ago, I can still remember the huge excitement when the ‘window cleaner’ came to town. He had a great career in the music business, and his many fans will miss him dearly. May he rest in peace.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

The man rang me and said ‘I hope you voted for Peter Casey’

 

 

A couple of days ago I got a phone call from a man who started off his chat with the words “I hope you voted for Peter Casey”.

  I told him I hadn’t, which didn’t impress him much. He then started to talk about the new rung in Irish society, i.e. the Squeezed Middle. The man told me of a conversation he recently had with two schoolteachers who are married to one another and who are both working in Dublin.

  Basically they told him that they cannot afford to even think about starting a family, such is the crippling cost of childcare, and they also told him that they can never dream of trying to buy their own house – an amazing situation considering they are two highly educated people, both of whom are working, and effectively – as teachers – responsible for the education of our next generation.

  As Peter Casey did earlier, the man contrasted their situation with that of the travellers in Tipperary who turned down the six new houses which had been built at a cost to the taxpayer of €1.7m. It is easy to see why the Squeezed Middle are becoming more and more restless.

  Later that evening I spoke with an educated professional person, and in her opinion we now have a three-tier society – the social welfare one (where certain sections seem to get everything from free housing to free medical services to fuel and footwear allowances, etc.), the very wealthy who don’t contribute anywhere near their fair share to the economy, and the Squeezed Middle, who get caught for everything and now have nowhere to turn.

  The latter group’s problem is that they are earning too much to qualify for any social welfare, but the cuts which they suffered during the recession mean they are now stuck in no man’s land, and the banks (who had to be bailed out by all of these P.A.Y.E. earners because of their own outrageous mismanagement) have turned their backs on the very people who saved them – and their extremely strict mortgage guidelines mean these middle-income earners are now trapped in a poverty trap.

  In Dublin it is not uncommon to be paying up to €1800/€2000 a month in rent for a two-bedroomed property, and despite continuous promises of its intention to address this, the Government has done nothing about it (or certainly achieved nothing).

  The teachers I am talking about are stuck with the outrageous rent prices that are being charged now. As in the case of a lot of people, they could buy their own house for less monthly outlay than they are now paying if the banks would only give them a mortgage.

  It’s the classic Catch 22 situation, but the fact that 340,000 people voted for an unknown candidate simply because he highlighted the unfair treatment of a section of our society must surely make our politicians more than a little uneasy. Maybe it will force them to act. We’ll wait and see, but we’re not holding our breath.

  Now we all know that there are true, genuine social welfare recipients out there, who need all the help they get, but we also know that large numbers are trying to milk the system, while a good number of our millionaires and billionaires have overseas residences’, and in some cases pay very little tax, even on money made in Ireland.

  The truth is that the middle-income earner is an easy target, and is getting hit at every turn. I believe he, and she, has had enough, and the revolution may be just around the corner.

 

My prescription: Cut back on claims culture

 

Sometimes you would wonder as to what sort of world we live in today. One of the biggest causes of concern to me, and to many ordinary people like me, is the big surge in legal claims against every type of company and individual – and the huge sums of money that are being awarded for what often appear to be relatively minor complaints.

  One of the areas that seems to be particularly vulnerable is the medical services sector. I have to say that if I was a doctor or a consultant (or any type of medical professional), I would need to make sure that I had adequate insurance in place.

  Now nobody wants to see patients or their families suffer as a result of medical negligence, but it seems to me that hardly a day goes by without some claim or other making the national papers. Sometimes I think we expect too much from our overworked, stressed-out medical professionals. No matter how well educated and trained our doctors and nurses are, it is not possible for them to be immune from making mistakes, particularly as they are dealing with something as complicated as the human body.

  I have to say that if I was young and starting out in life, even if I had the ability I would turn my back on a life in medicine. Even tradesmen, who are working with lifeless objects, can get things wrong occasionally, so is it any wonder mistakes can be made on the human body, which has so many different bits and pieces involved in making it up?

  Now I am not showing favour to any side, as I am well aware at how traumatic a wrong diagnosis can be, but it just seems to me that there is a neverending stream of lawsuits going on. If it continues like this, will anyone at all train to become a doctor? If not, we will eventually have no health service at all.

  Another feature of our society is the reality that there are several fraudulent claims being made (across the board, not necessarily against medical personnel) and there are families and gangs who make hundreds of thousands of euro through staged accidents and other such scams year in year out. For ordinary, everyday folk, this goes against the grain. I think we would all be better off if we saw less lawsuits and lower monetary awards.

 

Sporting success stories

 

Finally for this week, yesterday afternoon I took a stroll around the grounds of Creggs Rugby Club, where the floodlights for the new 4G pitch were being erected. In the cold light of day it is an amazing sight and a development that the club and the village should be rightly proud of.

  When all is done there will be a total of five full-size rugby pitches in a village with a population of about 100 people. I am told the first match on the new pitch, and under the new lights, will take place in a couple of weeks or so. All I can say is make it your business to get there, as in every way – both in terms of the rugby the teams are playing and the way the club is developing – this a great local success story.

  Talking of success stories, well done to our neighbours Fuerty on winning the Intermediate Football Championship last Saturday and to St. Brendan’s ladies on winning the Connacht Intermediate Final last Sunday.

  Going back a week or two ago, it was great to see Aidan Tully’s beloved Kilglass Gaels finally winning the County Junior Championship after a few years of heartbreak. Congratulations also to our good friends (sometimes) from St. Joseph’s, Kilteevan, a club we in Creggs have had a lot in common with down through the years…well done on winning the league title, and if any victory was better celebrated, I would be very surprised.

  When all we hear is doom and gloom about the decline of rural Ireland, it’s great to realise that sport, in whatever guise, can lift the spirits of so many small communities. All of these different villages (including Athleague after their great County Hurling Final win) will get through the winter in a better way as a result of their exploits on the sporting fields.

  So congrats to them all, and also to John Whyte, who became President of Creggs last week. Great performances from all involved – well done!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Boring Presidential election? Not in Creggs…

 

 

It’s Tuesday morning, and out here in Creggs we are coming to terms with the success of this year’s Harvest Festival, the 38th version, which took place over the Bank Holiday weekend. In my humble opinion it was right up there with anything that has happened in our village in the previous thirty-seven years.

  As we know, in the little island of Ireland we had the very uninspiring and – apart from Peter Casey’s intervention – boring battle for the Presidency, which Michael D duly won, but here in Creggs there was nothing boring, tedious or uninspiring about the battle for President of Creggs.

  As we headed to the polling station in Lisaniskey on Friday evening to cast our votes in the Irish election, the six candidates in the Creggs Presidential race were getting ready for an intensive four-day campaign, the likes of which has never been seen before, and most likely never will again. At the end of it, only the best and strongest would still be standing.

  Friday night was the calm before the storm, but on Saturday night the battle royale really took off. All six candidates appeared at the very well attended American Tea Party in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet. Later that night, I had the honour of interviewing all six live on stage  in Mikeen’s. There was no ducking or diving by any of our candidates, with no-one coming up with excuses as to why they couldn’t face the debate. Every one of them – Shameless D Higgins, Miriam O’Cee, Mrs. Brown, Sheikh Abdul El Fullabull, Donald Whitehouse and Ger Jung Un – took to the stage like true professionals. One after the other they put forward their manifestos and explained why they should become President of Creggs and what they would do for our village if they were elected.

  We had all kinds of promises…from building walls to keep the Mountain People out of Creggs, to finding oil under the floor of Mikeen’s (always thought it was a Gold Mine, but an oil well is even better), while Shameless D did his entire presentation by way of a poem.  At the end of it all, the general opinion was that everyone had acquitted themselves really well and, in true election parlance, it was all to play for.

  As for me, several people said that I was just brilliant as an interviewer, and all agreed that if I was fifty years younger, five or six stone lighter, blessed with a more Dublin 4 accent – and not looking like a vagrant – I could have been a candidate to present the Late Late Show. I have joined a gym, am going to a barber and an elocution class, but even with all that I have just realised I am too old (the free travel and pension book gave it away) and sadly Ryan Tubridy’s job is safe, at least for now.

  Anyway, all the other events in the festival carried on…the Craft Fair, the massive auction in the school, a very successful dog show, the Connolly Cup, the well attended fair day with loads of horses (and by Monday night a good few asses), and on Saturday afternoon a wonderful All-Ireland junior Cup match (rugby) between Creggs and a Clonmel team who had been league champions of Munster for the previous four years.

  The biggest attendance at The Green in years saw the best game played there in a long, long time, and at the end of a pulsating encounter the visitors won on a 36 to 24 scoreline, aided in no small way by a curious referreeing performance.

  However, our lads put in a brilliant performance, and let’s hope as big a crowd turns up next Saturday night for a very important league game against our neighbours, Buccaneers.

  We also had a children’s tractor run on Sunday – and loads of other fun activities for the kids – a vintage tractor display, a traditional farmhouse baking display in the Heritage Centre, and on Monday, a pretty tricky Car Treasure Hunt. Back to Friday night, and we started it all off with a Schools Quiz, followed by the Harvest Mass, and the election of this year’s Personality of the Parish. Regarding the latter, everyone agreed that the honour which fell to Kathleen McKeague was long overdue and very well deserved. It would take a full book to tell you about all the work Kathleen does in our parish, so all I will say about her is that without Kathleen and her enthusiasm, Creggs would be a much lesser place…so thanks, Kathleen. Congrats on an honour that’s richly deserved.

  Later that night Bert Curley hosted a highly entertaining table quiz over the new oil well in Mikeen’s, getting the whole event off to a brilliant start. On now to Monday evening, and by late afternoon, with tension at its highest, Mikeen O’Roarke made the announcement that thousands had been waiting for when he confirmed that Donald Whitehouse had trumped all the other candidates and was the new President of Creggs. Mr. Whitehouse made his acceptance speech to his many adoring followers, and as I write this (on Tuesday evening), I am told that Melania and family are already installed in the White House.

  It was all great craic and great credit is due to all the candidates for throwing themselves flat out into the contest, to Duff (my brother) for coming up with the idea, and to Pauline Scott for taking it on and for giving us such a fun weekend.

  On a political note, it has long been acknowledged that the Roscommon People has a shrewd eye for elections and such like, but I think they surpassed themselves in last week’s paper by predicting that Donald Whitehouse looked the likely winner.

  Over the weekend Billy Garvin, PJ Davis and Odd Sox and Ciaran Brown provided us with some wonderful musical entertainment, and  as the dust settles on the Harvest Festival for 2018, it has left us with memories which will long live in our memories.

  The Lecarrow Vintage Club had a wonderful display of a 1950s’ rambling house, and for all of us who came from that era it was great to see all the old things that were part and parcel of our lives back then, but which are very seldom seen nowadays. So thanks lads for coming and giving us a bit of nostalgia, even if only for a day. They go around to fairs and festivals and local events, so if you see them, they are well worth a visit.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, it was good to see the Keaveney brothers (Paul and Michael) home from San Francisco after a long while.

  As I left Mikeen’s on Monday night I met a young lad from Galway, Gavin O’Connell, and discovered that I’d played rugby with his father Jacko, and uncle Jarleth, back in the 1970s, while plying my trade with Corinthians. It’s a small world.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

The Harvest Festival, Ronaldo and Westlife…they’re all back!

 

 

It’s Wednesday morning…and I am writing this at my kitchen table, slightly depressed after watching another poor Manchester United performance, this time last night against a very good Juventus team, (of course now featuring our one-time hero, Cristiano Ronaldo), and I am wondering how I have managed to so far totally ignore the Presidential election.

  By the time you read this it will be almost polling day, and while I have every intention of using my vote, the truth is that I have had no interest whatsoever in the credentials or otherwise of the candidates. Maybe I am guilty of keeping a closed mind on the whole affair, but I have known which person I will vote for for a very long time, and none of the other candidates were ever going to be impressive enough to make me change my mind.

  And so, out here in Creggs I am more concerned with the upcoming Harvest Festival  than I am with the Presidential election, but I have to admit that having been away for a little break for a few days, I am not fully up to date with all that is happening over the weekend. However, I’m sure the advertising department of this newspaper will be full of the many events that will be taking place, and I am looking forward to a weekend of fun, craic and entertainment. (Editor’s note: Yes Frank, full details on pages 22-24).

  This festival has been running now for more than thirty years, and year in, year out, the crowds flock to the village. It has become a very welcome fixture in the life of the local community. I’m sure this week will be no different, and I expect I’ll meet you some time and somewhere along the way.

  The weather plays a big part in the success or otherwise of all local festivals, and ours is no different, so if you have an inside line to any of the Gods up there, but especially the weather one, give him a shout and ask him to look favourably on our little border village for the few days, and give us a weekend of beautiful autumn sunshine.  

  Talking of entertainment, and this morning I am delighted, but not a bit surprised, to hear about the return of the brilliant Westlife. Apparently this news has been out there for a week or two now, but somehow I managed to avoid hearing it. Well, I have heard it now, and I for one am delighted.

  Westlife have always been one of our biggest international acts, probably second (amongst Irish groups) only to U2 in worldwide popularity, and in my opinion they have produced some of the best songs of recent years.

  And while I won’t go to see their July comeback (although if tickets came my way I might), I am genuinely glad to see the lads back, and I have no doubt they will once again become global superstars. It is heartening to hear that they are not just going to wheel out the old hits, but they have new music on the way, and we are going to see a new version of the old band. I can’t wait.

  Still staying with entertainment, and I missed out on the Intermediate Football Final featuring our two neighbouring local clubs, Fuerty and Oran, but I’m told it was a wonderful game of football. As it ended in a draw, maybe I will make it to the replay…not sure when it’s on, but either way, it was good to hear that the standard was so high and the entertainment value equally so. Well done to both teams, and good luck for the next meeting.

 

Musings on Munster  – and Manchester United

 

Last Saturday was one of the few Saturdays that I was free from working duties, and so I treated myself to a visit to a public house (drinking Lucozade), where I was going to watch the Heineken Cup rugby game between Munster and Gloucester. I was really looking forward to it. Sadly, the game was marred by a couple of refereeing decisions which went the way of the home side (they usually do), and –helped by a very poor Munster performance – the whole thing was eminently forgettable.

  A lot of the post-match debate was about a decision to give Gloucester out-half, Danny Cipriani, a straight red card. Unfortunate as it was, it was the correct decision. Nowadays, any blow to the head is totally out, and Cipriani definitely led with the elbow/shoulder and made contact with a Munster player’s head – and paid the price.

  It amazes me how well-paid professional players forget that television cameras pick up even the slightest indiscretions, and that every action is dissected and pored over…yet they still commit the most stupid acts of aggression and thuggery – and then are amazed when they get caught out.

  I would say Cipriani was just guilty of a reckless tackle, but when it involves a belt to the head it won’t be tolerated, and, with all the discussion about concussion and its effects, that’s only proper order. Anyway, it was a disappointing affair, and no matter what they think, Munster, although going in the right direction, are still a long way off the standards being set by Leinster (even though they lost a thriller in France to Toulouse on Sunday).  

  As it happened, the pub I was in was also showing the Chelsea-Man. Utd game and Jose Mourinho’s reaction to being baited by a Chelsea coach – when the Londoners got a late equaliser – was the highlight of the day. Like him or hate him, he is never dull, even if his team is!

Finally for this week, comes the news that there are 80,000 less smokers in Ireland now than three years ago. Research shows that the new packaging with health warnings plays a big part in the motivation to quit, but the cynic in me is inclined to think that the cost of €12.70 a packet of twenty could be just as big a factor.

  The simple fact that a twenty-a-day habit is costing close on a hundred euro a week is enough to make even the most dedicated smoker think twice – but whatever is driving it, the reduction in smokers is a good thing –  and long may it continue.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

From threat of oblivion to a new era: Connacht Rugby’s great comeback

 

 

It’s some time during the last week, and everywhere in the sports pages of all the national newspapers, one of the big stories is the wonderful news that the Sportsground in Galway – home to Connacht rugby, and indeed to the Galway greyhound racing track – is to get a €30m facelift.

  Coming not that many years after the rugby hierarchy tried to do away with the aforementioned Connacht rugby altogether, it was certainly great and very welcome news.

  And as I looked at the impressive plans and thought of the new 12,000 capacity stadium, together with a new high performance training centre for Connacht, it was hard not to let my mind drift back to the days in the late 1970s and early ‘80s when we, Creggs Rugby Club, used to appear there almost every year in some final or other.

  There is no doubt that it was a very basic rugby ground at that time. Our first major milestone was only three years after our foundation when we reached the Junior Cup final, only to lose narrowly to a great Ballina team. The two things that stand out in my memory of that day are that we togged out in the Old Corinthians dressing rooms on College Road, and of Aubrey Bourke, the Ballina captain – brother of Mary Robinson, our then future President – coming to visit us after the game (I can remember him having to stoop quite a bit to get into the tiny Corinthians dressing rooms).

  Aubrey was a very imposing man who had played senior rugby for Dublin Wanderers and Leinster, and I recall being greatly honoured that he took time out to call in to talk to us. He told us we were a team that was well capable of winning a provincial title, but in truth I don’t think either he or we believed it.

  Now, all these years later, I am still trying to figure out, firstly why we didn’t tog out in the Sportsground (maybe they hadn’t any dressing rooms at all then, as I think Ballina togged out in the Skeffington Arms Hotel), and secondly how Aubrey managed to track us to the bowels of College Road. He was to die very soon after that, a victim of cancer, but a year later we fulfilled his prophecy by winning our first ever Junior Cup.

  Funny enough that final couldn’t take place in the Sportsground (for some forgotten reason) and we beat Tuam in the final in Glenina, the home of Galwegians, where we sneaked home courtesy of a highly dubious try, scored late on by yours truly. My brother Peadar converted to give us a flattering but tremendously exciting victory.

  For several years after that we played Cup finals and League finals, mostly in the Sportsground, winning some, losing some, but ever and always the overriding factor was the weather. It nearly always blew a gale straight down to the road end, and the truth is that there was no other pitch in the province that we disliked as much. And yet, for those years it was also a magical experience – playing in front of our own hugely committed supporters, and, win or lose, we would head back to Sean Donoghue’s in Abbeyknockmoy. The singsong would start there (and it would always be a much longer stop than it was meant to be). On then to the village, oftentimes after another stop in Ballygar, and I suppose nearly forty years later it’s no harm to tell you now that on those nights official closing time would not really be observed. In fact it could nearly be said that no closing time was observed.

  The remarkable thing was that all the big celebrations were on Sunday nights, so I would imagine there was fairly severe absenteeism on the Mondays of that era!

  Anyway, it’s nice to know that the Sportsground will get a much-needed facelift over the next year or so, but I wonder will they ever get the wind to behave itself in the Galway venue. I have the feeling that no matter how much money is spent, the gale will still be the dominant factor in the Sportsground.

  It would be great to get back there soon for another final appearance, and without tempting fate, I think our present team is more than capable of breaching the twenty-six year gap since we last won the Junior Cup.

Michael Buble to retire?

While I don’t go to concerts – despite continually planning to – the one artist I would really like to see live would be Canadian superstar Michael Buble, but judging by an announcement in this weekend’s papers it seems that I am never going to get to see him.

  In a recent interview he tells how the battle of his young son, Noah, with liver cancer made him question everything to do with his career, and how he has become embarrassed by his ego, and at 43 years of age he is retiring after the release of his next album. I know he certainly has enough money to live very comfortably for the rest of his life, but even though he will never sing for me now, it’s good to know that sometimes even the wealthiest and most successful of showbusiness people can see through the shallowness of their lives and realise there has to be more to it. His son is progressing well, and I hope Michael and his wife, Luisana, can live the normal happy life they so obviously want, and I wish them well. I’ll have to make do with wee Daniel.

My new billionaire friends…

For the last few weeks Eamonn Holmes and his wife, Ruth Langford, have presented a documentary series showing how the many billionaires around the world spend their money, and it has been totally fascinating and amazing to see the lifestyles that some people have.

  Among the more interesting ways of spending outrageous amounts of money was in a bar in London where a single cocktail costs £8,845, and the instance of an Irish barber, also in London, who charges £1,000 for a haircut. We saw yachts bigger than football fields, private jets with the most luxurious interiors you could imagine, one collection of vintage cars worth more than £15 million, and millions of pounds’ sterling worth of jewellery.

  When all was said and done I said to myself I wouldn’t fancy the billionaire lifestyle. That by the way was a lie, but the only way I’ll ever see any of it is on the telly. It’s a series that I have really enjoyed – if you get a chance, try and watch out for it.

And finally…

Finally for this week, on Wednesday night of last week at a little gathering in Dowd’s in Glinsk, we handed over €5,140 – the proceeds of the recent fundraising dance – to be divided equally between the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West.

  It was a tremendous response by the people of the parish. Once again, thanks to everyone who helped in any way. On the night, amongst loads of others, it was a privilege to be joined by two hearty octogenarians, Lily Timothy and Bina Harris – Lily heading off the next morning to Spain to celebrate her 86th birthday – and Bina looking forward to reaching the same age in June.

  It was a huge delight to meet both of them, but especially Bina, who has been a little under the weather recently. All I can say is may they carry on for many more years to come!

Till next week, Bye for now! 

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