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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

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! 

Trouble in Vegas: McGregor reaps what he sows

 

 

 

At 5 am on Sunday morning, thousands of Irish people got themselves out of their beds and had house parties or just a few quiet drinks as they watched the great man himself, Conor McGregor.

  The story of his fourth round defeat, and the subsequent ringside mayhem (that may or may not have been deliberately staged) is well documented by now, but what bothered me was the reaction of a friend of mine – albeit a bit younger than me, I will admit – who was angered by the fact that so many Irish people weren’t bothered by the Dubliner’s defeat. He accused us (because I am included in those who couldn’t care less) of being “begrudgers”. However, in my case nothing could be further from the truth. Before I am accused of being anti-Dub as well, I would be just as disinterested if McGregor was from Galway or Kerry, simply because his behaviour leaves me totally cold.

  His outrageous carry-on and the personal verbal abuse that he subjects opponents to may well sell tickets to fund his multi-million dollar lifestyle, but anyone who says “there is a smell of s**** off your da” to an opponent is not worthy of universal loyalty and support. And so when an opponent reacts to a totally unacceptable level of abuse, let’s not act all outraged and upset. You reap what you sow. While I didn’t watch the fight, it seems McGregor got what his pre-fight antics deserved. As for the aftermath, the cynic in me would think that everything was staged, and that such scenes will lead to another multi-million dollar payday for both of them.

  As a prominent Roscommon town businessman said to me earlier this week… how does McGregor’s behavior compare with that of a true icon, Muhammad Ali?

  I am as proud of our top Irish people, sporting or otherwise, as any person is, but they should be aware of their standing as role models to our children, and if they fall down in that department, as McGregor certainly has, then they don’t deserve the iconic status that he and his followers think he should have.

Parking problems on recent hospital visit

It’s Friday morning and I’m heading for the hospital in Galway – which I still regard as the Regional but which is now one of the many university hospitals around the country – for a vascular scan, which in layman’s terms is a scan that will show whether or not there is any blood getting down to my feet.

  Anyway, we drive in the main gate and the sign informs us that ‘Carpark 1’ is full, but there are at least twelve cars queuing trying to get in. The sign points us towards ‘Carpark 2’ where it says there are 14 spaces available.

  So off we go to ‘Carpark 2’ where we found two cars ahead of us. All three vehicles had entered the carpark before realising there were no spaces left. While we were trying to figure out what was going on, an older man had driven up to the entrance and I went over to tell him he was wasting his time.

  “It was the same yesterday,” he said “and I complained about it”. With that he drove in, abandoned his car, blocking at least two or three others, and disappeared! Maybe he went to complain again, but I never saw him after that.

  The only place we could park was in a space reserved for hospital catering vans and we reluctantly did so, hoping against hope that we wouldn’t be clamped when we reappeared!

  Now parking at many hospitals is a nightmare, but Galway is at another level and seems to be getting worse. I am no engineer, but with all the open space around the hospital would it not make sense to build a multi-storey car park? Just a thought.

  Anyway, after all that, the good news was that the blood flow to my foot was pretty adequate, my cellulitis is hopefully on the mend and I expect to be back in the whole of my health before too long.

  Speaking of cellulitis, I cannot believe the number of people I spoke to during the week who told me that they or a family member had suffered from the condition. Only this morning I heard a story about a young woman who had a major and very painful outbreak on her face and spent eight days on IV in hospital. Thankfully she is just home and well on the mend and all I can say to the many people affected out there is my heart goes out to you, it’s a horrible dose, and very hard to get rid of.

Signs of confusion in Claregalway!

There have been many times when I have given a bit of advice to Galway County Council, including complaining about the state of the road outside Abbeyknockmoy, and the T-junction on the Glinsk-Ballymoe road. I was therefore amused to hear a debate on Galway Bay FM as I was having my recent scan, about something I raised a few months ago; the new Irish signs for Claregalway, or ‘An Baile Clár’ as Gaeilge.

  Apparently the new signage is causing all kinds of confusion, and people are getting totally lost. In fairness, as anyone with even a smattering of Irish will agree, how ‘An Baile Clár’ has anything to do with Claregalway is a mystery!

  Anyway, it’s now a matter of major concern to members of Galway County Council, but I can justifiably claim I called it first. By the way, the road from Abbeyknockmoy has been greatly improved, but the Ballymoe T-junction is still an out and out danger!

 

And finally…

 

As a consequence of my sore leg, I was not able to attend the 50th anniversary reunion of my secondary school, Cistercian College in Roscrea. What bothers me most is not missing the actual reunion, although attending would have been nice, but more so the fact that it is a full fifty years since I did the Leaving Certificate!

  When I was still a student at the school, a few very successful past students, who were returning after fifty years, came back to talk to us about their lives and careers. I remember thinking about how old they were. Little did I know that my day would come too, and that before I knew it I would be one of those old men, not very successful and not invited back to talk to anyone, but still here fifty years later. How time flies!

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Your health is your wealth, but I’m still keeping an eye on those lotto numbers!

 

 

It’s Monday of last week, and, as I told you in last Friday’s edition, I headed off to Castlerea Golf Club and played a most enjoyable nine holes on an autumn afternoon that was just so peaceful and beautiful. Despite some amazingly bad golf, I would have to say that all was well with the world.

  The rest of the evening passed off nice and quietly, and having driven my family mad by tuning into the Paul Claffey country music show (they are not country music fans) I hit for the bed some time around the twelve mark. And it was then that it happened!

  I started to get sharp pain all over my right leg, with every minute or so a very painful dart shooting up along it, and the truth is that I never closed my eyes the whole night long.

  Anyway, it transpired I had a common enough but very painful condition called ‘Cellulitis’, and as I write this a week later, on the Tuesday of this week, I am exactly as I was a week ago, still in severe pain – despite just starting my third different antibiotic and having spent all day yesterday in the Emergency Dept. of the old Regional Hospital.

  The truth is that I am not blaming anyone, as my GP and the hospital staff were all brilliant, and everything that could have been done for me was, but I can tell you that even though I have a high enough pain threshold, having spent several years hopping around on severely banjaxed hips, at this stage I have had enough, and hope the new antibiotics will get rid of the infection. It’s funny how a fellow can be in the whole of his health one day and be laid low the next, so my message to you is make the most of it while you have it, because there is no doubt your health is your wealth.

  Talking of wealth, the recent series on TV3 (well, now Virgin Media) called ‘I won the Lotto’, seems to have been a very interesting and enlightening one. Remarkably enough, the only one I got to see featured Glenamaddy man, Billy Comer. It’s well known that the big win (a million pounds) back in 1994 did not work out as well for Billy as it might have, but I thought he was excellent on the programme, and his honesty about what happened and his acceptance of his mistakes made for compelling viewing, and he certainly showed us all that money is not everything.

  There was another lad, from Cobh, on the same programme, and his experience was much worse than Billy’s, because having opened an upmarket restaurant which failed spectacularly, he lost everything (all the money) and and his family home as well. As one who nearly has a heart attack (no wonder I have so many stents), every time I forget to do the Lotto, and who continually lives in hope that my numbers will come up, I have to say that a statistic at the end of the programme, which stated that seven out of ten lotto winners in the UK were bankrupt inside twenty years of their win, shook me a little bit. However, I decided it won’t affect me that way as I’m nearly bankrupt anyway, and, secondly, in twenty years time they’ll have a job to find me, so it’s full steam ahead – and my search for the right numbers will continue.

 

Fans’ partisanship a big factor in Ryder Cup

It’s amazing to see the varying accounts of the European victory in the Ryder Cup and indeed the varying commentary on the importance, or lack of it, of the competition itself.

  Some writers see it as a kind of fake tournament, with no real interest on the American side – and therefore a tournament with no future – but I do not buy into the theory that anyone, especially some of the world’s best golfers, wants to lose any game. Also, I think that the tremendous partisanship of the support plays a huge part in the winning and losing of some matches.

  Last week in America, two of Europe’s best – Rory McIlroy and world number one Justin Rose – came up against it in the BMW Championship, when the support for Tiger Woods bordered on the fanatical, and neither could mount any sort of a serious challenge. In Paris, the boot was on the other foot, and the wonderful European support had to count in some way towards the convincing home win.

  I make no secret of the fact that I used my sore leg to maximum effect…so, as I had to keep my leg elevated, I watched as much of the Ryder Cup as I could, and I was as excited as anyone at the victory. The celebrations were just fantastic to watch. It was great to see Sergio Garcia, who has had such a poor year, do so well, while Ian Poulter’s commitment to the Ryder Cup is almost comical. But my new golfing hero is the long-haired Englishman, Tommy Fleetwood. His youthful enthusiasm and sheer excitement was a joy to behold, and if anyone showed what the European win meant, he sure did.

  Whether we like it or not it will all happen again in the States in two years’ time, and I guarantee a warm welcome for the European team, and, even at this stage, I would imagine the yanks will be thirsting for revenge.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, we are delighted to announce that the recent dance in Dowd’s, Glinsk, raised the amazing sum of €5,140. These funds will be equally divided between Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund. We will be presenting the cheques to representatives of both charities in Dowd’s on Wednesday night, 10th of October at 8.30 pm, and if you feel like a cup of tea or a sanger, (or even a pint) come along for an hour or two. All are welcome.

  Something like this doesn’t just happen by itself. Big thanks are due to all those who headed out in the evenings to sell the tickets, all who bought the tickets, and in the process were so kind to the sellers, all who came to the dance and supported the raffle, all who donated raffle prizes, Tommy and Dolores Dowd and staff, Jimmy Kearney and The Lancers for their marvellous entertainment, and everyone else who helped in any way.

  I know it’s a year away, but please God if we all are still around (or even if we aren’t) we’ll be back again at the end of September 2019!

 

Till next week,
Bye for now!

 

Saying farewell to Mick, a Creggs legend

 

 

 

Over the weekend we said goodbye to Mick O’Rourke, a true Creggs legend who, in his 96th year, left this earth to rejoin his wife and soulmate Sarah up in Heaven. If ever a man epitomised the heart, soul and spirit of a village, Mick certainly did.

  In business in Creggs all his life, Mick and his family have been the heartbeat of Creggs since my childhood days. On Thursday and Friday his send-off was exactly what he would have wanted and what he deserved.

  It was more a celebration of the wonderful life that he had led, punctuated by reminisces and memories. While there was, obviously, a certain amount of sadness, the overwhelming feeling was that Mick had had a wonderful innings and was ready to move on to a better place.

  Everybody, including me, headed to Cuisle in  Donamon on Friday, after a most beautiful, uplifting funeral sevice conducted by Fr. Michael Cusack. We were treated to a superb four-course meal, served by Fergus and his wonderful staff, and judging by the extra helpings that came my way, he must have thought I looked a little undernourished, but it really was a super meal. Afterwards we adjourned to the bar for a while, and in a real tribute to the late Mick, we had songs, poems, recitations, and great craic, and for an hour or two – or even three – we did our best to give him a fitting, traditional, rural send-off.

  His family members had travelled from all over to say their goodbyes, and to all of them, and in particular his four children, Catherine, Jim, Marie, and Michael (better known to my readers as Mikeen), I extend my sincerest sympathies. All I can say is may he rest in peace. He was a true Creggs legend.

 

‘The handyman’ is still around!

 

It’s a beautiful autumn morning…and as I look out on the lovely, slightly chilly day, I am in a nostalgic mood, and thinking back to the time (a long while ago now) when I was a young lad growing up in the village of Creggs.

  I am thinking specifically about the demise of ‘the handyman’, a man that could be found at every crossroads and who, despite having no qualifications whatsoever, could do every type of chore you could imagine. He was a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, a tiler, a painter, a blocklayer, a plasterer, and anything else you can think of, all rolled into one. No matter what household problem arose, there were any amount of handymen around who were ready, willing and able to sort it all out.

  However, in the many years that have passed since then, the handyman has more or less disappeared, and with the arrival of compulsory certification we now have all specialist tradesmen who are all experts in their own individual field.

  Now I have told you before that, in the thousands of years that the world has existed, I am the most useless D.I.Y. man that God ever created. Even the simplest of household repairs are way beyond my abilities, and so a couple of weeks back, when I needed to do a lot of little things – like hanging blinds and curtains, fixing door locks and changing the way a door or two was hanging – I had no idea where to look for someone who would do everything for me.

  And so, by pure accident, as I was looking at the Roscommon People, in the small ads section I saw an advert that seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I made that call, and now (as I write this) a  couple of weeks later, everything I needed to get done has been done, all with no hassle or fuss, all in a satisfactory professional manner. So maybe the handyman is not extinct yet – he’s just out there in a different form.

 

Inspired by Tiger…

The return to the top of Tiger Woods, particularly in the week that’s in it, will add a huge amount of interest to an already exciting Ryder Cup, and may well generate an atmosphere the likes of which may never have been seen in any other of the previous bi-annual competitions. It all kicks off in Paris on Friday.

  Having watched Tiger’s triumphant return to the winner’s enclosure on Sunday night, I was inspired so much that I headed to Castlerea on Monday afternoon to see if my golf could also  show a marked improvement. 

  The day was just wonderful, the course even better, and I was all set for a brilliant nine holes, but, sadly, the tiger in my tank stayed hidden, and my performance was exactly the same as always – rubbish. However, I enjoyed it no end, and some day soon, I predict a Tiger-like rise from the ashes.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, the Big Tom Tribute Night is almost upon us, and all roads will lead to Mannion’s, Glenamaddy on Friday night when the huge show kicks off.

  Everything is in place to make this one of the all-time great nights, so make sure you get there and make it a fitting tribute to the undoubted King of Country music.

  I might not get there as I am just starting a three-week course of antibiotics, and unless they work very quickly, I will be sidelined. However, I am not giving up hope yet – but if you are there enjoy it for me!

 

 

Till next week, Bye for now! 

 

After seven-year itch, Creggs return to rugby top flight

 

 

It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon, and out here in Creggs we can sense something different in the air. It’s all because, after an absence of seven years, our rugby team are back in the top flight of Connacht Junior rugby, and we are about to have our first league game, against a Westport side that has been ever-present in the top division, and who finished in third place in last year’s league.

  2.30 pm arrives, and having been there with a bit of time in hand, I check out the situation with the new Four G pitch, and while it’s a bit behind, the feeling is that it will be up and running in a few weeks’ time. I can see where the new floodlights are being readied, and in truth, it’s almost impossible to grasp the massive development that is taking place in our little village.

  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but when all the work is finished, a small village on the Roscommon/Galway border with a population of about one hundred people will have a sporting complex second to none in the whole country. It’s come a long way in forty years.

  However, my day-dreaming time was soon ended, and as the teams took to the field, it was great to see a good-sized crowd had gathered to watch a game that turned out to be as exciting and as good as any I have seen in many a year.

  The difference in standards in terms of speed, accuracy, and physicality, between Division One B last year and this year’s higher division was amazing, and the quality of the fare that both teams served up was just fantastic. The result, a win for our lads by 25-12, was a deserved and very welcome start to the new campaign.

  I know there will be a full report (or there had better be), in the sport pages, so I won’t spoil it for you, but if Sunday’s match was anything to go by, we can look forward to a season full of free-flowing exciting rugby, and I for one can’t wait.

  It’s taken seven years to get back to the top table, but it seems to me that our young, exciting team are fully ready for the higher tier of Connacht rugby, and all I can say is, if you have any interest in rugby at all, get to Creggs as often as you can in the coming months and you will not be disappointed.

 

Fundraising dance

 

Amongst the large attendance at The Green, although in a working capacity, was Galway man and renowned photographer, Gerry O’Loughlin. I jokingly asked him had he moved out to the Creggs area, as the previous night he was snapping away (along with Mick McCormack) at our big fundraising dance in Dowd’s in Glinsk.

  And that brings me nicely to the dance, which turned out to be a wonderful success, with a large crowd, all of whom enjoyed the beautiful music of Jimmy Kearney and John Carlos, collectively known as The Lancers.

  Once again we are bowled over by the generosity of the people of the parish – and beyond. We were also treated to a song or two by the living legend – and one of Roscommon’s best-known and most popular figures – the great Danny Burke. As I’ve said before, he has a wonderful voice and could certainly have made a living as a singer. As usual, he brought the house down.

  We still have a few bob to come in, but we are fully confident that for the second year in a row the magical figure/target of €5,000 will be reached.

  We will be presenting the cheques shortly to the representatives of Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund, and will reveal the exact figure, but it certainly is more than we had hoped for. Also, on the night, thanks to so many kind sponsors, we had 19 superb prizes for the raffle, and the big door prize (donated by the Abbey Hotel) which was a dinner for two to the value of €100. It was won by Rosaleen Timothy.

  All told it was a marvellous night, and the good news is that we are running again in 2019, again in Dowd’s, and with The Lancers back in action. Please God we will all still be around, but in the meantime, thanks to everyone who helped to make Saturday’s fundraiser such a great success. You have a full year’s peace before we start annoying you again!

 

Roll up, roll up…for Big Tom Tribute Night

 

As I told you last week, there is a big tribute night to the late great Big Tom coming up on Friday, 28th of September in Mannion’s in Glenamaddy.

  I’m told a great night’s entertainment is promised, with a host of top artists featuring. The show will start at 9 pm sharp. 

  Among those confirmed so far are Philomena and Michael O’Brien, Mick Mulhern, Kevin Prendergast, PJ Murrihy, Tommy Burke and Rachel, a new young singer Aoife Leonard from Gort, and our own ‘Big Tom’…the one and only Mattie Clarke.

  Julie Healy, a lovely singer in her own right and the chief organiser of the event, is launching her new CD on the night, with the song ‘My Lovely Glenamaddy’ having being written by Seamus Fitzsimmons, a singer-songwriter from Stoke in England. Seamus will also be performing on what is his first ever visit to Ireland.

  Julie is donating a marble seat with all the information about Big Tom, which is being made by Glen man, Paul Murphy, and it will be situated in the Square in Glenamaddy. Michael Fitzmaurice, our local TD, is doing the unveiling on the Friday afternoon.

  Julie tells me there will be any amount of spot prizes and an auction and raffle on the night. Among the items to be auctioned are two portraits of Big Tom by the renowned artist, Matt Doyle.

  There will be loads of food, and I’m sure a good supply of drink, and all the signs are that it will be one of the great nights, so don’t miss out…get to Mannion’s on the 28th of September and make it a tribute night worthy of the big man.

  I’m told there may be more major announcements regarding the appearance of other major artists, so watch this space. I will confirm all in next week’s edition (by the way, the whole show is free).

 

Happy memories: Why I’m singing the praises of the singing pubs

 

 

 

So I’m flat out killing myself at work, (that’s a big fat lie), when Joe, a regular caller for the chat (although I don’t know his surname) brings me in a box full of old tapes. As I go through them, I find myself back in the great days of the late 1970s and early ‘80s, when the ‘singing pub’ craze was at its peak, and when Bradley’s in Creggs, Dowd’s of Glinsk and Mrs Quinn’s in Glenamaddy were just three of the local ‘must go to’ places every weekend.

  As I rummaged through Joe’s discarded and unwanted tapes, I came across a couple of long-forgotten names…Two’s Company and Anna McGoldrick. They may not be known any more, but they, amongst many others, brought absolutely massive crowds to Bradley’s when they appeared there in the golden era of the singing pub, creating a level of excitement we can hardly imagine today.

  It was in 1977 when the singing pub arrived in Creggs. When Kevin Bradley opened his doors, we had never seen anything like it. Having bought Mrs. Tommy’s a little while earlier, he proceeded to build a state-of-the-art pub, capable of holding three or four hundred people. When Sonny Knowles performed on the opening night, it was the start of a few never to be forgotten years.

  Joe Cuddy, Mattie Fox and Misty, and the legend that was and is Brendan Grace – all of whom were among the top cabaret acts in the country at the time – all took to the stage in Bradley’s. For a period during those years it was not uncommon to have to park hundreds of yards outside the village, so big were the crowds that used to come to see the headline acts.

  A few miles down the road, Dowd’s was packing them in every weekend in Glinsk, and later we also had a slightly smaller but very busy singing lounge in Creggs, Seamus Keane’s. Further afield, Keane’s in Cloonfad, the Four Ps near Boyle, Bernie Mac’s in Ballygar and the Blu Kuku, near Kiltevna, were other singing lounges of great renown.

  Exactly when the craze of the singing pubs began to fade I’m not sure but, as with the carnivals, it’s an era that we will never forget. I know a lot of people will not believe it now, but on a summer’s evening it was not uncommon to have up to ten or twelve bar staff flat out in Bradley’s, making sure the large crowds were fully looked after. It has often been said that the other five pubs at the time in Creggs were all full as well. It certainly was a wonderful time for entertainment, and in fairness we enjoyed it to the full.

  I’m now full of nostalgia, so whether they like it or not, the next people into the shop will be listening to Two’s Company, Anna McGoldrick and Sonny Knowles – and I’ve just found a Brendan Grace tape, so they will have to listen to him as well.

 

Tribute Night for the late great Big Tom

 

Well-known radio presenter Julie Healy tells me of a big tribute night to the late great King of Irish country music, Big Tom, which is taking place in Mannion’s Bar, Glenamaddy on Friday, 28th of September.

  There is a huge night’s music and craic planned. This is just a sort of preliminary notice. I will fill you in on all the details over the next two weeks, but make sure you put it in your diary, and wherever you are you can take the four roads to Glenamaddy and pay tribute to the great man.

  Our own local Big Tom soundalike Mattie Clarke will, I’m sure, be practising over the next week or so, and getting ready to perform on the night, and you can look forward to hearing him and many more musicians and singers in action.

 

A story that reflects poorly on our society

 

A story in today’s (Monday) papers about an experience the Mayor of Galway had is unsettling. The Mayor came to the assistance of a young girl who was being assaulted by a man, who claimed to have a knife. The Mayor got a punch in the jaw for his trouble, but got no help from several onlookers. The episode asks serious questions about the type of society we now live in.

  According to Niall McNelis, there were many people in the immediate area, including a number of men, but instead of trying to help, they took out their mobile phones and started to film the incident. Only one woman made any intervention, by ringing the Gardai, who were on the scene within a few minutes. A man was later arrested.

  I know the general advice is not to get involved in any nasty altercation, but surely when there was only one attacker some of the men should have come to the assistance of the good Samaritan, and, instead of filming the incident, actually done something about it.

  The truth is that the men who did nothing, particularly if they were young and healthy, should be ashamed of themselves. As I say, it asks serious questions about the sort of society we have become.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, we are almost finished with our door to door ticket selling for this Saturday night’s dance in Dowd’s in Glinsk, and as I reflect on almost three weeks on the road, two things stand out. Firstly, the wonderful welcome we all received on every doorstep and the support so willingly given by the people of the parish, for which we are all so grateful, and secondly, the number of people who either directly or indirectly have been helped by one or the other of the two chosen charities.

  Cancer Care West is there to help cancer patients and their families, and to provide every possible type of support including residential care in Inis Aoibhinn, its residential facility, in the grounds of University Hospital, Galway, and it’s amazing how many of our own neighbours and friends have availed of its services.

  The same applies to the Lourdes Invalid Fund which, every August, brings a number of pilgrims to the French Marian Shrine. For all those people, flights and accommodation are all paid for by the monies raised through such fundraising efforts as our annual dance.

  As I told you last week, Jimmy Kearney and The Lancers are rearing to go, we have a load of prizes for the raffle, and we have a very generous door prize – a dinner voucher for two to the value of €100, courtesy of the Abbey Hotel. So all we need now is for you all to come along, have a few trots around the floor, and make it a night to remember. Looking forward to seeing you there.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Won over by Pope Francis…and a visit that may help ease hurt

 

 

It’s about 11 am on Sunday morning, and I’m tucking into a slightly late full Irish, complete with a good bit of Kelly’s (Newport) award-winning white pudding. It’s late because I’ve spent an hour and a half looking at Pope Francis’ visit to Knock Shrine.

  I have to say that I found it all thoroughly enjoyable and strangely moving. I won’t deny that I was only a little lukewarm about the Papal visit, and unlike in 1979, when we couldn’t wait to go to see Pope John 11, the truth is that it never crossed my mind to look for tickets to either the Phoenix Park or Knock. And so it was with only minor interest that I tuned in to see the proceedings in the Mayo village.

  However, from the moment Pope Francis came down from the Aer Lingus plane, and interacted so well with everyone who came to greet him at Ireland West Airport, I greatly warmed to him. Indeed I began to regret that I hadn’t made the effort to go to the Marian Shrine to see him.

  Despite the rain, pictures from the shrine itself showed everyone to be in high good humour, which was some achievement given the early start everyone had to make to get to Knock in time. All we could see were happy smiling faces, and it was obvious that the Pope was going to receive a really warm West of Ireland welcome.

  Probably the most amazing part of the day’s events was the absolute total silence during the Pope’s minutes of silent reflection in the Apparition Chapel. It was just incredible – with the large numbers of children in the attendance – how they all managed to keep quiet. It was extraordinary.

  Now there has obviously been a lot of stuff going on around the Catholic Church. The hierarchy has been severely damaged, so clearly many abuse sufferers, in so many different guises, will have wanted more from Pope Francis’ visit than they got.

  However, on a personal level, as a somewhat disillusioned member of the Catholic Church, I thought the visit was well worthwhile, and maybe in time it might help to soften some of the hurt caused to so many innocent, vulnerable victims, hurt inflicted by those predators hiding behind the facade of religious authority.

  There can be no doubt that Catholicism and the Church face many obstacles in future, but equally the second ever trip to Ireland by a reigning Pontiff can only be a good thing, and I am glad it went off so well, even if the Phoenix Park crowd was a long way short of the half million predicted.

A memorable day at  Ballintubber Abbey

On Friday afternoon we found ourselves heading off to Ballintubber Abbey for the wedding of Michael O’Roarke, son of my local publicans, Mikeen and Carmel, to Anne Marie McDermott, from the West Roscommon village of Ballinagare.

  I have to admit that until Friday the only thing I knew about Ballintubber was that it was the home of the O’Connor brothers who play for Mayo, and that the even more famous Marcus Keane, formerly of the Bank of Ireland in Roscommon and Glenamaddy, lived there as well (and that it was somewhere outside Castlebar).

  We got to Claremorris, no problem, and hit across country towards the Abbey. Then, by some minor navigation error, we found ourselves going through the tiny village of Carnacon, home of ladies football’s most renowned player, Cora Staunton, and also home of the current All-Ireland club champions, Carnacon, who for some reason have fallen foul of the Mayo County Board and are banned from all competition, and  consequently are one of the most high profile clubs in the country at this present time.

  It was hard to believe as we passed through the tiny hamlet, that it could be the home to the All-Ireland champions, and hard as I tried I couldn’t see any sign of Cora. Later, in the pub in Ballintubber there was no-one inclined to cast any light on the reasons for the Carnacon expulsion.

  By now, we had discovered that Ballintubber Abbey is an absolute treasure and a beautiful wedding venue, and the ceremony, under the stewardship of Fr. Michael Donnelly, passed off without a hitch. A good few of us adjourned for a while to Curley’s pub across the road, where I have to say the craic was ninety. Then we headed to the Knockranny House Hotel in Westport.

  Everything about the reception was first class, and from food to service to the band and their music, it could not have been bettered. My day was complete when Fr. Donnelly, having read of my efforts to get a young man for Anne Marie (not the bride…the Anne Marie from Tuam that I met last week who was looking for a 19 to 22 year old, with money and road frontage) appointed me matchmaker for the day.

  From what I could see, my services in that department were not required, but I have to sadly admit that, so far, no-one has come forward to answer Anne Marie’s request. I was told the other night that I could be the new Willy Daly, the famous Lisdoonvarna matchmaker, but even I have to confess I need to do a lot better.

  Anyway, it was a great day and all I can do is wish the newly-weds a long, happy life together, and the health to go with it, and heartiest congratulations to themselves and their respective parents.

 

Annette’s reminder on summer sign-off…

 

I think I must be writing for the wrong newspaper (you probably do as well), as once again I am staying on Mayo matters…

  My good friend and amazing singer Annette Griffin tells me that the renowned Summer Cabaret is coming to a close in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris on Sept. 5th.

  The show features Roscommon legend Brendan Shine, Gerry Guthrie, fiddler Billy Condon, the McWilliam Park Irish dancers, comedian Frank Forde, and of course, Annette herself. Doors open at 8 pm sharp (show starts at 9 pm sharp) and admission is only €25. (More details on 094-9378000).

  As someone who has seen this show a couple of times, I can recommend it. It’s a throwback to the great cabaret shows we associate with venues like Jury’s Hotel in Dublin, and this one’s right on your doorstep, so do not miss this opportunity to see some of Ireland’s top artists in the one venue on the one night.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s full steam ahead with our own tickets (in Creggs) for the upcoming charity dance. So we hope to be knocking on your door soon – and thank you for your continuing support.

 

 

Till next week, Bye for now! 

Despondency for Galway hurlers – but there was a local link with winning minors!

 

It’s Saturday evening as I write and I am getting an old familiar feeling in the pit of my ample stomach. I’m a bit tense and uptight, and it’s all because, after nearly four months since our opening championship matches, we are welcoming Kilmore to Creggs for an Intermediate Championship game.

  As it turned out, I needn’t have been any way uptight, as our visitors were way too strong for us. Despite a late flurry in which we scored three goals, we were well beaten by a well-drilled, powerful outfit who might prove the biggest obstacle to Fuerty’s expected eventual victory in the Intermediate Championship.

  For us, all is not lost, as a lot of our players only came back from the US in the last few days. Unless things have changed a lot through the years, I doubt if they spent too much time on either the running track or in the gym! But they’re back now and I would expect a big improvement in the next short while…so who knows what the future might still bring.

  On a personal level it was great to meet –even for a few moments – one of the legends of Kilmore football, the great Joe McEvoy. He looked as fit on Saturday evening as he did when last I saw him!

  The other notable thing about the second half was the rain that fell in torrents. If ever the term ‘drowned rat’ was appropriate, it certainly was that evening, as when I got home I could have been wrung out. It all adds up to the joys of club football.

  It’s now Monday morning, and there is no denying that on the Galway side of the border there is a definite air of despondency and disappointment after the hurlers’ defeat in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling final.

  However, in Creggs, a village that hasn’t really been known for its hurlers – although the Keane brothers, Seamus and Martin Joe, were both top class exponents of the small ball game – we can take a small bit of consolation in the fact that two players, John Hanbury (seniors) and Diarmuid Kilcommins (minors) both have strong local connections.

  The young Kilcommins is a son of Creggs native Tadgh, and of Hilary Hussey from Oran, who herself was a top Roscommon camogie player. Her brother Michael was also a very good county hurler for Roscommon. Diarmuid had a superb game for the victorious minors on Sunday, scored a few outrageous points and had a major influence in Galway’s win. His grandfather Larry has long been a big supporter of the maroon and white, and he’s surely a proud man today.

  As for John Hanbury, his father Chris was a nephew of Sarah O’Roarke (nee Hanbury), who along with her husband Mick ran Roarke’s shop and pub, which is now run by his son Michael and wife Carmel, and which all my readers know as Mikeen’s. It has been in Creggs for a hundred years or more.

  A small bit up the road, Ballygar had corner-back Michael Flynn on the minor team, so congrats to him and the club. Despite the senior loss, which by the way was well deserved (sadly), it wasn’t too bad of a day for our immediate locality.

When I take my final bow… play this classic, please!

Many years ago, probably 25 or 30, myself and Carol headed off to the Braemor Rooms in Churchtown, Co. Dublin to attend the Red Hurley and Twink Christmas Show (along with a full supporting cast) and all these years later I can still recall having a great night and really enjoying what was a superbly presented and produced show.

 

  Carol and Twink were – and still are – very good friends, and so when the curtain came down we were invited into the inner sanctum, where we met all the performers, including the wonderful Red Hurley, who at the time was one of the biggest stars on the Irish circuit (as indeed was Twink).

  Anyway, fast-forward to today, and on Marian Finucane’s show this morning (Joe Finnegan was over), who should be interviewed – and singing live – only the aforementioned Red. He is now 68 years of age, but still singing as well as ever, and still recording and doing live appearances, and he seems to be as popular as ever.

  On the radio this morning one of the songs he sang was the classic ‘How Great Thou Art’, and in fairness he did a super job on it. However, as I listened to it, I realised that if anyone ever did one of those mini-interviews with me where they ask about your favourite places, and your favourite nights out and that kind of stuff, if they asked me what my favourite song of all time is it would be the Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill version of that very same song.

  In fact, even though I’m at work and flat out (probably asleep says you), I have just brought it up on my phone and listened to it, and I hope no-one comes in for a while as the hair is still standing on my head. What a marvellous performance. When I take my final bow from this earth, I will want that song playing as I hit the road – to wherever I might be headed.

  Whether I’ll be going up or down, or even if there is an up or down, I’m not sure, but either way I cannot imagine a better song to play me out.

Wanted: Young lad with money and good road frontage!

I’m taking my first venture into the social and personal world, for today in Roscommon I met Anne Marie, a regular reader of my column who comes from Tuam (don’t know if she still lives there, or if she’s somewhere in Roscommon). After discussing the demise of both the Galway hurlers and footballers, she asked me to do her a small favour. She is looking for – in her own words – a strong young fella between 19 and 22 years of age, with loads of money and good road frontage, and she is willing to travel to Mikeen’s to meet this lad (if he exists).

  I had a go at Dan Dooner for her, but he tells me he doesn’t qualify on any count, so if there’s anyone out there who wants to meet Ann Marie you’ll have to come through me; here’s hoping that Anne Marie hits the jackpot in Mikeen’s! 

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s now time to hit the highways with our dance tickets, and as usual our regular crew will be calling –so please greet them kindly.

  The former Personality of the Parish, Tom Connolly, will be doing his rounds, and if there’s anyone who has any time to spare and would like to help, they will be very, very welcome. The two charities –the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West – are extremely worthwhile. The Lancers are all set to put on a brilliant show, so I look forward to visiting you in the near future and seeing you all in Dowd’s in Glinsk on Saturday, 15th of September.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

The Pope and his Skoda…

 

 

 

It’s a pleasant enough Monday morning, and unusually for me, myself and the now trusty old Volvo are heading off to work in Athlone (just me, not the Volvo), and my mind drifts back to the days before electric window winders, and computers, and all the new-fangled gadgets that are part and parcel of the modern car.

  The reason it’s unusual for me to be heading for Athlone is that, nowadays, I only do three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – but as one of the lads (Paul) is off gallivanting round Latvia on his holidays, I am covering for him for this coming week.

  Anyway, as I’m driving to Athlone, I’m thinking of the fact that, even in the now trusty old Volvo, the teething problems that I had at the start were all due to problems with the computer, and apparently it was coming up with all kind of mixed messages, all of which meant that the car would decide to stop for no reason – or not start at all. Until I got it sorted I had a very frustrating and annoying time.

  Anyway, it all made me think back to the days of my first cars, one of the first being a Hillman Avenger that needed one wheel on the front to be bigger than the other three to compensate for the knock on the steering; a beautiful Sunbeam Vogue that I bought before I knew how to drive at all (it had the most amazing walnut interior); a Vauxhall Viva the driver’s window of which was held in place with a couple of blocks of wood…and an Opel Ascona, whose back door fell off while we were coming back from holidays in Donegal. My wife Carol had to hold it in place all the way back to Creggs.

  The funny thing about all the cars back then was that everything was so simple. There were no electronic yokes to worry about, and if there was petrol in them, more often than not they would go. If not, it was nearly always the starter, or the alternator, or the distributor cap, things you never hear about any more.

  Generally, no matter how big the problem was, our two (at the time) local garage men – Barry Harris and Jimmy Connelly – would have you back on the road in no time.

  It all made me think of an old friend and brother-in-law, Tom Bracken, who usually managed to have even worse cars than I had. Among his many bangers was what we, Tom included, agreed was the worst of all – a rear-engined Skoda that gave more trouble than the worst ever juvenile delinquent. 

  At the time, the Lada, as far as I remember a Russian-made car, was the supposed worst one on the road (and the subject of many jokes) but the Skoda was easily the next most denigrated.

  When Tom had it, it more than lived up to its woeful reputation. So to read in all today’s papers that Pope Francis is to be driven around Ireland in a Skoda, suggests to me that this must constitute the greatest of all comebacks – well, since Lazarus or Tiger Woods.

  No-one yet knows what model he will be driven in, but it is unlikely to have an engine in the back, and even more unlikely to break down. Sadly my brother-in-law is no longer with us, but if he was he would take great pleasure in telling us he was a great judge of a car, and if it was good enough for the Pope, it was good enough for him!

  It’s only a couple of weeks now ‘till the Pontiff arrives on our shores, and I just hope the visit goes well. While the excitement of 1979 is unlikely to be repeated, it should still be an occasion to be remembered.

 

Country stars and festivals: Are (some) prices too high?  

 

As the summer comes to an end, and all the local committees who ran festivals begin to tot up the figures, I wonder if it’s true that some country and western artists – who are capitalising on the new upsurge in popularity of country music – are in danger of pricing themselves out of what seems to be a very lucrative market.

  At least two local festivals that I know of have totally ‘downsized’ this last year or so, and I understand that a big factor was because of the prices headline acts are charging. Inevitably the prices being paid to artists are having a big impact on profits (for the festivals). I have heard reports of one artist (and band) allegedly costing €15,000.

  Now nobody is saying that these artists are not deserving of big paydays, but bearing in mind that there are only so many country music venues – unlike in the showband era when every crossroads had a carnival – surely there should be a limit on the percentage breakdown in favour of the bands, in order to give the local festivals a chance to make some money.

  Insurance costs for any public event are enormous and it would be a shame if any more of these local events were forced out of business. As a follower of country music, I am glad to see there are more and more artists appearing almost every week. That’s great, but don’t let greed kill the golden goose.

Walk the walk with Suck Valley Walking Club

On to local matters…the Suck Valley Walking Club are holding a Walk from Ballygar to Creggs on Saturday, 18th of August, with registration at the Heritage Centre in Creggs at 9.30 am.

  The distance is approximately 16km, transport will be provided to the start of the Walk, and there will be refreshments provided on return to Creggs. You are advised to wear appropriate footwear and clothing, cover charge is €10, and you will enjoy a nice chat, a bit of craic, and get yourself a bit fitter.

  Also, the Suck Valley Way website is being launched, and they would like to hear from anyone who would like to provide accommodation in the locality (for inclusion on the new website). Contact Kathy at suckvalleyway.com or text 086-8725445.

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, we have only five weeks left to the fundraising dance in Dowd’s in Glinsk. We will be out and about selling the tickets, so hopefully we will see you soon, and we look forward to your continuing support.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

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