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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

Cowardly attack on cyclist reveals a disturbing trend

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Thursday morning of last week, and myself and the (mostly) trusty old Volvo are heading off to work in Athlone. The radio is tuned to Joe Finnegan on Shannonside, where he is interviewing a gentleman named Noel. The story Noel had to tell made me wonder about the type of world we now live in.

  Noel, who is a highly experienced cyclist and has been cycling competitively and recreationally around Ireland for more than sixty years, was out for a spin the previous Sunday afternoon and was within a few hundred metres of his home when, all of a sudden, he found himself on the broad of his back, having fallen off his bike. He was badly dazed but fortunate that he wasn’t too badly injured or even killed. A few people came to Noel’s aid and got him off the road before he was run over.

  A lady who was helping him told Noel what had happened. Apparently a black Passat was passing when someone opened a window and let fly with an Argos catalogue, which hit Noel and sent him flying off his bike. Noel said he believed the Passat hit him as well, but even if it didn’t, being hit by an Argos catalogue at high speed was an awful thing to happen, and an appalling, dangerous and cowardly act.

  However, according to Noel, this was anything but an isolated incident. It seems that cyclists are subject to all kinds of abuse while on their travels, including being pushed off their bikes by having car doors opened into them, having many types of missiles thrown at them, and occasionally even being physically assaulted. Apparently the ‘fun’ element in all of this is recording the incident, whatever it is, and putting it up on social media for the amusement of other like-minded, twisted people who glory in this type of unforgivable behaviour.

  The Argos catalogue is a huge book and anyone getting one flung at them from a moving car is in grave danger of serious injury. I am glad to say that Noel has reported the assault to the Gardaí and hopefully the horrible person or persons that did this will be caught and will be made pay a heavy penalty for their actions.

  I know that sometimes we all give out about cyclists on the roads, particularly when they travel in groups and take up the whole road, but everyone is entitled to be treated properly and to travel in safety. The lowlifes that think it’s funny to behave in the way they did to an innocent man should be ashamed.

 

 

Showband nostalgia, but also a grim reminder of dark days

 

For some reason in this country we seem to have a habit of trying to make stars out of people who have been popular on reality shows. So someone in RTÉ dreamed up the idea of giving us a Sunday night dose of Marty Morrissey and Bernard O’Shea, both of whom wowed the nation in last year’s Dancing with the Stars, on the assumption that their various escapades would draw the viewers in their hundreds of thousands.

  Now I don’t dislike either of them, with Marty being reasonably good as a GAA commentator and Bernard being okay as a comedian, but I just couldn’t bring myself to watch their first offering. Therefore, I don’t know if it was a viewer’s dream or nightmare!

  I do know that the programme I watched in its place was absolutely riveting and very disturbing in that it brought back, in full graphic detail, the horror of Northern Ireland back in the time of The Troubles.

  Ardal O’Hanlon brought us back to the showband phenomenon of the 1960s and ‘70s and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The programme itself looked at the extraordinary showband boom and the success of top bands and singers, like the Royal and Brendan Bowyer, the Miami and Dickie Rock, the Mainliners and Big Tom, and many more such as Margo and Eileen Reid, who all enjoyed unbelievable fame and fortune.

  However, it was the story of the Miami Showband massacre, which took place on July 31st 1975, as the band fronted by twenty-year-old heartthrob Fran O’Toole were returning from a gig in Banbridge, Co. Down, that made me realise, as the Brexit crisis continues, how bad things used to be and how welcome the arrival of peace more than twenty years ago now has been. The sheer horror of that night, when three members of the Miami were brutally murdered and two more seriously injured, was not glossed over in the programme.    

  One can only speculate as to how human beings could behave in that way to others, whose only ‘crime’ was trying to entertain people in a community that was crying out for something to allow them escape from the horror of violence and crime. No matter what comes down the line with Brexit, let’s all pray that sectarian violence and murder doesn’t make its way back to our little island.

  One of the programme’s interesting revelations came from Twink, who recalled a dancehall promoter filling satchels with cash after a successful night at the box office. She met him again some years later when he had become our Taoiseach. It was of course Longford’s own, Albert Reynolds. It’s sometimes funny where life’s path takes us. I’m sure as Albert filled his satchel back in those great showband days, he was unlikely to imagine that he would end up as the leader of our country, and that he would later be credited with being hugely influential in the bringing about of the peace process.

  Twink went on to be a successful singer, a TV star, a stand-up comedian, and a huge Panto Queen…but her greatest claim to fame is that she is Godmother to one of my children! It’s a funny old world.

 

Leinster can retain crown!

A quick word about the rugby last weekend. The two games involving Munster and Leinster were hugely enthralling affairs. The thing it really proved is that, even though they were both inferior to their respective opposition, experience is a great thing and both of them drew on the huge amount they have to see them through.

  It is unlikely to bring Munster any further, as they must now go to the best of the English Premiership sides, Saracens but Leinster, who have a home semi-final with former French giants, Toulouse, will fancy their chances of getting to the final and retaining their title. I think they will!

Praying for good ploughing weather!

Finally for this week, all roads lead to Kilbegnet, Creggs this weekend, when the County Ploughing Championships take place on Hanley’s farm this Sunday (7th).

  A large crowd is expected to see all the goings-on and as usual, it promises to be a big family day out, with all kinds of activities to keep young and old occupied.

  Barra O’Brien tells me there will be sheepdog trials as well. It all promises to be a great day’s fun and entertainment, and let’s hope the weather Gods look kindly on Kilbegnet on Sunday at least – and I hope to see you there!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even in defeat, cup final day was memorable

 

 

 

 

It’s Monday evening as I am writing this, and I have to say that  even though we (Creggs) lost the Connacht Junior Rugby cup final to Connemara in Galway on Sunday, it was one of the best and most exciting days that I have had for a long, long time.

  All week the excitement was building in the village, and I suppose after 26 years (since our last appearance in the final) it was understandable that some of us would be really looking forward to the occasion. While the result was a bit disappointing, the day itself was truly memorable.

  At around 12 midday, the bus – a big 191 registration vehicle – headed off for the Sportsground with the entire team, management, and a number of supporters on board, while the rest of us travelled by whatever way we could to get there – and boy did we get there!

  I would think that the occasion of the Connacht Junior Club Football Final a few years ago (against Louisburgh) was the last time I saw as many Creggs people together. Everywhere you looked you saw lads and girls who had been with Creggs right from the very beginning to now, some of whom had travelled great distances to be there. Quite a number of them I hadn’t seen for years, and it was great to catch up with all concerned. 

  As I said earlier, the result was not the one we had hoped for, but in a game that reminded me very much of the CBS one a week or so earlier, we were up against a very strong, physical team. Connemara certainly deserved their win, but – as with the CBS team – we never gave up, put in some unbelievably heroic defending, and left everything we had out on the field. No-one can ask for any more.

  The after-match ‘celebrations’, which took place in Donoghue’s in Abbey and in Mikeen’s in Creggs, confirmed what I have always known, and that is that, win or lose, our lads know how to party. Even some of us elder lemons gave it – as Jack Charlton used to say – a bit of a lash. All we can hope for now is that the lads and management stick with it and come back bigger and better next season. 

  It has always been said that you have to lose one to win one, and although it will be a tall order to get back again in a year’s time, I fully believe we can do it. If we do make it back again, this time I am going on the bus, and please God the long wait will finally come to an end.

 

Almost losing Hope…

You might possibly remember that I told you about our Christmas Week drama when the chimney in the sitting room decided to go on fire, and how brilliant the response of the Roscommon Fire Brigade was – and how efficient and professional they were in dealing with it.

  Well, the good news, as I write this bit on a lovely Tuesday afternoon, is that the chimney is finally being fixed. The lads are at it at this very moment in time. The only downside is the noise, with the sledge and the jackhammer going flat out, and so just there a while ago, I decided to take our miniature Jack Russell, Hope, for a walk – to give her (and me) a little break and a bit of badly-needed exercise.

  Now on the face of it, that shouldn’t be too much of a chore, but you don’t know me! The problem was that I had never put on Hopey’s harness before (Carol always does that), and even though it seemed to be a very simple contraption, it almost proved too much for me. To make matters worse, the dog knew the very second I took down the lead that she was off for a walk. She got very excited, whimpering and crying at the thought of her trip to the beautiful Lenamarla countryside. 

  20 minutes later, as I tried for the umpteenth time to get the yoke ‘round her neck, or wherever it was meant to go, I could see her big round eyes looking up at me – and if I could understand dog talk I know well she’d be saying to herself…what sort of an idiot is this fellow?

  However, perseverance eventually paid off, I got the harness into some kind of shape that didn’t strangle her, and the pair of us hit off. As we walked, I realised that this is, in my opinion, the nicest time of the year. Everywhere you look you can see the signs of the new spring life…the shrubs are all beginning to sprout, the daffodils are actually in some cases beginning to fade, but my favourite wildflower, the primrose, is in full bloom. On a nice day like today, it’s easy to be enthusiastic about living in the country.

  And then I thought of how wonderful the new, fully-lit walkway at the rugby club in Creggs is, and I realised (although I have yet to go on it) that even on the darkest winter nights we can go for a perfectly safe stroll there. So I said to myself (I would have said it to Hope, only she still hadn’t forgiven me for taking so long to yoke her up), that we really have no excuse any more for not getting in some exercise, and that Creggs is a great place to live in.

  Anyway I’m now back, writing away…the jackhammer is on a break, Hope is having a nap after her walk, and, all seems well with the world…well, except in the world of Irish soccer, where John Delaney appears to be running out of road. But, as the fellow says, we’ll wait and see what, if anything, happens there.

And finally…

Finally for this week, Dancing with the Stars produced an unexpected winner when Mairead Ronan and her professional dance partner, John Nolan, took the Glitterball. But, a year after Jake Carter took the prize, I wonder will it make a huge difference to the lives of the three finalists?

  Cliona Hagan is already a popular country singer, but will this recent exposure really push her career forward? Will Johnny Ward get much busier as an actor, or will Mairead become a more regular feature on our television screens?

  I don’t know the answers, but winners of such shows as The Voice of Ireland, Ireland’s got Talent, or You’re a Star, all seemed to disappear without trace, so I only hope these three entertainers can at least continue being a success in their chosen careers.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Calamity in Cardiff…guile and grit in Galway

 

 

I have often told you that one of the things that annoys me about myself is the tendency I have to make great plans to go to different places and events, and then, as the time approaches, begin to lose interest, and – using any excuse I can come up with – usually end up staying at home, going nowhere. And so it was on Wednesday afternoon of last week.

  Even though the trip was only to Galway, and I had been looking forward to it for almost a fortnight, as the time for me to head off approached, the old familiar ‘looking for a way out’ syndrome kicked in.

  All the usual excuses started to form in what I have that passes for a brain. The weather is too bad, the crowd will be too big, there will be no parking, and it will be a major challenge trying to get home after the game, the game being the CBS’ first ever schools senior rugby cup final (against Garbally).

  By 1.30 pm I had myself convinced to give it a miss, but then I had a chat with myself, told myself that this was history in the making, and that the CBS would never again be appearing in their first cup final. I decided that I should go to support their efforts, and so I changed my mind, put on the wet gear (a second pair of trousers and a jacket), and hit for the Western Capital.

  And never was I as happy at a decision! The atmosphere was just electric, with everyone I ever met from Roscommon seeming to be there, including the two Jacks (the higher and the lower). Even though the end result was a disappointing defeat, the effort, skill and commitment was just fantastic, and the Brothers should be justifiably proud of their efforts.

  As I cheered them on, it crossed my mind that although I had never set foot in the CBS, this was at least the fourth time I had been on the sideline at one of their major games…firstly following the football exploits of the team in the 1990s when they reached the All-Ireland final, and a couple of years back when the Junior rugby team made their own history by winning the Connacht Junior Cup.

  Even though I find it so hard to cheer on the county footballers, I had no problem shouting for the Brothers, and cheered them as enthusiastically as anyone else. And – miraculously – the traffic wasn’t terrible, and I got home in good time. It had turned out to be a hugely enjoyable experience.

 

And now…over to Creggs

 

As I drove home I reflected on the fact that we, Creggs RFC that is, will be back there this Sunday for the Connacht Junior Cup Final, our first in 26 years. I can only hope that we compete with the same pride and commitment as the CBS did, but hopefully with a different result.  

  After such a long time, it’s great to be back in the Sportsground again, and the fact that it’s against our old foes (yet, funny enough, our friends) the Connemara All Blacks, gives it an extra twist. Even though it’s only Monday evening as I write this, I have to admit that I am already getting a touch of the butterflies.

  Once upon a time we used to nearly think that we’d be in the cup final every year or so, but time has taught us differently and it’s actually very difficult to get to it. So we hope to make the most of this opportunity – and end the 26-year drought. If we do, there will be no drought in Creggs on Sunday night. The big game kicks off at 3 pm on Sunday so I appeal to anyone who can, to dig out any bit of maroon and white that you can find, and get to Galway – and with your support help the lads to cross the line. I can’t wait.

  I suppose I can’t leave rugby (although I’d love to) without mentioning Ireland’s no-show against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday. All I can say is it was one of the most error-ridden, leaderless, and spineless performances put in by Ireland for many a year, but nonetheless I don’t go along with some of the sports correspondents from the national papers who have effectively totally written us off before the World Cup.

  We certainly have a lot of work to do before November, but one of the quotes of the weekend came from Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones, when he said, post-match, that the Welsh now have a target on their backs. In other words, they are now there to be shot at. I think all that has happened is that we have certainly fallen back a good bit, and all the others have upped their games, but I still believe that come November we will be very competitive.

  Whether we are good enough to even come out of our group – which includes the hosts Japan and a buoyant Scotland – only time will tell, but instead of having a go at our national team, we should realise they have punched hugely above their weight for a few years now. We should be grateful for the recent very good times. Sport is like that; every team can hit upon hard times.

  I for one believe that when we get some of our injured players, especially Athlone man Robbie Henshaw back, and with a few tweaks in personnel, we will still have a good World Cup, and who knows, we could still get to our first ever World Cup semi-final. Here’s hoping.

And finally…

Finally for this week, as we know, our Taoiseach Leo Varadker  was the guest of honour at a lavish reception in the White House last Thursday, when he presented President Trump with the traditional bowl of shamrock.

  About 300 specially invited guests were in attendance. Among that number was our own Creggs woman, Sinead Connaughton, who was honoured for her work as Vice-President of the Irish Association in Atlanta City. Sinead is the daughter of Sean and Josephine (the latter the former principal of the CBS in Roscommon), and has been in Atlanta for the last three years, where she has obviously become very involved in the huge Irish community.

  Well done Sinead. It’s a great achievement to have been one of such a small number invited to the Dinner, and we can always say we had a Creggs woman in the White House.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

‘Super’ memories of good old days…and a present-day trip to Arnotts

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe it now, but once upon a time we lived in a society which had no Lidls or Aldis or any other type of supermarkets.

  As far as I remember, it was Pat Quinn with his bald head and distinctive glasses who first introduced us to the supermarket idea when he started off Quinnsworth somewhere up in Dublin.

  His namesake (but no relation) Fergal then came up with the Superquinn model, and before we knew it we had several more. Now in almost every middling-sized town, we have Dunnes, SuperValu, Londis, Tesco, Centra, the two German stores and many, many more, all of whom have contributed to the decline of the local shop.

  Back in those good old days we had the little country shop selling everything from the proverbial needle to the anchor, and villages like my own (Creggs) would have had seven or eight shops doing groceries, sweets, light hardware, etc. Some of them would sell animal feeds, fuel, and even coffins. However, back then the department store ruled the roost, and a department store was exactly what it said. Each shop had several departments, all with their own dedicated staff.

  Pettit’s in Ballygar was known throughout the land, and customers came from all over to do their shopping there. Under the one roof you had giftware, drapery, hardware, footware, homewares, carpet and flooring sections, and out the back was the building supplies and fuel departments.

  In Dublin, the big three were Clery’s, Brown Thomas and Arnotts. As a young lad, I can remember Mrs. B (my mother) talking about shopping in Brown Thomas. I don’t know if it was shopping or window shopping, but she was a big fan of that store. Time however passed on, and a lot of the big department stores – including Pettit’s – closed their doors, but Arnotts and Brown Thomas are still going strong and have become exclusive high-end shops. 

  Nowadays, if you are going to Arnotts to do your shopping, you would need a mini-bank behind you. Myself and Carol paid it a visit a little while ago, and I needed a stiff drink to recover from the shock at seeing the prices of clothes (thankfully it was a window shopping trip). So when our daughter rang us on Saturday evening to tell us that there was a massive Arnotts warehouse sale all last weekend near her (in Swords), we decided to head up there to check it out. And my God was it massive!

  The sale was in a warehouse the size of a football pitch, with a marquee added on at the far end for the furniture and flooring, and there was everything from all kinds of electrical stuff to giftware, to bedding and bathroom stuff. You would need a full day to see it all.

  Despite the rain which was pelting down there was a huge crowd coming and going, and the good news is that Carol was there long enough to grab a few (a good few) bargains, and, for the first time in my life I proudly carried bonafide Arnotts bags, with their own goods, to the car. I doubt if it will ever happen again, so I am saving the bags for posterity.  

  Then we called into the Airside Shopping Centre, and for me, the big excitement was in Harvey Norman’s, where the rain was literally pouring through the roof in bucketfuls. While they were doing their best to gather it up in dozens of buckets and barrels, eventually they gave up, and had to close the shop. I’d say there will be a fair insurance claim, as there was quite a bit of damage done as far as I could see.

  Anyway, we hit for home some time around four pm and, just as we headed off, the snow came, and by the time we got near Enfield the motorway was white and traffic was down to almost a crawl. It stayed that way ‘till near Moate, and then, miraculously, the snow disappeared and it was back to the wind and rain. I was giving out about the rain on my way up, but I can honestly tell you I was never as glad to see it as I was on Sunday evening. Anyway, I was glad I went to see the warehouse sale, even though I normally hate that type of thing, but it was an education, and I certainly never saw as much stuff, of so many different types, under one roof before. If it happens again next year, I’ll find somewhere else to be.

 

Golfing in February

 

It’s Tuesday evening, February 26th, and if anyone had told me that I would be out playing golf on the beautiful parkland course that is Castlerea, I would have told them to go and have their head examined. But if they then said I would be playing in my shirt sleeves, I would have said they were beyond redemption and couldn’t be cured.

  Every year, without fail, I have waited ‘till the month of May before coming out of my winter hibernation, but on that recent Tuesday I made a burst and played six or seven holes. The one thing that hadn’t changed – despite the wonderful weather – was the golf. As usual with me, the shots went in all directions – but seldom in the direction they should go.

  Whenever people ask me as to how I played I always say that with me the score makes no difference. As long as I hit a decent whack on the ball I don’t really mind where it goes, provided it doesn’t hit any other unsuspecting golfer on a different fairway. Just the sheer enjoyment of following a ball around the lovely Castlerea course, and breathing clear fresh air – with an occasional visit to the woods to search for your own ball, or even someone else’s – makes it all so special, and I am fully intent on playing more often this year than in previous years. Hopefully I might even get a handicap, but that might be stretching it a bit.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week…two big local social nights to tell you about. Firstly, don’t forget the big dance on this Friday night, 8th of March, in the Abbey Hotel. It’s in aid of the Lourdes Assisted Pilgrims Fund. There will be great music by The Lancers, Patsy McCaul, and the Frank Nelson Band. It’s all kicking off at 9 pm. There will be loads of spots and raffle prizes…it’s a great cause and will be great craic, so make sure you get there.

  Meanwhile, Therese Kenny tells me that Cuisle are holding a St. Patrick’s fundraising party on Friday, 15th of March, in An Cuisle (starting at 9.30 pm). You are invited to turn up in green fancy dress, but that part is optional. There will be music, dancing, finger food, and spots (prizes, not pimples). Admission to both events is only €10, so in one throw of the dice there’s your next two Friday nights looked after! You can thank me later.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

All eyes on Cardiff thriller

 

 

 

 

It’s Saturday evening, and after a busy enough day in the shop, I pull the door behind me. I have only one thing on my mind – and that is rugby – because the eagerly-awaited showdown in Cardiff between Wales and England has just kicked off, and I can’t wait to see if the Welsh can put a halt to the English gallop.

  It’s five o’clock, and I decide to watch the game in the newly-refurbished bar in the Sheraton Hotel, but it was absolutely jammed, and even though there were two televisions showing it, it was difficult to either see or hear it.

  Funny enough, very few of the big crowd seemed to be watching the action, as they all were eating or drinking, and – even at that early hour – they looked as if they were out for the night. I headed just up the road and settled on a welcoming high stool in Carey’s bar. It too was well crowded with a few early starters from a hen party, but most of the clientele were engrossed in the rugby, and all seemed to be supporting our Celtic brethren. It’s amazing how we all like to beat the English. If we can’t do it ourselves we delight nearly as much when someone else does.

  It’s now Monday afternoon (as I resume writing) and it’s well documented how we all got our wish, and the English Chariot was derailed. Everyone in Carey’s was delighted. Once it was over I headed down to the Buccaneers rugby ground where our lads (Creggs) were taking on the local team in the penultimate league match of the season. Now the result didn’t go our way, but all of us who were lucky enough to be there witnessed a terrific encounter, with some top class rugby played by both sides.

  As I watched from the sidelines of the main pitch, I couldn’t help but think that taking away the U-20 internationals from Dubarry Park and moving them to Cork  was a big mistake. Maybe I am being a bit selfish, but in recent years I attended a number of U-20 matches in the Midland venue, and they were great occasions, the games played in splendid surroundings. There can be no doubt that for accessibility alone, Athlone is far and away the more convenient.

  Earlier in the day, the Buccs had beaten St. Mary’s in an All Ireland League game, and our own Bill Flynn, a former fearsome prop forward, had taken in that match, watched the international in the Bounty, and then watched our lads in the evening – so he surely had a feast of top quality rugby. As a well-known student of the game, I’m sure he had a lot to discuss later on in the night.

Danny’s big night

Staying with Saturday night…I have to admit that I find watching any game that I have an interest in more demanding than when I actually used to play, and so by the time I made it home, I was only fit for a siesta on the couch in front of a nice warm turf fire. That’s why I missed out on a great night in Mulvihill’s in Castlerea, when my good friend, and one of the greatest people of all time, Danny Burke, had a surprise (to him) 80th birthday party.

  I’m told that the Castlerea Brass Band led Danny up Barrack Street (from his home) to Mulvihill’s, with great crowds looking on, and the night that followed was one of song, laughter and great craic, just as the one and only Danny would have wanted and deserved.

  I have had the privilege of knowing Ireland’s most renowned postman ever for nearly fifty years, and no words of mine could do justice to the contribution he has made in so many different ways to so many different organisations and communities. All I can say is I really regret not making it on Saturday night, but heartiest congratulations Danny, and, if we’re both still around in 10 years’ time, I will make your 90th. Happy birthday Danny, and here’s to many more.

Brexit woes

Brexit is something that I have seldom if ever mentioned, but as someone who remembers being asked to get out of a car along with four other young (at the time) men who were going to play rugby for Corinthians up in Belfast, and having all our gear bags opened up, with stuff literally thrown around the road by British soldiers, I, along with many others, would not like to see a return to those bad old days.

  However, there are many other little things that may cause problems, and one of those is the fact that a British driving licence may no longer be valid in Ireland. Two people that I know of who moved back here from England some years ago, and who have driven quite legally here since then on their British licences, are now frantically trying to get Irish licences before the dreaded No Deal comes to pass.

  I have no idea if they will be successful, as I’m sure they will have to do a test, and I keep saying – although in truth I haven’t a clue (nothing unusual there, says you) that the No Deal won’t happen – but the people involved are scared they may find themselves in a licensing limbo which could invalidate both their licences and their insurance – and so they can’t take the chance. It’s just one very minor problem that a hard border may bring, so for all our sakes, let’s hope something can soon be sorted to prevent such a scenario.

And finally…

Finally for this week, Jimmy Kearney of The Lancers’ fame has asked me to remind you all that the Roscommon Deanery fundraising dance in aid of the Lourdes Assisted Pilgrims Fund takes place on Friday, 8th of March in the Abbey Hotel, with dancing from 9 pm to 1 am.

  Music will be provided by three of the best local bands…Frank Nelson, Patsy McCaul, and The Lancers themselves. It is for a great cause that helps so many individuals and families. There will be loads of spot prizes, and a raffle too. It all only costs €10, so if you can at all, get out the cowboy hat and the dancing shoes, saddle up your old horse, and get to the Abbey on Friday night, 8th of March, where you are guaranteed a top class night of music and dancing. See you there.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

The low flying planes are ‘no  more’ – but Creggs are flying again!

 

 

It’s a wet, wild, windy Sunday afternoon, and I find myself hitting for the Mayo town of Castlebar, where our rugby team are playing the home side in the semi-final of the Connacht Junior Cup. Winning would mean that we would be heading back to the Sportsground in Galway for the final, for the first time in 26 years.

  It’s funny how memories always come flooding back on occasions such as this. As I passed by the place where Castlebar had their pitch back in the 1970s, my mind drifted all the way back to our first cup game in the 1978/79 season. Back then they played opposite the now defunct Castlebar Airport – on the way in, near McHale Park – and I have told you before that for our first big appearance in the quarter-final of the cup, we travelled without any jerseys, and played the first half in our Sunday shirts, vests, odd jerseys, and in my case a Courtelle, a Paris fashion item which was sold to me by Anto Pettit. Sadly it was ripped asunder in a tackle, long before Jimmy and Nora Connelly combined to have the jerseys in Castlebar for the second half.

  One of the main features of that game was the number of low flying small aircraft coming in to land on the airstrip, which was just across the road at the end of the pitch. They would be so low as they made their final approches that a high kick could well have led to disaster. Anyways, we didn’t bring down any plane, and, remarkably, we won that first ever cup game between the two clubs, and eventually made it to the cup final where we lost  narrowly to a very good Ballina team.

  Since those early days, Castlebar have moved a good few miles…out the Ballinrobe road – but despite the change of venue, it is still one of the most difficult places to go, and last Sunday was no different.

  There will be a report somewhere else in the paper about a tough, dogged, full-blooded encounter, but, eventually, despite a somewhat unconvincing performance, we made it across the winning line and we can now look forward to another battle with Connemara, in Galway, on Sunday, 24th of March. It will hopefully, give us an excuse to pay a visit to Sean Donoghue’s pub in Abbeyknockmoy, where we used always stop for a pint or two back in the days that now seem like a lifetime ago (and sadly they are).

  I hope it’s a good omen, but, yesterday as I was rooting through an old cabinet, I came across the league and cup medals that I was lucky enough to win with Creggs during those heady days, and I really believe this young team can go on to write a glorious new chapter in the history of this marvellous little rugby club. Here’s to March 24th and, win or lose (hopefully win) it’s great to have a big day out to look forward to. I can see myself on a high stool in ‘Abbey’ on the way home.

Enjoyable night in City of the Tribes

On Sunday, after the match in Castlebar, myself and Carol headed for the western Capital (that’s Galway) where we were due to spend the night. Of course, even though it was a Sunday night in February, it was still flat out busy.

  The taximan who brought us into the city centre told us that Monday and Thursday are the busiest nights because of the huge student population. Monday because they have been back after being at home for the weekend where they were properly fed, had their clothes washed, and got a few bob from their hard-pressed parents, and Thursday because they had to spend whatever they had left before going home again on Friday for a re-run of the previous weekend!

  However, he also said that last Sunday night was the busiest he had seen for some time, and judging by the crowds in the pubs and restaurants it was easy to appreciate that. After a hearty meal in The Cellar we did a mini-tour of some of the pubs that were recommended to us by people who are used to the city nightlife. Taaffes was way too busy and noisy for us, and so we crossed the paved cobblestones for my first ever visit to Tig Coili, and it certainly lived up to its billing. There was a big crowd, excellent traditional music, and even better porter – which was like drinking cream milk – and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

  However, we felt it would not be right to park in the one place on our very rare trip to Galway, and even though the rain was pelting down (as it seems it only can in Galway), we braved the elements to call to Garavan’s, a lovely old pub with a more mature clientele, before calling it a day (night) after sampling the fare in O’Connells (pictured above), on Eyre Square, a place that had a mixture of young and old and – as with the others – was vibrant, lively and very enjoyable.

  The overwhelming feeling all over was that the City of the Tribes is still one of the best places in Ireland, or anywhere else, for a night out, and I hope it won’t be as long before I sample its delights again.

 

Learner drivers: Draconian penalties

 

On to more serious matters: the new tough penalties which have been brought in against unaccompanied learner drivers are causing quite a bit of annoyance, especially among rural communities.  

  As with the new drink-driving limits, Shane Ross stands accused of trying to destroy what’s left of rural Ireland. Of course there are two sides to every disagreement, and Ross will argue that all he is doing is to try to improve road safety, but for parents who can’t be constantly available to accompany their learner driver children to work, college, sporting activities – or anywhere else – the new penalties are certainly very draconian and inconvenient.

  There must be a way of solving this problem. The waiting time for driving tests seems to be way too long. I heard a lady from Tipperary claiming that the waiting time in her area can be up to six months, while the normal time is somewhere between eight and twelve weeks. There is no doubt that those waiting times are way too long, so maybe there should be a relaxation of the rules for those who are waiting for their tests. I’m no politician, but something must be done to solve what is now a major issue.

And finally…

Finally for this week, Michael Nolan asks me to tell you all about a Table Quiz for Ros FM 94.6 in Cuisle, Donamon, on Friday night, 22nd of February at 9 pm. Tables of 4 are €40.

  Ros FM is run by volunteers and needs all the help it can get, so your support would be greatly appreciated.

 

Till next week, Bye for now! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A protest too far

It’s Monday morning – and out here in Crosswell, the telly is on the blink, and so we are listening to the radio. One of the big talking points is the “very frightening” protest that took place on Sunday afternoon outside the home in Co. Wicklow of Health Minister Simon Harris. 

  Now the dogs on the street know about the controversy the minister finds himself embroiled in, i.e. over the massive overspending on the new Children’s Hospital, and the misinformation he provided to the Dáil regarding when he found out about the spiralling costs…but no matter how angry people are over the huge mess, there surely can be no justification in targeting a politician’s home.

  What makes it even more disgusting is the fact that Harris’s wife, Caoimhe, and their three-week-old daughter, Saoirse, were in the house at the time. While we all have a right to protest, we do not have a right to impinge on a politician’s private life. There is nothing wrong with approaching the minister in public places and telling him that you don’t agree with him or his performance, and of course the ultimate place to protest is at the ballot box. And judging by all the controversies that are flying around the place, including the never-ending Brexit saga, the political analysts are predicting that a chance to vote in a general election may be coming sooner rather than later. That’s where we should be making our protests.

  As for the Children’s Hospital, not only is the cost of the project causing major problems, but in my opinion the location – on the site of the old St. James Hospital right in the city centre – is totally ridiculous.

  As someone who experienced the problems my daughter had when working in the hospital with regard to parking and accessibility, I pose this question: how much worse is it going to be when parents and relations from all over the country are turning up to admit, and visit, their sick children? If there is no parking available there now, what will it be like when the new facility is eventually up and running? I shudder to think.

 

Rainy day in Knock…

Last Tuesday, despite the slightly inclement weather, Carol and myself decided to make our more or less annual visit to Knock. So we hit off a little before midday in the newly ‘NCT passed’ Volvo, looking forward to the peaceful walk round the lovely Marian Shrine. However, as we headed off in the general direction of the renowned Mayo village, the weather took a decided turn for the worse, and by the time we got there the rain was literally pelting down on top of us.

  In all the years we have been going there we had never seen it so deserted. A handful of hardy pilgrims was all that could be seen…a couple of old women (probably younger than me) making their way, despite the downpour, between the different Churches while clutching tightly to their wind-blown umbrellas; a few men saying their prayers where the original apparitions took place; and a mother and her young child sheltering in the doorway of the Basilica.

  Even the stalls, which hold a huge attraction for me – especially the one that has one of the biggest ranges of Irish country music DVDs, CDs, videos and tapes anywhere in the country – were closed, and only the three or so traditional shops on the Main Street were open for business, selling their thousands of different religious products. Although on last Tuesday they too were unusually quiet. We were on the trail of a big Sacred Heart picture – as a present for a friend of ours – and thankfully we managed to get one.

  Before we left the rain-soaked village, we went for a much-needed lunch in the Old Ground Restaurant, the only place that seemed to be open. In contrast to the rest of the town, it was quite busy, and we enjoyed a lovely meal as the rain outside got heavier and heavier.

  Funny enough, as we passed the Day Care centre near the Basilica on our way back to the car, the music was blaring out all around the place and it seemed to be wedged with people of all ages – but tempting as it was to join them, the weather won and we (almost literally) set sail for our own little village.

  I am not the most religious person in the world, but, rain or no rain, we enjoyed our visit, and it won’t be as long again before we are back.

Ploughing bound for Hanley farm

 

On to local matters: a few years ago (in 2014), the Hanley farm, just down the road, put Creggs and the surrounding areas on the map when they hosted the International Sheep Dog Trials. More than 20,000 people flocked to the fine Roscommon farm, and this week I hear that the County Roscommon Ploughing Championships are coming to the same place in the early part of the month of April.

  The National Ploughing Championships is now the biggest social event that takes place in the entire island of Ireland, and the County Championships are similarly well supported in all the individual counties. It is a great news story for our area to hear that it is set to host this year’s event. The exact date and more details will be announced in the coming weeks, but for now we are more than happy to invite you all to Creggs for an early April day out.

  We look forward to seeing you all, and please God Marty Morrissey won’t be here to show us his great skill as a ploughman, or to show off his dancing skills! Maybe Willie Hegarty might get the gig.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Passing on global warming and Brexit, embracing great sport!

 

 

 

There are many occasions when I have a little chat with myself, and tell myself that for a man of my age I have a very limited knowledge of the important things in life, like politics and economics and global warming and Brexit and stuff like that. Meanwhile, I am totally immersed in all kinds of sporting matters. As someone who gets a load of newspapers every week, I unashamedly admit that my first visit every time is to the sports pages.

  In fact, many is the time that when I discard whatever paper I happen to have, the important news pages will not have even got a passing glance. And so today, Monday (as I write), I am happily reflecting on an action-packed sporting weekend, but mostly on the rugby action, both internationally and locally, which (sadly for me) saw my two most favoured teams taste agonising defeats.

  On Saturday we had the big Six Nations clash between Ireland and England. Having escaped early from work, I was seated in front of the telly with a nice warm fire burning in the hearth, and all set for an epic encounter…now, if you read my column last week, you will know that I had great concern about the ability of Joe Schmidt’s men to beat the Auld Enemy – as it turned out, my misgivings were well founded. 

  The more physically powerful English came out with all guns blazing and were worthy winners, although it must be said that of the four tries they scored, we handed them three, and the ref had a big part in their fourth. However, yet again, the monstrous belts that lads took had to be seen to be believed, and as I write this on Monday evening, there are injury doubts over at least four or five of the Irish players. One thing worth noting is the fact that CJ Stander, who comes in for a lot of criticism because he wasn’t born in Ireland – and, therefore (according to his critics) hasn’t his heart in the green jersey – played for a large part of the game with both a fractured cheekbone and eye socket.

  The post-match inquests centred on the obvious lack of experience Robbie Henshaw has as an international full-back, a fact that was ruthlessly exposed by the English kickers, and on the school of thought (to which I subscribe) that suggests this reverse may not be a bad thing. Sometimes expectation can be an overwhelming burden. After all, if we had continued on our victorious way through the Six Nations tournament, we would be the team to beat when the World Cup comes in November. Now the English will carry that burden, and it may well be the best thing that ever happened to us.

  Anyway, the great thing about sport is there is always a next time, and in this instance the Irish team have a chance to get back on track when they travel to Edinburgh to take on the Scots on Saturday. I expect we will see a positive reaction, and this time, although the Scots are flying, I think we may just about get a welcome and much-needed victory. It’s a test of Schmidt as well as the team, and I believe he will mastermind a winning response.

 

Turning the clock back in Creggs

 

 

Staying with rugby, but on to local matters: on Sunday afternoon our own Creggs team took on the Connemara All Blacks in a vitally important Connacht League match, and even though we narrowly lost, it was in my opinion one of the greatest days in the 45-year history of the club.

 

  Back in the 1970s, and more particularly the ‘80s, the Creggs-Connemara rivalry was legendary, and  as someone who had the pleasure (sometimes not so much pleasure) of playing in several of the games of that era, I can say that there was always something completely different about playing the All Blacks. Their team was always tough and hard but fair, and their supporters were the sort of supporters any club would like to have…totally committed to their team, but never abusive to the opposition, and always respectful of their opponents – and hail, rain or snow, they were there in support of their local heroes.

  And so it was on Sunday when three busloads from Connemara, along with several cars carrying the team and supporters, arrived into our little village – and it was as if the clock was turned back thirty years or so. The game itself was one of the best I have seen at any level in many a year, the atmosphere was amazing, and if I spoke earlier about the huge hits that the international players took on Saturday, the ones that went in on Sunday were every bit as hard. I just don’t understand how lads would be able to get up on Monday morning and head off to their day jobs.

  I know there will be a full report elsewhere in this week’s People, so all I will say is that it was a match that could have gone either way, and the delighted All Blacks were honest enough to admit that they were very lucky. As a sign of the unbelievable physicality of the exchanges, both teams lost a number of players through injury, and the toll on our lads was particularly severe. With a big cup match against Monivea next Sunday, our strength in depth will be severely tested.

  At the end of a wonderful encounter both teams were applauded off by their respective supporters and it was just so uplifting to see the appreciation of both sides by the huge attendance. Anyway, typical Connemara, they didn’t just up their sticks and leave our village – they piled into Mikeen’s, where they stayed for quite a while. It was great to meet up with Henry O’Toole, one of the best rugby players of our, or any other era, and a man who had three sons playing against us on Sunday. Earlier, I had run into Aidan O’Halloran, who had the unusual distinction of playing for both clubs in his time, and before the last of the buses left Creggs, I met up with Corkman John O’Brien, husband of Anne Hannigan, with whom I worked for many a year in the good old Bank of Ireland days. Indeed our chat was responsible for holding up the bus’s departure for a good few minutes.

  By then, the news that the Rossies had done the business had come through, and so a few of us hit for Roscommon to join their celebrations in the Hatch, and I have to say we had great craic. Jack the Higher and Jack the Lower and myself had been due to meet up for a Christmas get-together, but now that none of us are working full-time, it’s very hard to find any spare time, so it didn’t happen. However, we decided to have our Christmas Party on Sunday night, and were joined by Adrian Leddy, Anthony Duignan, my son Mark, and young Brian Coady, along with several Rossies, and it was so successful that we are going to have another Christmas party in the Hatch in April. We were a little disappointed that between the three of them – Larry, Seamus and Mick – they couldn’t come up with a Christmas cake, but I suppose we didn’t give them much notice. No excuse in April.

  And so it came to an end, a day that saw hundreds of people visit our little village. The Roscommon Hunt were also there! As a Creggs man, I was so proud of our rugby team, our rugby club, and our local community – and if everyone says rural Ireland is dead, call to Creggs next Sunday afternoon and you will see a community that is flying the flag as high as it can go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine you want to build a house. You sit down with a builder and agree a price. Say it’s €200,000. He goes off with his instructions and starts his work. A month into the job he calls and tells you that he made a mistake and that the house will now cost you €800,000 – and it may even go to €1 million. It’s just crazy beyond any explanation. That would be the end of that.

  That’s more or less what has happened with the National Children’s Hospital project that has caused so much controversy in the past month. The price has gone up to four or five times the original estimate in the space of six months or so. Why does this always seem to happen in this country when public money is being spent?

  I had to laugh out loud when I heard Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say at the weekend (and with a straight face too) that there would be people held accountable for the mistakes that have been made in connection with this project. What planet is he living on? When did anyone ever take responsibility for wasting taxpayers’ money in this country? I have the answer to that one. Never.

  The people who are responsible for this scandal will be treated the same way as everyone else who has squandered taxpayers’ money over the years has been. At best they will be moved sideways, but most will be promoted – and all will retire with big fat pensions.

  We will have a ‘review’ to find out what happened, and that will cost an arm and a leg too. The review will seek to find out what mistakes were made so that we never make them again. What a laugh that is. Sure we never learn from our mistakes in this country.

  The infuriating thing about this scandal is that this hospital is badly needed and this project must go ahead. But that the costs were let spiral out of control to the extent that they have is quite unbelievable.

  The figures in connection with this scandal are staggering. It will be the most expensive medical facility ever built anywhere in the world. A hospital which is under construction in Adelaide in Australia is expected to cost €1.5 million per bed, which is considered very expensive. Not when our National Children’s Hospital comes into the reckoning though. At the moment the price is €3 million per bed – and rising.

  I am not a construction, medical or financial expert, but like every other ordinary person I am struggling to get my head around the scale of this scandal. In the Sunday Independent at the weekend there was a list of the estimated costs (so far). It was 80 million for this, 90 million for that, 55 million for the other…in a list of about 30 different headings. It was mind-boggling to look at in black and white. Remember, this is your money and my money.

  I am not naïve enough to believe that a top class Children’s Hospital could be built on the cheap. These projects are very expensive and this one has to be done, but we have cocked this one up big time. Work has already started and it’s too late to put the brakes on now. But people being held accountable? You must be joking. On to the next scandal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine you want to build a house. You sit down with a builder and agree a price. Say it’s €200,000. He goes off with his instructions and starts his work. A month into the job he calls and tells you that he made a mistake and that the house will now cost you €800,000 – and it may even go to €1 million. It’s just crazy beyond any explanation. That would be the end of that.

  That’s more or less what has happened with the National Children’s Hospital project that has caused so much controversy in the past month. The price has gone up to four or five times the original estimate in the space of six months or so. Why does this always seem to happen in this country when public money is being spent?

  I had to laugh out loud when I heard Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say at the weekend (and with a straight face too) that there would be people held accountable for the mistakes that have been made in connection with this project. What planet is he living on? When did anyone ever take responsibility for wasting taxpayers’ money in this country? I have the answer to that one. Never.

  The people who are responsible for this scandal will be treated the same way as everyone else who has squandered taxpayers’ money over the years has been. At best they will be moved sideways, but most will be promoted – and all will retire with big fat pensions.

  We will have a ‘review’ to find out what happened, and that will cost an arm and a leg too. The review will seek to find out what mistakes were made so that we never make them again. What a laugh that is. Sure we never learn from our mistakes in this country.

  The infuriating thing about this scandal is that this hospital is badly needed and this project must go ahead. But that the costs were let spiral out of control to the extent that they have is quite unbelievable.

  The figures in connection with this scandal are staggering. It will be the most expensive medical facility ever built anywhere in the world. A hospital which is under construction in Adelaide in Australia is expected to cost €1.5 million per bed, which is considered very expensive. Not when our National Children’s Hospital comes into the reckoning though. At the moment the price is €3 million per bed – and rising.

  I am not a construction, medical or financial expert, but like every other ordinary person I am struggling to get my head around the scale of this scandal. In the Sunday Independent at the weekend there was a list of the estimated costs (so far). It was 80 million for this, 90 million for that, 55 million for the other…in a list of about 30 different headings. It was mind-boggling to look at in black and white. Remember, this is your money and my money.

  I am not naïve enough to believe that a top class Children’s Hospital could be built on the cheap. These projects are very expensive and this one has to be done, but we have cocked this one up big time. Work has already started and it’s too late to put the brakes on now. But people being held accountable? You must be joking. On to the next scandal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Television has changed…and yes, I prefer the old days!

 

 

A very long time ago, when I used to spend a lot of my school holiday time on my uncle’s farm in Tipperary, the only television set in the area was in George Johnson’s house about a mile and a half away, near the little village of Barna. If the Tipp hurlers were playing in an All-Ireland final, or maybe even a semi-final, myself and Uncle Mikey would head off and join twenty or so other locals to watch the match in the Johnsons’ kitchen.

  It’s funny how times have changed, because those visits were nearly an event in themselves. The Johnsons would have all the chairs laid out neatly like you would see in parish halls nowadays when plays or concerts are taking place. There was an unwritten rule that you must be seated in good time well before the match started, and on the odd occasion when someone would arrive late, they would be well and truly chastised.

  At half-time, Mrs. Johnson, the woman of the house – a lovely jolly lady – would bring out plates of ham sandwiches and cups of warm tea, and all would be devoured while the events of the opening half were discussed. There were no panels or pundits back then, so you did all the analysis yourself, or at least all who went to Johnsons did. When the tea and sandwiches were done for, everyone settled back and got ready for the second half. When the game was over, the same thing happened – more tea and sandwiches – and no-one rushed away until the whole thing was thoroughly analysed. It could be well into the evening before Mikey and I made the return journey home.

  I hadn’t that much interest in Tipperary hurling back then, but I used to love the ham sandwiches, and the Johnsons had a great big farmyard where a young lad who had no iphone or any other type of modern gadget to curtail his imagination, could spend hours on end just messing round and making his own fun. Oh how things have changed in the countryside, where most of us hardly know our next-door neighbours now, and where no-one ever calls to visit any more.  

  I suppose of all the things that have changed since those happy days it’s unlikely that anything has changed as much as television. At first there was no daytime television at all, with programmes only starting in the evening, and of course then we only had RTE 1, which launched on New Year’s Eve 1961, until RTE 2 came on board seventeen years later in 1978.

  Nowadays we have hundreds of channels. Daytime television is an accepted part of our modern society, there are more and more sports channels appearing almost weekly (all of which we have to pay for), every act on a pitch is examined in minute detail, and reality TV, which I cannot stand, has nearly cornered all the light entertainment market. Throw in a myriad of quiz shows, never-ending series’ of cookery shows – which have made household names of chefs like Neven Maguire, Darina Allen, Gordon Ramsey and loads more – and what we now have is an extensive range of unwatchable stuff on our TV screens, with only an odd decent show like Blue Bloods or NCIS to keep me occupied.

  Nothing is sacred now in the television world, and two programmes in the last week made me think back to the days when it all started out. The first was on one of the early morning shows (actually more like mid-morning) and if I didn’t see it myself I would not have believed it. Among the guests were a wedding planner (another modern phenomenon) and her client, which, normally enough, was a young enough lady. What wasn’t so normal was the fact that the lady in question was going to marry her duvet, which she explained she was head over heels in love with.

  Pascale Sellick is having a “lavish ceremony”, on February 10th in Devon, England. She is not telling anyone what the groom, i.e. the duvet, will be wearing, and everyone, including me and you, is invited to a free wedding party afterwards. I have seen and heard many a daft thing on telly down through the years, but that, in my opinion, took the biscuit. I’m looking up the flights to Devon at the moment, as I would imagine it should be some craic – can’t wait for the groom’s speech!

  The other thing that made me think back to the early days of television was the coverage of the Mayo-Roscommon football match last Saturday night in Castlebar, when the wind was so strong that the camera could not be kept steady. As a result it was almost impossible to keep watching the game.

  It was strange to realise that even with all the improvements in technology and with the most up to date cameras, the weather can still affect the quality of the production. In truth, the shaky pictures would give you a headache. The wisdom of playing the game at all in such conditions would have to be questioned, but I suppose with almost 11,000 turning up, it had to go ahead. Back in the 1960s, when there was probably only one camera in use, it wasn’t uncommon to have shaky, grainy pictures, and nowadays while it is a bit unusual, it was reassuring, although also a bit worrying, to realise that nothing can neutralise the power of the elements.  

  As for the game itself, the nasty side of me would say that it was a blessing to miss some of it because of the bad coverage, but in fairness no-one should have to try to play in such barbaric conditions, and judgement on either team should not be made on the back of such a contest.

  The Rossies have a really big game next Sunday in the Hyde against the ‘Dub beaters’, Monaghan, and that should give their supporters a better idea as to where the team is at. The only definite so far is that we are going to see a much more defensive set-up from the Rossies this year, and, in view of the results in the Super 8s last year, that can be no surprise. But I wonder will the performances lose the undoubted excitement of the last few years? We must wait and see.

  In an overall assessment of the opening National League football weekend, it seems that we still have a lot of really negative set-ups in place, with Galway, sadly, still playing with everyone behind the ball. As someone who got no enjoyment out of following the maroon and white last year – because of the defensive tactics – I think that this year I will again be relying on our hurlers for any entertainment.

 

Can we beat the Auld Enemy?

 

This weekend the Six Nations rugby tournament kicks off and I am anticipating the battle to beat all battles when Ireland and England lock horns in the Aviva on Saturday.

  Much as I hate to say it, there is no guarantee that we will win. The opening game in any tournament can be tricky, and so while I am confident that we can see off the Auld Enemy, I will not be rushing into Paddy Power with much of my hard-earned money.

  One thing for sure is it will be no place for the faint-hearted, and I only hope that in World Cup year we escape without any serious injuries.

 

And finally…Super Sunday at The Green

 

Finally for this week, out here in Creggs we are looking forward to our own rugby battle on Sunday afternoon, when, in what may be the biggest and most important game held here for almost thirty years, we host our old enemy Connemara in an encounter that may well have a decisive bearing on the outcome of this year’s Connacht Junior One League.

  I won’t go into the breakdown of the league table, but Connemara and Creggs are so close in every way that we could be twins, and should our visitors win on Sunday they will open a gap that may well be uncatchable.

  However, I am quietly confident in the ability of our very young team, and with the backing of the huge crowd that I expect to see in Creggs on Sunday afternoon, I believe we will take a huge step towards bringing a long-awaited league title back to the village. I hope to see you all there on Sunday. Please give our lads the support they need and deserve. I can’t wait!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Comedy king Brendan can still Grace any stage

 

 

It has to be almost forty years since I saw Brendan Grace play to full houses in Bradley’s in Creggs and Dowd’s in Glinsk. At that time I must admit I thought he was the greatest thing since the sliced pan, and just the very sight of him would have me bursting out in laughter; however, I had not seen him live for about 25 years or so, and in truth I wondered whether the great man still had it, or had ill health and advancing years taken its toll and dulled the edge off his performances?

  And so, on Thursday night of last week, four of us left Creggs, heading for The Radisson in Athlone, where the Brendan Grace Show was taking place at 8 pm. As we headed up the country, I was hoping that we would find the magic was still there. A huge crowd was already seated when we got there, and we found ourselves right at the back. It goes without saying that there was a fellow who must have been more than six and a half foot tall sitting straight in front of the five foot eight me, and I spent the next almost three hours trying to peer around the back of his head.

  A trio called Showband Nostalgia – featuring Frankie McDonald (who spent 39 years with the great Joe Dolan), fellow Athlone man  Dessie Egan, and a singer called Caitlin, who I have seen a lot on some of the many Country music stations – started the ball rolling. In fairness, they went down well with the large crowd, many of whom were quite young, with a selection of tunes that were big Showband hits back in the 1960s or so. Then at 9 o’clock the big moment arrived, and the white-suited star made his way to the stage.

  It is fair to say that my initial reaction to his arrival was somewhat muted, as he was obviously in some discomfort walking, and needed the support of a walking stick, and had to sit down. As he said himself “for 48 of my 49 years I was a stand-up comedian but…” However, the good news for me and for everyone else is that the show was thoroughly enjoyable, and Brendan showed that he is still more than capable of holding an audience in the palm of his hand. For just under two hours he rolled the clock back – and it was every bit as entertaining as it was all those years ago. He had a lot of new stuff, but when, towards the end of the night he rolled out the Father of the Bride, followed by Ireland’s oldest schoolboy, Bottler, the place went wild, and it was obvious to us that no matter what other characters come or go, those two must be there forever.

  Just before 11 pm the curtain came down (not literally), and Brendan must have fairly shifted, even with the stick, because by the time we got to the hotel foyer he was already out there meeting and greeting his fans, posing for pictures and selling his merchandise. He had a great offer of three CDs and a DVD for €10, and I’d say everyone bought one on the way out. He signed ours… and I have to say we all headed home in a very happy state. For me, the big test was that my youngest son, Paul, and his girlfriend, Fiona, who were seeing him live for the first time, enjoyed him as much as my wife Carol and I did.

  On the night I realised that, stick or no stick, Brendan Grace is still my King of Comedy. He is on a nationwide tour at present, and while I have no idea where he’s going to be, if you see him advertised anywhere near you, buy the tickets and go and see him. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Beware of ‘scam artists’

 

I suppose as long as mankind has existed there are always people out there who try to figure out ways to get their hands on other people’s money, and nowadays we hear about what we like to call scammers or scam artists, which really are glorified names for thieves or gangs of thieves. It seems those scambags (that’s my own new word) are extremely active at the moment.

  On Tuesday of last week a reader of this column received a phone call from a Dublin number, supposedly about trouble he was having with his computer. As luck would have it he was having problems with Eir 1, the television channel, and when the guy said he was going to sort out his Eir Broadband, like most of us, my reader assumed it was to do with his TV channel.

  The guy on the other end of the phone talked his way through our man’s computer for almost a half an hour, and made loads of changes to it, which information was apparently being recorded by other gang members, until finally he said the fee was only €5, but that it had to be paid on the spot by credit card. At last alarm bells started to ring, and my friend said he didn’t have his card with him, but would send on the details when his wife came home. Needless to say when she did come home, they checked out the number and found out that it was a scam. They rang Eir, who confirmed that they never ring anyone without having being contacted by their customer, and that basically the gang were trying to get hold of all the man’s financial records.

  Since Tuesday of last week, (I am writing this on Monday) – presumably because he answered the call in the first place – no fewer than 21 spurious calls have been made to his landline, and the numbers are so like our Irish numbers that you would almost certainly answer them.

  For example, there are loads of 090 numbers, including 0906608687, which could easily be mistaken for our own local code, and while I was actually in the house talking to this man, a call came in from what appeared to be an Athlone number (0906440649); every one of those calls were scam calls from foreign numbers, and we could get no real information about them. So the main thing is to exercise great caution when answering any unfamiliar phone numbers, be on your guard at all times, and tell no-one anything about you, your bank cards, your personal details, and especially anything about your financial records. There are no guidelines as to what to do when you are targeted in this way, so my unfortunate readers had to get his computer completely cleared and are considering parting with their landline, which they have had for fifty years or so.

  All I can say is beware, and don’t answer any call that you are not sure about. It could save you a lot of stress, hardship, and even money.

 

Where’s The Gunner off to?

 

Back to local matters, and on Saturday night there is a party in Mikeen’s to say goodbye to Mikeen’s brother, Jim, known affectionately as The Gunner, who is heading off on a road trip around Europe for an indefinite period, to nowhere in particular and to more or less wherever he ends up.

  Himself and his new camper van are hitting the road next week, so to make sure he goes, his friends are having a party for him.

  There will be music by Sean Donoghue, and it is sure to be a good night’s craic, everyone is invited and all I can do is wish The Gunner well, and may the road rise with him. We will miss him round the place, but as they say ‘When you gotta go you gotta go’. Hopefully we will see you all there on Saturday night, and we’ll send Jim on his merry way.

 

And finally…when Michael met Philip

 

Finally for this week, whether you like them or loathe them, you have to admit that the Healy-Raes as a family have livened up our political system, since Jackie Senior arrived into the Dáil in 1997. In recent days (I’m not sure which day) Michael’s interview on Liveline was pure radio gold.

  Apparently we had some report out in connection with our carbon footprint (whatever that is) that more or less said the cattle herd in Ireland has to be got rid of, and, as a nation we have to reduce our intake of beef, and red meat, by a massive 90%.

  Philip Boucher-Hayes was standing in for Joe Duffy, and the sparks fairly flew between the pair with the double barrelled names, but no matter whar scientific facts Boucher-Hayes put to the Kerry man, Healy-Rae was having none of it, and no report was going to stop him from having his daily feed of beef or steak.

  I’m sure you can listen to it on some modern media platform. All I can tell you is the tears were rolling down my face with the laughter, and I realised that even in the modern world where everything is backed up by facts and figures, it’s refreshing to think that no matter what, you have a man like Michael Healy-Rae who simply won’t be turned from his long-held beliefs. Good on you, Mick!

 Till next week, Bye for now!

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