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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

In praise of those Connacht warriors

I first became aware of Connacht rugby back in the amateur days of the early seventies, when in fairness the social side of the game was its main attraction and when our top international players, (or at least some of them), were as famous for their ability to drink pints as they were for their prowess on the field and one of our best-ever back row forwards would literally take to the pitch with a cigarette dangling from his tobacco-stained mouth.

   At the time Connacht was the hind-tit of Irish rugby, a totally unwanted province (has anything changed?), and the three other provinces carried all the selection power for the international side, which meant that it was almost impossible for a Connacht player to get an international cap and as Ulster had to have a certain number of players on the Irish team to keep the Northern people happy, it was no wonder that inter-provincial success for the western province was something to be savoured and appreciated.

  Of course some Connacht players were so good that eventually they just had to be picked on the Irish team, men like Ray McLoughlin, Mick Molloy and Eamon McGuire – who just couldn’t be ignored – and they were all heroes to a young sports-mad lad growing up in the village of Creggs, (that was me in case you’re lost).

   Anyway, remarkably in a lot of ways, out of our little village, which at the time, had no rugby connection at all, two of our young lads, Jack the Higher (Cunningham) and the Rasher, my brother Declan, were to represent Connacht at senior level and almost forty years ago, I stood along with a couple of hundred other hardy souls on the sidelines in Donnybrook as the two lads took on the might of a Leinster team powered by a number of Irish international players (and even Lions). I would love to tell you our boys inspired Connacht to a famous victory but sadly, although it was a very close-run thing, the Leinster lads eventually prevailed. I don’t think Jack or the Rasher ever played on the senior team together after that, but later on when Creggs was up and running, they played many times for the Junior side.

   All of this came into my head on Friday evening last when I watched what I believe to have been the most heroic performance ever put in by a Connacht side, as they went down 18 points to 10 in Kingspan Park in Belfast, to a decidedly lucky Ulster team. I won’t say anything about the referee, except to say that at one stage my son Mark, who was watching the game in Dublin, and myself exchanged texts at the exact same time and we both said exactly the same thing about the ref – two words that most certainly can’t be reproduced in this, or any other, family paper.

   The bravery, commitment, passion and skill exhibited by the western team was extraordinary and even if they left without a bonus point, the final ten minutes or so, when they had only 13 men, was like looking at a re-run of a war movie – men putting their bodies on the line without any thought of personal safety and as someone who occasionally questions the heart of some of the imported players, I have to eat my words and say that everyone who wore the green jersey on Friday night earned the right to be an honourary Connacht man for all time.

            There is of course a Creggs connection with this team as Denis Buckley, who must soon get a call-up by Joe Schmidt, was with us as an underage player and we are rightly proud of his achievements and all I can say is on Friday night, they restored my faith in the professional game. I wonder if the hierarchy could live with Connacht winning the league?

   Anyway there are three matches left and they will all be momentous occasions. I can’t wait!

    Back to the Rasher and Jack the Higher and in a junior game against, funny enough, Ulster as well, as the match came to a close and with Ulster leading by a point or two, the Rasher found himself bearing down on the opponents’ line – a match-winning try was in his sights and although he was about to be tackled, all he had to do was pass to the free man on his right and a Connacht victory was assured. Sadly the free man was wearing Galwegians socks and the Rasher couldn’t bear the thought of an arch-enemy scoring the winning try so he looked for Jack the Higher, who was almost killed when he got the ball. Ulster won the match, the Rasher never played for Connacht again, Jack the Higher eventually recovered from his injuries, but never played with the Rasher again, but thankfully, (only joking) they are back talking again.

Hyde controversy

Hyde Park is now the most famous football pitch in the country and on every programme on every radio station this Monday morning, the conversation is all about the last-minute calling off of the game with the Dubs and its transfer to Carrick-on-Shannon.

  Now it does appear as if the decision was not a Roscommon County Board one, but rather a Croke Park one, so the criticism of the County Board was a bit unfair, but regardless of who made the final call, as the rain fell steadily all through Saturday evening and night, there was no one in the county who believed that the game could go ahead in the Hyde.

  I was in Mikeen’s and everyone I spoke to was certain that the pitch would be unplayable. Surely the call could have been made on Saturday night or maybe at 7 o’clock Sunday morning. Had it been looked at then, the Dublin supporters (or at least those who travelled on Sunday), could have gone straight to Carrick and there wouldn’t have been as big a mess.

  However, despite not having a pitch of their own, the Rossies had a brilliant league campaign and are now looking forward to a trip to Croke Park next Sunday to have another crack at the men from the Kingdom. It should be a cracker and who knows, they may also have another go at the Dubs in the League Final. I won’t be in Croker on Sunday next, as our rugby lads, after a great victory in Tuam yesterday (Sunday), play Connemara in a play-off to secure a place in the top tier of Connacht Junior rugby. It would be a great achievement to get back there after an absence of a few years, so please God, wherever it is, I’ll be there and if you can come along and give them a push over the line, so to speak, please do.

I had a dream…I was playing for Roscommon

By Frank Brandon

When I went to bed, it was late last night 

And I had myself a dream
That I was playing football
For Roscommon’s county team
I had never got the nod before,
but it didn’t get me down
And now ‘twas even better

For the Dubs would be in town.

They are All-Ireland Champions
With a host of household names
And I marvelled at their brilliance
As they were winning all their games.

The majestic Brogan brothers
And Stephen Cluxton too
Diarmuid and Mac Dara
And all the other boys in blue
But still I wasn’t frightened
As a young child of the dark
For the Dubs are not so mighty
When they have to leave Croke Park.

And I knew that I was ready
Didn’t doubt myself a bit
I had always done the training
And was feeling really fit.

You could sense the town was buzzing
As it used to in the boom
But Kevin and Fergal brought us straight
into the dressing room
And there we stretched and twisted
And all of us got rubs
No team could be more ready
To go out and face the Dubs.

And then the vital moment came
The removal of all doubt
In almost total silence
Kevin read the fifteen out
I didn’t have too long to wait
Almost straight away I knew
That yes I would be starting
I’d be wearing number two.

The teams walked out onto the field
And I was feeling grand
We paraded all around the pitch
Behind the Castlerea Brass Band.

The referee threw in the ball
T’was just gone two o clock
I was marking Bernard Brogan
Was he in for a shock.

The first ball when it came our way

I hit him with my knee
The ref gave me a yellow card
And Brogan scored the free.

The next one came in long and high
Although t’was cold and wet
He caught it clean above my head
And stuck it in the net.

By now the pressures coming on
And I was fairly cross
I said it’s time for me to show
Young Brogan whose the boss
The next and last one came flying in
And skidded off the ground
And I slid down to pick it up
But tragically I drowned.

And then I met St. Peter
He said what brings you here
When I last saw you this evening
You were in your football gear.


I said to him it’s all your fault
Yourself and God’s to blame
You knew the Hyde was flooding
You should not have let it rain.

He said hang on a minute
And maybe you are right
I think we’re going to send you back
You should be home tonight
But if you get a second chance
Please God I loudly cried
You must promise me you’ll never again
Play football in the Hyde.

At that very moment I woke up
I was safe at home in bed
I really hadn’t drowned at all
And no I wasn’t dead.

I turned on the local radio,
I heard Willie’s famous voice
The match was played in Carrick
And the Dubs won by a point!

And finally…

Finally for this week, there was a very enjoyable and well-supported Table Quiz in Mikeen’s on Friday night in aid of Anthony Rowan’s charity trip to Tanzania.

  As quizmaster, ably abetted by the legend that is Tom Connelly, there was a whiff of suspicion about the fact that I won three prizes in the raffle, but I can assure you it was all legal and above board and the bottles of wine will be put to good use!

Till next week, bye for now

 

No tricolour in the garden – but I’m in debt to heroes of 1916

I am a proud son of Eire and forever in the debt of the 1916 heroes.The sun is shining on this Monday afternoon and, as it is the Easter Monday, I am on a day off from work and so I find myself on my almost daily walk up Lenamarla and, to my surprise, I come across the first primroses of the spring.

            I love this time of year, when the daffodils and the primroses are in bloom and when the lambs are playing in the fields and of course with the clocks going forward yesterday (Sunday) we have a great stretch in the evenings. When you throw in the tranquility and beauty of the Lenamarla countryside, you would be forgiven for thinking that all was well in my little world. However there was something nagging me (not Carol) and I think it stemmed from a phone call I got from my son, Mark, who was back in Dublin after being at home for the weekend. He told me that, just as on Easter Sunday, the city was packed with thousands of people celebrating and commemorating the Centenary of the Easter Rising.

  So what was, or is, wrong with me that I didn’t go anywhere, not even to the parade in Roscommon, to honour the heroes of 1916 – and why didn’t I feel the need to go to our Capital city to see all the stuff at the GPO, which, in fairness, was a credit to the country (I saw it on the telly), like people I saw on The News who had travelled from all corners of Ireland?

  I am almost ashamed that I did nothing to celebrate the weekend – not even having the tricolour flying in the garden – and yet I like to think I am as Irish as the next man. I remember very well my late father teaching us all about those brave Irishmen who laid down their lives so that my generation and future ones could have a country of our own.

  The names of Pearse and Connolly, and the rest of the heroes, were sewn into my brain, and many years later I could still rhyme them off as if I heard about them yesterday, so, even if I didn’t go to Dublin, now that I’ve thought about it, I am happy enough to acknowledge that I am a proud son of Eire and forever in the debt of the 1916 heroes.

 The West’s Awake…

 

On Easter Sunday I took the easy way out, by parking myself in front of the telly, instead of going to Hyde Park to watch the big match between Roscommon and Mayo. I imagine there is plenty in the paper elsewhere about it, but all I want to say is that the conditions ruined it and I don’t believe, despite what they might say, that either management team learned much new information about their respective teams.

  The horrible state of the pitch suited the bigger, more physical Mayo men, but if and when they meet again, hopefully on a dry summer’s day, the Rossies will feel they are more than a match for the five-in-a-row Connacht champions.

  I watched the Dubs against the ultra-defensive Donegal men on Saturday night and I am pretty certain that they will retain their All-Ireland title or at least that whoever beats them will win Sam. Returning to Connacht, although this time to the rugby team, I missed out on their wonderful win over the Leinster lads in the Pro 12 because I was watching our local footballers in action against Castlerea in the Tansey Cup, also on Saturday evening. It’s hard to believe that it’s only a few years since the rugby people of the province had to march to stop the big-wigs up in Dublin from disbanding them. As the men from the west (and lots of other places) sit proudly on top of the Pro 12 League table on this March Monday evening, I wonder how do the same big-wigs (nearly wrote earwigs!) feel about their unsuccessful efforts to close down the Western province. It may still prove a bit beyond them to actually win the league outright, but whatever happens, they have been a revelation this season and there’s no doubt, like in the words of the song, The West’s Awake!

Work this one out…

 

A survey by office supplies firm, Viking, has found that more than half of all workers will suffer increased fatigue or disturbed sleep caused by the clocks going forward by an hour on Saturday night last. Maybe I’m a bit of a cynic but I’d say they might be tired because it was Easter Saturday night and they were socialising ‘till the early hours!

  Even a pillar of society, like myself, was out that night and, if the truth be told, I was like a wet rag all day Sunday and only came back to myself on Monday morning. Sadly I repeated the dose last night (Easter Monday) and the wet rag is back again this morning. So if you are tired, irritable and lacking concentration, in my opinion it has nothing at all to do with the time change, but more to do with whatever social activities you undertook at the weekend.         

 

And finally

Finally for this week, I want to remind you of a Table Quiz taking place in Mikeen’s on Friday night, April 1st (also Adrian Leddy’s birthday – happy birthday Adrian), in aid of Anthony Rowan’s Volunteer trip to Morogoro, Tanzania in June/July with the UCD Volunteers overseas. Table of 4 cost €20 and the quiz starts at 10 pm. All are welcome to attend and your support would be greatly appreciated.

 

Instead of giving out about them, let’s bring our doctors and nurses home!

It’s the most beautiful Monday morning as I head off to the workplace in Athlone. As I learned off by heart in the national school, when I was writing compositions, ‘the sun splitting the stones and not a cloud to be seen in the clear blue sky.’ I was in right good humour after a wonderfully relaxed Sunday afternoon watching some top class action on the rugby, hurling and gaelic football fields – and looking forward to the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day.

  Now, despite the ease with which we can get the news on the Internet, I am unashamedly a devotee of the written word and so, every day I buy at least one of the national daily newspapers, while on Mondays, (because of the weekend sporting action) I get both the Daily Mail and the Irish Independent. In my defence, I get the Mail every day, mainly because it’s great value, but also because it has a simple crossword, one that is just about right for my (limited) intellectual ability. And so, on this beautiful morning, I got the two papers, threw them on the front seat of the (so far) trusty enough Almera, and hit off up the main road to the sun-bathed Westmeath town.

  Being early in the morning, I wasn’t too busy and so I devoured the Indo, before then turning my attention to the Mail, and I was immediately drawn to their sensational headline ‘The Doctors On €100,000 Overtime’, which told about four Junior Doctors who racked up (in the Mail’s words) a staggering €100,000 in overtime alone last year. It also told of a Registrar who took home “an astonishing €180,952” gross pay in the same year.

  Now, as the father of an overworked, stressed-out hospital doctor, who has just finished an unbroken 12 days work run, during which she had four twenty-four hour on-call stints, as well as working a minimum of 13 hours every other day, which comes to a total of 200 hours in 12 days, it made my blood boil to read such biased, provocative and sensational headlines.

  The article focused on the gross earnings of some doctors, instead of dealing with the immoral, probably illegal situation, which is forcing our medical people (both nurses and doctors), to literally work themselves to the bone. What they earn is not the issue, and I can tell you that when the taxman and his cronies get at it, it can become very ordinary, but what is at stake here is the toll this outrageous abuse takes on the health and well-being of our front-line medical staff – and following on from that – what effect it can have on their performance and consequently on the care that is given to their patients.

  Forever and ever we have listened to successive governments promising to sort out the health system – while each year it gets worse and worse. As a simple ordinary two and sixpence, it seems to me that the answer is very obvious; we haven’t got enough personnel. We need a lot more doctors and nurses, so find the money to get more on board, and, despite the Daily Mail headlines, make it attractive for our own graduates to stay working here at home.

  It is widely accepted that our nurses and doctors earn more money, have better working conditions, and work substantially less hours, in practically every country overseas, so let all our public representatives get together and once and for all sort out the health service.

            I can guarantee that none of the hospital staff want to work the hours they have to work, (in fact sometimes because of the tax system they get less take-home pay the more they work), so let’s have less sensationalism and more realism about the Third World conditions that they have to endure.

            Over to ye, Fitz, Denis, Eugene and all your newly-elected colleagues, get the finger out and sort it all out.

Cowardly murderers

My mind is struggling to understand the mentality of gunmen who can casually stroll along a crowded beach and shoot, kill and maim innocent men, women and children, in the name of whatever misguided cause they claim to believe in.

  The image of a five-year-old boy, kneeling on the sand, pleading for his life before being shot dead, is almost too much to comprehend and sends a shiver down my spine. What cowards those murderers were, and I’m fairly sure whatever God they apparently were shouting about wouldn’t be welcoming them with open arms when they presented themselves for admittance to whatever Heavenly Kingdom they arrived at after they were “neutralised” by members of the Ivory Coast special forces.

  The frightening thing, of course, is that people are totally defenceless when they are sunbathing on any beach, and in truth these murdering thugs are capable of attacking beaches anywhere, at any time. It’s almost impossible to stop, but equally, people can’t let them win by staying away from worldwide seaside resorts.  

My mind is struggling to understand the mentality of gunmen who can casually stroll along a crowded beach and shoot, kill and maim innocent men, women and children, in the name of whatever misguided cause they claim to believe in.

  The image of a five-year-old boy, kneeling on the sand, pleading for his life before being shot dead, is almost too much to comprehend and sends a shiver down my spine. What cowards those murderers were, and I’m fairly sure whatever God they apparently were shouting about wouldn’t be welcoming them with open arms when they presented themselves for admittance to whatever Heavenly Kingdom they arrived at after they were “neutralised” by members of the Ivory Coast special forces.

  The frightening thing, of course, is that people are totally defenceless when they are sunbathing on any beach, and in truth these murdering thugs are capable of attacking beaches anywhere, at any time. It’s almost impossible to stop, but equally, people can’t let them win by staying away from worldwide seaside resorts.  

Rossies worthy of place in top tier

Finally, for this week, back in the day, The Big Eight were a leading showband featuring the great Brendan Bowyer and our good friend Twink. In recent years, The Big Eight is talked about in football terms. Like the showband, there are always two main headline acts, usually Kerry and the Dubs, with Cork, Mayo, Tyrone and Donegal nearly always in supporting roles.

  Monaghan, Armagh and one or two others occasionally get into the elite group, and now there is a new kid in the block, with the Rossies definitely worthy of their place in the top tier.

  As the All-Ireland winners always come from the Big Eight, the third week in September is now featuring in holiday plans for a number of Roscommon supporters! It’s going to be an exciting summer.

Till next week, bye for now

My Budget dining experience with Game of Thrones star!

It’s amazing how quick the time goes, because it seems like only yesterday that I told you about a lovely restaurant in Galway called the Vina Mara, when in fact it’s more than two years ago, and the last time I was there I couldn’t believe that all main courses were on offer at only €10 each.

  Anyway, last Tuesday evening week, myself and Carol were back there again, and lo and behold, if the offer wasn’t on again and I was able to tuck into a good lump of delicious sirloin steak, along with home-made chips and a side salad (which of course I wouldn’t dream of eating as it might be good for me), all for the princely sum of, as I said, €10. Needless to say we boosted up the bill a fair bit by having dessert (don’t tell my doctor), and coffee, but nonetheless it was fabulous value for what was a fabulous meal and unsurprisingly the place was absolutely hopping.

  When we went in we were shown to a table, (nothing unusual about that, says you) and shortly after we sat down, Carol said to me that she knew the fellow at the table beside us, even though she couldn’t put a name to him. I was more interested in the menu, and to tell the truth I didn’t pay much attention to him – the thought of sirloin steak, chips and onions was much more interesting to me. We wouldn’t have passed any more heed, only for all of a sudden, a few younger people stopped beside us and enquired if the man was who they thought he was, and would he mind letting them have a picture taken with him. He said he was (who they thought he was), and if they came back when he had finished his dinner he would gladly oblige.

  Now we were all intrigued, and I was going to ask him who he was, but Carol and Lisa (our daughter), said that wasn’t a good idea, so after discreet enquiring (off the waiter), we discovered that our dinner companion was an actor called Iain Glen. I must confess this didn’t make me any the wiser, but I subsequently learned he is a big star in the TV series Game of Thrones, and has had major roles in a large number of well-known films. He was true to his word, and had his picture taken with his young fans, but for the most part he was left alone and as he exited the restaurant, I overheard him saying how much he had enjoyed his visit.

  Even though no one asked me for a picture (I scored 1-2 against Cork in the league in 1975), we did (enjoy our visit) too, and as before, if you find yourself in Galway and you’re hungry, make sure you pay the Vina Mara a visit. As for me, I hope it’s not two more years before I’m back!

McGregor takes defeat on chin

It’s Saturday night and pretty much in common with every Irish town which has late-night revellers around over in Las Vegas they are looking forward to a midnight brawl – the only difference, as far as I can see, is that it’s a legalised fight which will result in another €10 million being deposited in the bank account of one Conor McGregor.

  Now I actually like the Dubliner, but I can’t say the same for his so-called sport, yet I still got a shock and was mildly disappointed when I woke up on Sunday morning to the news that he had lost his unbeaten record. Even though we had the UFC action on in the house I didn’t have enough interest to allow it break my beauty sleep (must have been broken fairly often before, says you), and so I had to wait until after the Sunday morning full-Irish before I found out that he had been beaten.

  I have always believed that how a person reacts to a setback is a much truer indication of character than how they react to success, and I have to say I admired McGregor’s realistic acceptance of his defeat. The cynic will say that the €10 million might make it easier to deal with, but in truth the money hardly matters to him at this stage – as with all top sportsmen, it’s more about the honour and glory and the recognition than it is about the money.

  Where he goes from here is not yet decided and the loss won’t interfere with his money-making appeal, but, at the same time, if he takes the lessons on board that he said he will, it might yet turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to him. We’ll wait and see, but it still amazes me that if two lads (or girls) were to do what McGregor does on the streets of our towns on a Saturday night, they’d surely get jail, whereas for others it’s the gateway to untold riches.

Loss of a local legend

Finally for this week, one of the advantages of living in a small rural community is that everyone knows everyone else (or at least we used to) and on Friday morning our entire local area was shocked and stunned with the sudden, untimely death of Padraig Grady, a man who truly was a legend in this part of the world.

  Padraig, who was married to Carol’s sister, Eucharia, was a larger than life character in every way, and if ever there was a man the likes of whom we will never see again, it was Padraig. I don’t know anyone, anywhere, who was so universally well-known and well-liked, and huge crowds of people from every corner of the world came to give him the kind of send-off he deserved.

  To Eucharia, daughters Anouska, Chanel, Tanya and son Clinton, his brother Micéal and all other relatives and friends, my deepest sympathy on your loss, a loss that will be shared by all of us who were lucky enough to know him. May he rest in peace.

Till next week, bye for now

Aftermath of an extraordinary Election

It’s a horrible wet, cold, wild, wintry Monday morning but miserable and all as it is, coming after an amazing weekend in so many ways, it cannot take away the feeling that something extraordinary has happened in this little country of ours since last Friday evening.

  The result of the election and the total massacre of the government parties is of course the biggest news, and with all the big-name losses, out here in Creggs and Glinsk, we are delighted with the re-election of local man, Michael Fitzmaurice.

  Sometimes the biggest danger to a candidate is being a red-hot racing certainty, but thankfully there was no complacency in the Fitzmaurice camp and the work put in by himself and his army of canvassers made sure he was successfully returned.

  As someone who was occasionally on the receiving end, when he lined out at full-back for the Glinsk footballers, I can vouch there was no way he was ever going to lose and I offer him my heartiest congratulations and whatever shape the government takes, we are assured of having top class representation from our own parishioner.

  On a personal level, I think the biggest compliment I can pay Fitz is that despite a meteoric rise in political life it hasn’t changed him at all and he’s the very same today as he was long before he became a national figure.

  Before I leave the local election results, I must also congratulate Denis Naughten on a fabulous first-count victory, which, as with Fitzmaurice, was well forecasted, but which also had to be delivered – and of course Eugene Murphy, who after a lifetime in politics and after many ups and downs, finally made it to the Holy Grail –  well done to them all and please God we’ll all see the benefit of a stable government, hard as it may be to achieve.

  On the national front it is a remarkable feat by the Healy-Raes, Michael and Danny, to carry on the work started by their father, Jackie, nineteen years ago and get the pair of them elected to the new Dáil. Michael with more than twenty thousand first preferences, getting the highest total in the entire country and in the process they helped to knock two big political hitters, Jimmy Deenihan and Arthur Spring, right out of the picture.

  As I looked at the great vote that some candidates got, my mind (and heart) was drawn to those that didn’t fare so well and it must be so disheartening to turn up at a count and find that your supporters have deserted you in droves and that your vote is almost an embarrassment.

  As far as l can see, almost twenty candidates all over the country got less than 100 votes, with the lowest being 22, received by a candidate in Galway West out of a total poll of almost 65,000.  

  In Dublin Central, another Independent candidate got 27 votes out of almost 24,000 cast. It is my opinion that to put yourself out there in front of the electorate requires a great deal of guts, as it’s so easy to sit on the fence. So having got yourself psyched up to do so and getting your name on the ballot paper it must be soul-destroying to hear that type of figure read out after almost a month of pounding the highways and the byways, delivering your message to the electorate.

  Surely all candidates have a launch night, so it’s safe to assume that a lot of those that turned up on the night didn’t actually vote for the person –  I’m making the assumption that more than 22 or 27 attended the respective launches because if there was less than that there, surely the candidates would have seen the writing on the wall and withdrawn from the contest.

  Anyway it’s all over for now – real political commentators seem to think it might be only for a short while – I haven’t a clue really, but it brought a bit of excitement round the place for the last few weeks. I suppose the big hope now is that they can put their differences to one side, if there are any, and get on with the job of running the country, which after all is what they were elected to do.

Upcoming events

On now to local matters and Bina Harris has asked me once again to remind you to give up your sponsorship cards for the Barrie Harris Walk and if there is anyone out there – company or individual – who still wishes to make a private contribution, don’t be shy, all will be most welcome!

  Also my good neighbour, Pat O’Brien, has asked me to tell you about a big fundraising night that’s being held in Dowd’s, Glinsk on Saturday night in aid of the Glinsk Defibrillator Group. The local legend that is DJ Bobby is supplying the music, newly-re-elected TD Michael Fitzmaurice will be conducting an auction, there will be a raffle with prizes galore and certificates will be presented to those who have trained in using the defibrillators. It’s for something that’s essential in every parish, that will save lives so if you can get to Dowd’s this Saturday night and support a great cause.

Mighty performance from Roscommon footballers

There was so much happening in the sporting world over the weekend that you’d need the full paper to cover it all, but pride of place must go to the footballers of Roscommon for the extraordinary performance they produced down in Cork last Sunday.

  To score 4-25 even against Creggs footballers would take a bit of doing, but to do it to a top-rated county team like Cork, on their own patch, borders on the unbelievable, and while it would be dangerous to get too carried away, it certainly augurs well for a competitive Connacht championship and our lads, Galway are also doing okay in Division Two.

  I heard Kevin McStay being interviewed after the match on Sunday and as a former forward, when he said that his team were giving the ball to the right man, in the right place and that there was no sign of selfishness, l thought to myself they are on the right track.

  There is, in my mind, is no greater sin on a football pitch than the selfish player who won’t pass to anyone else even when they are in a better position. It would be a great help to every team, no matter what level they are playing at, to stamp out selfishness and greed and team spirit would be much stronger if such mé féiner (pronounced “may”) behaviour was got rid of.

And finally…

Finally for this week and staying with fundraising, Jimmy Kearney of the super-group, The Lancers, asks me to mention a huge night of music and dancing in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon on Monday night next (7th March).

  It’s all in aid of the Roscommon Deanery Lourdes Invalid Fund, a charity that’s very close to my heart, and which does wonderful work round this area.

  Frank Nelson, The Lancers, Patsy McCaul, Mark Finn, Ita Trimble, Carmel McLoughlin, Stephanie Feeley, Top Level, and Derek Campbell will be there to provide you with a great night of entertainment.

  Admission is only €10, it all kicks off at 9 pm and I want you all to be there – we might even have an auld dance!

 

It’s time lamentable Louis stood aside for The Special One!

I first fell in love with Manchester United way back in 1963 when Cork man Noel Cantwell captained The Red Devils to win the second most important trophy in English football, the FA Cup, and for most of the last 53 years, whether we were winning or not (and mind you we weren’t winning for lots of those years), I was supporting a team that was renowned for its exciting vibrant attacking football.

  Fast-forward to last Thursday evening and Man. United were playing the Danish equivalent of Athlone Town (with apologies to Athlone) – a team called Midtjylland – in a Europa Cup match. Under normal circumstances, l would have been plonked in front of the telly, feet up, fire lit and roaring and swearing at the screen and driving my good wife, Carol, crazy.

  However, for all of us ‘Man. U’ fans, these are not normal circumstances and since Fergie left us, watching our team play is as exciting as watching paint dry, again with apologies to the paint!

  We are almost certainly not going to finish in the top four in the Premiership, which means missing out on the cash cow that is the Champions League, and so the only real way of getting into that competition next year is to win the Europa League. So you might be forgiven for thinking that the over-rated, over-paid and under-achieving United players might rise to the occasion, produce a performance worthy of the jersey they should be so proud to wear, and put the Danish minnows to the sword. But that’s where you’d be wrong, because after the most embarrassing and disgraceful display of all time (by United), the Danish side, through simple effort and commitment, won by 2 goals to 1 and produced the biggest result their little club has ever had. What’s even more remarkable for me is that while all this was going on I was on my nightly walk, round the lovely rural roads of Lenamarla and I didn’t even bother to look at the game on the telly.

  Now it was always inevitable that, following Fergie, United would find it impossible to continue to be as successful as they have been for the last two decades, but what drives the supporters mad, me included, is the puerile football they are playing under Dutch manager, Louis Van Gaal. As Pat Spillane once famously said, the brand of football (Gaelic) being played by some of the northern teams was ‘puke football’, and I can’t think of any better description for the stuff that United are producing. It seems that the Special One, Jose Mourhino, may be on his way to us – and I can only say he can’t come quick enough.

  As it happens, tonight, Monday, has us away to Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup and there is every chance that they too will dump us on our backsides – and if that does come to pass, by the time you read this, it’s very possible that Louis will be in retirement and a new exciting era may be on its way to Old Trafford.

  Okay, it’s now Tuesday morning and, against all my better instincts, I stayed in the sitting room last night and watched the FA Cup match against Shrewsbury and, in case you haven’t heard, we won by 3 goals to 0, in what was a comfortable victory, but one which didn’t really do anything to make us feel much better.

            We now have the second leg against the Danish minnows on Thursday evening to not look forward to, and it’s another game that could make or break Van Gaal’s immediate future. I will resume my evening walk that evening, as it would be too much to bear to miss two walks to watch Man. United.

 Patiently waiting to be canvassed…

With the election now almost upon us, l am amazed at the lack of callers to the house by canvassers for the candidates. As I write, there are only three days to polling and, out of a total of 12 potential TDs, only three of them have managed to call – Michael Fitzmaurice, Eugene Murphy and Claire Kerrane.

  None of them called in person, but the first two had very popular and very capable representatives from the parish on their case, and I may be unfair on the Sinn Fein candidate, as there was no one home for the visit by her team, so all they could do was put some of their literature through the letter box.

  So, as someone who has written before about Creggs being a political wasteland, is it yet another sign when three-quarters of the candidates couldn’t be bothered to call to us at all? Our problems don’t matter except to a few and I for one will remember those who called when I go to Lisaniskey National School on Friday next.

            I am no political guru, but I would say the result in our area will see Fitz and Naughten home and dry, with a battle royale being fought for the third seat. Maybe next time we might be worthy of a visit.

            Sticking with politics, and over in America they seem to have lost the run of themselves and it now looks possible that Donald Trump, who strikes me as one of the most ignorant, most bigoted, most racist and most arrogant men of all time, could make it all the way to the White House.

  All l can say is God help us all if he makes it – a lunatic at the controls of the most powerful nation in the world is not nice to contemplate!

Bina’s reminder

Finally for this week, Bina Harris has asked me to remind you that she wants all outstanding cards for the Barrie Harris Walk returned in the next week or two! They caan be brought to herself or to Mikeen Roarke and we’ll have a night out soon, when the funds are being distributed. I’m looking forward to that!

Til next week, bye for now

 

           

 

Even in defeat, Valentine’s Day by Kilglass Lakes was a joy!

It’s a beautiful sunny Monday morning and even though it’s pretty cold after starting off with a some severe early-morning frost, nonetheless it shows just what we’ve had to put up with over the last few weeks and months, in what seemed to be a never-ending series of wet, windy, wild and miserable days.

  As it happens yesterday, being St. Valentine’s Day, dawned just as nice and as it was the first day of the new local football leagues, after a lovely Sunday morning full Irish, the most important item of which was a couple of slices of Kelly’s white pudding, (the rest was all Brideswell’s finest from Michael Waldron), I found myself heading off to the beautiful part of North Roscommon that is known as Kilglass.

  Before you have a go at me and say that going to the game on my own and leaving Carol at home wasn’t very romantic, on the day that was in it, let me agree fully with you – but I promised her I would make up for it, so some time in the near future she can look forward to what I can only describe as an unexpected treat.

  Just to give you an idea of how big of a romantic I am, a long time ago we went to Dublin to get engaged…on our way back, our celebration party was to have a couple of pints with Jamesie Murray in his Knockcroghery pub, but sadly I had to call a halt to that as I had to go training with Creggs Rugby club later that evening. So I suppose it’s fair to say that Carol wasn’t surprised either or put out at my decision to hit for Kilglass, even though it was a 12 noon throw-in.

  Anyway, off I went and not for the first time I marvelled at the beauty of the scenery around the lakes of Kilglass and I wondered are the tourism powers-that-be doing enough to attract tourists to this lovely area. Although I was running a bit behind time, I took time out to have a short stop and look out over the beautiful lakes – and it truly is a spectacular sight.

  On then to the pitch in Kilglass and as it’s been a few years since I’ve been down there, it was a very pleasant shock to see the enormous improvements that have taken place down there in the meantime. I remember them winning a huge national competition involving I think, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, and whether that was the catalyst or not I don’t know, but I have to say that the whole set-up is an enormous credit to what after all is a small rural club and well done to my old friend Aidan Tully and everyone else involved in the club.

  On the field of play the home team prevailed in what I thought was a hugely enjoyable game, although the margin of victory certainly didn’t reflect the closeness of the exchanges – and one of the great things was to see the ageless Dermot Washington play so well for the Gaels.

  It’s a long time since he was the golden boy of Roscommon football and on Sunday’s evidence he remains as good as ever! I won’t guess what age he is but he must be close to a big birthday – well done Dermot!

Farewell Robbie

It’s unwelcome – but not unexpected, the news that Robbie Henshaw will be leaving Connacht at the end of this season for Leo Cullen’s Leinster. Now it is natural to want him to stay where he is, but in my opinion it was never going to happen.

  Even though Leinster are having a poor season, they still have the aura and reputation of a huge club and, with three European Cup trophies, they are one of the biggest names in European rugby!

  For someone like Henshaw, who has the ability to make an amazing international career for himself, it was a no-brainer and he just has to go to a club which will give him a higher profile in the game.

  It’s a pity for all who support the Connacht set-up, but it’s simply a by-product of the professional era and just as in soccer, the top players will go to the big clubs who also have the bigger paying power.

  For Connacht and all the other smaller clubs, the challenge is to find the next Robbie Henshaw, develop him, bring him through the system, get as much as you can out of him and then send him on to bigger and better things at national and international level.

  As for Robbie, his rise from a schoolboy rugby player to being a fully-fledged top international player in a couple of short years has been nothing short of miraculous and, as he prepares to head to pastures new, all Connacht supporters will thank him for his great service and wish him well in the future – at least until the wearers of the green jerseys welcome him back to the Sportsground, when the fans should and will give him a warm welcome – but hopefully the team will make it a little warmer!

My Rose of Tralee dream is over

On my way to work this morning, I was excited to hear that the Rose of Tralee committee was looking for applications for escorts for this year’s contest, and I thought to myself that I would make an ideal candidate and I could hardly wait to fill up the form. Sadly, it’s not going to happen as I fall down on two of the requirements – to be an escort I would have to be single, so I’m out on that count, and what’s worse, I would have to be aged between 21 and 31.  Now I don’t know if that’s ageist or what you’d call it, but anyway that’s it and my dream of being a Rose of Tralee escort may be over! The pale moon may be rising in August again this year, but it looks like it won’t be rising for me.

Hat’s off to Tom

On Sunday evening I had a few quiet pints in Pat Martin’s Bar na d’Taoisigh in Ballygar. I met Tom Kinsley, who was sporting a lovely hat, complete with feather!   As we left, the debate was raging as to whether or not it was a Philip Treacy creation! Either way, it was very elegant and if I didn’t have such an unruly head of hair I might get myself one!

Til next week, Bye for now

Two Irelands: Rugby day out in shadow of gangland culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early to bed…

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

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

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

Well done, Rossies!

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

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

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

Till next week, bye for now

New sporting heroes bringing us back to the future!

To this very day, if anyone asks me, although no one ever does, I would always say that my first (sporting) love is gaelic football, because as a young lad growing up in the rural village of Creggs, there was at that time little else to do in the way of entertainment and if you had any inclination towards being a sportsman of any kind you simply had to play football with your local parish team.

  In truth, for very many years, I had great fun playing with Creggs footballers, and while we didn’t have too many medals to show for our efforts, at the end of our careers we had a lot of good times and happy memories to look back on.

  However, somewhere along the line, probably during my term in school in Cistercian College, Roscrea, I discovered the game of rugby, and after wearing the jerseys of Ennis, Westport, Dundalk and Corinthians rugby clubs, my whole life was transformed for the better when Creggs Rugby Club was formed in 1974.

  The fledgling club took a few years to make an impact, but when it did it made a huge one – and for the next 15 or so years there is no doubt that our little village club punched numerous times above our weight and at both cup and league competitions, success followed success.

  One of the big differences between rugby and GAA is that every local parish has its own Gaelic club, while rugby is still apart, from a few exceptions, mainly to be found in the bigger towns. And so, in a way we had a siege mentality, which stood to us in good stead and I can still hear the Mick Hernon rallying cry “come on the village” ring around our original pitch, the Church field in Kilbegnet.

  Mick would be standing on his perch up on the ditch and I firmly believe his war cry put the fear of God in visiting city teams.

  Success wasn’t confined solely to the first team, the seconds also won several cups and leagues, there was a lot of underage victories too – and when the women came along in the early ‘90’s they surpassed everything the men had achieved by becoming the All-Ireland champions.

  Along the way as a club we developed great rivalries with, first Ballina, who when we arrived were the undisputed kingpins in Connacht junior rugby, and later with Connemara All Blacks, who were a bit like ourselves in that they came from the rural community of Clifden.  

  One of my first memories was going on a tour to Clifden, a tour on which the whole club, including wives and girlfriends (nearly all our own) were brought. We were to play the All Blacks in a Saturday evening friendly and afterwards we were booked into a local hotel, for a bit of fun and craic.

  Sadly, it seemed that the locals were totally unaware of our presence – mainly because we forgot to tell them –and when we arrived at the All Blacks pitch, we found it deserted, and that was the way it stayed. No opposition appeared, but being a resilient crew, we didn’t let it affect our enjoyment of what turned out to be a fantastic weekend.

  However that was a long time ago and in the meantime the fortunes of both clubs have taken very different paths. After a two-year flirtation with the All-Ireland League, we have dropped out of the top tier in Connacht rugby and for a few years now we have been plying our trade in the Second Division, while for all of those years Connemara were doing very well in the All-Ireland league.

  However two years ago they lost their place at the top table and on their return to junior rugby in Connacht one could be forgiven to think that they might now struggle in the local competition. That’s where you would have been wrong, because last year, in their first year back, they took up where they had left off and won the Division One League. We at the same time were finishing 3rd in Division Two.

  Fast-forward to last Sunday in The Green in Creggs where our local team once again crossed swords with the All Blacks, this time in the Connacht Junior Cup, a game which resulted in a fantastic win for Creggs. The final score was 13 to 7 in our favour, but you would want to be there to appreciate the great effort and performance put in by the Creggs lads. It was a win built on great heart and commitment, topped by no little skill, even in terrible weather conditions, and for us old folk, it was wonderful to be there to see it.

  I’m told by a curious twist of fate that it’s a quarter-final next Sunday at two o’clock in the Green, against our other old foes (and friends), Ballina and even if it clashes with Ireland’s match with Wales, give that one a miss and come to Creggs and help push the lads over the line.

  Nothing would give me greater pleasure (except maybe to win the Junior Football Championship) than to have the Junior Cup back in the village and who knows, this could be the year.

  We danced and sang on the counter in Seamus Keane’s ‘till the early hours the first time it came and I have no doubt it would be similarly celebrated this time. Here’s hoping!

Terry – ‘loveable Limerick rogue’

That’s almost it for this week, as Martina tells me I’ve gone a bit mad and put in too many words and only that it’s by email she wouldn’t pass it on at all, (what a shame says you), but I suppose for all of us who grew up with the BBC back in the 1980s and who watched Terry Wogan – the lovable Limerick rogue – as he ruled the British airwaves, it was very sad to hear this week of his unexpected death after a short battle with cancer.

            The newspapers on both sides of the Irish sea are full of tributes to the late broadcaster, which in itself is a mark of the huge respect and affection he commanded during his long career.

  All I can say is that, for many years, Val Doonican and Terry made Saturday night viewing a must for me and many, many more. May he rest in peace.

Till next week, bye for now

Time for a pint on Good Friday …especially this year?

All across the media, there is a lot of controversy about the Centenary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising, and quite a lot of the problems seem to centre on the cost and the extent of the planned celebrations and where they will take place, with a number of commentators concerned that the overwhelming majority of events will be located in our Capital city, Dublin.

  Now I would have no great problem with that part of it as, after all, the GPO would be the place most associated with the Rising – at least in the minds of lukewarm historians, like myself, who wouldn’t know as much about the circumstances as I should. However, one undeniable fact is that the Centenary will bring huge numbers of people to Ireland and more specifically, Dublin, for the Easter weekend and one of the big questions now is whether or not they will be able to have a pint or two on Good Friday?

  Now I have no idea why the custom has been there, certainly all my life, that the pubs close on Good Friday, and in truth it has always been the accepted thing and in my time I have known publicans who were delighted to have the day off. The tradition was so well ingrained into our minds that only once in my life have I ever had a Good Friday pint, and just in case you might think otherwise, it was many, many miles away from Creggs and many, many years ago.

  However, for a few years now, the argument has been made that, particularly in the cities and big towns where tourists are visiting, it’s a bit ridiculous that they can’t get a drink in any of our world-renowned pubs – and I’m beginning to think that it’s maybe time for a change – and especially for 2016.

            Apparently legislation would have to be brought in to allow the pubs to open on that day – and it may already be too late – but, even if it is too late, surely they could open anyway and let the Gardai turn a blind eye? That way a publican could make up his or her own mind as to whether he or she opened or not, but I’m sure at least in the major tourist centres enough would open to ensure that the visitors and indeed our own could raise a glass and toast the heroes of 1916.

            I might even break the habit of a lifetime and have my second ever Good Friday pint. We’ll wait and see!

Hugh’s blackboard jungle

Once upon a time I was a sort of a rugby player, whose best performances were reserved for the safety of the clubhouse bar and whose long career owed much to making sure that I was never over-extended in training ­– in fact my first proper rugby club was when I played with Westport way back in the late 1960s and we actually trained in the bar of a local hotel.

  The coach at the time was Hugh O’Malley, a man who also owned the Ormond Hotel in Dublin. Hugh was the first man I ever saw making use of the blackboard to go through his moves.

  We would train on a Friday night and as there were no floodlit pitches back then we would tog out, go up to the function room bar and go through our paces on the dance floor. For the next hour or so, we would gaze intently at Hugh and his blackboard, vainly trying to figure out his complicated (to us) manoeuvres. When all was over, we would then go to the proper bar, drink a load of pints, discuss our new moves and hit for the TF (Traveller’s Friend) in Castlebar on our way home.

  Hugh could never figure out how we never implemented his wonderful moves! It may have had something to do with a loss of memory, after several of his best post-training pints of good Guinness.  

            I am reminded of all this on a Monday morning, when for the umpteenth time in the last few years, the health of Irish out-half Johnny Sexton is again called into question.

  As a fully paid-up member of the non-tackling union (another reason for my long career), it is frightening to see the belts that professional players are taking nowadays. 

  One of my readers contacted me before Christmas to make the point that there should be different tackling rules for amateur and professional players.  

  He made the point that other contact sports like boxing have more safety regulations to protect participants who have to go to work on Monday mornings – exactly what he had in mind I’m not sure, but this morning, as Johnny Sexton worries about the long-term effect another massive blow to his head may have, maybe it’s time to have a look at what he was saying and make rugby safer for everyone, professional and amateur.

  I’m off for a few laps of Mikeen’s – I have a few moves to work on!

Can we address this drugs anguish?

On the subject of having a few pints now and again, I make no secret of the fact that I am not averse to an odd pint of the black stuff, but for some unknown reason I never experimented with any kind of drugs – even back in the ‘60s as a young lad, I didn’t bother, although, at that time, drugs like L.S.D., cannabis and hash (maybe that’s cannabis by another name) were freely available.

  Today things seem to be different and a recent survey of 3rd Level students suggests that a high percentage of them will at one stage or other have a go at using some of the illegal substances that, admit it or not, can be got in every village, large town and city in our country.

  Because I never tried any of them, I suppose I really haven’t a clue what I’m writing about, (not a lot new in that, says you), but the tragic death of young Cork student, 18-years-old Alex Ryan, after he took a hallucinogenic drug known as N-bomb, exposes the enormous dangers that are out there for our susceptible children.

  I am well aware that it’s almost natural that young adults will give way to peer pressure, and experiment, but there has to be a way of keeping totally unsupervised street drugs (which basically means there’s no way of knowing what’s in them), away from innocent, first-time users.

  I don’t know what the answer is. Some countries legalise the sale of drugs, which brings the whole process out in the open and reduces the enormous financial earnings available to unscrupulous dealers, thereby reducing the risk of contaminated batches of drugs finding their way onto the streets – and, in my ignorance, I would see some benefit in such a move.

  However, before I get into trouble, I’m sure there may be a better way, but we must find the solution soon, or more youngsters like Alex Ryan will lose their lives and more families will have the unbearable pain of burying a loved one for no reason other than the fact that our legislators failed us.

  Anyway, it’s a tragic loss of a young very promising life and I express my sorrow and condolences to his family. May we never see it happen again.

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