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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

I won’t cry for you, Argentina (there are more important things to worry about)

There was a time when I would have been depressed, sad and down over matters such as our defeat in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Argentina.

But, as I’ve got older I now realise that sport is just that, and while I can’t deny that I was a bit disappointed at the end of our World Cup dream, I’m already well over it and realise there are much more distressing stories out there to concern us.

Hope for us all

I told you a few months ago about the sad death on the road of our pet Jack Russell, Skittles, and how devastated we were at the time.

The good news is that we now have a pup, who we have christened Hope and I can’t imagine anything else giving our family so much fun and enjoyment.

She is a bundle of joy and her dribbling skills (at 100 miles per hour) with a full-sized soccer ball have to seen to be believed! We all remember, at least all of us who are closing in on the free travel pass, the wonderful dribbling ability of Georgie Best and later, Diego Maradona.

But I have to say that Hope is right up there with the best of them. If dogs ever have professional soccer teams then our girl would be a star and I have to admit that in a few, short months she has become an integral part of our family.

And so this morning I am struggling to make sense of an incident which occurred in Dundalk last Friday morning when four schoolboys were spotted kicking a tiny six-week-old pup as if it were a football.

In the end, the vet she was taken to decided that the kindest option for the poor pup was to put it down. “The screams of pain were just horrendous”; said the vet, “the boys caused lethal damage to the pup, it was shocking to see her.”

Now I don’t know the schoolboys involved or even the ages of any of them, but I would be very worried about the direction they will take in the future. If they can do such unimaginable cruelty to a defenceless little puppy, God knows what they will draw the line at.

It saddens me to think that four lads would enjoy inflicting such pain on any type of living creature, animal or human, and I wonder if all these violent games that kids are playing these days are responsible for their terrible behaviour.

However, regardless of the causes, it’s just so sad and distressing that we are producing children who are capable of such unbelievable cruelty.

I can only hope that the likes of it never happens again.

Wee Daniel’s a wee gent

Changing subjects and onto a much lighter topic; last night for some unknown reason, I happened to tune into ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.

And although it was a very brief visit, I was watching long enough to see Daniel O’Donnell getting booted off the show after a dance-off with Sky Sports presenter, Kirsty Gallagher, and her partner Brendan Cole.

Now I know my own dancing honours only go as far as my self-awarded ‘Jiving Champion’ at the Creggs Harvest Festival about 3-4 years ago in Gannon’s.

However, I was sufficiently clued in to say to Carol that I thought all four judges would vote to kick our wee Daniel out and I was proved right. However, it was Daniel’s demeanour which was so admirable.

He was obviously disappointed at being kicked out but he was so gracious in defeat and confirmed what we have always known; that he’s a true gentleman.

Say it ain’t so Joe

I also saw Joe McCaul being harshly treated on The X-factor when, to all intents and purposes, the audience got him evicted from the show.

But, even though he was gutted, I felt he was wrong to storm off the set and not talk to the hosts. If you are prepared to take your chances on such a horrible type of show (although compelling viewing) you should know there are only very few happy endings and I think he would have been better served to exit with grace.

However, I suppose it’s probably his last chance at carving out a career for himself in the world of entertainment so maybe his reaction was understandable.

For the McCaul family there is the significant consolation that his sister, Donna, is apparently making a very successful life for herself over in the States.

It’s a good few years since the pair of them represented Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest, so I suppose to be still talked about (remember Chris Doran and Mickey Joe Harte?) is an achievement in itself. Who knows, Joe might yet hit the big-time.

Star attraction

Sticking with entertainment, I told you about the Big Parish Dance we are holding at the local St. Mary’s Hall in Kilbegnet next Sunday night.

We hope to recreate the atmosphere of the old ballroom of romance days when people used to flock to dance halls and marquees before the advent of discos and when it was possible to enjoy yourselves without alcohol being served at the dances.

That’s not to say we didn’t drink our fill before we hit the dance floor! And next Sunday night there is no law against bringing a drop with you (at least I hope there isn’t!)

However, in last week’s piece I didn’t tell you anything about Sean Brennan, who will be providing the musical entertainment. He is one of the best artists in the country and his songs ‘Blue Kilkenny Eyes’, ‘Katie From Keadue’ and ‘My Lanesbrough Lady’, among others, are always getting extensive plays on radio stations across Ireland.

It’s seldom we get such a renowned singer/songwriter to come to our parish hall, so I’m appealing to everyone who can, to come along on Sunday night and let’s have a parish night to remember!

Music will kick off at 10.30 pm and we are having an open and confined waltzing competition during the night, so come out in force and I promise you a great night’s dancing and craic.

And Finally…

Finally for this week, it’s Harvest Festival week in Creggs, with lots of different activities taking place but don’t forget the Big Auction in the school on the Sunday afternoon (1 pm), the Craft Show (Monday), The Fair (Monday), and loads of other things to do! It’s all in the Roscommon People, so I’ll see you there!

‘Til next week, Bye for now

Great Irish win a reminder of magic memories of Millennium Stadium

It’s Sunday afternoon and along with thousands upon thousands of Irish sports followers, I am settling down to watch the first of the two huge matches involving our Irish international teams, when the rugby lads take on the mercurial talents of the French aristocrats in the majestic Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Now I don’t know if it was the effects of the previous night’s exertions at the big dance in Dowd’s (which I will tell you about later), or if it was the sight of so many green-clad supporters milling around the Cardiff streets, but all of a sudden I was gone back in time, and I was engulfed by a myriad of remarkable memories from my various visits to the home of Welsh rugby.

The stadium was built for the 1999 Rugby World Cup at a cost of €114 million and back then, and to this day, it was an amazing and spectacular sporting arena. We first went for that final, which was between Australia and France, but we also managed to get tickets for the 3rd place play-off, which was between South Africa and the All Blacks, and that game was the occasion of my first ever visit to the Millennium Stadium.

For that match I was way up in the high seats, but couldn’t believe how clear the view was, but for the final, we were so close to the pitch I was almost playing.

When Australia won and did the customary lap of honour, I could literally have reached over and touched the Webb Ellis Trophy, which captain John Eales was proudly showing off to the world.

I fell in love with Cardiff and its people, later that night (a lot later) when I was somewhat unsteadily making my way home (well, to the hotel) from the nightclub which we, aptly christened The Doghouse (my brother, The Rasher, will explain).

Not for the first time, I was going the wrong way. As I walked, I met a fellow late-night reveller, a Welsh lad, who told me I was lost, but that he, as it happened, was going by my hotel. He hailed a taxi, put me in, dropped me off at the front door and wouldn’t take a penny for my part of the fare!

I often wondered if that happened a lost Welsh supporter in Dublin, what would be the outcome? We ran into Jack The Higher on that trip, as he celebrated a significant birthday and in the meantime, I have been there for Munster’s Heineken Cup victory in 2006, the Grand Slam victory in 2009, a few other Six Nations games and as I watched the extraordinary scenes during and after Sunday’s game, I could only wish that I could hop on a magic carpet and be transported straight over to the Welsh Capital.

Sadly it wasn’t to be and the only carpet I saw was the on the sitting room but even there, hundreds of miles away from the action, it was one of the most amazing performances I have seen from any Irish team.

I’m not going to go into the story of the game itself, as it’s on every paper everywhere, but on this bright Monday morning, despite all the injuries and the possible citing of Sean O’Brien (who has since got a one-week ban), I’m very proud to be an Irishman.

Sadly, it didn’t work out so well for the soccer lads over in Warsaw, but at least we can still get to France through the play-offs. Again in Poland, our supporters were magnificent and showed yet again why they’re so well regarded all over the world.

Terrible tragedies

However, back in the real world, there’s always something to jolt us into reality and the terrible fire in Dublin’s Carrickmines on Saturday morning in which 10 lives were lost, followed by the shooting dead of an unarmed Garda in Omeath on Sunday evening while attending a domestic violence incident, in which a young girl was also critically injured and the gunman killed himself, fairly makes us realise that sport, for all its excitement, is really only a diversion from life’s trials and tribulations.

There’s not much to say in both instances except to offer sincere sympathies to the relatives of the dead and hope for the recovery of all the injured.

Reader’s views on crime

Changing subjects, and back to my piece last week in which I made the point that prison life for our criminals is too easy, and it inspired one of my readers to contact me and put forward a suggestion of his own, which, while possibly controversial, is certainly interesting.

His idea is that thugs like the seven who terrorised the Corcoran family in Tipperary should be sent to places like Russia for the duration of their sentences and made work in the mines, do hard physical labour and get little or no remuneration – and he reckons by the time they come back, they’ll have little or no interest in carrying on their lives of crime.

He also commented on Paddy O’Gorman’s segment on Sean O’Rourke’s programme on RTE 1 where O’Gorman interviews people as they come out of the Courts and he was amazed at the number of them who had no intention of paying whatever fines they had got in the Court, and were more than happy to go to prison for a few days, thereby getting rid of their responsibility.

Several said they had already purged fines that way previously and my correspondent wonders if they were on social welfare (as a lot of them were), why the fine money wasn’t deducted from their weekly payments.

I’m not too sure about sending our criminals to Russia, but I definitely agree with him on the Social Welfare matter.

A word of thanks

Anyway, back to Saturday night and I’m delighted to say that we had a great night, great crowd and great craic with Frank Nelson in Dowd’s in Glinsk and I just want to thank all the ticket sellers, all who gave spot prizes, all who bought tickets and couldn’t come and especially all those who actually made it to Dowd’s.

We are still sorting out the money, but it looks as if we have close to €3,700 to be divided equally between Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund.

It’s a fantastic amount and we are so grateful to all the people in both Creggs and Glinsk (and indeed Glenamaddy and Oran and loads of other surrounding villages). Thanks again.

And finally…

Finally for this week, the excitement is building around the village of Creggs as we prepare for the annual Harvest Festival.

Now the full programme of events will be in next week’s Roscommon People, but I’ve been asked to mention a few special things.

The Craft Fair is taking place on the Bank Holiday Monday (26th October) and anyone interested in taking a stall should contact Bina at 09- 6621037.

The Dog Show is on Sunday 25th at 1 pm and the Festival committee will be putting up a Memorial Shield in honour of the late Marie Mullen, who was synonymous with the running of the Dog Show for many years.

Also on the Sunday, there is an open Harvest Day for children in the Wildlife Park at 1.30 pm and among the activities will be a Treasure Hunt, face painting (some adults could maybe do with a makeover!), Ducking for Apples and lots more. You can dress up in full Halloween Costume or come as you are!

If you want to sell Bric A Brac or anything else (except drugs), call Nora at 090-6621010 to take a stall and make yourself a few bob and finally an event that’s dear to my own heart, takes place on Sunday night in St. Mary’s Parochial Hall, when we host a parish dancing night with music by the great Sean Brennan.

When I was young, no dance halls had alcohol licences and we got on fine! This is the chance to have a ‘dry’ dance, meet the neighbours and have a nice enjoyable night out with one of the locality’s best musicians and on top of all that, we are reviving the parish Waltzing Competition!

Vincent Canny and Elizabeth Ward are the reigning champions but challengers include previous winners Seamus Keane and Theresa Canny who are waiting in the long grass! Watch this space!

Till next week, bye for now

We’re lucky to live in the country: Now let’s work together to make it safer

There was a time when living in the countryside was a great perk, and all of us who have had that luxury were envied by towns folk and city folk, who were forced to live in concrete jungles.

A Dublin fellow who I was talking to today described it perfectly, when he said he lived in such a congested area he was lucky to be able to see a yard of sky.

And so this week as myself and a number of volunteers travelled around the parish, selling the tickets for next week’s Big Dance (I will give it one last plug at the end of this piece), and as we enjoyed the beautiful Autumn evening, you would be forgiven for thinking that all was perfectly blissful in our part of rural Ireland.

Yet there was an inescapable feeling that fear is now a huge part of everyday (maybe everynight) life, out the country, and we were very aware that we would not, and should not, call to isolated houses much after 9 o’clock at night.

As a rule, despite the fact that we were looking for financial support, people were genuinely glad to welcome us into their homes, but we were also very conscious of the doubts, and fears, they particularly the older folk, would have as they came to answer the knock at the hall door.

We are all very aware of the impact the closure of local Garda Stations has had in rural Ireland, but the appalling case of the seven thugs who terrorised the Corcoran family in Co. Tipperary two years ago, has brought all this to the forefront again, and has highlighted the extent of the brutal criminality that is prevalent all around the country.

In fairness to the Gardai, the legal teams, and the Judge, I would have to say that the sentences handed down to the seven-man gang, who had 315 previous convictions between them, appeared on the face of it to be reasonably severe.

But what was so disgusting, and even frightening, was the total contempt shown by the gang as their sentences were handed down.

All bar one had many more previous convictions, and jail obviously holds no fear for any of them – free digs, three meals a day, televisions, gyms, education all laid on and paid for by us – and it’s all just like a holiday camp.

I know some people campaign for longer sentences, but, in my opinion it’s when they are actually in prison that they should be forced to learn the errors of their ways.

Take away all their privileges, make them do hard manual labour and let them realise that prison is in fact a punishment, and not a place where they can relax in comfort until they come back out, and continue on their merry criminal ways.

It’s also indisputable that Enda Kenny and his appalling Government made a huge mistake in closing all the local Garda stations – now that he has all this €27 billion (or is it €42 billion?) to spend, let him admit his error, do a u-turn and re-open most if not all the closed stations, and maybe our elderly neighbours might be able to sleep peacefully and without fear in their beds as the dark winter nights close in.

In the Sunday Independent, the highly-respected journalist Eugene McGee has a piece on crime in his own county of Longford, and he questioned the role that CAB actually play in rural Ireland – he wonders how people who never worked a day in their lives, and have no intention of doing so, can have exotic lifestyles, own large SUVs, stage massive family events, and own large houses and he poses the question – are CAB too busy elsewhere to bother about smaller counties?

He also highlights the text alert system which he says is very successful in the Longford area, and has thwarted a lot of crime, and yet he says many residents seem to be going out or their way to make it easy for the criminal gangs.

Lights should be left on at night, and I believe every rural house should have a dog around the place or in the house, and in the case of pensioners the dog license fee should be waived.

I’m aware that criminals will ‘take out’ the dog, but in my experience nothing is as off-putting, in every way, as the sound of a dog barking in the middle of the night. Going back to CAB and their apparent inaction against obviously wealthy non-workers, you’d wonder why the Revenue who target small legitimate businesses and go through the books with a fine comb, couldn’t team up with the CAB people and hit the crime bosses where it hurts – in the pocket.

Anyway, for all of us who live out the country, keep vigilant, watch out for suspicious activity, look out for your neighbours, and between us all, maybe we can make the countryside safer for all of us who are still lucky enough to live there.

Supporting Joe on The X Factor

Changing subjects (thank God, says you, what’s wrong with him), and last night I watched, for the first time in a few years, most of The X Factor Talent Show, and I cannot imagine anything more cruel than the six-chair challenge.

I’ll assume you know what it entails, but to give a contestant one of the six chairs (which should mean they are through to the next stage) and then take it away when someone better comes along, makes great television, but at what cost, psychologically, to the unlucky participant?

I don’t think it’s morally right, and I will only watch next week because Athlone man Joe McCaul is taking part. As you know, I work in Athlone (or if you don’t, you should) and I’d often see Joe in or around the shopping centre, and I have to commend him for what I like to call his stickability – he never gives up, keeps bouncing back, and just when you think he’s faded away fully, back he appears again!

It’s all over the papers that he doesn’t survive the six-chair challenge, but even if he doesn’t, in my mind he’s still a winner! Come on Joe.

Frank Nelson for charity dance

Talking of winners and in the world of country music, Frank Nelson is certainly a winner, and himself and his band have played all over Ireland and beyond – he is one of our best-known songwriters, and we are delighted to have him playing at our charity dance in Dowd’s Glencastle Lounge in Glinsk on Saturday night coming, 10th of October.

Just in case you saw on a different local paper that Frank is playing somewhere else that night, that was a genuine mistake and the man with the hat will definitely be in Glinsk, so don’t miss him.

We are in the last few nights for calling with our tickets, and we will do our best to get to you, but if we don’t make it, or indeed if there’s no one home when we call, don’t let that put you off!

You can still contribute at the door. Our two charities, Cancer Care West and The Lourdes Invalid Fund, help many local people and indeed their families, and need all the help they can get, so thank you for the wonderful support we’ve got so far, and looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday night.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

A walk on the wild side

Sometimes out of bad comes good, and so last week, as a reward from my children for not checking out the week before, when (in case you didn’t read last week’s piece) I discovered that a load of my fuel lines were blocked, myself and Carol found ourselves heading off to County Mayo, where we were booked for a two-night stay in the wonderful Hotel Newport, in the village of the same name.

Now for years I have talked about Mayo, and the amazing scenery that is to be found along the west coast, but not since my days on the travelling bank that used to service such scenic spots as Geesala, Ballycastle and Rossport have I been back to the wild west, and I have to confess that I headed off last Monday morning with a fair bit of excitement and anticipation (and five stents) in my heart.

And the great thing as I reminisce now that I’m back at work on this absolutely beautiful Monday morning is that it more than lived up to our expectations!

On our way we stopped off in Balla for a round of golf in a wonderfully scenic Par 3 Golf course, that was literally carved out of a forest and while yet again the golf wasn’t exactly brilliant, the scenery more than made up for it.

I’m now beginning to think that I should just walk around the golf courses and not bother to bring the clubs at all – I need to keep up the walking, but for some reason I can’t seem to improve at the game itself at all.

Anyway on to the Hotel Newport and no matter what way you look at it, you would have to give it ten out of ten.

The accommodation was top class, all the rooms newly done up and re-decorated, the food (and the Guinness) couldn’t have been bettered, but for us, it was the staff that made it so special, and that the hotel is owned by a Kilteevan man, Peter Kilmartin, who lives in England, but whose family still reside in Kilteevan.

He bought the then closed hotel a couple of years ago, and it re-opened about 18 months ago, and from what we could see business is absolutely booming.

As I said all the staff were brilliant, but in particular, Michelle Murphy, the General Manager, and Caroline in the bar made us feel so welcome, and (I hope the children read this) this time, by hook or by crook, I will be back.

I said earlier in this piece that I haven’t been down that part of Mayo for many, many years, but that’s not exactly true, because in 1989 we took a house in Achill Island for a week and I can remember it so well because Mayo were in the All-Ireland Final, and the county was just a sea of green and red.

One of the highlights of that week (Mayo didn’t win the All-Ireland) was Carol winning a Mothers race in the sports on Dugort Beach, and so I took her back to the scene of her triumph.

The beach is still there but The Strand Hotel where she got her winner’s trophy was closed! I don’t know if it was just because the season was over or not, as the building itself was fairly well maintained, but we had to make do with a stroll on the beach – Carol declared herself injured and refused to do a re-run of her 100 metres dash.

We visited Keel which has another fabulous beach, although there too, it was hard to find any open hotels, which surprised me as I definitely remembered a few of them back in ’89.

Still, the weather was so lovely there was a good crowd walking on the beach while the surf boards seemed to be in constant demand.

Back then to Mulranny, although it too has fallen victim to what I call the changing name syndrome, and is now known as Mallaraney. It is also blessed with a marvellous beach at Murevagh, and with the mountains all around, it, truly is a spectacular place to visit.

As for the Hotel Newport, if you ever get the chance go to it, tell Michelle I sent you, and I guarantee you will have the time of your life.

Brannan’s pub was also very welcoming, and of course Newport is the home of Kelly’s Pudding which in my opinion is the undoubted prince of the white pudding, unrivalled anywhere in the country, unless by Michael Waldron’s in Brideswell.

As it happens we will soon know for certain who has the best white and black pudding in Ireland as we are holding the first ever pudding competition (in the twenty-six counties – Enniskillen held one in the Six counties) during the upcoming Harvest Festival when puddings from several different manufacturers will be eaten and voted on.

All the details will be revealed over the next week or two, but if you like your pudding make sure you’re in Creggs for the October Bank Holiday Weekend.

A few musings

Changing subjects entirely, and normally I don’t ‘do’ birthdays, but last Saturday night, in Terry Leyden’s I met Gerry Cunningham, whose son Michael was celebrating his 21st while I’m told that Seamus Ward’s mother Mary was a sprightly 88 also during the week. Congratulations to both, and many happy returns.

Also on Saturday night, I was privileged to see the remarkable victory for Wales over England in the Rugby World Cup and even though I had tipped the English to win the tournament, I have to confess that I hugely enjoyed the Welsh win.

Our lads are going along nicely as well, and the tournament as a whole is very entertaining and exciting. I’ll discuss it later on when the important stuff really begins.

And finally…

Finally for this week we have been out and about for a couple of nights with the tickets for the Big Dance which is taking place in Dowd’s, Glinsk on Saturday, 10th October with music by Frank Nelson and his band.

I was given out to last week by a reader who told me I didn’t say anything about the charities involved, so to make sure that I’m not in trouble this week…we divide all the proceeds between the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West.

Both of these organisations do enormous work to help our sick and ailing people and they can do with all the support they get. All I can ask if for your continued support, and please give whatever you can! I look forward to seeing you at the doorstep, and if I don’t make it to your door, please God I’ll see you all in Dowd’s. Thanks again!

‘Till next week,

Bye for now

Refugees, rugby and why Dubs copied Creggs on backpass rule

Last week another reader (that’s two definites), of this column rang me to comment on the Bishop of Elphin’s request for people in the diocese to open their doors to some of the Syrian refugees and he wondered would the clergy lead by example and open the doors of the many empty parochial houses that are lying idle all over the country.

He also mentioned the numerous Garda Stations that have been closed over the last few years and he thought that their residences should also be made available to help the desperate migrants and felt that if all that was done, then the people as a whole would try to do their bit.

Anyway I went to Mass in Kilbegnet on Sunday and I was pleased to hear our parish priest, Fr. McCarthy, say that he too thought unused parochial houses and large religious institutions, that now have very few occupants, should all be made available to provide safe and dry accommodation for some of the unfortunate Syrians.

Now whether that will happen or not, I don’t know, but at least it was encouraging to hear that Fr. McCarthy agreed with my reader’s viewpoint and as I headed for home after the Mass, I felt that Ireland would do what it could to help out in this terrible crisis.

However a friend of mine, by asking a very simple question, made me think again.

Who’s going to pay to look after all these people, she asked (I do have an odd female friend!). Will they go straight on the Social Welfare? And if they do, will that be fair on the many Irish people who have to go through all kinds of interrogation and examination of bank accounts and all types of red tape to get, what in many cases, is their rightful assistance? Or will the communities who take them in be expected to raise funds to help to feed and clothe the refugees? Or will Europe make funds available to help out?

I don’t know what’s going to happen but there’s a lot to be sorted out before we can look after thousands of these poor people.

Fundraising events

Talking of fundraising I told you a few weeks ago that the annual dance (9th this year), that we run for Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund was in danger this year, due to the sad closure of Gannon’s in Creggs, but I am glad to say that we have found a new home and are going ahead with the dance in Dowd’s of Glinsk on Saturday, October 10th when the wonderful Frank Nelson and his band will provide the entertainment.

As usual, we will hit the road with tickets in the next week or two, so despite the huge demands on everybody’s finances, please give what you can to help these exceptional local charities. We’ll see you over the next couple of weeks and thank you in advance for your generosity.

Sticking with charities, don’t forget the table quiz in aid of the Ray of Sunshine organisation, which is helping young girls (aged 3-16) who are being forced into sex trafficking in Kenya, which Tom Connolly is hosting in Mikeen’s on Friday night at 9.30 pm.

Tables of four are only €20, there will be a raffle on the night and local man Batty Egan will be going to Kenya to help build houses for these poor, unfortunate girls, so if you can please get to Mikeen’s and support another worthy cause.

My World Cup tips (to be avoided)

Earlier on Friday night, the 2015 Rugby World Cup will kick off when the major hosts, England open the tournament as they face up to the Fijian Islanders in Twickenham at 8 pm, while our lads make their finals debut in Cardiff, against the underdogs from Canada the following day (Saturday 19th) at 2.30 pm.

Now if you had been talking to me a couple of months ago, Irish rugby was at the top of the tree and confidence was sky-high and I would have said to you that we would definitely get to the semi-final and we could quite possibly end up as World Cup champions.

Today, I am not quite as confident and I don’t think we’ll get past the quarter-finals, and I don’t see us among the four or five teams that can win the Webb Ellis Trophy.

To nail my colours to the mast, I am almost afraid to say it, but I believe our neighbours across the water, England, not Wales, will end up as champions and just as in 2007 and 2011, we will wonder where and why it all went so wrong.

The only consolation for all of you out there is that I would be the worst tipster of all time (as Paddy Power knows well), so it’s now almost certain we’ll win the whole thing and you should head off to the bookies and, whatever you do, don’t back England!

Mikeen, our local publican and all his three children are off to Cardiff for Saturday’s game and while I sadly won’t be there, my heart will be in The Mochyn Du Pub. Please have a pint for me, Mikeen, and hopefully I will be proved wrong and the Boys in Green will do themselves and us proud!

Dubs copying Creggs on backpass rule

Sticking with sport and last Saturday week as Dublin ran down the clock in their victory over Mayo, and indeed all through the two games, they kept, as in soccer, passing the ball back to the goalie, and I realised that my own little club, Creggs, was responsible for this newest fashion, although we introduced it at least 40 years ago.

It was in a game in Tulsk when our corner-back, Vincent Canny, surprised our legendary goalie, Sean ‘Bags’ Keegan by giving him an unexpected back-pass. When Bags got his clearance in, he proceeded to give poor Vincent an earful and you could say he turned the lovely Tulsk air blue!

Little did we think that in 2015, the Dubs must have heard about it and are doing the same thing themselves, so we are true trailblazers and should get the recognition we deserve for changing the face of gaelic football!

Talking of gaelic football, our lads are playing overwhelming favourites, Shannon Gaels in the County Junior semi-final in Kilbride on Saturday evening at 6.30 pm and we could certainly do with all the support we can get.

And finally…

Finally for this week, I’m told that the great Fuerty stalwart (and by the way, well done to them for getting to the Intermediate football final), Liam Heaney, at the age of fifty plus, lined out in a recent Junior match against Oran and scored a point.

I’m told both sets of supporters applauded, long and loud, and as one of the great gaelic football characters, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

I’ve no doubt Liam will continue to put on his football gear for many years to come and I wish him well! Will he line out in the Intermediate final?

‘Till next week,
Bye for now

How my big dream was quashed by Dubs and Cats!

A couple of weeks ago, at a meeting about the upcoming Harvest Festival in my home village, Creggs, a few of us were having a chat about how best to attract extra people to the village on, especially, the afternoon of the Bank Holiday Monday, which this year falls on the 26th of October.

Traditionally, through the years we have had loads of different events on that day, including a Street Fair, children’s football games, craft fair, tug o’war and tractor pulling, amongst other things, but we were trying to figure out some other attraction that would appeal to some of the people who for one reason or another, don’t choose to pay a visit to Creggs for our annual Harvest Festival.

And it was mostly my own idea (well it seemed like a good one at the time) that we would invite some members of the Galway Hurling and Mayo Football panels or management, to bring the McCarthy and Sam Maguire cups to Creggs on that Monday afternoon, and we fondly imagined having to help our local Garda Brian Neilan organise traffic control and parking management, and all doing our best to ensure that traffic disruption would be kept to a minimum.

However, as I write this on a very sad and depressing Monday morning I now realise that my dream of a Western double was only a dream, and the footballers from Dublin and the hurlers from Kilkenny ruthlessly put the sword to the hopes and aspirations of an entire province over what was one of the most compelling sporting weekends of all time.

I will not go into the story of either of the big games but it’s fair to say that both Connacht teams were victims of second-half muggings, and so it’s back to the drawing board for our Harvest Festival Committee – any new ideas will be more than welcome.

A Ray of Sunshine

Talking of welcomes, on Sunday evening I was sitting at the kitchen table wallowing in the misery of the hurlers’ defeat, when I heard the unmistakeable sound of Tom Connolly’s voice, as he made his way past a myriad of stationary objects like shoes and hoovers through the hall, and into the aforementioned kitchen.

Now if you don’t know Tom Connolly you are missing out on a lot, because if you needed to be brought out of a downer, Tom is your man.

He’s never in bad humour and always interesting and entertaining, and as he reminded me, he is a well-known actor, successful cattle breeder and top local farmer, and needless to say his visit was to tell me (to tell you) about a major fundraising quiz he is due to host in Mikeen’s on Friday week the 18th September.

Local man Batty Egan has got involved with the Ray of Sunshine Foundation, which basically commits itself to many different projects in Kenya, and this year’s project is to build a Rescue Home for abused girls in the city of Mombasa, where ther is a huge problem of children from the ages of 3 up to 16 years being used in the sex trafficking industry.

A retired GP, Dr. Rory O’Keeffe who practised in Ennis, Co. Clare, has teamed up on a voluntary basis with the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Kenyan-based order of nuns who will run and manage the rescue centre that the volunteers, including Batty, will build in January-February of 2016.

All the volunteers must come up with €3,000 each to partake in this very worthy cause, and so Batty enlisted the aid of Tom Connolly to help him reach his target!

The Quiz will take place at 9.30 pm on Friday the 18th of September in Mikeen’s and teams of four are only €20. Tom (who by the way also claims to be a descendant of James Connolly, the Irish Rebel) is setting the questions, and he will also be the quizmaster (despite my position as the regular quizmaster in Mikeen’s) and, in all seriousness, we would like to see a great turnout on the night! It’s a really worthy cause and deserves our support, and there will be a raffle and refreshments on the night.

Fair play, Kevin

Talking of raffles and I see on today’s papers that Labour Junior Minister Kevin Humphries won the top prize of a Skoda Fabia car in a raffle run by the Eastern Region of the St. Vincent de Paul, an organisation that is in critical need of funds.

The draw made a €30,000 profit, but the decision by the Minister to hand back the prize is a most welcome boost to the Society’s finances.

We spend a lot of time giving out about politicians and their huge salaries and pensions, so maybe when one of them does something like this we should acknowledge it as well!

Good man Kevin, fair play to you, and it’s an act that just might help you get re-elected in the forthcoming election.

In praise of Anouska!

Changing subjects entirely, and last Friday night myself and Carol travelled to Knockcroghery or more specifically Ned’s Bar, to tell Carol’s niece Anouska, who is the proprietor of Ned’s along with her husband Richard, that we would not be able to attend her 40th birthday celebrations the following night.

There was a nice crowd there on the Friday night, and it inspired us so much that, against all odds we moved Heaven and earth (only kidding) to make it back on the Saturday night. And what a night – it was absolutely wedged, great craic, great music (Crazy Corner) wonderful food, and all in all a fitting tribute to one of nature’s great people.

I know a lot of publicians (maybe I shouldn’t put that in such a widely-read paper) but, with all due respect to them all, Anouska is without doubt the best one I have ever known, and wherever she’s been success has inevitably followed.

Now that she’s pitched her tent (so to speak) in Knockcroghery, that village is all the better for it, and I wish her all the best for what will be a very bright future.

At the same time 40 is getting on a bit (I should know) but, nonetheless Happy Birthday Nookie, and here’s to many more.

And finally…

Finally for this week, as we read and hear so much about the rising crime, particularly robberies in our rural communities, a regular reader of this column (it’s hare to believe it, but such a person exists) asked me to remind you all that weddings and funerals are becoming major robbing opportunities for unscrupulous criminals, who rightly figure that a lot of houses in the specific locality will be left unattended for some hours, and who then strike while the family members are away.

He told me a story of a man who, on his deathbed, asked a neighbour not to go to the funeral, but, rather stay at home to keep an eye on the deceased man’s property! Need I say any more?

‘Till next week,

Bye for now

Water charges and shoulder charges

Every Tuesday morning for the last six, or maybe seven years, I have brought my badly hand-written notes into the long-suffering girls in the offices of the Roscommon People, and I have seen their faces drop as they see the collection of crossed out words, bits inserted here and there, more bits taken out, and, all in all, a nightmare for the poor girl who has to try and get it typed up, ready for the printers.

There has been an occasional hint about the wonderful world of emails, which I have steadfastly ignored, but, on this Monday morning I have set myself a target of getting all the way to the end of the piece without having to cross out a single word – I am well aware that it’s an almost impossible challenge, but I’ll tell you how I got on when all is completed.

Anyway, back to the real world, and on Saturday afternoon approximately 80,000 people attended an Anti Water Charges Demonstration Rally on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, and it is now widely accepted and acknowledged that the water charges will be a major issue in the forthcoming General Election.

I’ve told you many times in the past that I am not, in any way, a political person, and I have never slavishly voted for any party – I vote for the person, regardless of his |(or her) political persuasion, who impresses me the most, and who is most likely to deliver for my area, but I just cannot get myself to agree with, or support, the Anti Water charges demonstrations.

I’m well aware that my apathy for the crusade is probably for purely selfish reasons, because for the last number of years all of us in our area have paid for our water, as members of the Creggs-Glinsk (maybe that should be Glinsk-Creggs) Group Water Scheme, and we have never felt the need to call for any type of rally on either the streets (street) of Glinsk or Creggs.

A couple of years ago the scheme needed badly-required funds to upgrade the system, and, after a couple of well-attended public meetings where the water scheme officials explained what was going on, why the money was needed, and what the effects would be, we the members, unanimously agreed to make a once-off payment of €500 per house to carry out the necessary improvements.

If Irish Water looked for anything similar, I’d say we’d have a wholesale revolution. My feeling is that if the quality of the product is guaranteed, and if we can safely drink what comes out of our taps, there is no real reason why I should have to pay for my supply, and you shouldn’t!

Sticking with water, just for a moment, but this time it’s the stuff that falls out of they sky. On Friday last I was bringing my wife Carol to Knock Airport, from where she was going on the Elphin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, and I can never recall driving through such a continuous downpour before in my life.

Usually when the rainfall gets so bad that it’s almost impossible to see out, it will only last for a few minutes or so, but this time it kept on and on, and only that I was following an artic which, as they say, made the road for me, we might well have had to pull up, and might even have missed the flight to Lourdes, where temperatures are currently hitting 34 degrees.

One of the worst thinks about knowing nothing about anything is that it can be hard to figure our why something that appears simple, can, in fact be almost impossible – in case you’ve lost me, I’m wondering, with all the rain that falls how we have never managed to harness it, and turn it into a safe drinkable supply, which would of course, do away with any need for any of us to pay for it at all.

Maybe some of the scientists out there will fill me in!

Croker cracker

Changing subjects entirely, and turning to yesterday’s battle, a word deliberately chosen, between Mayo and The Dubs, I am still buzzing at the almost unbelievable closing 10 or so minutes, during which the wearers of the Green and Red brought off a comeback almost on a par with Lazarus himself, and got a draw in a game that had seemed well gone from them as we headed into those closing minutes.

Listening to the various radio stations, and reading a paper or two this Monday morning, a lot of real GAA analysts seem to be of the opinion that yesterday’s game was dirty, nasty, spiteful, cynical and downright disgusting, and maybe they are right.

But for someone like me who unashamedly, supported the Connaught champions and (by the way, it’s not simply Anti-Dubs bias it’s just that I’ve seen Mayo, and it’s people suffer so much heartache all my life, and I would love to see them get their hands on Sam) I found it totally enthralling, and a credit to both teams.

Lads were prepared to forget all about their own safety in an effort to get their team to the All-Ireland Final.

In the end Mayo could probably have shaded it, but I think a draw was the best result (certainly for the GAA) and I can’t wait till next Saturday when they’ll do it all over again.

Can we have a Western double in Croke Park next weekend?

Just before I leave the senior match, on last night’s Sunday Game, and indeed everywhere today, there was intense analysis on the many untoward incidents that took place, and rightly so, but I wonder is there a policy that in the case of minor players things are to be ignored!

After the final whistle in the minor game between Tipp and Kildare, the No. 24 from the (not so) Lilywhites, jumped on the Tipperary No. 8 Jack Kennedy, who incidentally was the official Man of the Match, and delivered a right-handed haymaker that Mike Tyson himself would have been proud of.

Kennedy appeared to sustain a bad enough injury to his right eye but to my knowledge there hasn’t been a whisper about it! I just wonder why!

And finally… 

Finally for this week, last Friday night I made it to The Castlecoote Lodge for Seamus Ward’s 60th Birthday Party, and it was just great! A huge crowd, good food, good music and good craic and all for a good guy.

Well done Seamus and we wish you a long, happy life and also retirement. I have got all the way to the end (Thank God says you) with only two major mistakes in the writing – not too bad, but more improvements required.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Tales from the A&E waiting room…

It’s Saturday evening and I’ve managed to close the shop at 5 o’clock, much to the annoyance of a couple of elderly tyre-kickers, who would have liked to spend another half an hour or so, looking at, but not buying, any of the nice things we have on show.

I told them I’d be back at 9.30 am on Monday morning but it’s now 11.30 and so far they haven’t turned up and, in truth, I don’t expect to see them ever again.

Anyway, I was in a rush because our local football team were playing Shannon Gaels in an important championship match in Tulsk, and my plan was to go home, have the spuds and head off to watch the football, which is exactly what I did.

However, I didn’t keep a close enough eye on the clock, and for some reason, that I still haven’t figured out, I was a few minutes late arriving at the appointed venue – I don’t like being late for anything so I wasn’t in the best of humour when I got in, but the way the match turned out I would have been better off if I never got there at all.

There is really no way to dress it up, Shannon Gaels were vastly superior to our lads in every way, and if I was Paddy Power (come to think of it, I wish I was) I would be closing the book on their odds to win the County Junior Championship.

Ballinameen, amongst others, might have something to say about that but right now it’s hard to look beyond the men from Croghan!

They were very strong right through the field and their two corner-forwards Michael Murtagh and Mathew McDermott were like Seamus Callanan against the Galway hurlers – almost unmarkable – and they wreaked havoc on our over-worked defence.

Anyway, the game was meandering to its foregone conclusion, when, in the very final minute, disaster struck for my young lad, Paul, who was playing in our half-back line, when he accidentally got a finger in the eye as he contested what turned out to be the last kick out of the game.

It was obvious, fairly quickly, that he was in trouble as, along with being in serious agony, he couldn’t see out of the eye but thankfully our physio Gerry O’Keeffe knew what to do, attended to the injury and put a patch on it, and told him to take a few painkillers and see how it would be on Sunday morning.

It’s on occasions like this that we appreciate how big a loss the A&E in Roscommon is (we did call on the way home but as it was 8.20, all was closed) and so we headed home and hoped all would be well in the morning.

Sadly that wasn’t the case and shortly after nine on Sunday morning, myself and my severely suffering son headed off to the University College Hospital in Galway.

Thankfully traffic wasn’t too bad, and after a pleasant enough drive we got there some time after 10 am. I thought to myself that as it was early enough we wouldn’t be too long and I looked forward to being at home in time to see the Kerry-Tyrone Senior Football Semi-Final.

I was wise enough to know that I’d hardly make the minor game, but I was confident it would all be sorted out in an hour or two.

All went well at the start – because he was in such apparent agony, the nurse saw him almost immediately, administered a few drops to his eye, which eased the pain instantly, and said she would do her best (which she did) to get him seen to as quickly as possible.

By now I was beginning to realise that the place was ‘mental’, and when we went back out to the waiting room, we sat beside a mother and daughter (who had a hand injury) who told us they had been there since the evening before, and, while an X-ray had been done, they were still waiting to see a doctor.

We were lucky, because at almost 2 o’clock we got into the treatment area, and you wouldn’t believe the bedlam that was evident all over the place – there were people on trolleys everywhere, the brilliant staff were run off their feet, but remarkably there was no sign of rancour or bad humour, on either the patients or the medical people.

Beside us was a young lad from Connemara whose vision was blurred and his father told us they had been in A&E for just over 24 hours, and hd didn’t know when they would be seen to!

I asked him how he had spent the night before and he said he was sitting in a chair in the waiting room the whole night long.

Over the corridor, on one of the many trolleys, was an 18-year-old girl who had received a neck injury in a rugby match the day before! I heard her mother telling someone that she had been the victim of a bad tackle in her first game for the Connaught U-18s and as they lived on an island they wanted to get her checked out before the girl went home!

It would be difficult to get her back after they left the mainland, and so they, too, were settled in for the long wait.

I warmed to the mother when she said the two teams were meeting again next month, and in no uncertain terms, she promised her daughter would get her own back!

You would think that I was a real reporter because I then met another man who was there over 24 hours and he too had yet to see a doctor – he was from Inverin and, as he explained to me, he was wheeling a barrow of turf out of the bog when the barrow stopped suddenly and he didn’t.

His back and hip and everything else was badly wrenched and he was barely able to walk when I met him!

Again he had no idea when he’d get sorted and he had got through the night with the aid of a couple of Supermac’s offerings, and was remarkably good-humoured and philosophical about it all.

As for us, we got to see the eye specialist at 6 pm and while Paul had a bad cut (I’d say any cut would be bad) on his cornea, and he’s in for another day or two (or even three) of agony, hopefully it will heal up in a week or so.

We made it home at 8.30 pm.

However, while for him it will all be forgotten fairly soon, for the staff in the Galway A&E it never ends, and next weekend it will all happen again.

I know you read regularly in the media about the state of the HSE, and the terrible mess they (and the politicians) have made of our health system, but when you see it, first-hand, and close up, it’s certainly not a pretty sight.

Nowadays it seems popular to continually highlight mistakes that are made by our medical personnel and of course that is only right and proper, but the more I see of their working conditions the more I wonder how they can function at all!

I believe they are performing miracles in appalling conditions, and certainly the A&E in UCHG is not a place for the faint-hearted.

And finally…

Finally, for this week, I want to wish our good friend, local musician with the Castlerea Brass Band Seamus Ward a happy retirement from his job, and also a happy 60th birthday.

He had a massive retirement party in JJ Harlow’s, Roscommon, last Friday night which I sadly couldn’t make (Friday’s not great for me as I work every Saturday), but his 60th party is on in Terry & Mary Leyden’s next Friday night so please God I’ll try to put in an appearance at that one.

Either way, Seamus is one of the good guys, and I wish him well for the future. Keep on playing the sax.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Every parent’s worst nightmare

It’s a nice enough Monday morning and I’m on duty in Athlone, and, as I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to write about, I find my thoughts, sadly, keep going back to Karen Buckley and her horrific murder in Glasgow at the hands of a very sick and twisted killer, Alexander Pacteau.

Now I’m aware that in the kind of world we live in, killings have almost become the norm and here in Ireland, especially in our Capital city, we seem to have a never-ending procession of gangland shootings, most of which have their origins in some kind of drug deals which for one reason or another have turned sour.

I suppose it’s human nature to become a little bit blasé about gangland killings, and to tell the truth I’ve heard people declare that the more gang members are done away with the better, but we should always remember there are families affected by each and every one of those killings – the victims will be someone’s son or daughter, brother, sister, father or mother, and there will inevitably be people left heartbroken and devastated by such heartless executions.

However, it is also true to say that most of the victims in drug-related shootings know the risks, and are willing to take their chances in pursuit of wealth and ill-gotten gains, whereas for poor Karen Buckley it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In a case which has a lot of similarity to the killing of Drogheda woman Jill Meagher in Melbourne two years ago, Karen left a Glasgow nightclub just to go home and fell into the clutches of the depraved Pacteau.

Now I won’t go into the gruesome details of Karen’s brutal murder, but as a parent, it was the heart-wrenching statement issued by her parents, John and Marian, that will live in my memory for as long as I’m on this earth.

“Our hearts are broken at the thought of Karen’s final moments on this world. The thought of her being alone, frightened and struggling for her life haunts us”.

Those words tell it all, and as they said, it was every parent’s worst nightmare, and I can only hope and pray they, somehow, find the strength to get over such a crushing and life-changing blow.

So proud of Galway

Changing the mood – normally I would be waxing lyrically (maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration) about the amazing All-Ireland Hurling semi-final that the hurlers of Galway and Tipperary served up in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.

The history books will tell us that Galway prevailed by a point but they will never be able to capture the heroism, manliness, brilliance and excitement of this epic encounter, and the sight of Galway manager Anthony Cunningham having a quiet word with Tipp’s Noel McGrath (who was back playing for his county after having testicular cancer) after the final whistle, was a particularly heart-warming moment.

In a frenetic encounter, apart from one or two flash-points, the sportsmanship on view was of the highest order, and if people were looking for a masterpiece to lighten up this year’s championship they certainly got it.

For Galway, it’s another crack at the Kilkenny Cats to look forward to, while Tipp will be left to reflect on narrowly losing yet another classic encounter.

As for me, I have to eat a large portion of humble pie, as after the Leinster Final when Anthony Cunningham told Brian Cody he’d see him again in September, I wrote that the only way he (Cunningham) would be in Croke Park on All-Ireland Final Day would be as a spectator.

Never in my life have I been as happy to be proved wrong, so Anthony, ‘well done’ – and here’s hoping you can lead the Tribesmen to the Holy Grail!

Recalling characters

Changing subjects entirely, and last Thursday night (or evening to be exact) myself and Carol, my long-suffering wife, headed off to the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon to treat ourselves to a meal out in honour of the upcoming anniversary of our wedding, which also happened to take place in the Abbey a good few years ago.

We pulled into the Abbey carpark about 8 pm, and even though we noted on the large number of vehicles, with many differing county registrations, I don’t think we were prepared for the huge crowd that was inside – the place was positively buzzing, and it was just great to see it like that.

Needless to say the patriarch of the Grealy family, Tommy Senior, was on his regular patrols, greeting guests with a quiet word of welcome, as he has done for many a long year now, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

It goes without saying that the meal was excellent (it always is in the Abbey) and hopefully I’ll be back again for the next one (anniversary).

We stopped off in Mikeen’s for a pint on the way home, and we talked about the almost total disappearance of great local characters. 

A few years ago I was going to research a book of characters in the pubs of County Roscommon, but I never got round to it, and I suppose I’ll never do it now.

However, here’s a tale or two of one of our own local characters, who has to be nameless, as thankfully, he’s still with us!

Once upon a time he sold 8 or 10 old ewes to a fellow in Creggs Fair. The pair of them, i.e. the buyer and the seller, spent the day drinking together and as the evening moved on, shillings began to get a bit scarce, and our man hit on an idea.

He asked the buyer would he buy a few more ewes. They went outside to have a look at 8 or 10 more he had in a trailer beside the pub.

Unfortunately, they were the same ones he had already sold and even more unfortunately, the buyer was still sober enough to recognise them, so in this case his plan sadly failed.

He was also a bit unlucky another time when he found a customer for a couple of good heifers, also in the pub, and also at Creggs Fair.

He didn’t have any himself, but, unfazed, he brought the buyer out to a local field where he sold him two prize heifers.

The buyer handed over a substantial price for the animals, and promised he’d be back for them the following day. Once again fortune didn’t favour the brave as the bona-fide owner refused to sell the heifers, and so, heartbroken and dismayed, our hero had to hand back the large sum of money the following day, an act that upset him greatly.

We lamented the disappearance of such characters, or scoundrels, from our countryside, and it’s fair to say that all communities have similarly suffered – maybe I’ll do that book.

And finally…

Two local items to finish with this week. Congrats to Declan Jennings and Helena McDermott, daughter of Oran’s Billy, who got married in the ‘Hodson Bay’ last weekend.

We wish them a long, happy life together, and Billy, you can leave the loaf (a brown one) in Mikeen’s.

Finally for this week, a public meeting to discuss the future of the Creggs Harvest Festival will take place in Kilbegnet Hall on next Friday (21st) night at 10 pm. All are welcome, so please try to be there.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Showjumpers prove they ‘Khan’ live up to legends of yesteryear

As a young lad growing up in the village of Creggs back in the 1950s, it was almost inevitable that I would be drawn towards The Green, where sports of all kinds were played, although at that time obviously gaelic football was the number one game, and from those early days I have always had a serious interest in practically all sporting activities. Born on the Galway side of the parish boundary with Roscommon,

it was a great era to be a follower of the maroon and white, (apologies to all you Rossies) and while the All-Ireland victory of 1956 came when I was only five years of age, and probably too young to remember any of it, I was still very aware of the greats of Galway football like Sean Purcell, Frankie Stockwell and the legendary Tom ‘Pook’ Dillon.

However, by the time of our golden era with the three-in-a-row of the mid-60s, I was a fully-fledged member of the Tribesmen’s supporters and almost 50 years on from the last of the three in a row, I can recall all the players as if they were playing yesterday.

The Donnellan brothers, Noel Tierney, Bosco, the list of Galway immortals goes on and on, and of course, as I’ve told you before, one of the big thrills of my life was to get to know and be friendly with the great Mattie McDonagh.

On a personal note I always feel that Mattie doesn’t get the credit he deserves on the national stage, when it comes to recalling great stars of the past, but I believe his record of being the only Connacht winner of four All-Ireland Football medals will stand maybe, for all time. On 31st December 1961, Teilifis Eireann came into our lives and all of a sudden we could now actually watch our sporting heroes in action, and by then soccer and rugby had also made an impact on my life.

All these years later I am fully comfortable with my interest – which is as great today as it was then – in those sports, but I still cannot figure out how the world of showjumping, and more specifically the Aga Khan Cup, took such a hold on the Irish nation all through the 1960s and ‘70s.

I think it started down in County Tipperary in the village of Dundrum, when a small horse, funnily enough called after his native village, captured the hearts and minds of all Irish people, with his exploits as an international showjumper, partnered by the imcomparable Tommy Wade.

They were an unusual partnership, in that Dundrum was really only a glorified Connemara pony, a 15 hands high gelding, and Wade, a true-blue Tipperary man, never felt accepted by the showjumping fraternity, as he always felt it was run by Dublin Four people, who, in his own words, had little interest in what happened outside The Pale.

However, be that as it may, Wade and Dundrum electrified the country for a number of years, and they won at almost every international show they competed in! Among the highlights were winning the coveted King George V Cup at the White City, top prize at the Horse of the Year Show in Wembley, and in 1961 the former carthorse from Dundrum won the Puissance, also in Wembley, when he cleared the amazing height of 7ft 2. In 1967 the two of them jumped the final round in the Aga Khan Cup, having had 22 faults in their first round, during which Wade had fallen off at the 11th fence, knowing it would take a clear round to win the cup for the Irish – history shows that the pair rose to the challenge, yet again, and with the necessary clear round ensured success for the Irish team.

Sadly, Tommy finally fell out with the showjumping authority the following year over a dispute about the events that occurred at a show in Dungarvan and he and Dundrum drifted away from the world of showjumping.

Although he obviously had top class team-mates in his two victories in the Aga Khan, I think there can be no doubt that it was the Dundrum/Wade combination that propelled the sport into the public domain.

For a good few years afterwards the Dublin Horse Show was one of the biggest sporting events on the calendar, and I can still recall the excitement when the Irish, with riders like Eddie Macken, the late Paul Darragh, James Kernan and Captain Con Power won the Aga Khan on three successive occasions in 1977, ‘78 and ‘79.

At that time the whole country seemed to come to a stop on the Friday afternoon, but I have to admit that in the intervening years showjumping has lost a bit of its glamour, and it’s only now, thanks to the emergence of young top class riders like 20-year-old Bertram Allen, Offaly’s Darragh Kenny, and Greg Broderick, that the interest is coming back to the sport. Along with Cian O’Connor, that youthful trio won the Aga Khan Trophy for Ireland last Friday and I have to confess that I got a great thrill when I heard of the victory.

It may not have had the impact of the successes of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s but nonetheless it was heartwarming to find us back on the winner’s rostrum and hopefully it will go from strength to strength.

Super Shane

Talking of the winner’s rostrum, it was wonderful to see Clara man Shane Lowry win the Bridgestone International Golf Tournament last night (Sunday) in some part of the United States – and I can honestly tell you that when he produced an amazing second shot on the last hole, I was roaring like a demented banshee.

I’ve told you before that a lot of our customers here come from the Clara area, and I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about the champion golfer – he apparently, is a lovely lad, totally grounded, no big head, and a credit to Offaly and now to Ireland – and after last night he is most certainly on his way to superstardom. It’s obvious it couldn’t happen to a nicer lad, so well done Shane – it was an amazing achievement.

And finally…

Finally for this week, this is the first year in about ten or so when I haven’t had any big fundraising dance to tell you about – I feel a little bit lost so I’m putting on the thinking cap to try and figure out a way to gather a few bob for my two favourite charities, the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West! Watch this space to see if I come up with something.

‘Till next week,

Bye for now

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