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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

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

Festival fever strikes again in Ballygar and Castlerea

There has always been something special about the August Bank Holiday Weekend, and indeed the entire month of August, and if you were to meet my long suffering wife, Carol, she would tell you that I usually go a little bit mad, and I suppose it probably traces back to my very young days when the annual carnival in Creggs used to start on the 15th August.

Our carnival would last for a fortnight, which would be unheard of nowadays, and while the carnivals have all faded away over the years, it’s remarkable to tell you that our neighbours up in Ballygar are still going strong, and as I write this on the Bank Holiday Monday (wonder if that’s double time) I’m delighted to say that after 70 years it’s still packing them in, and drawing absolutely huge crowds to the East Galway Town.

However, on the other side of us, Castlerea, too, have their Annual Rose Festival over the weekend, and, so, on Thursday night I decided to take a trip down to see what was going on and listen to the open air music being provided by Declan Nerney and his band.

Now, as you know by now, I am one of the great jivers in this vicinity, and could have been the Champion at the Harvest Festival in Creggs in 2011 (actually I think that might have been The Waltzing Competition) if I hadn’t fallen as I did a doing a particularly difficult manoeuvre, but I’m told that when it comes to dancing the Nerney Band is out on it’s own.

I have to admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for the crowds in Castlerea that night, as no matter where I looked there were cars parked everywhere and, along with the huge crowds at the Declan Nerney Show, the amusements, in Patrick Street, were absolutely buzzing.

We stayed until the rain came, sometime around 10 o’clock, and on the way home paid a visit to the beautiful bar that you will find in Tommy Dowd’s in Glinsk, where everyone was looking forward to the Slave Auction which was due to take place on Sunday night.

Apparently every member of the Glinsk Football panel were being auctioned off, all thirty of them, and whatever lucky ladies bought them (I suppose fellows could bid as well) would have their services for whatever task might be put to them, for a whole day to be taken any time in the next 12 months.

It was all as a fundraiser, and I have to say it sounded like great craic, and, as with everything that happens in Glinsk, I’m certain there would have been a great crowd to support it last night, and I look forward to finding out who bought who!

Meanwhile in Mikeen’s

Anyway onto Sunday night in Mikeen’s (I was unable to get to Sean Connaughton’s 60th Birthday party on Saturday night, but I’m told there was such a large attendance they certainly didn’t miss me, but, happy birthday and congrats to Sean), and PJ Davis was playing to a very happy and enthusiastic audience when the chat turned to the remarkable resilience of the Irish People.

The reason of course, was the totally abysmal summer that we are getting, with almost constant rainfall, and yet, as one of our group pointed out, people are going around with smiles on their faces and showing no sign of any gloom, or misery.

Again we talked of all the festivals that so many hard working committees were putting on, all over the region, and how it would be half reasonable to hope for some good weather at this time of year, and you would almost think that due to the terrible weather, they would all be suffering badly.

Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I met a few hardy mountain folk who told me that, rain of nor rain, last Sunday was the best day they have ever had at the Donamon Open Day – I was delighted to hear it, and it show that when we the Irish want to have a good time nothing will stop us.

Festival Fever

And so it’s now Bank Holiday Monday, and I’ve just come home from The Fair Day in Ballygar, and no words of mine will do justice to the incredible crowds, atmosphere, and sheer enjoyment on the closed off Main Street – there were all kinds of stalls, lads on stilts, a pig being roasted on the spit, Cara Ceol were playing live on the open air stage, asses, ponies and horses all over the place and I have to say it was just magic.

I couldn’t try to figure out how many people were there, but I’d say it was thousands, and the craic was ninety – sadly duty called and I had to go home to write this piece (you are probably saying it’s a pity he didn’t stay) and so I missed out on having a piece of the gorgeous looking pig!

Maybe next year. Anyway, thank God (not the weather one) Ballygar, Castlerea and I’m sure Loughglynn have proved once again, that nothing will stop us from having a party, and long may it last.

Rough Justice

Changing subjects entirely, and sometimes we read or hear of an incident that would literally sicken us to the pits of our stomachs.

Such an incident occurred last week when we read of the actions of a certain Liam Dowling, who killed his daughter’s Jack Russell dog,by swinging it overhead with it’s lead and repeatedly, (up to 30 times) smashing it’s body into the ground.

Now I don’t deny that when I heard of Dowling’s act, and that then he avoided jail, when Judge Martin Nolan said he would make him do 200 hours of Community Service in lieu of a two year sentence, I was totally amazed and disgusted, and, yet having seen an interview with him, I now believe that he was out of his mind with drugs at the time and he is genuinely remorseful and ashamed at what he did to a poor defenceless dog.

And of course that leads us to a debate on whether such an occurrence should be allowed to make us part of the defence, as time after time in assault or murder cases we are told that the perpetrator has no recollection of anything due to too much alcohol, or drugs or even a cocktail of both.

Obviously I have no real knowledge of the law, but it does lead one to believe that in a lot of cases, people get away with lesser sentences because they claim to be “out of their minds” – is it an easy cop out or is it a genuine situation!

I don’t know but as the proud minder of a young Jack Russell called “Hope”, I can’t think of a more lovable or loving breed of dog, and it’s awful to think of the terrible death Liam Dowling’s pet dog suffered.

Finally…

Finally for this week those of us who grew up with the pop music of the sixties, were very much saddened by the death yesterday of Cilla Black- she was a Liverpool lass, who graduated to a TV star from her pop career, and she was one of the best loved and most popular TV presenters for more than three decades – she will be missed.

Till next week. Bye for now.

Bureacracy frustating businesses – and a ‘dead cheap’ bargain

In last week’s piece I talked about the programme that was recently shown on telly about the old traditional pubs still left in Ireland, and I suppose the overwhelming feeling was that we were lucky to still have them, and that it would be in everyone’s interest to keep them open.

Most of those featured were family-owned, and in many cases had been handed down from generation to generation, and while there is no doubt that times have been tough for all businesses, they were still open and carrying on the very important pub tradition in their respective areas.

And so the inescapable conclusion is that after suffering so badly for the last number of years in all areas of retail, and as we now are told recovery is on the way, you would think that everyone in authority would do their best to help and support long-suffering businesses.

Then I heard a lady on the radio from Waterford City who runs a business which has been 50 years in existence, Dunphy’s Shop & Hardware, and she told a tale of bureaucracy and political correctness that you would find hard to believe.

Dunphy’s have a big open yard frontage where people can drive in, pick up a bale of briquettes, or a bag of coal, or just park while they were inside in the shop getting their bits and pieces, and that particular area was invaluable to their business.

Now the Town Council have slapped a compulsory purchase order on the yard because they are setting up a new cycle lane for the many people who have now taken up the sport of cycling.

Now I’m not like George Hook, who makes no secret of his contempt for cyclists, and all they stand for, but I feel sure that the council could bring their cycle lane elsewhere.

The lady from Dunphy’s was in no doubt that the loss of their parking area will have such an adverse effect on their trade that sooner rather than later their 50-year-old business will be forced to close with the loss of several jobs.

She said they are now competing with all the multi-nationals like Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, Dunnes and SuperValu, and even though all those (and more) have opened in the last 15 or twenty years, Dunphy’s have had to adapt and are still ‘going strong.’

How sad and ironic, if, after all that and the recession as well, it was the action of their own City Council that was instrumental in bringing them down.

Let’s hope sanity and reason will prevail and there will be somewhere else found for all the budding Sean Kellys and Stephen Roches to enjoy their ever-increasing (in popularity) sport, but it can’t be at the cost of losing a local institution.

Unusual sale

Sticking with the sunny south-east, but moving sideways to Co. Wexford and website Donedeal has an unusual item for sale where a Lovely Oak Coffin, with one careful owner from new, is on offer for the paltry sum of €99.

There are one or two scrapes (so the owner mustn’t have been that careful) – the casket is very comfortable, although when the seller tried it out he said his legs were sticking out, which would appear to be a bit of a problem, but as he said it’s Dead Cheap, and it’s looking for a good home.

I’d say it’s a bargain, but somehow, I can’t see a huge rush to buy it! I know we’ll all need one some day, but knowing your coffin is waiting out in the shed for you wouldn’t be that good for your mental health.

Many years ago a coffin magically appeared on the roadside near Creggs – investigations confirmed that it had been ‘borrowed’ from Chrissie Kilby’s and left on the road for a ‘good one’!

Could it be that it has once again come to life and is now back on the market in Wexford? Anyway I’ll keep an eye on the sale and see how it goes!

Magical May

Changing to a less morbid subject and one of the national pastimes is to give out about home-produced television programmes, especially comedy and light entertainment ones, and, in truth, a lot of the times they do leave a lot to be desired.

Last night, Friday, I tuned into Imelda May’s new TV show on RTE and I have to say I thought it was just fantastic – I think she herself is an amazing artiste but the line-up she had on last night, musically, was absolutely top class…the Hothouse Flowers, The Lost Brothers and some band with apes in the name, were all excellent, but my new musical heroes, Kodaline, stole the show.

I’m so sad I missed them in Galway last weekend, and have said I’ll catch them the next time, but sadly I’ve been told that old grey-haired men who remember The Stones, The Beatles, Manfred Man, The Shadows, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (not many remember them), and all the greats of the sixties, should stay at home and listen to their vinyl LPs.

Be that as it may (no pun intended) but Imelda put on such a good show that I’m looking forward eagerly to the rest of the series – the good start will make it difficult to keep up such a high standard, but here’s hoping for a few weeks top quality entertainment on Friday nights.

Yesterday, Sunday, I had to miss the Open Day in Donamon due as they say to unavoidable circumstances, but as I drove towards Galway City at around mid-day I couldn’t but reflect on the various festival committees in our area and how they must be looking in horror at the ongoing downpour.

Now I have no idea whether the bad day affected any of the attendances at the Heritage Festivals in Ballintubber and Rooskey, the Pattern Festival in Brideswell, the Environmental one in Lanesboro, the Vintage Day in Mountbellew, or the Open Day in Donamon, and I hope that it didn’t, but it’s sad to think that on the last weekend in July we can’t rely on having any summer weather.

I had met Fr. Pat Hogan on Friday evening and he told me all was set for the Big Day, but he was hoping the weather God might look down favourably on Sunday – sadly he didn’t, but there’s always next year.

And finally…

Finally for this week, I have told you in the last few years of Gortnadieve native Delia Hegarty, as she celebrated her 100th, 101st and 102nd birthdays – sadly she wasn’t to make 103.

At the weekend she passed to her eternal regard. She was a truly remarkable woman, and my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends. May she rest in peace.

‘Till next week,

Bye for now

Shell-shocked Sligo – and an ‘electric shock’ for my ‘ticker’

It’s Friday morning last, and at the unearthly hour of 6.45 am I am boarding Tommy Forde’s bus in Ballyhard, near Glenamaddy, and heading for the University Hospital in Galway, where the good people in the cardiac unit are going to give me another electric shock to get my old ticker back on its right track.

I’m a great fan of public transport (maybe public transport only applies to state companies, I’m not sure) and in little more than an hour Tommy had me safely deposited outside the hospital door, and ready for my minor procedure, and I have to say it’s the only way to travel.

No hassle, no delays as you tip along the bus lanes, pitying the poor drivers who were already stuck in the Claregalway traffic jams, although Tommy told me that nowadays, Friday mornings are by far the best ones to be going to Galway on.

Apparently, a lot of factories and businesses (I’d love to work in one of them) only work the four days, Monday to Thursday, and as a result many employees don’t have to report for duty at all on Fridays.

Anyway, down to the cardiac unit, and even though it was just after 8 am, it was in full flow.

While I waited for my turn, there were four people called for angiograms, until I heard my name called at exactly 8.30 am, which was my actual appointment time.

I had great craic with the two nurses who were taxed with the duty of getting me ready for the shock treatment, although, as usual, I didn’t want to give them any blood!

For some reason I always seem to want to keep all my own blood, and it can be quite difficult to get any of the red stuff out of me.

Eventually I must have had everything in place, because the last thing I remember is a young lady cardiologist telling me she was going to give me an injection, which would send me off to sleep.

It must have worked immediately, as the next thing I remember was waking up a few hours later to be told that all was well, and my ticker was now beating normally again.

On then to Sunday morning and I headed into Roscommon, some time around one o’clock, without realising that, as it was Connacht Final Day, the town might just be a little busy.

Even at that stage the place was buzzing. Every supermarket carpark was full to the lugs, and it seemed to me that everyone from Sligo must have been in Roscommon – I of course forgot that the two Sligo teams, minor and senior, were in action, and as that hadn’t happened for many, many years on Connacht Final Day, it was no wonder that the entire Yeats County population had come across the Curlews.

Driving up the town it was great to see the huge crowds having a few drinks outside the town centre pubs, and it was uplifting to see and feel the wonderful atmosphere that was building up.

The Sligo support was bright and cheerful, and while not necessarily confident, they were certainly hopeful and in very good spirits.

Fast-forward to a few hours later, and those same supporters must have gone home shell-shocked, confused and utterly demoralised, and in common with most sports lovers, I was genuinely sorry for the Sligo players, management and followers – it was a painful experience for them at the hands and feet of a very good Mayo team, and it will take a great amount of willpower and commitment to have them ready to face Micky Harte’s Tyrone in a week or two.

Before I leave the footballing world, as a Galway man it’s nice to see the wearers of the maroon and white still in the mix, but it’s sort of sad that in order to be competitive, they have had to buy into the modern ultra-defensive style.

As someone who grew up with the great team of the 1960s, and indeed, later admired the wonderful attacking skills of Paraic Joyce, Michael Donnellan, Ja Fallon and Derek Savage – amongst others – it’s hard to see the way the game has changed and has now almost become a game of chess, and how teams now play sideways and backwards just to keep possession.

However that’s the way it is, and I suppose if we could beat Donegal, Kevin Walsh’s first year in charge would be a relative success.

The Irish Pub

Changing subjects entirely, and last Monday night there was a really nice programme on the telly called

The Irish Pub, which featured a number of old traditional pubs, which were largely unchanged through the years, and which yet again showed us all how important a part the local pub plays in particularly rural communities.

Among the pubs shown was Simon Coyle’s in Four Roads, and I’m sure his appearance on the programme will do his business no harm at all, and the lasting impression I had from the 90-minute show was that I would like to pay a visit to every one of the featured pubs – they all oozed character, had their own character, and were what a local pub should be.

I doubt if I’ll get around to them all, but it was great to see that we, as a nation, still have an abundance of our traditional, famous Irish pubs, and even in these tough times they are all still holding their own.

Bertie & Brian

Talking of holding their own, although most of us wouldn’t agree with them, I have to admit that I was impressed with the demeanour of both ex-Taoisigh Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern at the recent banking enquiry.

Each of them were unfazed by the experience, and neither was prepared to give an inch, and, like them or hate them, neither one was going to admit any wrongdoing or accept they had anything to do with the crash in our country’s economy.

I suppose all politicians must have thick skin, and to get to Taoiseach you probably need the thickest skin of all, and it seems to me those two boys got it in abundance, so, maybe it’s not so surprising that it was impossible to derail them.

And finally…

Finally, for this week, don’t forget the big Open Day in Donamon this coming Sunday! I told you all about it last week! It kicks off with Mass at 12.30 pm and there will be every kind of entertainment taking place for the following five or six hours.

I’ll see you all there, and look out for The Curny Bun Stall – can’t wait.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Keeping the home (bon)fires burning

The first time I took notice of the local tradition of bonfires at weddings, was at my brother Peadar’s wedding to Theresa, which must be close to forty years ago, when I got such a surprise to see one, as I came round a corner a few miles out of Creggs, that I very nearly lost control of my new 12-year-old car and almost drove straight into the massive blaze.

Thankfully I avoided the fire, but, as that was the first wedding I had ever been invited to, I took it for granted that bonfires must be part of the tradition all around the country.

I found out that I had made an incorrect assumption, on the occasion of my own wedding to Carol 35 years ago, in August, when friends who had travelled from different parts of Ireland couldn’t get over the sight of bonfires all over the place – I remember some of them wondering at how dangerous they were and they couldn’t understand how they were allowed at all, but at the same time thought it was a lovely local touch.

My late neighbour in Crosswell Bernadette Keany, who had a little shop just down the road from me, was the woman who kept the bonfire tradition going year in year out in our little village, and hail, rain or snow, Bernie always had her fire lit – occasionally the cavalcade mightn’t be passing our way at all which would disappoint her greatly, but nothing deterred her, and for every local wedding out came The Bernie Bonfire.

Fast-forward to last Friday morning and if you had passed my house from 12.30 onwards you would have seen a strange looking man (me) lovingly tending a fire that, at times, looked like an out of control forest fire but, at other times, looked as if it was on its last legs, as myself and my neighbour, Gibby (Jacinta Hanley) piled on papers, magazines, bits of timber and turf, and even handfuls of wet hay in an effort to keep our bonfire alive.

The occasion was the wedding of our neighbour Julie Keegan to Kilmore man Aidan Brennan, and I have to sadly admit that, after our herculean efforts, by the time the wedding parts passed by, our fire consisted of just a few fading wisps of smoke – it didn’t matter however, we had kept Bernie’s tradition alive, and, for all future weddings I promise to do better.

A quick change after the shower to try and get rid of the smell of smoke, and off with us to the Country Club Hotel in Glasson outside of Athlone. Now I’m working in Athlone for ten of twelve years, but I never realised that such a gem existed and I confess that I was totally amazed at the wonderful facility – the adjoining golf club looked brilliant and the scenery, looking out over the lake, was truly spectacular.

The reception inside was just as good as the outside had suggested it might be, and the almost 300 guests had a superb meal, and yet again, yours truly surpassed himself at the dinner table. I missed out on the wonderful music of The Busy Fingers band, as, sadly I was pencilled in for work on Saturday morning, but according to all reports it was a great night’s craic.

To Aidan and Julie we wish you a long happy and healthy life together, and I’m off to enrol in a bonfire-lighting class.

Open Day at Donamon Castle

Sticking with The Busy Fingers band, and Sean Beirne tells me that the Donamon Castle Open Day is on next Sunday week, 26th July and The Busy Fingers are among the many musical acts, which also includes The Conquerors, The Heebie Jeebies, Patsy McCaul and The Castlerea Brass Band.

The Duggan School of Dancers, who are stars of TG4 and The World of Dancing Championships and who were absolutely fantastic in Donamon last year, are back again, and whatever you do, don’t miss them. The whole thing kicks off with Mass at 12.30 pm.

Castlerea legend Danny Burke is MC and parking and entry is still free – for the children there is face painting, bouncy castle, pony rides, and Bozo the Clown, while you can also see some lamas and eagles.

A big draw, with €1,500 as first prize, will take place on the day. Tickets will be on sale and the very popular book stall will also be open for business, you can go on a guided tour of the castle itself, and for the first time the Inland Fisheries Board will have a display of the fish that can be found in the River Suck. It’s an amazing day’s entertainment with free parking, and free entry, so pencil it in, and I’ll see you all there.

No tie-break for Lewis at Wimbledon

Changing subject slightly, and on today’s papers it’s interesting to see that no matter who you are, if you don’t tog out properly when you are invited to The Royal Box in Wimbledon, you won’t get in.

World champion motor racing driver Lewis Hamilton was among a select group of guests invited to watch the Men’s Singles Final from the exclusive Centre Court area, but, unfortunately he didn’t dress properly for the occasion, and he was simply not let in.

Apparently you have to wear a tie, a jacket and shoes (no mention of trousers but I’d say you should wear a pair of them as well) and our man Lewis didn’t have either a jacket or tie, although he had a hat, and so there was no way in.

I am surprised that a man of his wealth couldn’t have a tie and a jacket delivered fairly quickly, but maybe it wasn’t possible! Anyway it proves that, in Wimbledon, you had better toe the line, which is appropriate enough if you think about it.

And finally…

Finally for this week, it was a good weekend for our local footballers who beat Ballinameen in the Junior Championship in Tulsk on Saturday evening! Also for Galway who went to Armagh and won, and for all those who want John Evans out in Roscommon – I’d say they might just get their way.

‘Til next week,

Bye for now

These pension payments are immoral!

I have to admit that when it comes to financial matters, even my own, I haven’t got a clue, and I can never figure out how businesses, even small ones, can keep track of all the things that make up their running costs, and how they can know whether they are making or losing money.

Things like staff wages, PRSI, money owed, in and out stock levels, and all kinds of things like insurance costs, phones, lighting, administration, all have to be taken into consideration, and there is no doubt that it requires a fair amount of business acumen to work everything out.

Taking all that on board, if we imagine that running a country is like running an enormous business, it’s obvious that to do so requires a huge amount of expertise, financial and otherwise, and you would think that we should have at least some of our top businessmen on board, even if only in an advisory capacity.

However, we have to put up with what we have, and so our TDs are generally a mix of all kinds of everything – and some of them are more or less pushed into positions for which they have no qualifications or relevant experience whatsoever.

The big consolation for all of them is that they will be well compensated in their retirement, but the level of compensation, in the form of their retirement packages, is bordering on the immoral.

We have any amount of ex-ministers who are taking home more than €100,00 a year, with the big two, Brian and Bertie, topping the list at almost €136,000 a year. That works out at more than €2,600 a week, and it’s hard to figure out how any business can afford to pay such massive pensions to anyone – never mind the two, especially The Great Bertie, who led the country into unprecedented poverty and hardship.

My old schoolmate, Dick Spring, is pocketing a handy €110,000 a year for his efforts, so if you want a big retirement package, get into politics. I am well aware that politicians, at every level, work hard while in office but, if you can get to the Dail at all, you’ll be well rewarded when you pack it in, or when the people pack you out.

I’m not going to comment on the Greek situation, except to say that I can’t see what difference the No vote makes – as far as I can see the country is still broke and, yes or no, they still have to get money somewhere.

Taking its toll

Talking about money, one of the most terrifying bills that we can get is the one from EFlow telling you that you didn’t pay your toll fee before 8 o’clock on the day of your journey, the toll fee can rise in stages to €152.60 for a single journey and you’d better pay up or else.

Well on today’s paper I am reading about one motorist who hasn’t paid up at all – he went through the M50 toll 1018 (one thousand and eighteen) times last year and never paid a penny. His eFlow bill now stands at more than €155,000!

If they could get that money in there would be enough to pay Bertie’s pension for next year! Get out there and collect it. I don’t know how he got away with it for so long, but I don’t think the ordinary two and sixpence would be allowed to carry on ignoring the fees without facing some legal action. I’d love to know who he (or she) is.

Have you heard of Leona Maguire?

Changing subjects entirely, and one of the most relaxing sports to watch on telly is golf.

Most weekends I take some time out to have a look at what’s going on in the golfing world. Yesterday evening (Sunday) after watching the Cats devour the Galway hurling challenge, in my opinion, at their ease, I was fiddling about with the remote control, when I suddenly found myself looking at the final couple of holes in the British Masters, being played at Denham in Buckinghamshire.

The only difference was that it was the Ladies Masters and so, despite the fact that our own Leona Maguire put in an amazing performance as an amateur player, in a professional competition, to take 2nd place in a top class field, there has been hardly any media coverage of her incredible achievement.

She was within a couple of inches of forcing a play-off for the title, but earlier today (I’m writing this on Monday), in an extensive review of sport over the weekend on RTE Radio her name was never even mentioned.

I can only imagine if it was Rory McIIroy, Shane Lowry, or any of our other male professional golfers, there would have been blanket coverage on their great efforts!

Leona’s effort, as an amateur player, was the outstanding sporting achievement of the weekend, but it hasn’t got a lot of recognition.

Herself and twin sister Lisa, are both students in Duke University in America, and despite her 2nd place in yesterday’s tournament, she had no plans to turn professional – I’m sure she will go pro some day, but for the moment I can only congratulate her on her great performance at the weekend.

Back to the hurling and I see that Anthony Cunningham told Brian Cody that he’d see him in the All-Ireland Final in September – as a Galway man I hope he does, but I fear it will only be as a spectator.

Staying with the sport, and last week I told you of the advice I had given Clare’s Shane O’Donnell – I’m delighted to say he must have taken it on board, as he scored a goal in their win over Offaly, and apparently had a superb game.

I see Clare have drawn Cork in the next round of the qualifiers so I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from young O’Donnell in the next day or two, to tell him how to put one over Jimmy Barry Murphy’s men.

And finally…

Finally, for this week, as a member of the Local Community Alert Scheme, twice in the last few days I have received texts to advise us of burglaries that have taken place in the Creggs-Ballygar area, and all over the country thieves seem to be busier than ever.

We have all read about the 100 head of cattle and sheep that were stolen in Co. Westmeath, while today I was listening to a heartbroken mother who was telling about the theft of her 13-year-old son’s entire collection of horseriding equipment.

The thieves took everything from boots to saddle, to horse box, and as the Co. Meath mother said, her 13-year-old had saved all his own money to buy these things – they were very special to him, and I suppose it shows how heartless these people are.

Anyway, it’s all around us, so keep your eyes open. ‘Till next week, Bye for now

Great hurling stories – then and now!

 

A long time ago, probably in the late 1970s, the Creggs Junior Hurling team, captained by its founder and probably sole selector, Ollie King, and backboned by such wonderful hurlers as myself and The Rasher, set the hurling world alight and qualified for the County Junior Final, where we came up against our near-neighbours Ballygar.

  In one of the greatest games – that bits a lie – ever seen (by at least 20 lucky supporters) the match ended in a welter of excitement, and the referee declared it a draw, and so it had to go to a replay, which was to take place on the following Sunday week. Unfortunately Creggs Rugby Club had an important league match on that Sunday and as there were six of us involved in both codes, in order to have a team, we had to find six hurlers as quickly as possible.

  The Rasher used his Clare connections, and so on the morning of the replay, as we headed off to Tuam for the rugby match, a well-packed car from Ennis was heading to Creggs. Six members of the very well-known family – the Beirnes from the Mountain – took to the field for that replay, and after another titanic struggle, the cup unfortunately headed off to Ballygar, thanks, if I remember correctly, to a super performance by Kilmore’s Seamus Kelly.

  One of the Beirnes from the Mountain turned out to be a certain Barry Smyth, who happened to be the centre-half back on the Clare senior hurling team of the time, and despite the disappointment of losing the Roscommon Junior Final he later had a very good intercounty career. Anyway, fast-forward to September 28th 2013, and Clare senior hurlers are crowned All-Ireland champions after an epic replay against Cork, and another young Ennis lad, Shane O’Donnell, becomes an overnight sensation and superstar when he scores 3-3 in that match.

  Last Saturday night my nephew Colm and Shane O’Donnell had a joint 21st Birthday Party in Ennis, and I had the pleasure of meeting and having a bit of a chat with the Clare hurler. They are playing Offaly in the qualifiers on next Saturday evening, and Davy Fitz only let him go to his own 21st on the condition that he didn’t drink, which he certainly didn’t, and it once again highlights the extraordinary sacrifices intercounty players have to make nowadays.

  Even though it’s two years since his All-Ireland heroics, the young O’Donnell was in serious demand for photos and selfies, but in fairness to him he handled every request with patience and good grace, and even though he didn’t actually say it, I got the feeling that he was very honoured to be in the company of another great hurler (that was me) who had almost won a Roscommon Junior medal.

  We had a great night in Ennis, and congrats to the two lads – I gave Shane a few tips as to how to improve his game so I look forward to seeing Clare play later on to see if he took my advice on board. Maybe if all goes well for him, Davy Fitz might find a place for me on his management team.

  Talking of management teams, the present Creggs one masterminded one of the great shocks on the local football front when last Saturday evening our lads beat a very strong Castlerea team in the O’Gara Cup by a point, 3-7 to 0-15. Well done to all the players and especially Gerry, the two Johns, and Steven – maybe at last the ghosts of 1983 can be laid to rest.

 

Summer Cabaret…

 

Back to stars and superstars, and in this locality Annette Griffin singer, harpist and TV star is as big as there is, and as I told you last week herself and John Staunton are presenting a Summer Cabaret Dinner & Show every Wednesday evening in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, starting on Wednesday, 8th of July.

  There will be music, song, comedy, food and the summer line-up is amazing – Patrick Feeney, Brendan Shine, Tenor Sean Costello, John & Annette, The Riverdance Themed Turley Duggan Dance Academy and the fabulous comedian, Frank Forde, are some of the wonderful artists who will feature every Wednesday, along with the excellent House Band, ‘The McWilliam House Band’.

  The show, which starts at 9 pm (Dinner at 7.15 pm), is suitable for all ages and guarantees an unforgettable night of music, song, and dance. Dinner and show tickets are only €45, while the show itself is €25. Group discounts are available, and after the show you can dance the rest of the night away in Kavanagh’s Bar to the sound of Trevor Moyles. It sounds like a really exciting night out so make sure you hit for Claremorris on any (or every) Wednesday night till the month of September.

 

Palpable grief at

murder of locals

 

Monday morning here in Athlone is usually what I can only describe as fairly mundane and boring – nothing much happens until around midday, and if you get to talk to anyone it’ll be about the weather, the terrible telly programmes that are on during the summer, and, depending on whether or not the other person likes sport, the results of the major games that took place at the weekend.

  Today however, is very different and it is safe to say that Athlone is in a state of shock – the horrific murders of well-known local couple Larry and Martina Hayes in the massacre on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia on Friday, has cast a shadow over the midlands town and there is a palpable sense of grief and sadness all around the place.

  I didn’t know the Hayes family, but I do know Martina’s brother, Billy Kelly, and as I drove into work this morning I heard him being interviewed by Joe Finnegan from Shannonside Radio, and it was distressing to hear the hurt, pain, helplessness and anger in his voice.

  I suppose we look at the News and see all the terrible atrocities that are taking place in the name of some Islamic religion or other, all over the Middle East, and while we might be a bit perturbed, in reality we just shake our heads and think to ourselves “Thank God it’s over there”.

  Well, as and from last Friday that safety net is well and truly gone, and as Billy said this morning these people could literally strike anywhere, and no one anywhere is safe anymore – it’s a chilling thought, but we all now have to live with it.

  It’s ironic to think that any other time the whole town would be buzzing with the unbelieveable victory the Westmeath footballers had on Sunday, when, after well over a hundred years of trying, they finally managed to beat their neighbours Meath in a Senior Football Championship match. However, as laudable an achievement as it is, and any other time it certainly would be, today it doesn’t seem to matter very much, and, I suppose it puts everything into perspective. All I can do is express my sincere sympathy to the Hayes and Kelly families. May Larry and Martina rest in peace.

 

‘Till next week,

Bye for now 

    

Berkeley tragedy touches a nation

I know it’s almost a week since the terrible accident in Berkeley, San Francisco (I am writing this on Monday morning), but even after all that time it is still hard to take in the enormity of the tragedy and the lifelong effect it will have, not only on the families of the six deceased, but also on the friends and families of the seven students who are, in some cases, still fighting for their lives.

Parents everywhere will be familiar with the small gnawing worry and pain that we all feel when our kids (although adults by then) are away, which is really only tempered with the realisation that we have to let them go – and thankfully in the vast majority of cases they come home again safe and well and all the better for the experiences they have gained in very many different parts of the world.

In 2001, on the occasion of 9/11, two of my children were in the USA and, even though they were well away from the actual impact points of the four hijacked planes, we were very glad when they finally managed to get out of America and it was a source of great relief when they were back on our own little island.

One of the many articles I’ve read this week talked about how most new parents think that all their worries about their children will disappear when they grow up! Nothing could be further from the truth, as at least when they are young, parents can protect them, keep them safe and generally know where they are. It all changes when they get older and even when they go out at night to discos or whatever, in their local towns, many mothers (particularly) will tell you they don’t sleep a wink until their son or daughter is safely tucked up asleep in their own beds.

To go through what all those families have in the last week or so is unimaginable and I certainly haven’t got the words to describe their pain and desolation, so all I can do is say a few prayers and hope that sometime in the future they may in some small way come to terms with their loss.

Please God, the injured will make good recoveries, although it will obviously take time and for the six deceased all I can say is may they rest in peace.

Gun law in America

Staying in America, surely something must be done to soon put an end to the sale of guns, which seem to be almost as easy to get as a packet of sweets, but which in the wrong hands so often result in terrible massacres, such as happened in a Church in South Carolina last week.

I am not a psychologist, some would say I might need one, but it’s impossible to figure out what goes through the mind of someone like 21-year-old Dylan Roof, who sat in the Church for a full hour before opening fire and killing nine black members of the South’s oldest African-American congregation. Roof was a hate-filled white supremacist, who wanted to start a race war, but at a service in the reopened Church on Sunday morning, which was a celebration of faith, love, dignity and courage, the overwhelming message was that his warped objective had failed.

Still, it’s just one of several such multiple-killings in America over the years – at least 70 in the last 20 years – and despite loud protestations from the gun lobby activists, it has surely now come to the stage that something must be done.

Barack Obama himself made reference to the fact that such mass killings do not take place on anything like the same scale in any other parts of the civilized world and he said it’s something that must be faced up to sooner rather than later.

I don’t understand how it can be right that practically anyone can buy a gun, or several guns, without any real vetting or monitoring in the US, but it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that if you give weapons to everyone that wants to buy them, you are looking for trouble.

I suppose, as after every other incident, there will be an outcry for a few days and then all will be forgotten and nothing will change. We’ll wait and see.

Enjoyable trip to Carrigaline

Changing subjects, and going to nicer and better things, Carol and myself found ourselves spending the weekend in Carrigaline in County Cork and yet again it proved that when the weather is nice, it’s hard to beat our own country.

We were staying in an amazing place which seemed to be slightly off the beaten track, the Fernhill Golf and Country Club Hotel, a couple of miles outside the village of Carrigaline – and I can only tell you that if you ever find yourself down that way, you could do worse than give them a call.

The staff were extremely friendly, food was both good value and good, the pints of Guinness got a triple A rating and, to top it all off, the weather was amazing! I don’t do many weekends away so it was great to hit on such a beautiful place and thanks and well done to all in the Fernhill, especially barman Gerry.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever be back down that part of the world, but if I am I’ll certainly sample your hospitality again.

On the way home, in I think it was Buttevant, I saw a pub called Maureen’s and it reminded me of our own Maureen, who ran a most wonderful bar, Pigott’s, in Creggs for years and years. If I had time I would have gone in for a look but as I was trying to get home for the Creggs-Kilglass Junior Championship match in the Hyde, which Creggs won, I had to keep going.

However it was nice just to see Maureen’s and who knows, maybe sometime in the future I’ll be back.

By the way, I often hear people talking about places with strange names and as I passed through the village of Newtwopothouse, I thought to myself that it should be included, so Newtwopothouse is my entry in the strange names competition!

And finally…

Finally for this week, back in the 70’s and 80’s, Jury’s Hotel in Dublin ran the most amazing summer cabaret season, with all kinds of popular entertainers performing.

You had top singers like Tony Kenny or Red Hurley headlining the show, with comedians, Irish dancers and all sorts of musical artists completing the line-up.

The shows were always a sell-out and I myself went to see them a time or two when I was a young lad – and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Well, apart from one night when I was evicted, but that’s for another day.

The great news I have, is that the wonderful singer from Ballymoe, Annette Griffin, informs me that, starting on 8th July a similar summer cabaret season is coming to the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris and it will be on the lines of the old Jury’s Cabaret.

Next week I’ll give you all the details, but this a most exciting development, so promise yourself you’ll take in at least one show before they end in early September and I can assure you, you won’t regret it.

‘Til next week

Bye for now

Big money, big €5m mess…at least Big Jack cheered us up!

I won’t claim to be an expert on FIFA or world soccer matters, but it’s safe to say that the dogs on the street would have known for many years that the stench of bribery and corruption hung heavily in the air over the soccer world governing body.

  It has long been suspected that the granting of major soccer tournament finals, with the massive financial benefits that accrue to the country that gets them, depended on the size of the brown envelopes that changed hands, and recent events have only served to confirm that suspicion.

  Here at home the FAI have managed to blunder along for years with what almost seems to be a certain degree of farce, with, as they say, the right hand not having a clue what the left hand was doing, and it seems that under the stewardship of John Delaney, nothing has changed.

  The €5m payment that the FAI received from FIFA, as a result of the Thierry Henry ‘handball goal’ in a World Cup qualifier against France in 2009, has sparked worldwide controversy, and indeed led to Enda Kenny describing it as remarkable – and there are certainly a lot of awkward questions to be answered.

  And so, in my opinion, you would expect the Chief Executive to keep his head down, and get ready to sort out the mess that himself and his association now find themselves in – not so with Delaney, as on every newspaper in the country on this Monday morning there he is having a snog with his partner, Emma English, during the Ireland-England soccer international in The Aviva on Sunday afternoon.

  Now, under normal circumstances, giving his girlfriend a kiss (although in my opinion he’s a bit long in the tooth for such a public display of affection) might just be acceptable, but I would have to say it was just a little stupid and unnecessary in the present climate.

  It’s highly likely that the five million payment was properly accounted for, although kept very quiet, but you’d have to wonder did FIFA, under Sepp Blatter, deal with all major problems the same way – i.e. write a cheque and tell the recipients to say nothing and that all would be well?

  Anyway, I’d say we’ll be seeing plenty of Mr. Delaney over the next few weeks and months and it will be interesting to hear what he has to say – I look forward to it all.

 

Big Jack’s back

 

Sticking with soccer for the moment, and everywhere we look we are being reminded of that magic summer 25 years ago, when Big Jack and his band of merry men brought the country on a journey of unbridled joy and craic as they made their way to the last eight in the World Cup of Italia ’90.

  And what a summer it was – the weather was fantastic and we watched the matches in glorious sunshine, drinking pints of cool lager to beat the band, and all the pubs entered into the spirit of the thing by giving away World Cup t-shirts (I still have the Hollywood Bar, Roscommon one), caps, free finger food, and for a full month in June 1990 the country experienced a flat-out summer party.

  Who does not remember the penalty shoot-out against Romania, when David O’Leary, who had been out in the cold for almost three years, after a falling out with Big Jack, scored with his penalty kick, after Packie Bonner had saved from Romania’s Timofte, to put us into the last eight.

  It was the moment that George Hamilton, who was doing the commentary, was to go down in folklore, when he issued the immortal line “The nation holds its breath”, as O’Leary prepared to shoot. On then to play Italy, the host country, in the last eight and history tells us that Toto Schillaci scored the goal that brought an end to one of the most amazing sports odysseys of all time.

  It all came back to me when I saw pictures of Big Jack (Charlton) at the Ireland/England game on Sunday afternoon, and the reception he got from both sets of fans showed how revered he is on each side of the Irish Sea – after all he was a World Cup winner with England in 1966, before having such a successful spell with Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s.

  And yet the suspicion lingers that Charlton didn’t get the best out of what was undoubtedly the best set of players in the history of Irish soccer – his long ball style meant that artists like Liam Brady were often bypassed, and a lot of people believe that we underachieved under Big Jack.

  The other thing that came into my mind was an interview with the late Bill O’Herlihy who said Charlton was a very awkward man to interview, and he felt he (Charlton) was always more accessible and amenable to reporters from England, and the English TV channels. It’s probably definite that Big Jack, being a tough English northerner, was fairly thick in his dealings with the Irish media, and, indeed some of his players, especially Brady and O’Leary, but, thick or not, all of us who were on that month-long party in 1990 will always be grateful to him for giving us something that will never be forgotten.

  Here’s to Italia ’90.

 

Why we should never

abuse GAA players

 

I didn’t set out to write about sport only, but sometimes I wonder about the lengths our county footballers and hurlers are expected to go to when representing their counties as they chase either the Sam Maguire or McCarthy Cups.

  Last week, hurling pundits, analysts and commentators alike, were all united in their criticism of Galway hurling ace Joe Canning, after he had an unusually poor outing in the drawn championship game against Dublin.

  What they made no allowance for at all was that the previous week Joe had picked up a very serious hand injury, which required sixteen stitches, and in my opinion, it’s highly doubtful that he should have played at all.

  It’s no secret that key players like Joe Canning can be rushed back into action for important games, but sometimes it can do more harm than good. As it happens Joe was back to his best on Saturday evening when he scored 2-3 from play in the impressive replay victory over the Dubs.

  However, sometimes I think that we lose sight of the fact that our hurlers and footballers are amateurs, but they are expected to train and behave like professionals, and as supporters we are not inclined to make any allowances at all if a fellow has an off-day.

  The tragic car accident that Galway footballer Shane Walsh was involved in on Friday night, which claimed the life of 55-year-old Tuam taxi driver, Mike Ward, also highlights the fact that our sports stars have the same triumphs and disasters as everyone else, so the next time you feel like abusing your county footballers or hurlers, maybe hold your fire, and realise they too have jobs and families, and if you were more talented and committed to the cause you too could be getting your share of the abuse.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, I’m told that Mick Roarke Senior celebrated his 93rd birthday at the weekend, and he’s as hale and hearty as ever. Congrats Mick, you’re closing in on the President’s cheque.

  ‘Till next week, Bye for now

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