Log in
Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

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

A story of uplifting human kindness

Human nature being what it is, it’s only normal and natural that on occasion we feel a little bit sorry for ourselves and there are times when we fully believe the whole world and its mother are against us. Nothing but bills seem to come through the postbox, and nowadays the banks and building societies and several other financial institutions can ring people on both their mobile and house phones, at all hours during the day, and you’d be at your wit’s end wondering where to turn.

  Everything seems to be getting more expensive, while private sector wages are showing no sign of even a modest increase and all in all it’s fully understandable when, like the weather, a modest depression settles in and then you see or hear something that makes you realise that you really have no problems at all.

  In the last seven days or so, the story of four-year-old Sebastian from Killaloe, Co. Clare, has shown me (and thousands more like me) that in truth we don’t have it too bad at all. Last Tuesday, Sebastian’s uncle, Kieran, contacted the Ray D’arcy Show on Radio One (RTE Radio), as he wanted help to recreate Christmas for his nephew, who had received the worst possible news after having an MRI scan a week or two ago.

  As a result, because the young lad loved Christmas so much, his parents decided to bring the feast forward by six months and hold it on Saturday 31st May. There were a few things required to make the special day possible, and the reaction as always of the Irish people was just amazing. Eleven helicopters to bring Santa to Killaloe (being out of season, he had to be brought from Finland), fire engines, Garda cars, minions to beat the band and all kind of everything were offered and one seven-year-old even offered their communion money.

  Nothing has ever got such a reaction in the history of RTE Radio and it says a lot for the generosity of the people of Ireland and in fairness to the people of Killaloe, they too entered into the spirit of the whole thing and all put up their Christmas tree lights, to make sure that young Sebastian’s day was the most special day possible. As I say, we may think we have problems, but something like this puts it all into perspective.

Dancing to Denver

Changing subjects entirely (thank God says you), and lightening up the mood, on Saturday night, I found myself at St. Croan’s GAA Club (Ballintubber and Ballymoe), fundraising dance in the Hub in Castlerea, where my favourite band of all time, the Mike Denver Band, were putting on their usual, wonderful musical performance.

  Before I hit the Hub, I called into Mulvihill’s Lounge in Castlerea, where I met up with the legend that is Danny Burke and in the course of a couple of quite pints, he brought me back to my days many years ago in the local branch of the Bank of Ireland. Thirty-six years ago, Johnny O’Hara retired from his job as porter in the aforementioned bank and I can still remember him being replaced by the young fresh-faced, Seamie Moran.

  Seamie is still as fresh-faced and as young looking as he was in 1979 and this week he retired after putting in all those years’ service with the bank. A big retirement do was held for him, also in Mulvihill’s on Friday night, and I’m told a large number of past and present Bank of Ireland officials turned up. Best wishes in the future Seamie and well done on such a long career in the bank. As it happens, the Creggs connection is still as strong as ever (well, maybe a bit stronger) as the present manager in the branch in the Square is our own neighbour, and long-time friend, Sean Beirne – and he tells me he’s mad to throw out a few euro.

  Anyway, back to the Hub and of course the drummer on Mike’s band is none other than Seamie’s first cousin, Castlerea’s one and only Sean (Bozo) Moran and it must have been great for him to play to such a huge crowd in his own home town. For a change I didn’t get to have a word with Bozo but I won’t have to wait too long as I see they’re playing at the Race Dance in Roscommon in The Abbey Hotel on next Monday, June 8th. If you’re free, go along, it will certainly be worth your while. Tell Joe Finnegan I sent you! I met many familiar faces in The Hub on Saturday night, including Johan Hayden, a long-time follower of the karaoke king, Michael Holland senior and junior, Mike Smyth (formerly of the Don Arms) and his wife Majella and many more whom I won’t embarrass by mentioning.

  It’s an amazing GAA club, who were only recently playing in the All-Ireland Intermediate Club final, and to put on such a big event takes an enormous community effort. Well done to all concerned and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I didn’t win the best jiver award on the night, but maybe I was gone before the winner was announced (I’m only joking! There was no such competition!)

 

The price isn’t right

 

It’s now Monday evening, and today I was at the Creggs versus Pearses Junior A Championship game, which was played in the most appalling conditions that I have ever seen. Why it had to be played on a Bank Holiday Monday I don’t know, but it didn’t make a lot of sense as everyone had to go back to work straight away after the game and I also have to say that €10 into a single junior football game is a bit excessive.

  A neighbour of mine told me during the game that, for €20, he has a stand ticket at the upcoming World Cup soccer qualifier against Scotland in the Aviva Stadium and his young son has a schoolboys ticket for €10. I know I’ll be accused of being anti-GAA, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have always been a GAA man and have been involved both as a player and a supporter since I was a child! I just think €10 is a bit pricey for a Junior football game.

  The problem of the Leaving Cert exam is also a big one, particularly for small rural clubs, and I just wonder could some of these fixtures not be put back till the Leaving Cert is over. As manager of last year’s Creggs team, I can tell you we had any amount of summer weekends where we had no game at all.

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, I wish to congratulate my own daughter, Tara, who had a very successful weekend jumping Crosswell Blue, at Mullingar International Show, which is one of the best and biggest equestrian facilities in the country and where Tara and Blue did us proud. Well done to both. ‘Til next week, Bye for now

A story of uplifting human kindness

 

Human nature being what it is, it’s only normal and natural that on occasion we feel a little bit sorry for ourselves and there are times when we fully believe the whole world and its mother are against us.

  Nothing but bills seem to come through the postbox, and nowadays the banks and building societies and several other financial institutions can ring people on both their mobile and house phones, at all hours during the day, and you’d be at your wit’s end wondering where to turn.

  Everything seems to be getting more expensive, while private sector wages are showing no sign of even a modest increase and all in all it’s fully understandable when, like the weather, a modest depression settles in and then you see or hear something that makes you realise that you really have no problems at all. In the last seven days or so, the story of four-year-old Sebastian from Killaloe, Co. Clare, has shown me (and thousands more like me) that in truth we don’t have it too bad at all.

  Last Tuesday, Sebastian’s uncle, Kieran, contacted the Ray D’arcy Show on Radio One (RTE Radio), as he wanted help to recreate Christmas for his nephew, who had received the worst possible news after having an MRI scan a week or two ago. As a result, because the young lad loved Christmas so much, his parents decided to bring the feast forward by six months and hold it on Saturday 31st May. There were a few things required to make the special day possible, and the reaction as always of the Irish people was just amazing.

  Eleven helicopters to bring Santa to Killaloe (being out of season, he had to be brought from Finland), fire engines, Garda cars, minions to beat the band and all kind of everything were offered and one seven-year-old even offered their communion money.

  Nothing has ever got such a reaction in the history of RTE Radio and it says a lot for the generosity of the people of Ireland and in fairness to the people of Killaloe, they too entered into the spirit of the whole thing and all put up their Christmas tree lights, to make sure that young Sebastian’s day was the most special day possible.

  As I say, we may think we have problems, but something like this puts it all into perspective.

           

Dancing to Denver

 

Changing subjects entirely (thank God says you), and lightening up the mood, on Saturday night, I found myself at St. Croan’s GAA Club (Ballintubber and Ballymoe), fundraising dance in the Hub in Castlerea, where my favourite band of all time, the Mike Denver Band, were putting on their usual, wonderful musical performance.

  Before I hit the Hub, I called into Mulvihill’s Lounge in Castlerea, where I met up with the legend that is Danny Burke and in the course of a couple of quite pints, he brought me back to my days many years ago in the local branch of the Bank of Ireland.

            Thirty-six years ago, Johnny O’Hara retired from his job as porter in the aforementioned bank and I can still remember him being replaced by the young fresh-faced, Seamie Moran. Seamie is still as fresh-faced and as young looking as he was in 1979 and this week he retired after putting in all those years’ service with the bank. A big retirement do was held for him, also in Mulvihill’s on Friday night, and I’m told a large number of past and present Bank of Ireland officials turned up. Best wishes in the future Seamie and well done on such a long career in the bank.

            As it happens, the Creggs connection is still as strong as ever (well, maybe a bit stronger) as the present manager in the branch in the Square is our own neighbour, and long-time friend, Sean Beirne – and he tells me he’s mad to throw out a few euro.

            Anyway, back to the Hub and of course the drummer on Mike’s band is none other than Seamie’s first cousin, Castlerea’s one and only Sean (Bozo) Moran and it must have been great for him to play to such a huge crowd in his own home town. For a change I didn’t get to have a word with Bozo but I won’t have to wait too long as I see they’re playing at the Race Dance in Roscommon in The Abbey Hotel on next Monday, June 8th. If you’re free, go along, it will certainly be worth your while. Tell Joe Finnegan I sent you!

  I met many familiar faces in The Hub on Saturday night, including Johan Hayden, a long-time follower of the karaoke king, Michael Holland senior and junior, Mike Smyth (formerly of the Don Arms) and his wife Majella and many more whom I won’t embarrass by mentioning. It’s an amazing GAA club, who were only recently playing in the All-Ireland Intermediate Club final, and to put on such a big event takes an enormous community effort.

  Well done to all concerned and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I didn’t win the best jiver award on the night, but maybe I was gone before the winner was announced (I’m only joking! There was no such competition!)

           

The price isn’t right

 

It’s now Monday evening, and today I was at the Creggs versus Pearses Junior A Championship game, which was played in the most appalling conditions that I have ever seen.

  Why it had to be played on a Bank Holiday Monday I don’t know, but it didn’t make a lot of sense as everyone had to go back to work straight away after the game and I also have to say that €10 into a single junior football game is a bit excessive.

  A neighbour of mine told me during the game that, for €20, he has a stand ticket at the upcoming World Cup soccer qualifier against Scotland in the Aviva Stadium and his young son has a schoolboys ticket for €10. I know I’ll be accused of being anti-GAA, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have always been a GAA man and have been involved both as a player and a supporter since I was a child! I just think €10 is a bit pricey for a Junior football game.

  The problem of the Leaving Cert exam is also a big one, particularly for small rural clubs, and I just wonder could some of these fixtures not be put back till the Leaving Cert is over. As manager of last year’s Creggs team, I can tell you we had any amount of summer weekends where we had no game at all.

 

           

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, I wish to congratulate my own daughter, Tara, who had a very successful weekend jumping Crosswell Blue, at Mullingar International Show, which is one of the best and biggest equestrian facilities in the country and where Tara and Blue did us proud. Well done to both.

 

‘Til next week,

Bye for now

Subscribe to this RSS feed