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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

Memories of Mattie, a superstar long before the Super 8s

 

 

It’s another beautiful Monday evening, and four of us have had a couple of very enjoyable hours playing golf in the gloriously peaceful surrounds of Castlerea Golf Club. However, because of the unusual rules that we play by, (nothing criminal, only unusual), myself and my partner find that, even though we won a few holes, drew a few, and only lost one (critically the last one), we are going home as the runners-up in our mini-tournament. And for some reason – maybe the lovely weather was also a factor – I found myself transported back in time to the days when the late Mattie McDonagh – still and probably for ever more  the most decorated Connacht footballer of all time with his four All-Ireland medals – used to host a regular soccer get-together at the back of his own house, outside Ballygar. In that mini-tournament, the ‘winners’ also only had to be ahead at the final whistle.

  I encountered the great Mattie at a number of sports…including golf, racquetball, tennis, rugby, hurling, football and soccer (both indoor and outdoor). His will to win was renowned, and in our soccer outings, at a certain stage, it always went to whoever “gets the next goal wins”, no matter what the score was at the time. We all knew that the game would carry on until Mattie’s team won. Many a Sunday evening saw the concession of a soft goal to ensure that Mattie won and we could go home.

  As Roscommon and Galway head off to the Super 8s and Croke Park this weekend, I just wondered is there anyone amongst them as focused on winning as Big Matt used to be. I really hope both western teams have a right go at it. Remarkably, I know the Rossies will attack the men from Tyrone – I just hope Kevin Walsh lets the Tribesmen off the leash and they take the battle to The Kingdom. I might be in the minority, but the Dubs showed last year how to play against the blanket defence, and I am sure Kevin McStay and his merry men don’t need me to tell them how to play, although if they want to call me I will gladly help. I believe the Rossies can spring an almighty shock on Saturday evening, and pour more pressure on Mickey Harte.

  As for Galway, last year they made no effort to take on Kerry, and let what at the time was a poor enough team beat them well. For us supporters, it was almost an embarrassment. This Galway team is well capable of winning as well, and, if both were to do so, wouldn’t it be great for the West?

  I don’t know anything about the politics of the GAA (some of ye would say I know nothing about anything). A simple mind, that’s mine, but it looks to me as if it would make sense to have both Western teams in Croke Park on Sunday. However, it is not to be, although I imagine a lot of people, me included, would like to make it to both games.

 

We’ll be calling!

 

It’s amazing how quickly the time is going, and how the years are passing, and so today I rang my friend Dave in Cancer Care West to organise the printing of posters and tickets for our Annual Dance in aid of Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund. It takes place this year on Saturday night, 15th of September, in Dowd’s, Glinsk, with music once again by the very popular Lancers.

  As usual we will be taking to the highways and the byways with the tickets, starting in two or three weeks’ time, so this is just a preliminary notice to let you know we will be calling, and we know you will support two very worthy causes.

 

Gearoid McInerney and Neymar…

 

The hurling last Sunday between Galway and Kilkenny was such a wonderful exciting contest that there can be no argument that hurling is one of the best, if not the best, field game of all.

  The effort put in by both sets of players was bordering on the heroic. When you compare that to the behaviour, particularly of Neymar, in the World Cup, you really have to wonder. Before I leave the World Cup – and obviously by the time this newspaper arrives in your door you will know if England have made it through to the World Cup final on Sunday, but on my way home from Castlerea on Monday night, and as I recovered from the disappointment of not being a champion golfer, I was amazed to realise that I could name the England starting eleven in 1966, without having to think twice.

  Banks, Wilson, Moore, etc…their names rolled off my tongue, and it nearly frightened me to think that as they get ready for this year’s semi-final, I would hardly know half their present team. Maybe I’m older (no maybe about it), but I think it’s also a reflection on how, personally, I have got fed up with the diving, moaning and cheating of the soccer multi-millionaires.

  Wouldn’t it be great to put one of them out in the middle of a serious intercounty hurling match, and see how they would get on – can you imagine Gearoid McInerney and Neymar going bald-headed for the sliothar! I’d say for a change the Brazilian superstar would have good reason to do a bit of rolling on the ground.

  Anyway, I’ve said all along that our neighbours can win it, and I certainly feel they will be in the final. After that, anything can happen.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, we had an unusual treble in Mikeen’s, when three local people –  Bobby Jennings, Michael Griffin and Sylvia Lynch – all celebrated their 7th of July birthdays.

  I received a photo entitled the 7th July babies, but you will agree the two lads are a long way removed from their baby days, (you could say they are fairly hairy babies), and despite extensive enquiries I couldn’t get their exact ages.

  The only thing I’m sure of is that none of them were born in the same year, and the nearest I got was an admission from Mike Griffin that there was quite a bit of VAT to be added to the 21 that he admitted to. Sylvia’s mother said (note pun) nothing, and the best DJ in the west (Bobby) sang dumb.

  Anyway, congrats to all three, but if they think they are special, the 14th April gang one year  had four people celebrating their birthdays in Mikeen’s, so the 7th July crew need one more for next year.

  However, well done, and here’s to many more.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to waste!

 

 

 

It’s another gloriously sunny Monday morning, and everywhere I look – on the telly and in the papers – all I can see is that we have a water crisis in the country, and Irish Water is threatening to bring people to court if they waste the precious commodity.

  Usage of hosepipes is banned in the Greater Dublin area, and they now cannot be used for watering gardens, washing cars, and filling swimming and paddling pools. Irish Water have taken on extra staff to man their helpline where members of the public can report people for breaches of the hosepipe ban – though somehow I can’t see too many people picking up the phone and telling whoever is on the line that their neighbour is using too much water.

  Now, anyone that knows me will know that I am no scientist or engineer, and that I may well be the most useless DIY man in history and if anything around the house needs to be done or fixed, I am definitely not your man. However, I still can’t understand why a couple of weeks’ sunshine can spell disaster to our population – from farmers to gardeners to restaurant owners, and in fact to nearly everyone!

  I have told you before of a little place in Spain that we go to nearly every year, and the big attraction of the area is that they have, on average, only 30-odd wet days a year. Yet, in the 15 or so years that we have been going there, we have never experienced any water shortage.

  On the other hand, here in Ireland we are nearly always complaining about the rain and our almost constant downpours, and it mystifies me as to how, in this day of amazing technology, we have not come up with a way to harness all this free water and have a reserve built up for – forgive the pun – a rainy day.

  Heavy snow, heavy rain, and now too much sun all seem to be able to bring this country to its knees, and I can only say there has to be a way to deal with all of these weather events. Maybe we should set up a think-tank, comprised of the of the best brains in the country (I know you’d want me on it, but I’m too busy), and figure out a way to deal with our different weather extremities as other countries around the world already do.

  A few years ago, my daughter spent some time in Minnesota in the US, where temperatures hit minus 30 degrees, and snowfall was more than two feet deep. Yet, remarkably, life just carried on with no apparent disruption to normal living – roads stayed open, people got to and from work, and all was good. Some time later, we got 4 or 5 inches of snow and the country ground to a halt – shops (including the one I work in) were closed, in our case for two full days, and roads became impassable.

  All I can say is surely it doesn’t have to be this way. I realise occurrences such as these are not extremely regular for Ireland, and maybe that’s why we have no plans in place to deal with them, but isn’t it time we did? Anyway, I’m off to yoke up the hosepipe, and water the flowers (only joking, as I might well be under surveillance!).

In defence of the Leinster final…

It’s funny how different people can take totally different things out of the same event, and Sunday’s Leinster Senior Hurling Final between Kilkenny and Galway is a case in point.

  On one of the daily papers that I buy (the Daily Mail), their reporter thought it was a rubbish game, with Galway being particularly bad. Meanwhile, a number of reporters in the Indo agreed with my assessment that it was the type of game which separates hurling from all other sports, (except maybe rugby), establishing it as one in which courage, heart, fearlessness and almost manic commitment are exhibited by every single player on the pitch.

  Much was made of the relatively low scoring, but it was the heroic defending by both sides, with players ‘putting their lives on the line’, that kept the scores down. Apart from the fact that I was obviously supporting Galway, I thoroughly enjoyed what was a true battle, and hopefully we will get more of the same next Sunday.

  On a lighter note, isn’t it strange to have a Leinster final take place in a Munster venue with a Connacht team taking part? It could only happen in Ireland, and whatever happens in the replay, I expect both of these teams to have a huge say in the final destination of the MacCarthy Cup.

And finally…

Eddie is an Internet sensation!

Finally for this week, out here in Creggs for a good few years now we have known Eddie Gavin as a County Council foreman (now retired), a hard-working farmer, a renowned horse man, a great character, and a good neighbour and friend, but never in our wildest dreams (or his, I’d say) did we think he would become an Internet sensation and a film star at this stage of his life.

  However, this week we have seen the release of a beautiful documentary by filmmaker Donal Maloney called, ‘Up the Mountain’, which tells us of Eddie’s struggles to deal with the death of his beloved wife, Teresa, a woman he freely admits he loved to bits, and how his love of, and for, horses helped him to rebuild his life.

  The filmmaker spent a few days with Eddie on his farm up the mountain and at the horse fair in Ballinasloe – and while I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the finished work, it gives us a great insight into the life and times of Eddie, who, at the end of it all, is primarily a horse man whose love of family comes shining through.

  Usually documentaries like this are made on some type of famous celebrities, and generally they are lightweight tributes to their subjects. This one is different in that it’s about an ordinary everyday man, and doesn’t sugarcoat the trials and tribulations of a man who is just like you and I and who lives in the real world. I think the film is to be found on Facebook, so if you can, make sure you have a look at it. And as a lad whose father came from the Newbridge side of Mount Mary, all I can say is well done Eddie, and ‘Up the Mountain!’

Till next week, 

Bye for now!

 

Yes…a day at the seaside!

 

 

There aren’t many good things about getting older, but one of them definitely is that I now only work three days a week, and particularly when we get a spell of weather like we have now, it’s a great bonus to only report for work on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of each week.

  And so on yesterday morning, as the sun was splitting the stones, myself and Carol loaded the car and headed for one of my favourite spots in Ireland, the still relatively unspoit beautiful seaside resort of Rosses Point, outside Sligo town (just in case you didn’t do geography in the national school). Unusually for us, we actually got away at the planned time of 11 o’clock.

  Even with me at the wheel (my family regard me as a tortoise driver) and having made a couple of pit stops, we arrived to our destination some time around 12.30 pm. While there was a reasonable crowd around, we could see that there was lots of space on the beach, and in a matter of moments we were spread out on the lovely warm sand. If we didn’t know better we could have thought we were on the Costa Brava in Spain.

  As the time went by the crowds got bigger and bigger, and, soon the water was packed with holiday-makers of all ages, shapes and sizes, and I have to say it was a joy to behold.  Not for the first time, we came to the conclusion that there is nowhere to beat Ireland when the weather is good, and we thoroughly enjoyed our few hours at the Co. Sligo seaside.

  Before we left I decided to take a stroll along the water’s edge after dipping my toes in the warm seawater. As I walked I could see a group of six or seven young girls having a bit of fun playing around in the sea. As I neared them they burst into a chorus of Jingle Bells, and Santa Claus is coming to town (if you see a recent picture of me you will know why), and to make matters worse a group on the other side of the beach joined in.

  And so, on one of the warmest days of the year, far removed from the snow and ice of the winter, a little bit of Christmas came to Rosses Point and Santa Claus was left wishing he had never come to town. Only kidding, it was good fun – and when we hit the road for home in the early evening we vowed to make a return visit as soon as we can

So proud of Irish rugby heroes

A question that is often asked of Creggs folk  is ‘How did such a small village produce a top quality rugby club?’

  Forty years later the answer is still a mystery. Certainly a meeting took place in Dowd’s in  Glinsk in the early 1970s – after a local funeral – and the usual explanation is that the club was formed out of that meeting, which it most certainly was.

  However, the biggest reason for me was that a lot of lads from around the area were already involved in rugby elsewhere, and it was simply a matter of getting those lads to throw their lot in with their own local club.

  And so, for me, a lifelong interest in all things rugby was born. Down through the years, at our own local level, interprovincial level, and  of course at national level, we have experienced some amazing lows, along with some extraordinary highs, and at the moment Irish rugby is once again in a very healthy state.

  As supporters of the Irish team we have had two Grand Slams to celebrate inside the last decade, which is extraordinary itself, and there is no doubt that the 2009 team, with Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara to the fore, were a superb rugby team, but for sheer heart, guts and will to win it would be hard to beat the present lot.

  Last Saturday morning in the cauldron that was Sydney, Australia, the Irish team put everything on the line to claim a 2-1 victory in a series that brought intensity, commitment and bravery to a new level. As we claimed our first win ‘down under’ for 39 years, I don’t think I was ever as proud of any bunch of lads as I was of those Irish heroes.

  For some reason (it’s because they have a simple enough crossword) I get the Daily Mail, and for ages now they have their knives in one CJ Stander, whose crime is that he was born in South Africa, and even though he is fully entitled to play for Ireland, the rugby writers on the Mail are always on his case (along with our hero Bundee Aki), one or two because he is keeping some Irish players off the team, and some more always saying he’s not good enough and has no pride in the Irish jersey.

  If ever they got their answer they got it over this series when Stander, along with the rest of the Irish panel, was absolutely outstanding, and for a man ‘lacking pride in the jersey’, his tackling, carrying, running and hitting was just fantastic.

  Back in the day when we as a nation were going stone crazy during the Euros of 88 and the World Cups (soccer) of ‘90 and ‘94, no-one ever minded that a lot of our team had never kicked a ball in Ireland, bar a few such as Packie Bonner and Paul McGrath. A lot of the players who qualified on the very useful grandparents rule had never even been to Ireland. That didn’t matter at all, and to this day fellows like Ray Houghton, John Aldridge and Tony Cascarino are feted wherever they go in this country, despite winning nothing at all with their adopted country.

  CJ has won a Grand Slam, a series in Australia, and above all, he plies his trade for Munster – in this country – so in my opinion it’s time to give him the credit he’s due and leave him – and Bundee – alone.

  As for the future, when the history of Irish rugby is written, the names of Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Tadgh Furlong and Robbie Henshaw will rank with the names of our greatest-ever players, and I for one am very proud of their achievements and very thankful that they give absolutely everything to the cause..

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, Maria Fitzmaurice has asked me to tell ye all about a big night the Glinsk Ladies Club and Caislean Oir Community School are hosting on next Friday, June 29th when they have a Glinsk Fair day tea party.

  It all begins with Mass at 8 pm in the local Church, followed by a tea party in Dowd’s/ Glencastle Lounge. If you wish to host a table, call Margaret on 094-9655040 or Finola 094-9655885, and after you’ve eaten and drank your fill, Carmel McLoughlin and friends will have you dancing along with James Shevlin and the Fair of Glinsk song.

  Mildred Byrne and line dancers will be there, and there will be prizes for the best dressed.  Maria promises a great night’s craic, and I for one believe her, so don’t forget…get to Mass first, and then to Dowd’s and have yourself a ball!

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Walsh inspires Galway – but Roscommon can make Super 8s too

It’s Saturday night in Mikeen’s and Creggs GAA Club are holding an ‘Up for the Match’ fundraiser, where the club had a draw for two stand tickets for the big game, and also got the views of a couple of well-known local personalities, namely Roscommon County Secretary Brian Carroll, local Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, Karol Keane (recently returned from the U.S.) and – for some unknown reason – me.

  Karol and myself were first on, and he went for a Rossie win (by three) naturally enough. I went for Galway by four, (pure genius) but the real insight was to come from the other pairing.

  Brian had to go for a home victory as well, but he did say that if Galway played to their full potential, it would be a tough task for the incoming Connacht champions. However, it was Fitz who made what was to prove the most correct assessment of all when the M.C. Paul Brown asked him who would make the biggest impact for Galway, and, surprisingly, he went for Shane Walsh ahead of Damien Comer.

  Today, Monday, his words could not have been more prophetic, because Walsh took the game by the scruff of the neck and almost singlehandedly dragged Galway across the winning line.

  The story of the game will be well covered in the sports columns, so I am not going to add my assessment, but the suitability of the Hyde as the venue should never again be questioned as it was absolutely top class. It’s so accessible from everywhere. There are no major traffic jams, and it’s only a couple of minutes walk from the town centre. As far as I’m concerned it’s miles better than any of the other Connacht venues, and all steps should be taken to make sure it gets its fair share of big matches.

  The truth about the result is it doesn’t really matter, (as long as Galway won) so there was a slow boat back to Creggs, and the banter and the craic was good, and, for both teams the Super 8s beckon. Galway are there already, but one more win will see the Rossies back in the mix. It could be a very interesting summer.

  Staying with sport, and one of the big talking points is the introduction of non-competitive games right across the board for our very young children. I for one think it’s a great idea. It’s terribly sad to see kids at 6, 8 or 10 years of age being heartbroken when they lose a final, and it’s way too young to have a ‘win at all costs’ mindset already in place.

  Enjoyment is what sport should be all about, but of course parents must shoulder some of the responsibility as well, because we have all seen daddies and mammies roaring abuse at their own team, at the opposition team and at the referees. In my opinion there is nothing more shameful.

  There should be no trophies in any sport, at least till U-12 level. Everyone should be allowed to play and enjoy games without the pressure of having to win, and maybe that way children might actually play longer and more, because there is no doubt that many of them give up due to the pressure they are put under by parents/managers. There seems to be a movement afoot to tackle the problem. I hope there is –  and let’s see what happens.

Is Ryanair right on banning drink in the mornings?

Today’s newspapers are full of the story of a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Ibiza that had to be diverted to Paris  because of the unruly antics of up to 20 drunken passengers, three of whom were removed from the aircraft by French police.

  Ryanair have called for the ban of early morning drink sales in airports, and while some commentators are labelling such a ban as draconian, I have to admit that one of my biggest nightmares has to be the thought of a large group causing trouble on any flight, with absolutely no way to escape.

  I’m not a prude, particularly when it comes to alcohol, and I’m not always a Ryanair fan, but this time I think they are right, and groups with too much drink taken should not be allowed on board.

Just the tonic! Gin is so in…

It’s amazing how ideas change through the years, and depending on where you look you find that, in some people’s opinion, nearly everything we eat is bad for us. In truth if we were to believe all we read we’d give up on all foods and eat nothing at all.

 

  However, on this Monday morning, as I recover from the exertions of yesterday’s Connacht Final, it’s the extraordinary turnaround in the fortunes of the drink of gin that is occupying my mind. Gin has suddenly become such a popular drink that only last Saturday week we had the World Gin Day, a day that is described as “a global celebration of all things gin”. Celebratory events took place all over the world.

  When I was a young lad, gin was a drink that was frowned upon by the establishment, and we were told that, among other things, it brought on massive bouts of depression! Today, it is, in my opinion, the most popular short drink, and in even the humblest of public houses you now have a selection of a minimum of six different brands, a long cry from the days when the only ones available were Cork Dry Gin and Gordon’s.

  Now I am a committed Guinness man, but even I can tell you about Gunpowder, Dingle, Bombay, Hendrick’s and Concullen, among at least 31 brands that are available in Ireland.

  Everywhere you go there are punters drinking their gins out of exotic looking fishbowl glasses, topped off with some of the new tonics which have also cropped up, like Elderberry and Fever Tree’s Indian tonic water. I’m even told there are pubs and hotels, that serve nothing but gin, so as a popular drink it certainly seems to have thrown off its depression label.

  For me, the major source of depression is the price, as I’m told the cost of a Gunpowder gin and a Fever Tree tonic is about €8; think I’ll stick to the porter.

 Finally for this week

Finally, for this week, on a midday radio show I happened to hear Knockcroghery shopkeeper Brendan Ward telling the story of how he was robbed for the ninth time in eighteen years recently, and how the theft of money and cigarettes may ultimately put him out of business, how he could not afford the enormous premiums required by insurance companies to cover cigarette theft, and how he was driven to despair by the whole experience.

  As I listened to his desperately sad tale, one point he made seemed to make a lot of sense, and that was to have a permanent Garda presence on the bridges over the Shannon, as by doing so, the escape route for any Dublin-based criminal gangs would be almost cut off, and, looking at the map of Ireland, they would have to go all the way to near Sligo to get back  without crossing the Shannon.

  Now I know we will be told about all the usual stuff, regarding lack of resources and personnel, but surely when these gangs are putting good, honest, hard-working people out of business, something has to be done. Come on all ye politicians and Gardai, put your heads together and put these scumbags out of business, behind bars, and finally let the residents of rural Ireland get some peaceful sleep!

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

Rough medicine: Did this man really deserve a jail sentence?

 

 

On Thursday of last week a small report in the national newspapers told us that a family doctor in north county Dublin had been sent to jail for sixteen months for failure to pay almost €100,000 in income tax.

  The doctor, Dr. Bassam Naser, who has lived in Ireland for thirty years, and who has seven children, admitted his wrongdoing and was prepared to pay the €100,000 that he owed –and indeed had a cheque in court to cover the entire amount. Despite this, and the fact that he does a huge amount of charity work for his native Palestine, and that he has a vibrant popular medical practice, the Judge in his wisdom felt that he should send this man to prison.

  Now I am aware that people should pay their taxes, and I am not privy to all the relevant information that the good Judge had in front of him, but in this case I cannot see any benefit in sending a hard-working family man to jail.

  Every so often there is a list of tax defaulters published in the national newspapers, and in many cases the amounts involved can be much greater than the €100,000 that the doctor owed – and I have never heard of any of those people being incarcerated.

  I would have to say that back in the day tax evasion seems to have been almost a popular way of life amongst a lot of our ‘bigger’ business people.

  On the same page in the paper, there was a story of a 20-year-old lad who stole a bus while drunk, drove it around the M18 motorway, crashed it into a wall, doing more than €5,000 worth of damage to the bus (and the wall), and who then walked free from court – well, with fines totalling €600 and a four-year driving ban.

  Now, again I accept he made a stupid mistake, and more than likely won’t re-offend, but why he avoided prison when his drunk-driving could have resulted in a major accident (particularly on a motorway) – and the doctor didn’t – makes me once again wonder at the workings of our legal system.

  There seems to be a lot of disquiet about the prison sentence handed down to Dr. Naser, so  maybe something might yet be done. Personally I hope he is pardoned, let him pay what he owes, get on with his daily work, and continue to give what appears to be an excellent service to his many happy clients.

  Just out of curiosity I decided to have a look at the last list of tax defaulters published in Stubb’s Gazette, and in the last few years there were judgements of up to €750,000, several in the €300,000-€400,000 bracket, loads more above €200,000, a good number around the €100,000 figure, and as far as I could see they all came to some agreement with the Revenue, were listed as tax defaulters, and no-one was either sent to jail or criminalised.

  Why there is one law for the ‘Good Doctor’ and another one for the hundreds if not thousands of other tax avoiders beats me, and my gut reaction is that it’s very unfair and not morally correct.

Thank God for sporting heroics

All I can say is thank God for all the magnificent sports people who week in week out put on amazing entertainment in so many different sports to keep all of us sport fanatics glued to the TV screens. 

  Normally, with another local Galway- Roscommon derby on the horizon next Sunday, and the start of the 2018 Soccer World Cup also happening this week, those would be the events which would be occupying my mind on this lovely Monday morning.

  However, over the weekend there were a few happenings in other sports that captured my attention, notably the achievement of tennis player Rafael Nadal, when despite an agonising attack of cramp in – of all places – his serving hand, he won an incredible 11th French Open.

  I am not a regular viewer of tennis matches, so when I used my parental prerogative to watch the last couple of sets – instead of the Dublin and Longford mismatch – I have to admit that my popularity in the home was at an all-time low. However, the Spaniard overcame every obstacle and deservedly made his own piece of history, and at 32 years of age he – along with Roger Federer – is proving that the elder statesmen are still capable of dominating a game that is generally regarded as a young man’s sport.

  In boxing, Tyson Fury made a winning comeback in a fight that was a complete joke, when he forced Sefer Seferi, a limited opponent who was nearly 5 stone lighter than Fury, to retire after 4 rounds of comic book boxing. As I watched the action (not sure that’s the right word), the only thought in my mind was…if by any chance Fury slipped and fell on his opponent he might conceivably kill him – he definitely wasn’t going to do any major damage with his punching.

  Talking of punching, an unusual incident took place on Sunday during what was described as a weighing room fracas in Goodwood, when two jockeys, Raul Da Silva and Jim Crowley, had a disagreement which ended with Da Silva punching the former champion jockey, splitting his lip, and incurring a 21-day riding ban for ‘violent conduct’. We are always being told about the great camaraderie that exists between all the jockeys. Obviously not in this case, but why they bothered beats me – as Da Silva had finished last of nine runners, with Crowley in fifth place.

  That was certainly a battle of two lightweights, but back to next Sunday’s Connacht final and we have two heavyweights in Western football going head to head in a mouthwatering clash in the Hyde. I have my ticket got, must dig out my fading Tommy Varden jersey, and be ready for another Titanic battle.

  I won’t be popular with followers of the Tribesmen, but I am not convinced that they are deserving of all the hype they are getting, and bearing in mind that the Rossies beat them by nine points in Salthill last year, I am giving a very hesitant and reluctant vote to Roscommon, and I fear we’ll have another sad Sunday evening in Mikeen’s listening to the pontifications of our victorious neighbours.

  However, hope springs eternal, and maybe Damien Comer and the lads can dig deep and avenge last year’s defeat. Wouldn’t I, like Kevin Keegan famously said, love that!

And finally…

Finally for this week, the funds from the Barrie Harris Walk were distributed at a ‘do’ in Mikeen’s on Saturday night last, and we had a great night of music, porter and craic. To my cardiologist’s delight, I polished off several sandwiches, lovely cream eclairs and a few slices of Bina’s fabulous apple pie.

  I am back in training for the next St. Stephen’s Day Walk, and Saturday night’s break-out on the confectionary front is my last for at least a week or two as I have to mind my figure. Anyway, it was a great night, the Walk as usual was a great success, and almost €12,000 is being distributed to many worthy charities.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

A day with the ‘horsey set’ – and reflections on that phantom goal

 

It’s the Bank Holiday Monday, and I’m up with the lark (well maybe a slightly lazy lark), feeling fit as a fiddle (maybe a slightly rusty one), after a Sunday night spent at home (not a pint to be seen), watching the Sunday Game, and like the rest of the country, enjoying some extraordinary hurling drama, drama that I will get to a bit later on in the piece.

  Anyway, on Monday the big question was “where would we go?” There was a festival on in Loughglynn, the big fair day and loads of other attractions in Athleague, the final day of the Bloom Festival was on in Dublin, all attractive places to spend a few relaxing hours, but in the end we didn’t go to any of them – instead we hit for Mullingar, where a big international showjumping competition was taking place.

  Now I knew there had been qualifiers for several different classes taking place all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but nothing could, or would, have prepared us for the sheer size of the whole event.

  The first thing we saw was literally hundreds of horse lorries, horseboxes pulled by jeeps, vans, cars and SUVs, and there were people (old and young) everywhere, and as for ponies and horses…there had to be thousands of them there.

  Our girl, Tara, who had a very successful show, had arranged to meet us, but we didn’t realise there were four big outdoor sand arenas, all hosting different competitions, along with warm-up areas, bars, fast food outlets, ice cream sellers, horse clothing stalls and hurdy gurdy stalls all over the massive area. It took a few minutes and a few phone calls before we finally met up.

  Anyway she was involved in a competition in which 176 horses had taken part over the three days, so as that was only one of several different competitions, it will give you an idea of how many horses and riders had come to Mullingar. So she headed off to do her stuff and we pottered round the place.

  There was a major international show taking place on the Main Arena, with prize-money of €25,000, so the attendance there was huge, but we rambled from arena to arena and had great fun watching all the classes from ponies with children as young as four years old to fellas as long in the tooth as myself. I have to say it was a great day’s entertainment.  

  The Mullingar Equestrian Centre is just out of this world, and worth a visit if you get the chance. The organisation, from parking to looking after very busy toilets, to even picking up the rubbish, was first class, and before I finish I have to say that we had the nicest burgers we ever tasted from the Arena’s food area. In total, there was €100,000 on offer, and with the prize-money so big, needless to say the riders and horses came from all over the country  and further afield too. In our short enough visit we met people from Tyrone, Waterford, Donegal and Tipperary.

  Now I am the first to admit that I am not a horsey person, but I did enjoy the day out. If Mullingar was anything to go by, the horse industry seems to be in fairly good health, even to my uneducated eye.

  Anyway, back to the hurling drama, and as we watched one of the jumping competitions we got talking to a young couple with three children, who were seated beside us. They were from Bernaderg, Padraig Joyce country, and it transpired that the man, Paul, was the son of Oliver King, a great Galway man who had been a guard in Creggs and who had introduced a lot of us to the game of hurling way back in the 1980s. It also happened that Oliver was the umpire at the Tipp/Waterford match, the one who didn’t flag (lucky for him) the controversial goal, so he’s blameless, but in this day and age, with so much riding on the result of these big games, it was one of the most outrageous umpiring and refereeing errors of all time.

  The Waterford manager, Derek McGrath, was amazingly forgiving about it all, but surely goal-line technology has to be brought into most if not all of the major hurling grounds. Thankfully when Oliver lined out for Creggs in the junior hurling championship our backline was so watertight that no ball ever got near the goal, and as a result we never needed any major umpiring decisions. Come to think of it, we never had any umpires so controversy never arose.

Like Karius, I  had concussion…

 Talking of goals, and errors, way back in the 1980s I let in one of the softest goals of all time in the County Final against Ballinameen. What happened? I let a long-range kick bounce off the ground, and thinking it was going wide, I made no effort to stop it. Of course it ended up in the back of the net.

 

  It was something similar to what the Liverpool goalie (Karius) did in the recent Champions League final (although he at least tried to save their third goal), but now it seems that, according to doctors in the U.S., he was suffering from concussion after a clash with Sergio Ramos (who else?).

  For a long time the goal that I conceded has been heavy on my mind, but I finally know what happened, and I am now declaring that I too was concussed on that fateful day (as I certainly had a headache the following morning). Like Karius, I am not to blame for that unfortunate concession.  

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, don’t forget the Barrie Harris funds are being distributed this Saturday night in Mikeen’s in Creggs.

  There will be music, refreshments and craic, and all are welcome. It will kick off about 9.30 pm, so we’ll see you there.

Till next week, Bye for now!

‘Real’ plight for ‘Pool: Karius and Bale…you couldn’t make it up!

 

 

Exaggeration and sport definitely go hand in hand, and even at low levels of competition, some sporting achievements grow legs, and especially in rugby. Tries by prop forwards, which, in reality, were nothing more than a push and a grunt from a yard or two, eventually involved a couple of 100 yard sprints, several outrageous dummies, before a scoring finish, completed by a flying dive, that would do justice to an Olympic high-diving final.

  Even in my unremarkable rugby career I once upon a time dropped a goal for Dundalk against Longford, in a Provincial towns cup game, from just about the halfway line, which in fairness was quite a decent kick!

  In Dundalk at the time, one of the great characters was a fellow called Paddy Boland, who was universally known as ‘the Bowler’, and who had, for some reason, good time for me. Before I left the Co. Louth town, the Bowler would tell anyone who cared to listen that my kick was scored from all of one hundred yards. It is doubtful if it was even half that far, but time and several pints of the best McArdles ale gave it the extra fifty or so yards.

  Another time, when I was enjoying a very short football career with Roscommon, Telefis Eireann showed highlights of the Rossies’ league match of 1974 – in which I took part – against the then All-Ireland champions, Cork.

  A number of our Creggs rugby lads were watching the game in the rugby club in Sligo, and by some miracle, I scored a goal and a couple of points, and so moved by my performance was a member of the audience, a Ballinasloe man who was also a selector with the Connacht junior rugby side, that he announced to all and sundry that I would be playing with the Connacht juniors, and that I, as a scrum-half, had a forty-yard pass. Now, he was totally carried away, because firstly I wasn’t picked for the Juniors, but, more importantly, my maximum pass, even with a gale-force wind helping me, would have been closer to forty feet (some might even say forty inches) than forty yards.

  All of these things flashed through my mind on Saturday evening as I watched Liverpool’s valiant bid for European honours being dismantled by a combination of Mo Salah’s injury, a goal by Gareth Bale that has to be the best ever scored in a Champions League final, and two of the greatest goalkeeping errors of all time, and I thought to myself that no amount of exaggeration can ever come close to the reality of the actual events.

  Now I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a long-time supporter of Manchester Utd., but for some reason I have never bought into the supposed hatred that exists between Liverpool and Utd. I actually have a high regard for the Merseyside Reds, and I was definitely not amongst the Utd. fans who hoped for a Madrid victory.

  Now because we had such a wonderful couple of years with Ronaldo, I would still have a soft spot for him, but as I settled down to watch the final, I really wasn’t bothered as to who would win, and all I was hoping for was a match worthy of the occasion. And so the stage was set for a great game, and for the first half hour or so, it looked as if Liverpool were by far the better team. They had the much-vaunted Madrid men chasing shadows. Then everything changed when the wonderful Mo Salah went off injured – and from there to the finish the game had a totally different feel. 

  And yet Madrid were doing nothing to suggest they were capable of winning their three-in-a-row, until the Liverpool goalie, Karius, made the first of two unbelievable mistakes that nothing could prepare him or the supporters or the management team for. The two errors he made will never be forgotten by any of the millions of people who saw them, and as I say, the enormity of the mistakes can never be exaggerated. My immediate reaction is to be sorry for Karius, and I genuinely hope he can get over the terrible personal disappointment that he suffered, and maybe he can still have a decent career, but probably not in Liverpool. And then we had the Bale overhead kick that was just sensational, and all of a sudden, and totally undeservedly, Real Madrid were celebrating their own momentous achievement and Jurgen Klopp and his men were left to dwell on what might have been.

  I like Klopp, and I was proud to see him singing with a group of supporters at six o’clock the next morning –definitely my type of manager. I for one believe he will conquer England and Europe in the next few years.

A hero amidst the horror

The brutal murders of Jastine Valdez, Ana Kriegel and Cameron Reilly in the last few weeks have both shocked and horrified the nation, and begs the question as to what kind of society we have become.

  All three incidents resulted in three young, innocent lives being lost in the most appalling circumstances, but I have to say that the possibility that Cameron Reilly was actually killed in front of a number of witnesses, male and female, who watched as he was strangled to death, and did nothing to prevent it, and have kept their mouths shut since, is just mind-boggling.

  If it is true, then I sincerely hope the Gardai can get to the bottom of it and ensure that everyone there pays the price for their actions – or in this case their inactions.

  Compare that to the heroism displayed by Mamoudou Gassama, the 22-year-old illegal immigrant in Paris, when he scaled a four-storey apartment building with his bare hands to save a four-year-old child from falling to a certain death, without any thought for his own safety. How good to know that in a world that seems to have less and less regard for morals, or human goodness, there is still an odd one out there that can restore some faith in human nature – I am delighted to see that the French have acknowledged the young man’s magnificent deed by making him a citizen, offering him a job with the Fire Brigade and arranging a private meeting with the French Michael D., President Emmanuel Macron. As they say over there Bien joue – that’s ‘well done’ in French.

And finally…

Finally for this week, our own First Lady out here in Creggs – Bina Harris – tells me that the distribution of the proceeds of the Barrie Harris Walk will take place in Mikeen’s on Saturday, 9th of June at 10 pm, and there will be music, all kinds of goodies, and a bit of craic. Everyone is invited.

  In this area, the Barrie Harris Walk is by far the biggest and best fundraiser, and each year contributes hugely to several local and indeed national and international charities, and the walk itself has become such an important event that people travel from all over the country to take part each St. Stephen’s Day.

  So make a date in your diary and head to Mikeen’s on Saturday, 9th of June, and we’ll see you there for a few pints and a bit of fun – might even get a song from the legendary Danny Burke.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

No Stones left unturned in frantic attempt to locate Ed tickets!

 

 

 

What a week we have had on the entertainment front with Ed Sheeran finishing off his nine-show tour of Ireland, during which he performed to 400,000 people (and grossed earnings of about €35 million) and as soon as he was finishing up in came four legendary rockers, the Rolling Stones, who I’m told absolutely blew 70,000 fans away in their Croke Park gig.

  I have to say that, in their different ways, I regard both acts as heroes. How one man and a guitar can put on such a wonderful show as the English-born redhead, Sheeran, always does (so I’m told) is quite astonishing, but it’s nearly more amazing that four elderly (I’m being kind) gentlemen whose combined ages total 294 years, with the youngest member of the group a mere 70 years young, can still wow an audience of 70,000 people.

  A lad I know who is a full-on Stones fan, and who has been to several of their shows down the years, told me that the gig in Croker was as good as he had ever seen or heard. It seems that like good wine they are getting better with age.    

  Anyway, back to Ed Sheeran, and last Sunday week my daughter went back to Dublin and inadvertently left an envelope with three tickets to the Wednesday night concert sitting on the mantelpiece in our sitting room. There was a small panic, but then we remembered there is a Post Office service called Express Post that (I am quoting directly from the receipt that I got) is guaranteed to get your delivery to its destination in the Republic of Ireland the next working day.

  And so, shortly after 9 am on last Monday morning, I paid the €8.25 fee in the Post Office and off went my three tickets to Dublin, and off I went home happy in the knowledge that, yet again, I had come to the rescue and another mini-crisis had been averted.

  Tuesday came and went, and when no tickets had made it to D15 there was no panic whatsoever – they would surely make it on Wednesday.

  My daughter was working through the night and when she got home about 11 am on the Wednesday and no letter had arrived, the alarm bells (and my mobile phone) began to ring. Thanks to Claire in our local PO I had kept my receipt, which had a tracking number, and so I began a series of phone calls to the Dublin phone number thereon, and I found out that it had definitely got as far as Dublin 12, but there the trail ended.

  As I write this on Monday evening of this week, seven and a half days later, that is where the tale ends. Why it never got to D15 they had no idea, but they promised they would look into it; that was last Friday and the very nice girl in Dublin that I spoke to just now has come to the conclusion that the letter is lost and unlikely to turn up at this stage. Even if it does, the concert is long over and the tickets would not be much use. In fairness, she told me how to go about getting my €8.25 back.

  I am very well aware that no blame lies with anyone in our local post office, and indeed I suppose no blame really lies with anyone, but all that surprises me is that in 2018 we cannot be sure that a letter posted in Creggs will make it to Dublin. Several people have said to me that if I had sent it by ordinary post (costing one euro) it would probably have got there, but I suppose we’ll never know. All I can say is my experience with Express Post has left me less than impressed.

  However, remarkably, there was a twist in the tale, as a friend advised me to send an email to Ticketmaster explaining my predicament, and some time after 3 o’clock on Wednesday evening I sent off my first communication. Several emails later I am delighted to tell you that the three tickets were re-printed and my daughter and her friends made it to the concert, and after all the drama, they said it – of course – was the best ever. 

  So all’s well that ends well, and while I have heard the odd criticism of Ticketmaster, I must say they were extremely helpful to us and went out of their way to ensure the matter was sorted out in a satisfactory manner.

Parking the bus (but still travelling along the road)

 

 

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am all set (even had an early dinner) to really enjoy the football game that everyone said would be one of the games of the summer…the local derby between Galway and Mayo.

  I am writing this on Monday evening – and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the horrible game that we had to sit through on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon. I suppose, as a Galway man, I should laugh – because, bad and all as it was to win such a turgid affair, it must be terrible altogether to lose it.

  The expression ‘parking the bus’ has managed to work its way into the English language to describe soccer teams who are overly defensive, but on Sunday there were so many buses parked that I doubted if Bus Eireann would have any left to take people back to anywhere. As a result, we had one of the most boring games I have ever had to look at.

  In fairness, Galway managed to put one excellent move together, which resulted in Johnny Heaney’s match-deciding goal, and maybe in that one move we saw a glimpse of what the Tribesmen could be capable of. It is my opinion that Sligo in Markievicz Park will be a tough task for Galway, but if they get through that one, unless there is a huge improvement the Rossies will have far too much for them if they meet in the Connacht final.

  As I watched both teams slow the game down to walking pace in the second half, and as players passed the ball backways and sideways, I was reminded of a story the great Galway supporter, and local photographer, Gerry O’Loughlin told me when I met him in Roscommon town in the tyre centre owned by one of the greatest Rossie footballing families of all, the Lohans, whose sons Stephen, Eddie and Gerry all wore the primrose and blue with honour and pride.

  Anyway, Gerry O’L told me of a well-known Mountbellew goalkeeper, back a little while ago, who, as well as bringing out his gloves and his cap, would also bring ten cigarettes and a box of matches – in his socks. During the game whenever things were quiet and the ball was at the other end of the field, he would light up and have a pull. As I watched the ball go over and back across McHale Park on Sunday, I thought to myself that had this man been in the Galway goals, ten fags would not have been enough. He would have to bring twenty, as the only balls our goalie had to deal with in the 70 minutes were a few backpasses from his own players. I don’t think he ever had a save to make from anyone wearing the Green and Red of Mayo.

  Before I leave the Castlebar match, the tendency every year is to write off Mayo, and every year they come back to confound their critics. This year it may be a step too far. If it is, it should not take away from the fact that this Mayo team was one of the best ever from the West and were very unlucky not to have taken home the Sam Maguire.

  As for Galway, this jury (that’s me) is very much out, but I suppose on mature reflection, any day we beat Mayo has to be seen as a good day.

A great day in  Lovely Leitrim!

It’s Friday afternoon of last week, and myself and Carol (my long-suffering wife) are heading off to the lovely Leitrim town of Mohill, where Mairead Morgan, daughter of my next-door neighbours Tommy and Eileen, is about to tie the knot with Stephen Flatley, a Dubliner with – as I find out later – a large number of Oran roots.

  The ceremony takes place in the very impressive parish Church in the middle of the town, and then it’s off to the renowned and internationally acclaimed Lough Rynn Castle for a reception that was every bit as good as you would expect from a venue of such repute.

  It was our first time to pay a visit to the Hanly-owned castle, as even though Brian O’Driscoll and his lovely wife Amy Huberman got married there a few years ago, our invitation must have got lost in the post, and we didn’t make their hooley. This time however, I made it in good time, and I have to say everything totally blew me away. As someone who passes some of my time on the sales floor of an antique shop (Lynn Antiques in Athlone), I took a special interest in the surroundings and the fabulous furniture, and I have to say it was so amazing to see such an array of exquisite pieces, but impressive as that end of it was, it was the brilliant service and attention to detail that really set the place apart.

  Nowadays, there are very many top class wedding venues all around the west and the midlands, and all of them are thoroughly professional and do an excellent job. The sheer elegance and I suppose opulence of Lough Rynn makes it a very special location, and I was happy to see that it lived up to all my expectations. Needless to say the food was superb, and the music and dancing was top class. We had a great crowd of my neighbours in attendance, and all told it was a great day.

  All that’s left is to wish Mairead and Stephen a long, happy life together. As they say ‘May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back’.

And finally…

Finally for this week, as a family we said farewell to our sister-in-law, Theresa, who sadly passed away on Monday week after a long battle with illness.

  All I can say about Theresa is that the local parish priest in Clonberne, Fr. Tommy Cummins, summed her up perfectly in his Homily when he said she was a kind, sweet and gentle soul – and that’s exactly what she was.

  We will all miss her, but obviously Peadar and their children will miss her the most, and all I can say is may she rest in peace.

Football, and the game of life: A tale of two legendary managers

 

 

 

Sometimes, in my deeper moments (not too many of them) I have a look at myself and I wonder if sport plays too big a part in my life, because, in truth, almost all of my interests involve some kind of sporting activity.

  For example, nowadays I rely on a bit of walking, and even less golfing, (although I intend to change that this year) for my physical exercise, but the truth is that I have a ridiculous interest in every sport, from GAA to rugby to soccer – which isn’t too bad – but tennis, snooker, golf, athletics, boxing, horseracing and showjumping also feature in my ‘sporting repertoire’.

  I try to keep myself updated at all times on what is going on in the sporting world. And so this week, we have had some amazing moments to savour, from Leitrim’s great escape in New York to Tony Bellew’s destruction of the legend that once was David Haye (in the world of boxing), to the wonderfully entertaining World Snooker Final, in which 42-year-old Mark Williams beat his old rival John Higgins by 18 frames to 16 – and, finally, we had a moment of magic from Simon Zebo to help Munster make it over the line in their Top 14 quarter-final tie against Edinburgh in Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon.

  On the subject of Leitrim’s win in New York, on Monday morning I was up early, having had an alcohol-free Sunday night, and I heard some fellow on one of the early-morning TV shows waxing eloquently about the wonderful commentary on Shannonside Radio by the one and only Willie Hegarty. There is no doubt that Willie is a one-off and a celebrated local treasure.

  However, amongst all the sporting activity on the actual fields of play that took place last weekend, it was the fortunes (or misfortunes) of two football managers that made the biggest impact on me. Obviously the sudden illness that struck down former Man. Utd. manager Sir Alex Ferguson was a massive shock, as all the football world viewed him as indestructible, and the outpouring of good wishes since then has shown, despite his hard man image, that he is really highly thought of and well loved by everyone involved in the beautiful game.

  However, for me the man of the week was the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, who, in the emotion of his last game at home as the Gunners manager, still had time to mention his arch-rival, Fergie, in his final speech. His dignity in bidding farewell to a club that effectively fired him was just fabulous.

  In my opinion there is no doubt that Wenger’s teams, all through his tenure, played the most attractive football of all, and, even if the Premiership title only came their way three times in his 22 years there, he did win seven FA Cups and –more importantly – his teams played football as it should be played.

  I wonder does Jose Mourinho get the Roscommon People? It might inspire him to get Utd. to play a bit of attractive, attacking football. I expect to see Wenger back in management again, and as for Sir Alex, as a United fan, I can only hope he makes a full and complete recovery.

Why I’m with the Healy-Raes on this one…

On to other matters, and I see where Shane Ross is setting up a pilot ‘drink-link’ bus service in some parts of the country which would bring people to and from rural pubs. 

  The Healy Raes think it’s only nonsense, and for once I think they are absolutely right. An occasional bus service in a rural area will not solve anything, and I still believe the only way to go is to give special taxi or hackney licences to someone in a local area, at a reduced cost (insurance, tax, and any other hidden charges) if such a person is prepared to provide a good service to his or her community.

  The country pubs are still dying on their feet, but you would have to wonder if there is any political will out there to try to help a very grave situation. Surely there should be enough brain power in the corridors of power to come up with a workable solution.

  Not too many years ago, we were lucky enough to have an unofficial hackney man in this area, and he brought people safely to their homes after a night out. Something along those lines might still be the answer now.

A big night for Creggs RFC

More than 40 years ago a little rugby club was formed out here in our little village, and today it is still going strong and is now about to embark on one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by a club of its size.

  To go back to our early days, we played at first in a field given to us by our parish priest – at the back of the local Church in Kilbegnet – while later on we had a pitch in Kilmore which had a heavy electricity wire crossing the middle which diverted many a ball from its original flight path, and caused quite a bit of controversy. Later on, the club acquired land in the village itself, and The Green has been the home of Creggs RFC for a number of years now.

  However, as the time has gone on, numbers at underage have greatly increased, and to keep up with the enormous growth at both underage and senior levels, in September the club hopes to unveil the first 3/4 G pitch in Connacht, along with two new sand-based pitches, a development that will of course cost an enormous amount of money.

  To this end, Creggs RFC are holding a massive draw, with a total of 26 prizes, which takes place on Saturday night next in the Rugby Club. So if you have a tenner to spare, buy a ticket and support a club that has greatly exceeded its original expectations.

  Funny enough, the season just ending has been one of the most successful on the playing pitches in the 44-year history, with great success at every level, resulting in us being nominated as the Connacht club of the year, along with Ballina (winners) and Sligo. So, the future look bright in every way, and as I say, all support is very welcome. Here’s to Saturday night, and hopefully you will take home one of the wonderful prizes on offer (but leave one for me).

And finally…

Finally for this week, I’ve been asked to remind everyone out there who raised any money for the Barrie Harris Walk that the committee wants to get the matter sorted out as soon as possible, and ask you to get your cards and money back to any committee member as quickly as you can.

  The Barrie Harris Walk is still one of the biggest charity fundraiser efforts in this area and each year many local charities benefit from the funds raised so please get the money in and continue to make this a vitally important and successful community fundraising effort.

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

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