They made us watch it, the hype merchants, sucking us back into our multi-coloured, madcap Eurovision past…after Ryan O’Shaughnessy had somewhat unexpectedly broken our losing run in semi-finals.
And the word was that Marty Whelan had reacted to our Eurovision mini-renaissance with a joy and enthusiasm of such heartwarming beauty that the Internet was at risk of finally imploding. (I’m currently going through the process of tentatively joining the social media circus, but I took the ‘semi-final night’ off for fear of seeing/hearing Marty’s reaction; I like Marty, but his excitability on Winning Streak is already more than I can take, thank you).
So the nation went a bit mad for a few days. Very excited we were. Johnny Logan even appeared on the Late Late Show. As ever, it was good to see him, albeit that he mustn’t have received the email about not wearing any clothes that might scare viewers/pose a terrorist threat.
A dubious confidence built amongst our people…a growing sense that our banishment from the Eurovision trophy room might just possibly be about to end. Once the kingpins of this event, we have had to endure misery for many years.
Such misery! Looking back, it has been a terrible confluence of things…that Eastern European block voting, the Lordi factor (2002), the shocking evolution of the competition from an actual song contest into a cauldron of chaos, then our panicky reaction to no longer being annual contenders…calling on Jedward and a turkey, depending on our levels of desperation.
By Saturday evening, Ryan had been backed to third favourite, and Ireland was giddily speculating about a return to our Eurovision golden era. It didn’t quite turn out that way, although our man did just fine. I couldn’t watch it of course (apart from a few songs) but I tuned in for the voting, which has always been the best part of the whole circus. Unfortunately, they had tinkered with the voting system, stripping much of the suspense away.
One of the few entries I had seen was the Israeli one, sung by Netta Barzilai. In our house, the moment we heard her voice we immediately tipped her to win. Mind you, we were also influenced by the dancing chickens in the background.
The planners behind the Irish entry thought they had moved with the times by introducing two gay backing dancers, but in Eurovision land, you can never be original enough. Dancing chickens did it this time, and for Ireland, the one-time kings of the Eurovision, the mystery and the misery goes on.
Strange match. The nation turned its gaze on Castlebar, but the party bombed. Galway started brightly, then Mayo settled and began to impose themselves. O’Connor’s rash elbow charge was quite a game-changer, Mayo reduced to fourteen.
Mayo were poor in front of the posts but still very much in the game as the second half wore on. The critics have been scathing about the game but I never lost interest, and besides, didn’t we know that Galway would play a largely defensive game? In the end, credit to Galway, not just because they scored a superb match-deciding goal, but because they won the game! It’s not easy to go to Castlebar and win by three points and Kevin Walsh won’t care a whit about the critics.
Only a fool, or (if from an opposing county) an optimist would underestimate either team going forward.
So there I was, driving home on the Athlone Road, no longer having the will to curse the potholes, but still conscious of their frustrating presence (to be fair, remedial work is finally starting).
‘Those damn potholes’ I remember thinking, as cars continued their variety of doomed dodging manouevres.
Passing Hyde Park, I thought to myself of the possibility (depending on results) of a Connacht Final clash between Roscommon and the new force…mean and fiercely focused Galway, slayers of Mayo at the weekend.
My mind was still wandering (I was passing Hannon’s Hotel at this stage) when I saw the first big army tank coming my way. It was 1.25 pm. Nothing too unusual in this sight, though the soldiers were armed and very visible.
Then I saw another army tank with soldiers armed and visible…then another, then another, then another, and on and on it went, to the point where I was left with no option but to count this stunning show of army strength. Sixteen army vehicles I counted (a mixture of tanks and trucks).
At least sixteen army vehicles in one military convoy heading for Roscommon town?
Surely the potholes’ crisis or the prospect of a Galway football invasion hadn’t merited calling the army in?
Surely it wasn’t a coup? The last major coup at ‘the Hyde’ that I can recall was when Jimmy Burke’s late goal for Mayo stole the 1989 Connacht final from Roscommon.
A few minutes later, I was glad to read (on the Shannonside Radio website) that there was a simple explanation for this unusual sight.
What I had seen up close and personal was the 6th infantry battalion taking part in a major training exercise, travelling in convoy from Custume Barracks in Athlone to Sligo, via Roscommon, Tulsk and Charlestown.
And fair play to the good men and women of the Irish Defence Forces.
I had a quick lunch and an uneventful return trip to town – just a few cars this time and a man on a bike.
‘People were furious after the Referendum Special on Claire Byrne Live last night’ screamed a headline on a website on Tuesday morning.
To which one might respond: What precisely did people expect?
If people expected a cosy chat over tea and scones, they should have tuned into Today with Maura and Daithi.
When people ‘debate’ issues to do with abortion, the outcome will almost inevitably be as it was on Monday night: heated, emotional, personalised and divisive.
Did anyone seriously expect a meeting of minds?
As to the protagonists, well they certainly provided compelling television, even if there was a fair bit of hot air in the room, not to mention some noisy and of course totally biased audience input.
I thought the most composed and impressive contributor was Iona Institute spokesperson Maria Steen (the No campaign). She certainly wrong-footed Dr. Peter Boylan a few times and also had some testy exchanges with Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald. Deputy McDonald (the Yes campaign) was an assured contributor on the night. There were clashes too between Dr. Boylan and Dr. John Monaghan, the latter well-known to many local readers through his work at Portiuncula Hospital over many years.
When the ‘debate’ moved on to the audience, it became a little tiresome, as each contributor held a deeply entrenched view.
What was really needed was an audience of ‘undecideds’ and a panel of undecideds/calm experts!
Filling the skip (all month)
The easy part is ordering the skip. The harder part is having the discipline to fill it. When ‘the skip’ arrives, it does so with great fanfare. Then the days go by and the skip blends into the landscape of your life!
Finally, we began the process of filling the skip, prompted, to be honest, by a call from the skip hire man.
“We’re under pressure to get skips back in” the skip hire man said cheerily, confirming that a great many of us are emptying parts of our past into soulless discoloured containers.
I conducted successful negotiations with the skip hire man…and bought some time.
Then we began to fill the skip.
Some things are easy to dispose of. Some things have been on borrowed time; you’ve been relishing this opportunity to toss them over the edge of the skip and into permanent banishment. That wonky chair was never going to ‘de-wonk’; bits of timber, empty jars, broken toys and wilting plants were never going to be either needed or useful again.
The critical stage of the ‘filling the skip’ process will usually involve half-full paint tins and the remnants of once-sparkling rolls of wallpaper. These, and some nostalgia-inspiring ornaments, will cause pause for thought. Should you keep them? Will they come in handy some time in the future?
Maybe people are slow to throw stuff out because it’s a reminder of time’s passing, because it represents a small level of change.
Certainly if you are of a sentimental nature it can be a big call to let some items go! Every broken toy which is lobbed into the heart of the skip represents a tiny bit of closure on something that is past. But there you go, that is life.
We threw out many such unused toys, because that’s the sensible thing to do in these situations. Filling the skip involves emptying tiny parts of the past, before rebooting and looking to the present and future.
Mind you, kids notice these things. I saw our son retrieve one simple but special toy, rescuing it from the skip. When I asked him about it, he remembered when and where he originally got it. So, that toy was of course duly saved, afforded a ‘stay’.
One item less for the skip hire man, one memory salvaged!