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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

A weekend on Aran Islands

 

 

 

Friday

The ferry trip to the Aran Islands took about 45 minutes. Our destination was the biggest of the islands, Inis Mór, and yes, I was well aware that we were sailing further and further away from Hyde Park and Saturday’s big Super 8s match. They would have Sky Sports on the island, wouldn’t they?

  We didn’t really know what to expect – Fiona and I had never actually been to the Aran Islands. We disembarked at shortly after 7 pm and met up with the group of friends who we were spending the weekend with.

  Our bed & breakfast was ‘old style’ and quaint. The woman of the house did the cooking and the man of the house served breakfast, throwing in the odd wry comment and folksy banter. That’s the way it was. He was a perfectly nice man, embedded in island life, island ways.

  After checking in, we checked out the village (Kilronan). It’s a beautiful central hub, overlooking Galway Bay, offering beautiful scenery, with quaint stone walls, narrow roads and the promise of glorious walks, not to mention many places of historical interest.

  From a commercial/facilities point of view, there’s a large shop, a tiny bank, a few pubs and restaurants, a hotel, and souvenir shops too. Aran sweaters, caps and scarves entice the browsing visitor.

  First call was to Joe Watty’s bar and restaurant, a fine, thriving, friendly establishment with a great atmosphere. After a lovely dinner there, I briefly took a stool at the counter to do the ‘strangers and locals’ thing.

  Sure enough, after sussing me out for a few minutes with sideways glances, the two men at the counter decided to strike.

  “Where are you from?”

  On hearing Roscommon, they chuckled and asked what our prospects were in the Super 8s game the following day.

  “We’re up against it, but you never know…where are you from?” I replied.

  “Tyrone” the first man said, and it was actually only then that I realised he had a ‘Red Hand’ top on!

  So, it had turned out that the very first person outside of our group that I had spoken to in the restaurant/bar was a Tyrone man! I will call him ‘Tyrone Joe’ – not his real name (well, it might be, but I never asked).

  We proceeded to have a good chat. Tyrone Joe was in his late 60s. He had played for Tyrone at minor level, before moving to live and work in England for a quarter of a century or more. Now he’s back, living in Galway with his wife, and is a regular visitor to the islands.

  I complimented Peter Canavan (Tyrone legend). Tyrone Joe complimented Dermot Earley. I showed my age by complimenting Frank McGuigan (Tyrone legend). Tyrone Joe complimented Jigger O’Connor. Then he asked about Jimmy Murray and Knockcroghery, and my heart soared a little.

 

Saturday

 

 

As Inis Mór first-timers, nothing could really have prepared us for the sights early on Saturday morning. There were several hundred tourists milling around the island, hundreds of whom were on bikes. This is rural Atlantic-kissed Ireland at its most stunning…winding roads, ancient sites, stone walls, evidence of remarkable craftsmanship from centuries ago, spectacular scenery, a beautiful beach, donkeys, horses, sheep…locals living life at their own pace, warmly welcoming about-to-be-smitten visitors. It was incredibly busy, with tourists from all over the world.

  We took a bus tour of the island, being dropped off at the foot of the cliff-top fort, Dún Aonghasa. Here, in glorious sunshine, we joined hundreds of other tourists on the long but beautiful rising walk to the fort. Again, spectacular scenery from that cliff-top, savoured on this, the hottest day of the year. Easy to be proud to be Irish. Halfway up that long walk to the cliff-top fort there was a small boy, perched on a rock, busking away, on his tin whistle. Ah!

  Next, we visited the medieval Christian ruins of the Seven Churches, and also Kilmurvey Beach – known for its birdlife – and a nearby seal colony.

  Our bus driver was a character. I thought he’d have us back at base by 4 pm or so, but he decided to bring us to his very own Goats’ Cheese making factory. This was indeed very interesting – and the goats themselves were charming – but very few of the bus passengers and none of the goats had the Super 8s on their mind.

  Thankfully, the friendly bus driver got us back to the village by 4.20 pm or so. We watched Roscommon v Tyrone in Joe Mac’s, a great old-style bar perched up high and overlooking Galway Bay. The first man I saw when we went in was Tyrone Joe, my friend from the previous night. Damn it, he was smiling already. Thankfully, four or five more Rossies came in – you can meet anyone anywhere – and soon the pub was half-full. A stranger from Galway and a stranger from Kildare joined us, and soon we weren’t strangers.

  Most of the customers were cheering for Roscommon. It was a very exciting first half – Roscommon matching Tyrone, but denied two goals by their ‘keeper. We were quite optimistic at half-time, but unfortunately Tyrone prevailed by four. Still, it was a very good Roscommon performance. I shook hands with Tyrone Joe before returning to the glorious sunshine outdoors.

  As an aside, observing the dynamic between drivers, pedestrians and cyclists on the Aran Islands is intriguing. The bus drivers weave with expertise around tight corners, cyclists and walkers usually only a couple of inches away. At times on Saturday it was chaotic, such were the crowds. But it was all good fun!

  On Saturday evening we had a beautiful meal in the Bayview Restaurant. One of our party had to wait a few minutes for her duck main course, affording me the opportunity to quote Basil from Fawlty Towers (“Duck’s off, sorry!”). The duck wasn’t off in the Bayview, it arrived, and to an excellent review. Later, we joined a large number of revellers in Joe Watty’s. No sign of Tyrone Joe, but there were lots of locals, numerous tourists and a lively Hen Party group. The live music came from none other than the Mulkerrin brothers, winners of the first series of The All Ireland Talent Show in 2009 and regular performers in Watty’s. The three lads were brilliant, really getting the crowd going. A memorable night. 

 

Sunday

 

 

On Sunday, there was time for more walks, a visit to the beach, an eye on the hurling, a bite to eat and a few more hours of ‘holiday mode’ as hundreds of tourists again mingled around the island in sensational weather.

  It was a wonderful weekend. We had stepped back in time and we had seen for ourselves the beauty of the Aran Islands. The boat sailed off and we left Inis Mór behind, with its beautiful stone walls, its easy beauty and charm, its tourists and locals, and smiling Tyrone Joe, with his two Super 8s’ points in his back pocket. We’ll be back.

Progress on and off the field

I wasn’t at the Roscommon/Tyrone game (see article alongside) and I hear it was a great occasion in town. Of course we were watching closely on TV.

  Roscommon were extremely competitive and very well placed at half-time. This weekend we travel to Croke Park to take on the mighty Dubs. This very promising Roscommon team are still very much in the championship and should go all out for victory!

  Think positive…we are still masters of our own destiny.

  Meanwhile, relief all around as we note that Roscommon County Board have submitted a planning application for improvements at Dr. Hyde Park.

  The application was submitted a week ago and the project include an extension to dressing rooms beside the main pitch, an extension to existing toilet blocks and the construction of new toilet blocks by the main stand.

  It will also see the construction of 39 turnstiles and entrance gates on the Athlone Road and Golf Links Road as well as the partial demolition of existing turnstiles on Golf Links Road. Security fencing will also be erected to separate players and officials from public areas.

 The sooner the works proceed, the better. We need the outstanding issues at our stadium sorted.

 

Goodbye to Ireland’s comedy king

 

The late Brendan Grace had a huge following in Roscommon – but then he had a huge following all over the country.

  At his peak, he was brilliant. He was also a great singer, and came across as a lovely man. He was one of those comedians who seemed to absolutely love what he did – particularly performing live. He relished having an audience, getting laughs.

  I saw him live a few times – many years ago – and always enjoyed him. In latter years, he wasn’t perhaps as ‘relevant’ as in the past; comedy had changed, and Grace’s stage show was at least a touch dated. But since his sad and untimely death, many of us who grew up with Brendan as the dominant comedy presence in Ireland have felt great nostalgia for his innocent, funny humour, his brilliant delivery and sheer likeability. Now that he’s gone, we are transported back to his heyday, we pause and laugh again with fondness at this giant of Irish comedy.  

  It’s fitting that Brendan Grace is being mourned, remembered and celebrated with such emotion, sadness and joy. He was a one-off, a comic master, a part of our youth. Mention of his name will always bring smiles and happiness. 

 

 

 

Musings on a night at the races

 

 

 

All human life – well, almost all – is visible at the races.

  There was a lovely race day buzz in town all day. Mind you, there is literally a buzz (from drilling) in Abbey Street, where the Roscommon People office is, as Irish Water workers are toiling all week.

  I was walking into the Church grounds when I met two tourists. An Australian couple, they asked if I’d take a photograph of them in front of the Church Grotto. I’m not sure what they made of me when I told them we have a great town and that the races were on in the evening!

  They were from Queensland, and were visiting Roscommon because the woman’s grandfather had been born here a long time ago. I gave them a brief summary of our great town and county before moving on.

  By 6.30 pm or so a group of us had joined the large crowd at Lenabane. What a wonderful sporting theatre, social hub and economic impetus these regular race meetings are.

  On this sunny summer evening, the Roscommon Racecourse was a lovely place to be. All human life, almost. As we made our way in, dignitaries were gathered for the official opening of the new facilities at the course (recently featured in a special Roscommon People report). Politicians, national horseracing administrators, jockeys, owners and trainers mingled with our great local races’ personnel to conduct the formalities for posterity.

  The bookies were in full flow, a chorus of temptations, odds somersaulting. It’s all very Irish, very traditional, a marvellous slice of our culture. I watched the bookies – young, old, male, female – with their flicking fingers, their speedy calculating, their cash-filled bags, their quick eye for the approaching would-be punter. They are businesslike – but friendly, up for banter – and skilled in their own way as exponents of this craft. Money in, money out, calculating odds, speedy counting of notes, an eye to the list of horses to check numbers, a quip here, a quip there, and always the eyes scanning the landscape – or, more specifically, the small world of commercial potential within five or ten feet of their workplace.

  The thing about the races is that you can be public or private…you can chat to people and spend time in the bar or you can just wander around on your own, savouring the whole experience. On Monday, we took the social option, and it was a great evening. All human life. Some people I hadn’t seen in years. Some people I had seen hours earlier (around town). It was cosmopolitan too. Australian visitors. American visitors. English visitors. Familiar faces from Rooskey. People from different walks of life now sharing the same passion for a day at the races. Every now and again the zig-zag foray into the bookies’ area is briefly halted by a trail of ladies in extravagant hats. It’s Ladies Day. We had bet after bet, and after a slow start, began to pick some winners. Happy days. Cheering your horse to victory from the stand is a great feeling, the adrenaline pumping. The torn and discarded betting slips will always outnumber the tightly gripped winning slips, making the latter all the more cherished.

  Mostly it is good fun, unless you are on a losing streak or the weather is miserable. Monday was terrific. The first bar was packed, with a great atmosphere all evening. We popped in once or twice, but mostly hovered around the bookies, chatting and having the craic, placing bets, then moving to the stand to watch the action. Everybody was in good humour, it was a lovely evening weather-wise, and you couldn’t but glow with pride at how magnificent this asset is, how beneficial it is to our county town.

  I thought of my father, now seven months gone. As people who have lost loved ones will know, memories – and emotions – can be triggered at any time, often by places, faces, dates, events…reminders of what once was. And all evening I could see my father, in whose footsteps I now followed. He attended hundreds of race meetings in Roscommon and the West. On Monday evening I could picture him, from just a couple of years ago, stood like many more wily elderly men in the midst of the punters, eyes on the bookies’ odds, cigarette and race card in hand, happy to be in the middle of this vibrant social gathering.

  I notice the old men, because there are a lot of old men at the races, and they are particularly obsessed, certainly intrigued, about it all. They study form, they weigh up the odds, they listen out for information, tips, changes in the betting. They have experience, knowledge, shrewdness. They seem to have all the time in the world, standing there between races, card in hand, eyes trained on the odds.

  I looked at this scene, with these great happy crowds, and I marvelled at what we have…this great tradition. I thought of the passing years, of my father, and of all his evenings at Roscommon Races, from the 1970s through to a year or two ago. And I looked at men who look like him, these men who were still here, like me, in the footsteps of him and others who have gone. These men who looked like him, with their similar gait, their cigarette, their mischief and humour and ready greetings, race card in hand, happy as any man or woman anywhere at this moment, stuck in the middle of Roscommon Races. Little wonder that so many people can relate to the lines from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem.

 

Every old man I see
In October-coloured weather
Seems to say to me
“I was once your father”

 

Life moves on. And you will see all human life at the races. Mind you, I didn’t see the Dublin ladies selling their cut-price mars bars at the exit. Perhaps they were gone by the time we got there. And have the three-card trick men stopped coming? (My father could do that too!). As we left, the various service providers were packing their stuff away, the bookies were driving off. Henry & The Usual Suspects were playing their music in the bar below, which was still buzzing. Where would you get it?

 

Paul Healy's week - July 5th

 

A waiting game…

“Both ends of Oscar Traynor Road will be closed…”

  That’s what the man on the radio said, but we didn’t really care!

  In fact, we wouldn’t have been too worried if aliens wearing Michael Healy-Rae replica caps and singing Daniel O’Donnell’s greatest hits had landed in the middle of Oscar Traynor Road.

  We didn’t want any more weather or traffic updates…just get on with the draw!

  It was Monday morning on RTE Radio’s flagship ‘Morning Ireland’ – and the waiting was no fun.

  The fourth round qualifier draw in the All-Ireland Football Championship was due. It would bring a little more clarity in terms of the likely make-up of Roscommon’s Super 8s’ group.

  It had been a long weekend. We watched Tyrone pretty much swat Kildare aside, followed by a typically dramatic Mayo show, our neighbours prevailing and avoiding Armagh-geddon. We enjoyed the hurling on Sunday, but the draw was always on our mind.

  Des signed off on The Sunday Game by reminding us that the draw would take place “during the sports bulletin” at 8.35 am. Sleep tight.

  I turned the radio on at 8.25 am. 8.35 am came and went. Ads. News headlines. Weather. Traffic.

  “Both ends of Oscar Traynor Road will be closed…”

  Both ends! Who cared! (Surely the great soccer man (Traynor) was not delaying the GAA from beyond the grave?). 8.36 am came. 8.38. This was too much, too tense, almost like that shower scene in Psycho…

  8.39 am, and finally Pauric Lodge introduces GAA President John Horan and our own Kevin McStay, the latter in to conduct the draw.

  More diversions then as Pauric and John chatted about topical GAA issues…as, across the country, players, managers and fans waited…waited…and waited.

  And we weren’t even in the draw – but we were more than interested observers. The draw would produce a roadmap, of sorts.

  Finally, white smoke…or blue and white smoke, or red and white smoke. Roscommon will kick off the Super 8s with Cavan or Tyrone at home in the Hyde. Followed by Dublin, then Cork or Laois.

  It was 8.46 am or so. On Morning Ireland, back to the news…but the day’s important work was done. The waiting was over, the speculation could start…

 

Tom fitted in well here…

I was very sorry to hear of the passing of the actor Tom Jordan. In recent years, the down to earth Fair City star was a familiar presence in Ballyleague, Roscommon and surrounds, having moved to these parts (with his wife, Julie) a number of years ago. And how well Tom fitted in here.

  When you met him, you inevitably thought of him as Charlie, because of his long-standing role as Charlie Kelly in Fair City. Tom/Charlie became a household name due to his role in the popular soap, but, over a long career, he had many more notable acting achievements, including a number of film roles.

  It’s only a year or so since I met Tom in the Shannonside studios, both of  us there for the ‘Review of the Week’ on the Joe Finnegan Show. He was very easy to talk to and seemed to love life ‘down the country’. A gentleman. He will be fondly remembered all over the country, as an actor of considerable note, and as the face of Fair City. And he will be very much missed in his adopted county of Roscommon. May he rest in peace. 

 

Yeah, right…

Former Justice Minister and all-round modest chap Alan Shatter was asked by Barry Egan (Sunday Independent) if his new book is “about settling scores or revenge?” He replied: “I have no interest in that”.

  The book is titled ‘Frenzy and Betrayal: The Anatomy of a Political Assassination’. The author is Alan Shatter. Mmnn!

  In any event, his book should be very interesting, as should Seamus Mallon’s recently published autobiography.

 

Revealed! How Roscommon ball
got into Kilkenny shop window…

 

In this column last week, I referred to seeing a ‘Roscommon football’ sitting proudly and prominently in the window of a quaint shop in Kilkenny.

  I was there the weekend before last for a family social occasion, and while on a walkabout with my brothers, we made the mysterious discovery! And mysterious it would remain (for then) because the premises was closed…and I couldn’t enquire.

  This week, thanks to feedback from readers, I’m delighted to report that the short-lived mystery has been solved.

  The shop is owned by a lady called Pauline Scully. Her late husband Tom was a well-known Clare man who worked as a cobbler in Kilkenny. The shop in question was famously called ‘The Heel Bar’. One of my sources says: “You could spend the day there talking hurling and football”.

  Padraig Leydon (ex-Kilkenny People), originally from Knockvicar and a huge Rossie fan, also confirmed that the shop is owned by Pauline Scully, and that she is an Athleague native.

  He wrote: “The Roscommon man who has the Roscommon football in the window in Kilkenny is Michael Crehan from Athleague who is living there with his sister, Pauline.

  “Pauline was married to a mighty Clare man, Tom Scully. Sadly Tom passed away some years ago and is buried in Athleague”.

  Padraig confirmed that Pauline and her late husband Tom ‘dressed’ their shop window for years with Clare and Roscommon GAA uppermost in their minds.

  He wrote: “For years that window has always supported Roscommon and Clare. At the moment the window is solely for the Rossies. Long may it last!”

 

* Many thanks to Cathal Brady in Elphin for his help in solving the mystery of the Roscommon ball in the Kilkenny window. Thanks also to Nigel and Padraig Leydon.

 

 

Networking, Boris, The Dubs and Kilkenny...

 

 

Crossed wires

All morning, I had thought my mobile phone might be playing up (turns out it was just a dire signal in Abbey Street).

  So I rang Vodafone, off the landline. The ‘computer’ gave me four options. I pressed button 2.

  A human answered. Completely forgetting that I pay by direct debit now, I ventured that the bill might be outstanding. That might explain why my texts were stubbornly refusing to budge. Had my service been cheekily suspended?

  The man excitedly switched me…back to the computer.

  The computer informed me that I owed €153. I was surprised, but went to make a credit card payment for the full amount.

  The computer waited while I keyed in the relevant numbers. Then the computer said ‘Sorry, technical difficulty’ and switched me back to a human.

  But not before I was on hold for two minutes, listening to some loud and silly music.

  A man came on the phone and asked me what the problem was. I explained that I thought I might owe a few bob, that the computer had informed me it was actually €153, that I had attempted to pay, and now an unexplained technical difficulty had arisen.

  The man, when faced with a problem, in the great tradition of men…switched me to a woman.

  On checking, the woman informed me that I in fact owed nothing…€53 (not €153) had been due by the 23rd, and it had been paid by direct debit. This was Monday, the 24th. That reminded me that I am on direct debit!

  Now I had the upperhand. “But the computer just tried to take €153 off me a few minutes ago”, I said to the woman. (I made it easy for her, adding that the computer had referred to technical difficulties).

  She saw an opening. “Well” she said, without missing a beat, “I know we had some technical difficulties earlier today…but I thought they had been resolved”.

  Mmnn. I asked if there was any fear of the payment (for €153, that I had stupidly tried to make) going through.

  “Oh no, that won’t happen” she answered, very quickly. “Not when it said ‘technical difficulties’”.

  So we’re sorted, I said, worn down by the numbing silliness of it all. “Yes” the woman answered, “have a nice morning”.

  I don’t know what became of the money-grabbing computer. Probably on a tea-break, scheming.

Having a laugh…

I know Brexit is a bit of a circus, I know Boris is…shall, we say, colourful…so I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

  But I just feel that our media sometimes adopts a sneering, disrespectful tone when interviewing UK guests about the ongoing chaos across the water.

  I mean, it’s one thing for the man and woman in the street to roll their eyes and express amusement/disdain over the ongoing Brexit saga, but a little more decorum and respect from some of our media personnel is surely desirable.

  After all, when Ireland was depicted in stereotypical ‘bejasus’ terms in Eastenders many years ago, there was uproar here. Likewise, we get very sensitive just about any time anyone across the Irish Sea says anything negative about us.

  Yet, respected media folk here think it’s okay when interviewing UK guests to scoff and poke at the likely rise of Boris and the ongoing Brexit drama. The excellent Jonathan Healy, by no means the only one prone to it (Pat Kenny and others too), couldn’t contain himself when interviewing former Tory Minister Edwina Currie on Tuesday. Our man in Newstalk was out of the traps straight away, letting Ms. Currie know just how farcical we think it all is. Boris was a buffoon, the Conservative leadership race was a circus, Boris as PM will have no business going back to Brussels looking for a new deal, etc.

  Maybe we should be a bit more respectful and allow our neighbours to sort out a party leadership race and ensuing Brexit process without bellylaughing in their faces?

Maybe I was dreaming…

 I hate it when the telly doesn’t work.

  When I turned the television on the other day, there was no sign of Marty Morrissey – or of Mary Kennedy either. I frantically channel-hopped, but the grim reality continued to manifest itself. There were programmes on about rural life, sport, house makeovers, gardens, reality shows, pets, music and culture – but not a single sign of Marty or Mary.

  I dropped the television into the TV repair man and he promised to investigate this extraordinary, inexplicable malfunction…

When you win 14 out of 15…

In extraordinary scenes, Dublin fans did not invade the pitch following their side’s er…thrilling Leinster Senior Football Final win on Sunday.

  Crowds of esctatic young (and not so young) Dublin fans did not rush from the sideline into the centre circle and joyously celebrate the nine-in-a-row. The referee did not have to wave them off, with furrowed brow.

  A GAA spokesperson said: “We can’t have this, we will be launching an immediate investigation”.

 

Who put the ball in the Kilkenny shop window?

 

Kilkenny is a great place to visit. 

  I was there on Friday night for a family social occasion, an informal one.

  The Marble City never lets you down. It crackles with atmosphere. The place was teeming with tourists. The streets are quaint, intimate, colourful. Everyone is friendly. Side streets hint at the prospect of more variety, more quirkiness. Everywhere you go, there are reminders of Kilkenny’s status as hurling royalty. Photographs, memorabilia, souvenirs, boys walking down the street with hurl and sliothar in hand, like we’ve sleepwalked into some sort of promotional GAA film.

  We had a nice bite to eat in the Langton House Hotel, followed by another stroll through the streets, then a night sampling the local bars. During our walk, a mysterious sighting: we were intrigued to spot, in a shop window, a ‘Roscommon football’ (pictured). It was the only football in that window; the shop was closed…the mystery remained unsolved. So, GAA-wise, the Cats and the Rossies ruled in the Marble City last Friday night.

  The pubs in Kilkenny are great…most of them are dark (as in dimly lit), character-filled, places which are rich in heritage, history, personality. Antiques and hurleys and odd things dangle from the walls. In one bar (‘The Field’) there’s a 16 foot long hurley hanging from the ceiling. Everywhere, there is music…live music…the city swaying to a welcoming, friendly beat. Locals, some of them with weather-beaten faces, others young and vibrant, mingle easily with delighted, captivated tourists in a flurry of talk, laughter and song. In one bar, a man who looked (and dressed, honestly) like Abraham Lincoln, provided great entertainment, with his guitar, good singing voice and ready banter.

  At the end of a longish night…a man looked like Mick Galwey, because he was Mick Galwey. The former Munster and Ireland rugby star was having a pint with friends. Chatting to him for a few minutes, I found Mick to be a modest gentleman (he confirmed he was well aware of Creggs RFC). Galwey, while the holder of an All-Ireland senior football medal with Kerry (1986), is actually resident in Kilkenny for over 20 years. 

  Next day (Saturday) I walked for ages through Kilkenny’s streets, browsing in a couple of book stores, a coffee here, a coffee there, and the mandatory walk to the impressive Kilkenny Castle grounds. There were tourists everywhere in this buzzing city.

  By 5.30 pm or so, the local musicians were beginning to ghost back into the bars with their guitar cases. The restaurants were getting busy. So-called ‘hens’ and ‘stags’ were getting ready to party. In our hotel, about a dozen Dublin men, ranging in age from 30-ish to 70-ish, were having great craic. A few checked the horses in The Star, as the rolling news on Sky Sports updated us on Boris Johnson’s not so private private life. The sun was shining on the Marble City. It was time for me to head to Roscommon, with a few books and a souvenir ‘Cats’ sliothar. Along the pavements, tourists rolled their suitcases towards hotel lobbies, and behind me, vibrant, friendly Kilkenny was ready for another busy Saturday night.

 

 

Home are the heroes…

 

 

 

 

Even on Wednesday morning (yesterday) the questions kept coming on the drive to school.

  “Which do you think was the best Roscommon goal…the first one against Mayo, or the one against Galway on Sunday?”

  It just shows you how much excitement and joy and positivity a win such as Sunday’s creates.

  All over the county, young boys and girls have a huge pep in their step this week, an extra portion of ambition, expanded dreams too as they kick a ball around in the garden on these fresh summer evenings.

  The adults are pretty happy too.

 

What a day Sunday was! A game of, to put it in an ‘Irish way’, three halves! Roscommon were going fine for 20 minutes or so, doing things right, playing with confidence and common sense, living fairly comfortably with their vaunted opponents.

  At 0-5 apiece, we were engaged in an even battle, a nicely poised and relatively entertaining contest. Then, as the rain lashed down, Galway were suddenly upping the tempo, Roscommon losing their way. We were a boxer on the ropes; penned back, unable to retain our composure. Galway picked off a few scores. Conditions were slippery, Roscommon energy levels seemed to drop, suddenly our quality of passing dipped and, zig-zagging maroon shadows aside, it was greyness all around. Roscommon’s dream was dying in not so slow motion.

  These terrific Roscommon men must have looked deep into their hearts at half-time. An early point on the resumption of play was the settler. Then, that wonderful goal. Darcy’s sumptuous pass was a thing of beauty, but it seemed to scream an instruction – ‘Attack! Attack!’ Cathal Cregg did not seek clarity; he scampered into the distance with the purposefulness of a courier who had great news to deliver. When Diarmuid Murtagh raced ahead of Cregg, we were watching the game’s defining moment in slow motion; seconds later, more like poetry in motion. Forget, for a moment, the kick-pass and subsequent finish…this was all about footballing instinct, intelligence, beauty. Cregg’s pass was the definition of perfect timing; Murtagh’s finish, low and to a narrow space between ‘keeper and post, was magnificent. 

  From then on, Roscommon mastered the opposition. The Roscommon defence was superb, Killoran and O’Rourke took control in midfield, and Murtagh and Cox were ruthlessly brilliant up front. But there were heroes everywhere; every Roscommon player contributing magnificently to a lion-hearted, quality second-half performance.

  In the last ten minutes or so, we showed a level of ‘cuteness’ which was so important…precisely the same type of tactics that top teams have used against us over the years. Now, in deep defensive positions, and with tension levels high, Roscommon excelled further in their ball retention and composure…winning great turnovers (the best of them by Cathal Cregg) then keeping possession, drawing fouls, slowing the game down, squeezing the last remnants of hope from a broken, dispirited Galway. There had been flair too from Roscommon; now was the time to close this out.

  Still, there were heartstopping moments at the end, O’Malley in the Roscommon goal dropping to his knees – we were doing the same in spirit – to keep a dangerous ball out. Then a flashing cross-shot at the end that thankfully evaded players and the target.

  It was a thoroughly deserved and magnificent victory.

 

There were no speeches at the informal homecoming; all the talking had been done on the pitch. At just after 10.30 pm on Sunday night, the Connacht champions arrived back in Roscommon town in that distinctive Club Rossie bus. Hundreds of fans had gathered; mobile phones were held high to capture the scenes for posterity, or at least for now, the fans cheering and applauding as the beaming players emerged with the cup. And what gentlemen they are! They met the fans with humility and shared joy, posing for selfies, chatting, engaging, operating on adrenaline, the gleaming Nestor Cup the symbol of the great journey they’ve been on, the symbol of what they’ve achieved. Heroes.

 

Now we should dare to dream big. That’s not hype, it’s just the natural evolution of our levels of hope! Why shouldn’t we think big? Roscommon footballers have been in the last eight of the All-Ireland series for three years in a row now. We’re Connacht champions, and we’ve just defeated Mayo and Galway. Some years back, a provincial success would have put us into the last four. Now we should aspire to making it to that elite level. We cannot talk about famines and being starved of success and then look the other way when we begin to frequent the top table. This is the time to push on, to build further on the momentum of recent times…to strike for further glory.

  Of course it’s going to be tough…we haven’t forgotten the bruising, sobering experience that was last year’s Super 8s. But Roscommon are steelier now, are playing with great confidence and structure, have a wonderful never-say-die resilience, and an abundance of quality too. We seem to have progressed significantly on the physicality/conditioning front; we have more to do, but the trend is thrilling. 

  It is obvious, observing the management and players, that Roscommon are intent on continuing this journey with conviction, intent on being very competitive in the Super 8s. Whatever happens, it has already been a great and memorable season. This Connacht campaign has been magical. But we are not supporting actors in the Super 8s’ production which is coming up; it’s our time, a stage we’re worthy of, and this magnificent group of players can blossom further on it.

 

 

A great weekend in a great town…

 

 

If they’re still talking ‘up there’ in Dublin (should it be over there?) about the good times being back, our position remains the same: We haven’t seen much new boom-time in rural Ireland yet.

  If any tunnel-visioned economist or politician or commentator tries to tell us that the country is flying again, we’ll ‘refer them to our previous answers’ on this subject…which is that things are still pretty tough in these parts.

  SMEs are up against it, farmers are under pressure, services (unforgivably) are being withdrawn or cut, there is no job creation worth talking about…and don’t start us on that wretched broadband.

  When I say services are being cut, I mean it. I was passing through a West Roscommon village on Monday and had to double back to check if my eyes were deceiving me or not. Was that (familiar) small landmark family shop really closed? I did a u-turn, and sure enough the shelves were empty and bare. Then I noticed the almost apologetic An Post sign over the door. Family shop and Post Office. That probably explains it. The post office presumably went, and then the shop went with it. Another era ends, another social hub battered into submission, reduced to memories.

  And yet…I have positivity to report. It was a noteworthy weekend in Roscommon Town. Whatever the fate of some towns and villages, Roscommon Town is going well. That won’t be everyone’s experience (I’m sure it’s hard going for many people), but in a general sense, Roscommon town is going well.

  What happened over recent days reminds us of the type of positive developments that are underpinning the success story that is Roscommon Town…

 

Thursday

A private, family business showcases its expansion: You have to admire the family-run SMEs – indeed SMEs, family-run or otherwise – that are the heartbeat of the county town. We are blessed with the quality of our shops, restaurants, hotels, etc.

  On Thursday, it was a pleasure to pop into Timothy’s Londis for the official opening of the beautifully expanded and enhanced store. This is a landmark premises in Roscommon, going back to when the Kiernan family owned in.

  In latter years the Timothy family (and staff) have made it into a busy and popular store through sheer hard work. The recent ‘facelift’ has been widely and deservedly praised. Last weekend, after all the hard work, it was time to celebrate. Customers, long-standing and new, called in to admire the new look and join in the celebrations. Monsignor Charles Travers was present on Thursday to bless the building. It’s great to see this investment in Timothy’s Londis. Well done to Annie, Vincent, family and staff, and continued success in what is a challenging and competitive environment.

 

Friday

Public money this time, which is absolutely fine, in fact, great! There was a large crowd at Roscommon Arts Centre for its official re-opening. The facility, at Circular Road, Roscommon, has received a pretty spectacular facelift. The purse strings were opened by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Roscommon County Council.

  There were lots of politicians present, most of them still taking in the previous weekend’s results. Senator Terry Leyden appeared to be mischeviously happy about the record-breaking speed with which Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had hatched a Coalition deal on Roscommon Council. He couldn’t stop smiling. Senator Frank Feighan was beaming too, cock-a-hoop after Maria Walsh’s stunning Euro elections’ success. Frank was her Director of Elections. They were all there…... Denis Naughten, Michael Fitzmaurice, Eugene Murphy, Maura Hopkins…and enough councillors to field a football team. If any snubbed Independents were smarting (because FF and FG marched up the aisle after some speed-dating) they weren’t showing it.

  Ivan Connaughton made an assured speech in what he said was his last outing as Cathaoirleach. Council CE Eugene Cummins emphasised that a big focus will be placed on reaching out to schools and young people generally to ensure that this great facility is used to its full potential. Averyl Dooher, Dympna Naughton and colleagues were beaming, and so they should. It was a lovely occasion. Minister Josepha Madigan performed the official opening. She then headed off, and we headed upstairs for tasty nibbles/canapes and slightly less tasty political gossip.

 

Saturday

Another opening in Roscommon town, underlining my central point this week…that we have a truly great county town.

  Do we fully appreciate what a massive asset the racecourse is? I hope we do. Remarkably, the dedicated board there keeps overseeing course enhancements, year after year after year. We have a special report in our sports section this week.

  I went along on Saturday to see the latest facilities. The board had organised an open day in response to enquiries from people who wanted to see the latest developments at the course. The facilities are magnificent. A beautiful new building has been built. Not only is it extremely practical, it’s visually stunning. It contains a weigh room, medical rooms, media quarters, a new manager’s office, sauna, etc. By all accounts (from the horse’s mouth?), the various stakeholders in the horseracing industry who availed of or viewed the new facilities at the May meeting in Roscommon were all extremely impressed.

  It is a credit to everyone involved and will ensure that the reputation and popularity of Roscommon Races continues to soar in the years ahead. Roscommon Racecourse, first and foremostly in its own guise as a sporting theatre, but also with its great spin-off benefits for the entire town, is an absolute jewel in Roscommon.

 

Sunday

It’s the kids who get the parents involved, I guess. I haven’t put my shoulder to the wheel with Roscommon Gaels yet, but early days…

  Our son Matthew is enjoying the football and hurling, as are hundreds more local kids. We went along to the Roscommon Gaels’ Family Fun Day on Sunday (held as part of the club’s 60th anniversary celebrations).

  It was a lovely day of drills, goals, points, smiles, hot dogs and ice creams.

  There was a formal element, although it was actually pretty informal. Teresa Hession (club chairperson and MC on this occasion) was in inspirational ‘form’, defying a downpour of rain to oversee proceedings with good humour and passion. Passion for GAA. Passion for the Gaels. Passion for the future.

  Barry Molloy officially opened the club’s new dressing rooms. As ever, this great gentleman spoke with modesty and generosity. Good wishes too from Council CE Eugene Cummins and from Seamus Sweeney (County Board chairperson). Great gaels – great Gaels – stood around, with gaels’ new and eager, the past, present and future intertwining.

  I liked Teresa’s central message…which was about belonging. Everybody wants to belong. And the Gaels’ chairperson emphasised the value of the GAA, of this club, in helping people to belong. And she is right. It is the great contribution of the GAA, arguably much more important than spectacular feats on the field of play.

  Teresa also thanked the people of Roscommon for their support of the Gaels, and had a great line on the role of volunteers. “Volunteers aren’t paid…not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”.

  Asking Fr. John Cullen to bless the dressing rooms, Teresa quipped about needing a very special prayer.

  Fr. John: “I’ve been praying for Arsenal for years, and look how that’s turned out!”

  Another quip from Fr. John then as he revealed that he had been ‘promoted’ by little Cian Mulry, who had endearingly addressed him as ‘Fr. God’!

  Suddenly, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. As we had a commitment in Dublin and it was now 3.15, we had to leave, hurley and helmet in hand. As we approached the exit, four or five kids were having a kickaround beside a goal-net, not a care in the world, the joy of the GAA and the promise of the future in their young hearts.

  That – I think – is a great weekend in a great town.

A great weekend in a great town…

 

 

If they’re still talking ‘up there’ in Dublin (should it be over there?) about the good times being back, our position remains the same: We haven’t seen much new boom-time in rural Ireland yet.

  If any tunnel-visioned economist or politician or commentator tries to tell us that the country is flying again, we’ll ‘refer them to our previous answers’ on this subject…which is that things are still pretty tough in these parts.

  SMEs are up against it, farmers are under pressure, services (unforgivably) are being withdrawn or cut, there is no job creation worth talking about…and don’t start us on that wretched broadband.

  When I say services are being cut, I mean it. I was passing through a West Roscommon village on Monday and had to double back to check if my eyes were deceiving me or not. Was that (familiar) small landmark family shop really closed? I did a u-turn, and sure enough the shelves were empty and bare. Then I noticed the almost apologetic An Post sign over the door. Family shop and Post Office. That probably explains it. The post office presumably went, and then the shop went with it. Another era ends, another social hub battered into submission, reduced to memories.

  And yet…I have positivity to report. It was a noteworthy weekend in Roscommon Town. Whatever the fate of some towns and villages, Roscommon Town is going well. That won’t be everyone’s experience (I’m sure it’s hard going for many people), but in a general sense, Roscommon town is going well.

  What happened over recent days reminds us of the type of positive developments that are underpinning the success story that is Roscommon Town…

 

Thursday

 

A private, family business showcases its expansion: You have to admire the family-run SMEs – indeed SMEs, family-run or otherwise – that are the heartbeat of the county town. We are blessed with the quality of our shops, restaurants, hotels, etc.

  On Thursday, it was a pleasure to pop into Timothy’s Londis for the official opening of the beautifully expanded and enhanced store. This is a landmark premises in Roscommon, going back to when the Kiernan family owned in.

  In latter years the Timothy family (and staff) have made it into a busy and popular store through sheer hard work. The recent ‘facelift’ has been widely and deservedly praised. Last weekend, after all the hard work, it was time to celebrate. Customers, long-standing and new, called in to admire the new look and join in the celebrations. Monsignor Charles Travers was present on Thursday to bless the building. It’s great to see this investment in Timothy’s Londis. Well done to Annie, Vincent, family and staff, and continued success in what is a challenging and competitive environment.

 

Friday

 

Public money this time, which is absolutely fine, in fact, great! There was a large crowd at Roscommon Arts Centre for its official re-opening. The facility, at Circular Road, Roscommon, has received a pretty spectacular facelift. The purse strings were opened by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Roscommon County Council.

  There were lots of politicians present, most of them still taking in the previous weekend’s results. Senator Terry Leyden appeared to be mischeviously happy about the record-breaking speed with which Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had hatched a Coalition deal on Roscommon Council. He couldn’t stop smiling. Senator Frank Feighan was beaming too, cock-a-hoop after Maria Walsh’s stunning Euro elections’ success. Frank was her Director of Elections. They were all there…... Denis Naughten, Michael Fitzmaurice, Eugene Murphy, Maura Hopkins…and enough councillors to field a football team. If any snubbed Independents were smarting (because FF and FG marched up the aisle after some speed-dating) they weren’t showing it.

  Ivan Connaughton made an assured speech in what he said was his last outing as Cathaoirleach. Council CE Eugene Cummins emphasised that a big focus will be placed on reaching out to schools and young people generally to ensure that this great facility is used to its full potential. Averyl Dooher, Dympna Naughton and colleagues were beaming, and so they should. It was a lovely occasion. Minister Josepha Madigan performed the official opening. She then headed off, and we headed upstairs for tasty nibbles/canapes and slightly less tasty political gossip.

 

Saturday

 

Another opening in Roscommon town, underlining my central point this week…that we have a truly great county town.

  Do we fully appreciate what a massive asset the racecourse is? I hope we do. Remarkably, the dedicated board there keeps overseeing course enhancements, year after year after year. We have a special report in our sports section this week.

  I went along on Saturday to see the latest facilities. The board had organised an open day in response to enquiries from people who wanted to see the latest developments at the course. The facilities are magnificent. A beautiful new building has been built. Not only is it extremely practical, it’s visually stunning. It contains a weigh room, medical rooms, media quarters, a new manager’s office, sauna, etc. By all accounts (from the horse’s mouth?), the various stakeholders in the horseracing industry who availed of or viewed the new facilities at the May meeting in Roscommon were all extremely impressed.

  It is a credit to everyone involved and will ensure that the reputation and popularity of Roscommon Races continues to soar in the years ahead. Roscommon Racecourse, first and foremostly in its own guise as a sporting theatre, but also with its great spin-off benefits for the entire town, is an absolute jewel in Roscommon.

 

Sunday

 

It’s the kids who get the parents involved, I guess. I haven’t put my shoulder to the wheel with Roscommon Gaels yet, but early days…

  Our son Matthew is enjoying the football and hurling, as are hundreds more local kids. We went along to the Roscommon Gaels’ Family Fun Day on Sunday (held as part of the club’s 60th anniversary celebrations).

  It was a lovely day of drills, goals, points, smiles, hot dogs and ice creams.

  There was a formal element, although it was actually pretty informal. Teresa Hession (club chairperson and MC on this occasion) was in inspirational ‘form’, defying a downpour of rain to oversee proceedings with good humour and passion. Passion for GAA. Passion for the Gaels. Passion for the future.

  Barry Molloy officially opened the club’s new dressing rooms. As ever, this great gentleman spoke with modesty and generosity. Good wishes too from Council CE Eugene Cummins and from Seamus Sweeney (County Board chairperson). Great gaels – great Gaels – stood around, with gaels’ new and eager, the past, present and future intertwining.

  I liked Teresa’s central message…which was about belonging. Everybody wants to belong. And the Gaels’ chairperson emphasised the value of the GAA, of this club, in helping people to belong. And she is right. It is the great contribution of the GAA, arguably much more important than spectacular feats on the field of play.

  Teresa also thanked the people of Roscommon for their support of the Gaels, and had a great line on the role of volunteers. “Volunteers aren’t paid…not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”.

  Asking Fr. John Cullen to bless the dressing rooms, Teresa quipped about needing a very special prayer.

  Fr. John: “I’ve been praying for Arsenal for years, and look how that’s turned out!”

  Another quip from Fr. John then as he revealed that he had been ‘promoted’ by little Cian Mulry, who had endearingly addressed him as ‘Fr. God’!

  Suddenly, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. As we had a commitment in Dublin and it was now 3.15, we had to leave, hurley and helmet in hand. As we approached the exit, four or five kids were having a kickaround beside a goal-net, not a care in the world, the joy of the GAA and the promise of the future in their young hearts.

  That – I think – is a great weekend in a great town.

Our own Game of Thrones…

 

 

 

I’ve never seen Game of Thrones – but I signed up (as usual) to the local version last weekend.

  I gather that Game of Thrones had a reputation for being quite gory – as far as I could see it was much more civilised in the Hyde Centre on Saturday and Sunday, while still a good old-fashioned marathon example of the bloodsports’ nature of Irish politics.

  It is, of course, a ‘parallel universe’…the count centre. In some instances, you meet people at a count that you haven’t actually met since the last count! Familiar faces…‘count faces’.

  And within a minute or so of arriving in the count centre, for yet another marathon, we inevitably slip into count-speak. Into the language of the count.

  ‘First preferences. Quotas. Transfers. Tallies. Percentages. Eliminations’.

  Not to mention the questions and comments.

  ‘Any sign of a count? When do you think we’ll have a first count? Any word on how things are going nationally? You wouldn’t have a spare pass by any chance?’

  It’s a world of its own, really. And usually a compelling one. Last weekend’s count in Roscommon was a long way from being the most exciting in memory, but it had its moments.

  I got there after lunch on Saturday, buying in to the marathon once again…as I’ve been doing since the 1980s. Saturday wasn’t a very productive day. There was no first count in any of the three electoral areas in the county (Athlone, Boyle & Roscommon), but the excellent work of tally men and tally women provided us with a strong indication from early on Saturday of how Election ’19 would pan out here.

  It was soon clear that Marty McDermott and Tony Waldron would be two of the day’s headline-makers. I was pleased for both of them. Waldron ran a superb campaign and was flying over the past week or so. A very affable man, he is passionate about his county, believes in its untapped potential, and will be a positive force on the Council.

  Marty McDermott also ran a great campaign, and the Oran man’s common touch and likeability factor led to a huge vote. His supporters proudly pointed out that he is the first Oran native to be elected to the Council. Marty punched the air with pride and emotion following his tremendous success. It was a very special and emotional moment for Marty, his wife and children, and both their families. And it’s good to see young people coming into politics.

  I was pleased too for Donal Kilduff, who pulled off a very impressive win in Athlone/South Roscommon. Donal is what I would describe as an ‘Ideas man’…his campaign was notable for his innovative, environmentally conscious and business-supporting proposals. On a human and political level, it was some achievement by Donal to get elected (at the expense of FF) and after a relatively late entry into the race. He will be a big addition to the Council. A proud moment for his Dad Paddy too. In a quirk of fate, Paddy and Teresa had been booked on a cruise some months ago (a birthday present) and thus missed Donal’s big moment. They only left on Sunday morning, and could hardly be expected to get back that night; not even Paddy can walk on water. No doubt big celebrations will follow in due course.

  There were massive, hugely impressive votes for a range of candidates (Paschal Fitzmaurice, Kathleen Shanagher, John Cummins, Valerie Byrne, Michael Mulligan, Tony Ward, Ivan Connaughton, John Naughten, etc.) Tom Crosby made an impressive comeback after being unlucky to lose out in 2014.

  Finally, Domnick Connolly accepted defeat with dignity and good humour. He has been a very effective councillor for a long time, and is a great community activist and a very popular man. Domnick knows this is how the ball bounces sometimes, he knows all about the twists and turns and high and lows of politics. He was gracious on Sunday, quickly turning the subject to Roscommon’s win over Mayo!

* Well done to Returning Officer Shane Tiernan and all Council staff present who did a great job over the weekend. Also, a reader was in touch to say that while there was understandable insistence on admission by pass only, they were pleased to see that there was discretion applied on Sunday evening and family/supporters of successful candidates were allowed in during the closing stages of the count…so that they could celebrate. Well said!

 

 

 

Leeds United fans 0 Rest of the World 1

 

 

 

 

If you happened to see a few middle-aged men wandering around aimlessly last Thursday – as though worn down by the stresses of the world – their sad demeanour may have had nothing to do with Brexit or bills; quite possibly they were ‘just’ deeply distraught Leeds United fans.

  I got home from work that fateful and now forever damned Wednesday evening, having succeeded in avoiding social media and any update on how THAT match was going. (Leeds were at home to Derby County in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final, and leading 1-0 from the first game).

  In the normal world, that would be a good thing.

  Anyways, I closed the curtains and opened my heart to the possibilities, sitting down to watch this monumentally big match which I had recorded, and the result of which I had avoided. 

  They say it is the hope that kills you, but when it comes to Leeds United in Championship play-offs – this supposed route back into the Premier League – I never allow actual hope to get in the way of the inevitable sense of foreboding. To be honest, it’s the qualifying for the play-offs, rather than gaining automatic promotion, that ‘kills’ Leeds fans. 

  Because Leeds, irrespective of how brilliant they’ve been all season, invariably flounder in these wretched play-offs.

  Some things in life are inevitable, they just keep happening. Our dog, it seems, will always act surprised and bark when the postman’s van arrives in the morning, as it does every weekday morning. Ryan Tubridy will always try to be cool and funny when he’s interviewing a comedian (why does he do this? It’s not as if he produces a lavish meal that he ‘prepared earlier’ whenever he’s interviewing a celebrity chef). I digress…

  Anyways, Leeds, it seems, will always blow it when they get to the Championship play-offs.

  It’s not enough to lose; they have to torture us in the process. In that second leg mayhem the other night, Leeds went 1-0 up against Derby, making it 2-0 on aggregate. An incredible atmosphere at Elland Road…thousands of fans chanting, singing and waving scarves. The Sky commentator musing about it being all over, Leeds marching on. It was, of course, madness. Drama had to reveal itself. And it did. Leeds imploded, Derby won 4-2 on the night, 4-3 overall. At least we were spared getting to the play-off final, and the delusion of escape.

  There is only one way for Leeds to return to the Premier League, and that’s by finishing first or second in the Championship, thus gaining automatic promotion, avoiding this play-off tightrope.

  Next season, I’m hoping Leeds can go straight up, that they can imperiously soar above this play-off torture. It is the only way, the only chance of escape. There is too much at stake…too much at stake for Leeds United, for their huge fan base, indeed for haunted middle-aged men throughout Roscommon…(to be continued, no doubt).

 Musings on First Holy Communion Day…

 

It was such a happy day, a joyful occasion…as it always is.

  Our son Matthew was one of a large number of children receiving their First Holy Communion in Roscommon Town last Saturday. The sun shone brightly, and a little unexpectedly.

  This is always a happy, inspirational ceremony. It’s one that many local families throughout the region have already experienced this year.

  It’s an occasion that glows…the children at the centre of it…sharing their day with siblings, parents, grandparents, further relations, a community’s embrace. 

  In these busy times, there aren’t that many communal events that can create such a calmness, such positivity. Maybe it’s because innocence is at the heart of it. And also, of course, because it’s sacred.

  Sacred. The First Holy Communion ceremony is after all a religious ceremony, and a powerful one too.

  By 10.40 am last Saturday, there were hundreds of people outside the Sacred Heart Church. The excited children…in their beautiful dresses and their dashing suits. There was a little giddiness, and lots of nervous energy…not just on the part of the kids, for the parents too. Pockets of people here and there, everyone dressed to the nines. Mostly they exchanged compliments about the kids, savoured the occasion, but, being honest, some drifted into other important snippets of small talk.

 

Musings on First Holy Communion Day…

 

But always it drifted – quickly – back to the children. The children were in their element. Their big day. When the local teachers (also stars of the day) called the children to order, they  quickly formed a queue, clasping their hands in prayer, preparing for this milestone step in their young lives.

  The ceremony was very special. It was much more inclusive than it used to be (many years ago). There was a lovely touch when three of the First Holy Communicants stood behind the altar and sang. Others read from the altar – superbly. The children received the Eucharist with reverence and were a credit to their parents and their schools.

  Walking up the aisle, they had been paired off, a boy and a girl at a time. As their parents beamed with pride, they completed this opening part of the ceremony with great formality, some of the boys careful not to make too much eye contact with their ‘partner’, as if unsure about this close encounter. (Thinking: Did we really agree to this?).   

  Fr. John Cullen celebrated a lovely Mass, which featured beautiful music from the Choir. A sense of happiness prevailed. And of sacredness. A fast-moving world slowed, for now at least. When the ceremony ended, the cameras and phones came out. The sun was still shining. The children had been great. It was, and is, one of the special days.

 

Finally, some election atmosphere…

 

 

 

Eight days to go, and while you couldn’t say there’s election fever, there’s finally some momentum to Election 2019. Just about!

  Election candidates have relished the excellent weather recently and are out in force, canvassing away. The recent Lamb Festival, the Roscommon v Leitrim match and Roscommon Races were all a bonus for candidates in that they presented an opportunity to meet large numbers of people in the one location.

  In relation to the local elections, the feeling throughout the county amongst people who are interested in this type of thing is that there are probably four to five very strongly fancied candidates in each of the three six-seaters…with one/two seats up for grabs in each area!

 

Thoughts on ‘Pool and Spurs

I was only six or seven years of age – yes, it’s so long ago, Eamon de Valera was probably our President, and the Bay City Rollers were probably in fashion.

  It’s my first memory of seeing, and being mesmerised by, soccer. There was a soccer match on the television – which was rare enough in those days. In black and white, of course. I was smitten by the style and panache of one of the two teams in action. Or were there three teams? I remember being confused. There was one team, and then there was Spurs…and Tottenham Hotspur. What was the commentator at? Eventually it dawned on me…Tottenham and Spurs were the same.

  I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them, with their swashbuckling style, their sense of adventure. Many, many years later (but still a long time ago), I went to an Arsenal-Spurs game. Such excitement! The superstars I  daydreamt of in Rooskey were suddenly there in the flesh. I waited in wonder for Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa and Liam Brady to display their magic. When it ended 0-0, I felt suitably cheated!

  And now Spurs are in the Champions League Final, following an amazing victory over Ajax, another team with plenty of ‘swash’ and ‘buckle’. What Spurs have achieved is remarkable. I met a few still-stunned Spurs fans at the weekend (there are some out there, in Rossie-land) and yet…much as I like the club, my heart is with Liverpool on this one, in this unlikely football fantasy.

  Why? Because Liverpool have been wonderful this season, a relentless, thrilling, honest leave-everything-on-the-pitch football force. I didn’t much like their manager, Klopp, when he first arrived in England. Now I’ve warmed to him. His team has been superb. As has he.

  Liverpool’s extraordinary win over an admittedly defensively pitiful Barcelona gave us one of the great soccer nights in decades. And there really is something very special about big European football nights at Anfield. When the fans sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ there, it is pure hair-standing-on-back-of-neck stuff. Even when I was a teenager, a passionate Leeds fans then as now, there was something special about Anfield on European football nights.

  I like and admire Spurs, but Liverpool have been a joyous rolling pleasure this season. After running Manchester City so close in the Premier League, few would begrudge them victory in the Champions League Final.

    

The Late Late: A-pealing as ever

So in this dream, two top TV executives fly in from the US (where else, for the purposes of this sarcastic piece?).

  They got down to business pretty quickly.

  “So, like we said in our email, you guys have the longest running chat show in the world! You guys are sitting on a phenomenon! Like we said, we gotta check this out! Thanks for meeting us!”

  Being some sort of an Independent guru in the television industry (in this dream), I spluttered: “Eh…you’re going to love it. Are you absolutely sure it’s this Friday night’s show you want to see?”

  The American guests were sure, they had flown in especially.

  The older guy reasoned: “We’ve had Carson, we’ve had Letterman, we’ve had Jimmy Kimmel, we’ve had Stephen Colbert, we’ve had James Corden…we need something new!”

  Sadly, there was time in my dream – just before I woke up – to proceed. And so it came to pass. The two American TV agents, with their big budgets and their desire to find out what was the secret behind the success of the world’s longest running chat show, sat in the Late Late Show studio.

  It was last Friday night. There was nothing I could do. It was too late.

  The executives watched, open-mouthed, when Ryan featured some ladies from the ICA demonstrating how to peel potatoes. 

  They steadied themselves a little when the ‘entertainment’ show then diversified into a discussion with a group of teenagers about exam pressures and such issues.

  I pretended to be asleep (well, I suppose I was) when the pregnant mannequin/robot was brought on to the set, and Ryan and two ‘midwives’ proceeded to deliver a ‘baby’.

  The American TV executives were more bewildered than angry. We had a drink afterwards.  

  “Exam students, old ladies peeling potatoes, a robot giving birth, I can’t understand it” the older guy said, shaking his head while enjoying his Guinness. “I don’t get this Late Late Show thing, I don’t know if we could possibly work with that template…”

  I did some thinking on the spot…I had just started to tell him about Daniel and Majella’s B&B roadshow when I woke up…

  

 

 

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