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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

The Dublin fans, the mayhem, the cattle…






In this column last week, I wrote about the occasion in the 1970s when Dublin fans went on a bit of a rampage in Roscommon on the night before a match between the two counties.

  Not only did they fight, break windows and cause general mayhem, but according to folklore, they allegedly broke into the mart, released cattle and rode them down Castle Street.

  Last week, I invited readers with any recall of that night of mayhem to get in touch. My invitation was ‘half in jest’, but in fact I got a great response!

  A number of people that I’ve spoken to since last week have confirmed that the ‘night of mayhem’ most certainly happened. One man insisted ‘1976’. Needless to say, over four decades on, when it comes to recalling the detail there is a bit of ‘rustiness about the rustling’. But we are making progress on salvaging this night from the past, and if you read on, you will get the perspective of a Garda who was present that night…and we also find out more about the extraordinary story of the ‘stolen cattle’.

The Garda’s eyewitness account!

I received a detailed account of the ‘night of mayhem’ from a Garda who was on duty on the night.

  The now retired Garda contacted me during the week and confirmed that all the drama on the night happened in the Castle Street area.

  “I was a very young Garda in Roscommon at the time” he began. “On the Saturday night before the Roscommon/Dublin game, fans congregrated around the Royal Hotel. Fans always congregated there when there were matches on”.

  Yes, that I could vouch for myself!

  Back to our friendly ex-Garda, whom I must say recalled the night with some nostalgia.

  “So”, he continued, “on the Saturday night, the Dublin fans were outside the Royal, and after a while there was bedlam. Castle Street was blocked off. We arrived in the only squad car we had, two or three young Guards. It was mayhem, with Dublin fans breaking windows and throwing punches”.

  The Gardai made a number of arrests, which wasn’t easy in the madcap prevailing circumstances.

  “There were fellas hanging on to the squad car…batons were drawn. Peace was finally restored after several outbreaks of fighting”.

  But it was really only half-time…

  The Gardai brought whatever few offenders they had managed to arrest straight up to the cells in the Garda Station.  Suddenly it was “all calm” on Castle Street, with hundreds of Dublin and Roscommon fans drinking on the still impassable street. Then, out of the blue, a Co. Roscommon man upended a Dublin supporter and “all hell broke loose again”.  

  Back in the Garda Station, the apprehended Dublin fans – still the worse for wear – were having the craic with the local Gardai, not to mention insisting that they were innocent.

The cattle – revealed!

So, did some of that small number of rampaging Dubs break into Roscommon Mart and release cattle? It appears not, but instead they ‘borrowed’ the cattle from a very well-known business family!

  None other than well-known Roscommon businessman Declan Molloy (of Molloy’s Bakery) was able to help with my enquiries. “They were our cattle” Declan said with a smile when I called in for a coffee the other day.

  So I rang him back on Wednesday.

  “We had cattle at the back of our house in Castle Street” Declan revealed.  “The incident happened in the early hours of the morning, after whatever high jinks had gone on in Castle Street. We were all gone to bed in our house…then in the early hours, we got a phone call from a neighbour, who told us that Dublin fans were riding our cattle around in the field!”

  Seemingly about half a dozen Dublin fans had corralled the cattle into a pen and proceeded to ride them around the field.  

  Declan Molloy: “By the time we got down to check, they were just leaving. Cattle would have been fairly tame in those days. One of my brothers went down to check on them and he said the cattle were absolutely shattered”.

  I asked Declan if the cattle were traumatised.  

  “No, there was no harm done, but they were certainly tired! They were all sitting down!”

Another twist…

Larry! Of course, why didn’t I think of Larry before this! So, just before going to press, I rang Larry O’Gara, whose family ran the Royal Hotel, which was so frequented in that era by GAA fans.

  He remembered the night well. And he even ventured to ‘change’ the year! “I’m pretty sure it was 1975” Larry said, “because Dublin were All-Ireland champions at the time. They had won the All-Ireland in 1974”.

  So, a new twist! It was the All-Ireland champions who were in town, and it was 1975, not ’76!

  And, during our conversation, Larry even re-opened the theory that the Dubs DID ride the cattle down Castle Street!

  Larry O’Gara: “It was a great weekend! The Dublin fans stayed in the hotel Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. They brought accordions and tambourines and bodhrans…they played music all weekend”.

  Larry recalled the fighting in Castle Street on the Saturday night.

  “In fact there was a fight in the hotel itself, but it was harmless enough. Castle Street was full of people and yes, there were rows, but a lot of it was good-natured and harmless”.

  He recalled his late mother having quite a job accommodating Dublin fans. “In the end, they were asleep in the corridor, in the bar, anywhere they could get a lie-down!” 

  I asked if he recalled the episode with the cattle.

  “Oh yes, now I didn’t witness it myself, because I was busy in the hotel, but I am certain that some of the Dublin fans rode cows down Cattle Street. They got them from Molloy’s land, took them out, and rode them down the street”.

Back in the cells in the Garda Station…

Meanwhile, some Dublin fans were kept in the cells overnight, and throughout the game, only being released after Roscommon and the All-Ireland champions were finished in the Hyde.

  My Garda contact from this week: “We let some of them out after the match on Sunday…to get the train back to Dublin. I think it was leaving at 5 o’clock.

  “One fellow ran up the street to get to the train and away from the Garda Station… there was scaffolding up outside a building in Abbey Street. The poor fellow ran straight into it and knocked himself unconscious. We came to his aid, got him on the train and made sure he was looked after”.

  Now – I’m almost as exhausted as the Dubs, the Gardai and the cattle were!

  Ah, the good old days!

A sporting Saturday that just wasn’t funny…

I didn’t get to Salthill for Roscommon v Galway, but, a few screen breaks aside, I was able to commit to a long afternoon in front of the television.

  And that’s when those amongst the sporting Gods that wear primrose and blue duly punished me for not supporting the Rossies in the flesh…

  What a stinker of a sporting day! I sat in front of that television as an expectant Leeds, Roscommon and Ireland fan…little did I know what misery lay ahead.

  To paraphrase that great Norwegian soccer commentator from long ago (Norway 2 England 1, 1981), I took a hell of a beating.

  Leeds, so close to securing that long-awaited return to the Premier League, had a chance to go five points clear of promotion rivals Sheffield United. The sides met in Saturday’s ‘High Noon’ on Sky – Leeds dominated, but Sheffield won.

  Next, Wales v Ireland in the rugby, with radio and Twitter updates on Galway v Roscommon. More misery. Roscommon’s defeat leaves them staring relegation in the face. Still, while there’s life there’s hope. The Rossies face Kerry in a crunch game this Sunday.

  Ireland lost every key call against Wales, but it was still a poor performance. Wales were worthy winners.

  Anyways, the amazing Scotland comeback against England in a Twickenham classic, and a simply sensational Players’ Championship in the golf – won by Rory McIlroy – brought some welcome balance and brilliance to that mischevious sporting weekend.

Four ‘nuns’ on a truck…

This country is changing so rapidly, it’s mind-boggling. There we were on Sunday, my son and I, walking along the pavement in Ballyleague, minding our own business.

  Then four nuns waved at us from a transport box, or was it from the back of a truck?

  Oh yeah, just remembered…the Ballyleague/Lanesboro St. Patrick’s Day Parade had just ended. Lots of good floats, lots of fun, great crowds. Oh yeah again…thanks a million to the guys on the ‘Zombies’ float (representing Ballyboro Scouts, I think). They were firing water pistols and dancing to/singing Baby Shark – and I cannot get that sound out of my head since!

THE highlight of the Six Nations…

So, farewell then, to the 2019 Six Nations Championship…

  On Sunday night, the Virgin Media team did a review of the tournament, hosted by the sure-footed Joe Molloy. Despite Ireland’s drubbing by Wales on Saturday, it had a good-humoured end-of-term feel to it. Even Matt Williams smiled, although this may have been an unintentional lapse.

  They discussed the highlights of the 2019 Six Nations…and while it is true that Wales and England were impressive, I thought the pundits overlooked what for me was the obvious highlight of the campaign.

  Which was…that wonderful, evocative television advert (a true story) featuring the two Welsh brothers honouring their late mother’s will by attending Six Nations’ matches.









































































































































Closed premises, ballboys and Lovely Leitrim...



The other day…

That little premises used to be open – but now it’s closed.

  I noticed it the other day, another quiet and silent and dignified addition to the ‘boarded up premises’ statistics.

  The life has ebbed from that small business outlet, at least until someone else ‘takes a punt’, if someone else ever does.

  The shelves are suddenly empty. The unopened post lies on the floor. The furniture is gone.

  Hopefully it wasn’t/isn’t too great a trauma for the entrepreneur who had to ‘call time’. We can only wonder. There may have been stressful nights, long debates, awkward conversations, tensions and torments. A dream, of whatever magnitude, has died, at least for now.

  The small premises’ where the shelves were stocked with hope are under serious attack. Online shopping has all the momentum, true…but next time we need to do some shopping/access some services, let’s remember the small man and woman with the scribbled projections on the kitchen table – and let’s think of those doors that are shutting in our midst.


They’ll have told us so!

Wondering what the Irish rugby media will say after Ireland’s crunch game with France this weekend? I can tell you…

  If we win: ‘Ship steadied. Calm leadership from Schmidt. Growing into the tournament. Strength in depth. Can look to World Cup with cautious confidence. We told you so’.

  If we lose: ‘Wheels have come off. Schmidt should never have said he was leaving. Team is over-rated. One-dimensional. No real strength in depth. 2007 all over again. Bah, humbug. We told you so!’

Gaffer Anthony

I was intrigued by the following reference to Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham in a report in the Irish Sun on the weekend thriller in Hyde Park:…‘Gaffer Cunningham’.

  Gaffer?!! Could it be that the Irish Sun is being influenced (infiltrated?) by their UK colleagues?

  Coming next week: ‘The lad done well’?


Not Trumped yet

I know people across the world are thinking ‘something has to bring Trump down sooner or later’, but I’m not sure that Michael Cohen is the smoking gun.

  Cohen sought to rip asunder the credibility (yeah, I know, I know) of his former boss (President Trump) from the very beginning of his testimony to the House of Representatives Oversight Committee.

  But when I heard this direct quote from the bould Michael on day one, I reckoned Trump had little to worry about.

  Mr. Cohen: “I lied, but I’m not a liar”.

  With enemies like that Donald, you can continue to stay ahead of the posse…


Short(ish) memory!

It’s almost 21 years since Eastenders famously got into hot water over its depiction of Ireland when some episodes of the popular UK soap were based here (complete with tedious stereotyping).

  I don’t watch Eastenders, but under the ‘It was on in the corner’ rule, I noticed on Monday evening that Albert Square legend ‘Dot’ is going to spend some time in Ireland with relatives.

  Which prompted this response from some character I didn’t recognise:

  “Even Ireland’s got to be a better place than here, innit?”

  Even Ireland? Ouch.

  We’re suitably sensitive/indignant…and so it’s a yellow (green-tinted) card to the scriptwriter with the short(ish) memory!


Ballboy 1 Klopp 0

Can the owners of Liverpool arrange to have that charismatic but increasingly easy-to-wind-up Jurgen Klopp airlifted from the touchline at the final whistle of Liverpool’s remaining games?

  Example one: Recently Klopp furiously rounded on a referee when no-one in the stadium had a clue what the ‘Pool supremo’s gripe was.

  Example two: Last Sunday, there was that bizarre footage as Klopp left the field after a disappointing 0-0 draw in the Merseyside derby.

  Sarcastically applauded by a cheeky ballboy, Klopp initially looked set to explode, before responding with a less than convincing ‘smile’.

  To be fair, that Everton ballboy caused Jurgen Klopp more anguish than have most rival managers/teams this season.

  Mr. Mourinho, wherever you are, please note: There’s a new maestro of psychology in town. An Everton ballboy…



I had some sort of a weird vision the other night…basically that our local TD Michael Fitzmaurice wasn’t a guest on the Tonight Show with Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper.

  I know, it’s crazy. I can only presume that it was a dream…


Poetry in motion 

It was a special weekend for Leitrim. We knew it was coming to this, such was the momentum. And so, with two games to spare, our neighbours march into Division 3 and into a league final at Croke Park.

  I remember their big day in Croke Park a quarter of a century ago. It’s hard to believe almost 25 years have passed since that memorable day. There was a wonderful atmosphere in Dorset Street before the game, as Leitrim folk from all over the world took over this part of the Capital, prior to their All-Ireland semi-final with Dublin.

  They were there, in that era before the ‘back door’ and quarter-finals, by virtue of winning only their second ever Connacht Final.

  Managed by John O’Mahoney, Leitrim defeated Mayo in Hyde Park. The scenes were epic, emotional, historic.

  And that’s when one Leitrim supporter was inspired to write this simple but memorable and apt poem.


The man from Leitrim (5.30 pm)

With chest expanding

He strides across Roscommon Town

A young son clutches his big hand and asks

‘Daddy, why are you crying?’








‘I hope Ireland hit form…if only to see Matt Williams smile’



I can’t be the only person who finds the stoppages in rugby tedious, can I? Anyways, I’ve got around this problem quite easily…by recording the Six Nations games and only starting to watch the action ten or fifteen minutes into the match. That way, every time there’s a long stoppage, I can usually fast-forward until the ‘action’ has recommenced.

   I mean, just how long do they have to mess about for during preparation for a scrum? And the line-outs are almost as bad. But I’m not really complaining…I’ve managed to bypass those stoppages and savour the open play.

  It was a sporting weekend that promised much, but under-delivered. Manchester United v Liverpool was a scoreless draw, not exactly matching the pre-game hype. Ireland were very unimpressive in Rome, though in fairness it says a lot about how high our expectations are when we complain about a 10-point away win, complete with bonus point. I hope Ireland hit form soon, if only to see Virgin Media analyst Matt Williams break into a smile.

  Much to my dismay (before the game at least) I couldn’t get to Cavan for the Roscommon match. In the first half, Willie kept saying Roscommon had the wind at their backs…then when Cavan goaled to go in ahead at the break, the writing was on the pitch.

  The best sporting entertainment of the weekend was Wales v Cardiff, but this column’s Oscar for Best Drama (and best acting?) goes to Kepa, the Chelsea goalkeeper. He greatly enlivened Sunday afternoon, with his extraordinary refusal to leave the pitch when the Chelsea manager tried to substitute him. I can’t see them getting on too well at the Christmas Party – mainly because at least one of them will have left the club by then.


Just a thought…


* The RTE promo for Saturday night’s Ray D’Arcy Show was full of promise: It read:

‘Ray D’Arcy presents a brand new range of guests bursting with entertaining yarns and engaging human interest stories’.

  Should I take legal action – or just send a strongly worded email to the Director General?


Why Simon stayed…


I’m full of admiration for the selflessness of Health Minister Simon Harris.

  Apparently, during the Dáil debate on his ‘Being asleep on the job while hundreds of millions of euro were added to the projected costs of the National Children’s Hospital’, the Minister said that he is not the resigning type. It’s not in his DNA.

  So, let’s be clear: Minister Harris is not the resigning type. He doesn’t walk away from trouble. He battles on. He doesn’t give in. He’s just not the resigning type. In fact, it’s not in his DNA, so he couldn’t if he wanted to!

  So that’s all alright then!

  Where do they get their arrogance?

A family that deserves answers…

I know that Church so well.

  Castlerahan is a lovely, peaceful place, near Ballyjamesduff, in Co. Cavan. It holds a special place in our thoughts. My mother is a native of the area, and we spent many happy times there.

  There’s something special about that Church, perched on top of a hill…a serene setting where families gather for Mass and other ceremonies.

  The Church is across from the local school. Alan Hawe was vice-principal there. His sons were pupils there. It’s still shocking to think that such unspeakable tragedy would so savagely crush the tranquillity in Castlerahan. But that’s what happened. Two and a half years ago, Alan Hawe murdered his wife Clodagh and their sons Liam, Niall and Ryan.

  On ‘Claire Byrne Live’on Monday night we saw a remarkable interview with Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary and sister Jacqueline. ‘Her name is Clodagh’ was powerful, deeply emotional, gripping, heartbreaking.

  The two ladies were incredibly brave and composed as they spoke. They didn’t want to do the interview, but they did it because Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan have no voices.

  Clodagh’s utterly devastated family are unhappy about the unanswered questions that remain. They say they have been denied access to Garda files. They have called for a new enquiry into what happened – and why – and for a number of changes in the law.

  They made their case in a compelling and articulate manner. They need their voices to be heard. The issues they raise are rightly of concern. Above all else, the family of Clodagh Hawe deserve answers to their many questions.

This is not Rooskey (Part 2)…




It might have been helpful if there was a Town Crier at the bridge in Rooskey on Sunday.

  ‘Roll up, roll up, folks! Open-air circus in town! Roll up!’  

  And behind him, a sad-faced clown: ‘Spoiler Alert! It’s not funny….’

  Sunday’s anti-racism rally, for one reason or another, descended into farce. Let me say at the outset that I am not actually trivialising the issues – after all, I have written quite extensively about the current controversy in Rooskey, e.g. the proposed opening of the Shannon Key West Hotel as an asylum reception centre, the two arson attacks on the property, and the tension-filled fall-out from the whole saga. 

  I would also like to make clear that there were many genuine people present beside Rooskey Bridge on Sunday for an event which was billed as a ‘No to Racism: Asylum Seekers Welcome’ Rally. 

  But what unfolded was, for the most part, an unedifying farce, a shambles.

  I’ve had many a happy Sunday afternoon in Rooskey, but the hour and a half I spent on the riverbank last Sunday won’t rank highly in my memory.

  The first anti-racism rally back in January – the local community’s snubbing of it notwithstanding – was orderly, peaceful, pleasant, structured. It was different last Sunday. The organisers were certainly not at fault initially; they would argue that their event was disrupted. But the organisers certainly did not cover themselves in glory once they saw even the slightest hint of an alternative view manifest itself.

  When a local woman angrily interjected at the beginning of the rally – claiming the organisers were blackening the name of the village and that there was no-one from Rooskey present – she was initially engaged in debate, albeit a quite heated one. Then the organisers decided to ‘drown out’ the woman’s protest by playing loud music. When the woman and a friend were subsequently interviewed by the media, they were subjected to verbal taunting from a couple of individuals. It set the tone for what was to follow.

  The remainder of the rally was largely overshadowed by an ongoing stand-off between event organisers and a man identifying himself as a ‘Citizen journalist’. Some of this was unpleasant, some of it downright childish. A small minority of the 40 or so present were involved. Insults, provocation and apparently hypersensitive intimations of ‘assault’ soured proceedings. It all left a bad taste.

  MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, the only politician who was present, made a very brief speech and was then gone in a flash (he said he was suffering from a bad cold).

  I want to again make clear that there were genuine, heartfelt points made by speakers (including a couple of locals). However, the whole atmosphere was unpleasant and quite chaotic. There was no presence of any note from the local community; in essence, the people of Rooskey stayed away, as did all local politicians, bar ‘Ming’.

  As we (mercifully) edged towards the end of proceedings, there was more farce. The local priest (not present) was disrespectfully denounced for his absence. Some members of the media present were given the ‘in your face’ treatment too…organisers of the rally confronting journalists and vehemently taking them to task for supposed unbalanced coverage. When one watching journalist was singled out and invited to come forward and speak, he accepted the invitation, only to be quickly censored.

  Two tourists staying in a camper van cycled past, looking suitably bemused. I stood back and viewed the squabbling few, and the majority who had behaved impeccably…the latter powerless to reverse the underlying atmosphere of extremism, anger, acrimony. In the background, the majestic River Shannon, the bridge, the vacant hotel. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but it had been made ugly. In front of me, an unfunny circus. Hardly a single local person present. Once again, I thought to myself, ‘This is not Rooskey’.

Letters to the Editor…

We received a number of ‘Letters to the Editor’ over the past number of days…due to space constraints they are not in this week’s issue. However, I would hope to include some or all of them next week. We welcome readers’ views; please post or drop into Roscommon People, Abbey Street, Roscommon, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


‘Percy French and I looked at one another in despair’



In the rugby, England were merciless and marvellous against France at Twickenham on Sunday. Ireland went to Murrayfield and defeated the Scots, which is always a worthy enough achievement. But Ireland are not particularly convincing at the moment…we’re ponderous, whereas England are like some type of rugby version of Mike Tyson…charging at the opposition with frenzied pace and power and confidence.

  Mind you, the French were shockingly bad…some of their team plodding along like hungover middle-aged men going through the motions on a village green.

  To the GAA…and when I was growing up, I was often told of how, back in the days before television, all over Ireland neighbours would gather in whatever house had a ‘transistor radio’ in order to listen to Michael O’Hehir’s match commentary.

  I didn’t get to the Roscommon/Tyrone game last Sunday (due to a family gathering). Over a very nice lunch in the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown, we followed the game on Twitter (which is what reminded me of those ‘all around the transitor’ tales of long ago. Following a game on Twitter is a great option, but pretty frustrating too. Waiting (and wondering) while the score updates pop up on your phone can be torture.

  With a few minutes to go, the waiting became too much for me, so I headed for privacy in the lobby. I sat under a portrait of Percy French and tuned into Willie’s commentary. Last minute, sides level! A free in for Roscommon! But then, drama as the referee cancelled that likely match-winning free and instead, threw the ball up. A draw! Percy French and I looked at one another in despair. The combined powers of the players, Twitter, Willie Hegarty and the spirit of Percy French had fallen just short of inspiring another great win; still, it was another very encouraging performance by Roscommon.


Looking for great comedy? Try these…



Great comedy more often than not looks simple, but is in fact born of subtlety, intelligence, skill, timing.

  Too often in the modern era, what passes for comedy is laziness…a shadow of actual comedy…with those involved often relying on vulgarity, crassness, stupidity, even cruelty. These ‘shock tactics’, called upon partly because it’s now a tried and trusted formula – and often engaged in order to compensate for the performer’s lack of imagination – sadly seem to satisfy 21st century audiences.

  I mean, is Jimmy Carr actually funny?

  And while I appreciate that times obviously change, I think much of today’s shallow comedy is quite simply a reflection of the general lowering of standards in society. When it comes to movies, the race to the bottom (of the barrel) is very often the crude approach favoured by writers and producers. There are of course many exceptions. There are still ‘funny’ movies, and currently there are some excellent and clever (mostly American) sit-coms. Likewise, when it comes to stand-up comedy, there’s a fair bit of quality around, but also a lot of offensive rubbish!

  I was reminded of how, well…great…great comedy can be when we went to see ‘Stan & Ollie’ in C&L Plex, Roscommon recently. My absolute heroes from that era are the Marx Brothers, for whom the word ‘genius’ might have been invented. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were quite brilliant too.

  When I was a kid, their short movies were on television regularly. It was an era before multi-channel television, Youtube, Netflix…in fact for many years we only had two channels. While ‘Laurel & Hardy’ was scheduled quite often, it was also ‘first sub’ when, as seemed to happen quite often, there was a break in scheduled programming. For example, a race meeting or football match might be snowed off, a live event might finish earlier than expected, or a link to such an event might be lost. In which case, Continuity Announcer takes over: ‘A technical problem has arisen. While we try to restore our link…here’s Laurel & Hardy….’

  At such times, children of the nation suddenly felt like it was Christmas Eve. 

  The story of Stan and Ollie, delightfully told in the movie (great performances by the cast), is very touching. On screen, Stan was the idiotic one; in ‘real life’ he was the ‘brains’ behind the duo, which is not for one moment to underestimate the role of Hardy. Stan Laurel conceived many of the golden moments the double act created on screen. Through great career peaks and some lows, Laurel and Hardy remained inseparable.

  ‘Stan & Ollie’ is poignant, touching and heartwarming – a lovely, nostalgic flashback to the careers of probably the most famous comedy partnership of all time. If you are not familiar with the great body of work of Laurel & Hardy, you might like to check them out on Youtube. And while you are at it, check out the amazing Marx Brothers too.

  Meanwhile, if you want smart-assed, smug, belittling, crude and offensive ‘comedy substitute’, then reach for that remote control and you won’t be waiting long…





The billion (or two) euro question(s)…




All week

Honestly, these arrogant politicians (well, some of them)…with their prowess at twisting logic, their habitual brazenness, their almost admirable verbal dexterity.

  Not wishing to pick on the usually very reasonable Deputy Colm Brophy, but the Fine Gael man really pushed my tolerance limits the other night. On the Tonight Show with Matt and Ivan – doing a good job in the footsteps of the great Vincent – Colm truly tested my patience.

  Yellow card: He tried to fob viewers off by claiming that the initial cost of the National Children’s Hospital was €983m.

  An indignant Matt Cooper reminded Colm that it was actually €650m.

  Effortlessly seeking to sidestep Matt, Deputy Brophy insisted it was the bigger figure, thus implying that the subsequent costs’ overrun is not quite as horrendous as pesky journalists would have us believe.

  Black card: Next, Colm plays the ‘What about the children and their parents?’ card. Straight-faced, Colm says we need this hospital…and asks who will look parents in the eye and say otherwise?

  A red herring, of course.

  Red card (or second yellow): Colm confidently wraps his contribution by saying that we must, yeah, we absolutely must, avoid any such cost overruns in the future.

  I’m thinking: ‘No, actually we should avoid any such cost overruns in the present’.

  All week, government politicians used the same tactics. If you challenge them on the scandalous costs issue, as soon as possible they will move the ‘debate’ on and play their emotional trump card… “The real issue here is that we need to build this hospital. People have waited long enough”.

  No, the real issue here – right here and right now – is that we need to address this costs’ monster.

  It’s pathetic.

Time added on: I wrote above on Tuesday, I have still to digest Health Minister Simon Harris’ doubtlessly deeply revealing, modest and apologetic appearance before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health on Wednesday.



Speaking as a Leeds United fan, I think Liverpool ‘2018/2019 version’ are a breath of fresh air. They play exciting football and have been a revelation this season.

  There is a ‘but’…what was Jurgen Klopp at the other night? I watched Liverpool’s lame draw with West Ham, and was then bemused to see Klopp quite aggressively remonstrate with the referee at the full-time whistle. More than that, Klopp had a bit of a barney with West Ham’s gentlemanly manager, Manuel Pellegrini.

  True, this sort of managerial over-reaction/histrionics is commonplace, but it’s getting a bit nauseating. What makes Monday night’s soap opera particularly odd is the fact that Liverpool’s goal – in a 1-1 draw – was clearly offside. To be fair to Klopp, I imagine his embarrassing conduct on Monday night is down to sheer pressure, as the race for the title intensifies. When Mourinho was at Manchester United, there was no such excuse. Such behaviour from The Special One was just him being a bad loser/unsporting/grumpy/looking for an edge. Ditto when Arsene Wenger reigned at Arsenal.

  Klopp had no business behaving as he did on Monday night, but like I say, maybe the pressure is getting to him! And I guess he too is generally a breath of fresh air.

  What a pleasure it would be to see more managers behave without bias and with dignity and restraint after a game. Managers like Roy Hodgson and Chris Hughton set the example that others should follow!


‘The Hyde on Sunday was wonderful’




The Hyde on Sunday was wonderful. It was one of the best ‘league days’ in years. There was a substantial Monaghan support in the stands, which of course added to the atmosphere.

  Entirely reasonably, given their team’s status and their stunning win over Dublin the previous weekend, the Monaghan fans travelled in expectation. Roscommon fans, encouraged by our  performance in wet and windy Castlebar, expected another resolute showing by Anthony Cunningham’s very focussed team – but few dared to contemplate a home win.

  It was very cold. Prior to throw-in, three Monaghan fans changed into wet gear, adding something like an angler’s wet gear to what they were already wearing. A bit of trouble these lads had too, as they tried to complete their makeover. It was like a scene from Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game.

  The home defence was superb as Roscommon earned an exciting win. All credit to Anthony Cunningham, his backroom team, and those heroic players.

  The atmosphere in the final fifteen minutes was terrific. Black cards, red card, off-the-ball incidents, flare-ups, heart-stopping moments, good football, great passion, phenomenal effort by amateur sportsmen. 

  When the final whistle blew, the Roscommon fans reacted with an outpouring of emotion…happiness, relief and pride merging.

  We completely forgot about the quite bitter cold which had certainly registered with us at the throw-in and irked us during the always tedious half-time break. That was then. Now, a great and somewhat unlikely win achieved, the cold meant nothing, no longer impacted. Warm hearts surpass mere cold elements. Now, we simply relished this precious statement of intent; heroic Roscommon had beaten high-flying Monaghan. A great league day. We stood proud in the Hyde and applauded Roscommon on their slow and savoured departure from the field.




The last post...




The door closed in Glinsk on Monday, as it did somewhere else the previous week, as it will somewhere else next week. Sometimes eras end with noise and fanfare and drama, but sometimes eras can end quietly, with little more than the memories and the silence present as witnesses.

  The story in Glinsk is replicated in other parts of Roscommon and East Galway, indeed in many other areas throughout the country too.

  Life will never be the same again in those small, rural areas where the local post office is closing its doors.

  I was wondering what I might write about in this week’s column when I got the call from Marty Farragher. Efficient and civic-minded as ever, Marty was wondering if the Roscommon People could ‘transfer’ the papers which are delivered to Glinsk Post Office every week on to Dowd’s from now on (we can).

  We got talking. I first met Marty and his wife Margaret over 25 years ago. Such decent, honest-to-goodness community people. Margaret submitted Glinsk notes to the Roscommon Champion for many years. Marty and Margaret were at the heart of the small community in the beautiful East Galway village, as they still are to this day. They were always very welcoming over those years – and those years have gone by quickly.

  Marty confirmed that the curtain had come down. Glinsk Post Office closed on Monday last. Three generations of the Farragher family had run the post office over a 123-year period. Historic stuff. Emotional stuff. ‘End of an era’ is an understatement. Social change going about its business, quietly but firmly. Change imposing itself. Emotional stuff indeed.

  As Marty put it: “Margaret was postmistress here from 1967 until yesterday”.

  “Until yesterday”.

   I asked Marty to fill me in on this story. It begins in 1896, when Marty’s grandfather (Martin Farragher) ran a post office in Glinsk on what was initially a temporary basis. In 1900, the post office officially opened and was run by Martin and his wife, Mary-Ann.

  The first pensions were paid out on the 7th of January 1909, when forty-four pensioners called to Glinsk Post Office and collected eleven pounds – between them.

  The second generation stewardship began when Marty’s parents, Michael and Mary (nee Cuddy), took up the reins following their marriage in 1938. Marty’s aunts and uncles also worked there over the years.

  After his father’s death in 1963, Marty was appointed postmaster. Marty and Margaret (nee Curley) got married in 1967 and Margaret took over as postmistress (succeeding Marty’s mother). Third generation…the story continuing. 

  On Tuesday of this week, Marty and Margaret briefly reflected on the changes which the passing years brought. What they’ve seen, and what was passed on to them. They say a ‘Call Office’ was in place from 1952, whereby local people called in to make and take important calls. That was an all-night service, often involving emergency calls. In 1974, a kiosk (“the first telephone in the area”) was placed outside the post office.

  Well-known postmen are recalled with fondness. They are concerned about “leaving people out” (to be fair, Marty only rang in to discuss deliveries of the Roscommon People!) and wants to acknowledge everyone who has played a role in this story.

  Marty says the “McLoughlins of Castlerea” had the ‘mail’ contract for many years. The post came by train from Dublin to Castlerea, where it was sorted before being delivered into outlying areas. For many years, those deliveries were by horse and cart.

  Joe Dunne was a postman who came to Ballymoe in 1952 (that’s where the post for Glinsk was sorted). In 1960, he was appointed “full-time postman” in Glinsk, complete with mail van. Before that, from the 1930s or so, Paddy Griffin was a well-known postman. In later years, he was succeeded by his sons. There were many others… Brendan Mannion from Ballymoe served for a good number of years, as did Mike Conneely from Newtown in Glinsk. Tom Galvin is fondly recalled too.

  Over these decades, Glinsk Post Office became a great social hub. Same story in Knockvicar. Same story in Cornafulla. Same story in other areas locally.

  In Glinsk, great friendships were built up. “Yes, it was very much a social hub I suppose,” Marty Farragher said this week. “Often on a Friday, you could have five or six women here and they’d have a great chat for a half an hour or so! Up to the very end (last week) it was going well, to be honest. It was busy. Of course the nature of how people do their business is changing”.

  I had been wondering what to write about in my column this week… but what could be more important to write about, to record, than this… change. That’s at the heart of this story of course. Change. Time moving, things evolving, change happening…

  On Monday, they closed the door in Glinsk PO ‘for the last time’. Poignant stuff. Social change, slow or otherwise, can be hard to take. The locals will now have to go to Creggs to collect their pensions, to do whatever other business they have to do. In the meantime, a chapter has closed. Three generations. 123 years. Happy days, sad days, all lived within the beating heart of Glinsk community. Great memories will live on.

  We asked the ever-obliging photographer Mick McCormack to call out and take a few photos on Wednesday.

  How do people feel about it all, I asked Marty.

  “Ah, people in the area are disappointed I suppose” he replied. “And we will miss those people very much”.

Four days in Rome…


Rome wasn’t built in a day – and cannot possibly be fully appreciated in all its magnificence in four days.  

  But, on our first ever visit to Rome (or Italy), we gave it our best shot – and pledged we’ll return.

  Spectacular, breathtaking Rome is essentially all about beautiful architecture and art, and a history that spans over 2,000 years and which encompasses the Roman Empire, Medieval Rome, Renaissance Rome and more besides. Not to mention its role as the centre of Christianity.

  So, four days then!

  The weekend highlights were the few hours we spent at The Vatican and later, a tour of the Colosseum. We also visited the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Piazza del Popola, Piazza Navona, Piazzo Venezia, Circus Maximus the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. Some of these attractions I hadn’t heard of until last weekend; all are well worth seeing.

  Meanwhile, we also enjoyed the buzz of the city. Apparently the Italian economy is on its knees, but my anecdotal report is that Rome was impressively buoyant and brimming with tourists…not bad for January? Of course that’s the least informed ‘economic report’ you’ve ever read (though at least mercifully short). And presumably tourists milling around Rome is a 12-month phenomenon.

  As in so many holiday destinations, you can barely pass a restaurant without being lobbied by an enthusiastic waiter or waitress. In Rome,  fuelled by Latin charm and good humour, the waiters whizz in and out between tables, while keeping an eye on any slow-moving pedestrians/potential new customers!


The Vatican (Saturday)

It would be dishonest to suggest that our arrival at The Vatican was a grand one; Fiona and I disembarked from a ‘Hop on, Hop off’ bus. Large crowds of tourists milled around, a selfies’ extravaganza. There, in the distance, was the famous, familiar dome. The walk deep into the heart of Vatican City took about ten minutes. It’s a curious approach, with homeless people lying or standing in doorways, as in any other European city. One such man had a coat draped over his dog. He had a fabulous looking iphone. Movingly, or maybe opportunistically, one ‘rough sleeper’ prostrated himself on the footpath outside the entrance to The Vatican, his hands clasped in prayer, head bowed, his face invisible to the passing crowds. A small box beside him contained few coins.

  A McDonald’s sign ahead of us is a reminder of a different place of worship and of how commercialism knows no boundaries. Why should I be surprised? Needless to say, the walk to The Vatican reveals numerous souvenir shops too. As we queue to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, the rain comes. Hawkers emerge from the shadows offering raincoats and umbrellas. A burly, hollering security man chases one of them and the hawker breaks away in haste before returning the moment the coast is clear.

  Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is a remarkable and moving experience. This is where St. Peter was martyred and where the Apostles were buried. Inside the Basilica lie the remains of a number of Popes. Given his charisma, his famous Irish visit in 1979 and his stature throughout our youth, it is quite an experience to spend some time at the tomb of Pope Paul 11.

  What is so compelling is the magnificence of the building. It’s the world’s largest Church, and the architecture is amazing. Works by Michaelangelo and other great artists are on display. Every turn you take in this vast, spectacular building amazes you further.

  The packed souvenir shop is staffed by five nuns.


The Colosseum (Sunday)

It was impossible to stand inside the Colosseum and not let your mind wander back to the period numerous centuries ago when it was the scene of regular ‘sporting events’ in which gladiators and wild animals fought to the death for the entertainment of 75,000 spectators.

  We had a wonderful tour guide, a charismatic big Italian man with a tremendous knowledge of Roman history. One of the many fascinating facts we heard on our tour is that it took just eight years to build the arena (beginning in 72 AD). It helped that 60,000 slaves were on the job.

  You get to wander around the vast amphitheatre, and imagine what it must have been like. To your left is the seat on which the Emperor of the day sat. Across from him, were seated the elite of Roman society. Above them (further from the brutal ‘action’) thousands of much less important Romans. Above them still (it’s a four-storey building) were convicts, the poor. Women were forced to take the top tier, where they stood (everyone else had access to seating). 

  In the Colosseum, the ‘sport’ lasted all day. Wild animals fought to the death on a stage in the centre. In what was effectively ‘half-time entertainment’, deserters from the army were fed to the lions…eaten alive in front of the baying mob.

  The highlight was always an epic showdown involving gladiators and wild animals. These were elaborate stage-managed ‘productions’. As a team of gladiators fought against a rival team, packs of wild animals were introduced to the fray at 20-minute intervals, to add to the tension. Gladiators and animals, blood and death, audience clamouring for more. By the time it was all over, the spectators were going crazy. Many of them would soon join up as soldiers. They had no choice: a night in the Colosseum had whetted their appetite for some invading of foreign lands; it had heightened their loyalty to the Emperor, to Rome. Besides, if you deserted, there was the prospect of being fed to the lions in front of 75,000 people some night soon…

  On Sunday, the Colosseum was thronged with tourists. There were a few Irish voices, but I was probably the only one wondering how the FBD Final was going.


Sunday evening/Monday morning

We visited a couple of superb museums, before (well, it was our last night) moving the cultural dial just a little by visiting an Irish pub (at least it’s called ‘Scholars’). The place was packed with students and holiday-makers, an exciting American football showdown on large screens creating a great atmosphere.

  I had of course checked the FBD result on my phone, and on the flight home, the Irish Independent had all the details on the clash of the gladiators in Tuam. And the Roscommon gladiators had triumphed.

  In the shuttle bus, I knew I was home when I heard a man on his mobile: “100%, 100%, leave that with me man and I’ll have it sorted before you know it”.

  Rome was magnificent, as we expected it would be. Now to read up on some of that extraordinary Roman history…





Why rally was a bridge too far…




Breaking news: Rooskey, as a community, doesn’t do racism. The village was cosmopolitan and multicultural several decades ago, at a time when most of the rest of the country hadn’t even heard of those words!

  Different nationalities in Rooskey is nothing new – and I’m not just referring to holiday-makers on cruisers on the Shannon and to anglers doing their thing on the riverbank.

  Since as far back as the 1960s, people from England, Germany, The Netherlands, etc. have been setting up home in the area.

  Yes, I am well aware that the potential arrival of 80 refugees is a different eh… ‘kettle of fish’ – but you can be opposed to an asylum centre being located in your village (as I am) for all sorts of reasons. In actual fact, should this project go ahead, I expect even opponents of what is a very dubious proposal to still very much welcome the asylum seekers, who, after all, are not to blame for what is a chronically flawed policy. 

  The fact that the Rooskey community doesn’t do racism was probably one of the reasons why locals completely (well, a tiny handful of people aside) ignored Sunday’s anti-racism rally.

  When I arrived at the village on Sunday morning, I immediately saw that large crowds of locals had gathered…for Mass.

  There was lots of activity outside the local Church. But the locals weren’t then travelling down the village, to where the anti-racism rally was being held (in response to the alleged arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel, which has been earmarked as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers).

  There was no traffic jam or congestion at the bridge. It was quickly apparent that Sunday’s rally was being snubbed by locals. The people of Rooskey felt no affinity with this event. 

  The reason the people of Rooskey didn’t attend the rally is not because they aren’t against racism…it’s because they’re against the notion that there is a racism issue in their community.  

  Locals clearly felt that, by attending the rally, they would be legitimising the ‘racist narrative’ in this saga. The Rooskey community’s unspoken message seemed to be: There is no racism to express opposition to.

  So, to a man and woman, they stayed away.

  That said, the rally was (not unreasonably) deemed a success by organisers. By 12.30, there were 50 or so people gathered on the water’s edge, opposite the two landmark pubs, Reynolds’ and The Weir Lodge. There was a further dozen or so media personnel there. A woman in a Leitrim jersey was playing the guitar, and campaigners from various groups were chanting ‘One race, the human race’. The atmosphere was good-humoured. There was a discreet Garda presence – four squad cars by my estimation. A handful of curious onlookers stood on the bridge, but did not join in. One of the few cars that passed hooted its horn. In the background, the hotel and its uncertain future loomed large.

  As Leah Doherty introduced speaker after speaker, the message remained consistent: the organisers were not associating the people of Rooskey with racism, but were accusing ‘Alt-right’ elements, fascists and online ‘haters’ of stirring up feelings. There were calls for asylum seekers to be welcomed to Ireland and for direct provision to be ended by the Government.

  The crowd grew to perhaps 80 or so. Many of those present cheerfully held placards. ‘End homelessness’. ‘Direct Provision makes us monsters’. ‘Direct Provision is a prison’. A few Roscommon and Leitrim flags fluttered side by side. One man held an umbrella from ‘The World Meeting of Families’. There was no need; the sun had come out. Two Gardai stood under a Guinness sign outside The Weir Lodge. Just up the road, the hotel remains cordoned off.

  Rooskey’s past shadowed its tense present. The speeches were delivered below an old Bus Éireann sign, under which a notice still advertises the now defunct bus routes. Across the road, a Foster & Allen concert is advertised.

  The absence of locals from the village was impossible to ignore. The attendance was almost entirely made up of activists from various groups, though organisers were anxious to point out that most of these people live in the general Roscommon/Leitrim area. The organisers were complimentary about villagers, emphasising that they consider Rooskey to be a welcoming area. Their ire was directed anywhere but Rooskey.

  When it ended, just after 1.30 pm, there was a quick photo outside the hotel. Then those present were invited to Dromod for refreshments, presumably because you can’t get refreshments in Rooskey just now.  

  Me? I took a walk back to the scene of the rally at around 3 o’clock. The two pubs were still closed, the hotel was still cordoned off, the waters were calm and the sign that no longer stops any bus was still standing, an unintentionally provocative reminder of better times.

Being an effective Healy-Rae and the magic of the cup


Revealed! The 10 rules for being an effective Healy-Rae



1: When making a speech in the Dáil, always adopt an indignant, serious tone. While it’s not always possible, try to avoid being included in camera shot with Michael Lowry and/or Mattie McGrath as they er…lack credibility.

2: Whatever you’re speaking about – whether it’s the decline of post offices or the rise of Putin – make sure to namecheck Kerry towns, villages, townlands, actual voters, pets…at every opportunity.

3: Never forget the Golden Rule: It’s all the fault of ‘them up there in Dublin’ and/or Dublin 4. Sneer with an extravagant flourish as rehearsed.

4: Before condemning all initiatives to do with rural transport/drink-driving/motoring offences, make it absolutely clear that you are not condoning drink-driving, “nor would you ever”. Look stunned/angry/perplexed if so accused. Remember what we rehearsed: ‘Ivan/Matt/Pat/Claire, if you think I’m going to sit here and take that from you…’

5: In any discussion on drink-driving, always remember to cite the example of the poor ould fellas who are being prevented from going to the pub and enjoying “one or two glasses” of stout. Yes, er…glasses, not pints (stick with that line at all costs, keep straight face).

6: Until further notice (e.g. Government formation talks) Simon Harris is a young pup, Shane Ross has never been past ‘the Red Cow’, Leo Varadkar would want to get out of his ivory tower.

7: Always stick to the Healy-Rae Gospel: “They won’t be happy ‘til they have rural Ireland closed down”.

8: Whatever they say ‘in Dublin’, or in ‘da meeja’, never forget the plain people of Kerry. After all, they are the second most important group in society (after the Healy-Raes, that is).

9: Michael: Always, we mean ALWAYS, wear that cap. Danny: Always, we mean ALWAYS, wear an open-necked shirt (no tie). As long as ye have the cap and no tie, the locals are receiving the signals, loud and clear.

10: If all else fails, adopt that expression which we discussed at length. As you know, we code-named it ‘The Poll-topper’. You know the one, you must remember…yes, that’s it: Adopt that facial expression which suggests that a group of people from Dublin 4 have stolen everything in Co. Kerry overnight…and you have just heard the news. That’s the one!


George the TV repair man…and when the Cup was magic…


George Latimer was the man who fixed televisions – in between enjoying life with great relish.

  He had a broad smile, a big hearty laugh and a mischevious glint in his eye. ‘Mr & Mrs Latimer’ enjoyed themselves socially, and we often saw them in our parents’ pub in Rooskey, where their arrival was much welcomed.

  Now I needed George to deliver in his day job – because he had our telly, and I wanted it back!

  It was 1979, and for a (very) young lad, amongst the scariest sentences in the English language was: “Sure drop the telly into us and we’ll get it back to you in a few days”.

  Bringing your broken telly into a TV repair shop was like loaning a favourite book to a friend – you could never be sure when you’d see it again.

  In the TV repair shop, once-healthy televisions tended to gather dust as they took their place on the musty shelves – the likely length of their captivity was anyone’s guess.

  Which is not to say that we didn’t appreciate the TV repair man – because we did. Because once the telly went on the blink, the TV repair man was our last hope. If he called to your house, the most dreaded words you could hear after his inspection were: “I’m afraid the valve is gone”. Cue anxious look in direction of parents…

  Anyways, George was our friendly TV repair man, his headquarters in Mohill. And in May 1979, he had our telly in his TV repair shop. At home in Rooskey, we survived the first few days without the telly. But then, as the big day got closer, we became more nervous. Life without a functioning telly on a normal day was bad enough; life without telly on FA Cup Final weekend was unthinkable.

  Fast-forward for a moment to last weekend (we will return to George)… and my mind returned to that frantic fear of possibly not having a telly for the 1979 FA Cup Final forty years ago. Last weekend, the BBC bombarded viewers with FA Cup third round action. There were several hours’ of live football and highlights shows, and while it all was entertaining enough, the quantity – even the quality – simply can’t rekindle what we once had. 

  And what we once had was great. In its heyday, the FA Cup was a huge part of our lives…arguably up there with the heavyweight boxing from Madison Square Garden, the snooker from The Crucible and the tennis from Wimbledon. In one and two channel Ireland in the late 1970s, at a time when live TV soccer was restricted to a handful of games a year, FA Cup Final day – with a five-hour celebrity-inspired build-up – was magical.

  Oh yes, that word…‘magic’. Now I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that a memo went out to all BBC commentators last weekend, but every time a great goal was scored (there were many) and every time a great giant-killing act unfolded (there were many) the man or woman with the mike excitedly referenced the ‘magic’ or ‘romance’ of the cup. And yes, for teams from the lower divisions who turn over high profile opponents, there is, I guess, still some magic and romance in the cup. The reality of course is that almost all of the Premier League clubs are fielding ‘second strings’, reflecting the extent to which the FA Cup is no longer a priority or a glamour competition for the ‘big boys’. 

  For three days before that 1979 final, we implored our parents to keep the pressure on George, the avuncular, larger than life TV repair man from Mohill. Telephone calls, personal visits, homing pigeon, whatever it took. It went down to the wire. Our telly had been in with George for perhaps a fortnight. Kick-off in the 1979 FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United was at 3 o’clock on the Saturday (naturally).

  Our father arrived home from Mohill with the TV at 3.05. We had missed Little and Large during the extensive ITV build-up, but so be it. Telly plugged in. Intake of breath. Pictures. And Sound. All good. Working. Massive relief.

  We saw the first goal, and the four that followed. It was one of the all-time great FA Cup finals. It was Liam Brady’s final. We were bursting with pride as the Irishman made Wembley his playground. Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2. Thanks to our father, thanks to George the TV repair man…thanks to Liam Brady…we had witnessed more of the magic of the FA Cup.

  Little and Large? We caught up with them again…



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