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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Support the rally!

 

The decision to close the Cuisle Centre is highly questionable. The manner in which it is being done is appalling.

  There is a major rally in Roscommon Town this Saturday (starting at 1 pm). We need to attend, in huge numbers.

  Time is ticking here. I am totally unconvinced by the utterly conflicting reasons put forward by the IWA for the closure. As for Minister Finian McGrath, his has been an utterly hapless contribution, in keeping with much of his Inspector Clouseau-esque period as minister! Far from offering any hope for the service-users and staff, he has hidden behind a wall of waffle.

  Let’s make our views known this Saturday – and then intensify the fight over the coming days. 

The great Niall Toibin

Another legend is gone. The word is shamefully overused these days…but not when it is used to describe Brendan Grace, Gay Byrne and now…Niall Toibin.

  Niall Toibin was a supremely talented man…a great comedian and a very versatile actor with a fantastic body of work to his name.

  I saw him live in stand-up in Cavan maybe thirty years ago…and he was brilliant.

  If Brendan Grace, Gaybo and Niall are together in Heaven now, it’s some fun…

 

Pitch perfect in Creggs

Like anybody who has seen them, I’ve marvelled at the magnificent facilities which have been developed at Creggs Rugby Club.

  I was in Creggs last week (chatting to Joe Dolan about his new pub venture in the village) and the superb sporting facility truly stands out as a monument to vision, hard work and community support.

  Current President Aidan Farrell, his predecessor Padraic Deane – and everyone involved at committee level, behind the scenes and elsewhere – all deserve great credit. They also deserve to enjoy this weekend’s celebrations.

  There are a number of matches in Creggs on Saturday (see our sports section) and the official opening of the new facilities at 4.30 pm (before the firsts’ play Buccaneers). That night, guests will gather in the Abbey Hotel for the club’s Dinner Dance. Well done to all concerned.

 

Denis steps in…

“Who’s been sitting in MY chair?” Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice might well have asked – on two occasions recently – when the Tonight Show with Ivan and Matt came on.

  It was Denis Naughten (both times)…a surge by the former minister!

  We thought Michael Fitz was the undisputed King of the Virgin Media studio. What’s going on? (And when will Eugene Murphy get the call? To be continued).

 

Banking made easy?

If you are retired and have lots of spare time, here’s a hobby which I would like to recommend: you could spend half a day every day trying to contact your local bank.

  It’s fun, it’s relatively cheap…and you might hear some so-so music along the way.

  When I tried to call a local bank earlier this week, the ‘computer’ asked me to press more buttons than Deputy Niall Collins does on an average Thursday. 

  Finally, as is the norm these days, a fairly disinterested person in Dublin answered…and, after poking about in my business, eventually connected me with the bank, which is of course only a minute or two up the street from where I was ringing.

  Yeah, I know, should have walked…

 

Free advice…

This week’s ‘Free advice to TDs’ corner: If you’re the TD sitting beside an opposition leader during one of those very important (and not at all superficial) Dáil exchanges, there is one thing – above all else – that you must remember.

  Always maintain a serious (furrowed brow) expression when your leader is speaking. He/she is invariably incredulous at the Government’s latest action or inaction…and is making a sober point.

  So if you’re the TD silently sitting next to your leader, always maintain that straight face. This is (a) to give extra gravitas to your leader’s contribution; (b) to ensure no complacency on the other side; (c) because of the TV cameras.

  If your leader cracks a dry joke, you are free to laugh, but not to the extent that it lightens the mood too much, or undermines the seriousness and solemnity of what he/she is saying.

  If your leader cracks a hilarious and original one-liner, please report this extraordinary development immediately!

 

Lightbulb moment (Part 2)

My item last week on the broken street light in Abbey Street proved to be a ‘guiding light’ for another reader.

  This reader writes: “Regarding your ‘Lightbulb moment?’ piece in your column last week, it’s great to see you highlighting such issues, issues which the Council seems to ignore!”

  The reader continues: “I wish residents, business people or someone from the local schools would follow the lead of the reader who contacted you and highlight the lack of lights at the pedestrian (Zebra) crossing at the junction of Convent Road and roundabout leading onto Abbey Street, Galway Road & Circular Road.

  “At night – and in poor weather conditions any time of day – I have seen drivers simply drive past this dangerous place when people are waiting to cross – and in some case even when pedestrians are crossing.

  “All these lights have been out since at least the summer. This is not the first time this situation has prevailed. I hope the Council will address it”.

 

Pothole poser

Hot on the heels of the ‘lights brigade’ comes the ‘pothole protestors’…a reader has been in touch to highlight a section of a much-used road in the county town, the condition of which is driving him ‘potty’.

  This ‘concerned Roscommon citizen’ is referring to the road into the Centre Point Retail Park in Roscommon Town, which (as our photograph shows) is sporting a very large pothole.

  “This hole has been there for over a year now” the reader says. “When will the Council sort it out? The town would like an answer!”

  To paraphrase the old joke, we hope the Council will ‘look into’ it… 

 

 

When Joe met Gay…

 

 

 

 

Memories of the late, great Gay Byrne continued all week in print, online and on the airwaves. One of the most bizarre was from the never-dull Joe Brolly (in the Sunday Independent).

  Readers of a sensitive persuasion may want to avert their gaze at this point. The rest of you brave souls can read on…

  It seems that a number of years ago, the bould Joe was driving past Donegal Airport on a very cold morning. But obviously not cold enough. Joe came to a beach, and for some reason decided to take a dip. After checking that there was nobody around, Joe “stripped naked…and jumped in the freezing ocean”.

  Half an hour later, when he emerged from the water…there was one person within view. It was Gay Byrne, out for a morning stroll on the strand (and fully clothed).

  Gaybo exclaimed: “Young Joseph! What a sight for sore eyes!”.

  He followed up with a more general “I see you are making trouble again…do make sure to keep it up”.

  So, as Gay himself might say, there you go. That is the story of the day poor Gaybo encountered a fearless, freezing and naked Joe Brolly on a beach, and (being Gaybo) reacted with calmness and wit, before apparently walking on as if he hadn’t encountered a naked controversialist on an otherwise deserted beach.

  As Eric Morecambe used to quip in certain circumstances, “there’s no answer to that”.

Managers’ mayhem!

How long before there’s a BAFTA category for ‘Most histrionic reaction by a Premier League manager on the sideline’?

  It really is beyond the joke. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are the biggest offenders. Probaby no coincidence that their clubs (Manchester City and Liverpool respectively) have been the pace-setters in recent seasons. The histrionics are surely at least partly put on…with a view to influencing officials and creating a media narrative that they are forever being wronged!

  The managers’ bizarre eruptions on the sideline are entertaining enough – particularly for opposition fans – but they are childish too. I know there’s a lot of pressure in top level sport, but nobody will convince me that there isn’t an egotistical and intentionally theatrical element to this behaviour. As Eamon Dunphy might say, it’s showbiz…baby!

  Guardiola went berserk over a couple of contentious decisions during Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool. At the final whistle, there was further insulting of viewers’ intelligence. First the Manchester City boss approached the officials and mouthed a highly sarcastic ‘Thank you very much’ before then claiming that he was being sincere. (The apprehensive referee looked like he was about to burst into tears).

  It wasn’t like this in the good old days! Bob Paisley simply wouldn’t know what to make of this silly behaviour.

  Brian Clough? If he was around, he’d give  Guardiola a Pep in his step…via a kick up the backside!

 

Overheard…

Overheard in a country graveyard last week when two men from ‘out of town’ finally succeeded in locating the grave of a friend.

  “He was a great fiddle player, well no, he was a good fiddle player”. 

  They proceeded, with due and moving respect, to pause and reflect at the grave of their friend, while I went about my business and ceased my eavesdropping.

Advice for Ed…

According to The Sunday Times, singer Ed Sheeran made €37.8m in 2018. And, according to the same report, Ed’s manager (Stuart Camp) made €34.2m in the same year (for managing Ed).

  Time to get a new manager, Ed!

 

Peace before the storm…

In the Late Late Show studio on Tuesday night of last week, the stars smiled and nodded as Dee Forbes, Director-General of RTE, led tributes to the late Gay Byrne.

  The very next day, Dee confirmed that the station’s highest-paid stars – people like Tubridy, Duffy, O’Callaghan, D’Arcy and Finucane – will be asked to take a 15% pay cut.

  Then on Friday, the soon to be impoverished stars sat in the Church pews in the Pro Cathedral for the funeral of Gay Byrne, with Dee prominently seated in their midst (right behind Pat Kenny, now of Newstalk).

  I wonder if they all shook hands for the sign of peace?

 

Lightbulb moment?

It seems that I am now ‘doing requests’! Our neighbours in Abbey Street have been in touch…and are anxious for some light to be shed…

  One of the street lights in Abbey Street has been broken for a few weeks, and residents would be very grateful if the Council can kindly arrange to get it working again!

  In fairness, it’s important to have street lights working…particularly at this time of year, when it’s dark early and when the weather can be harsh and conditions for pedestrians potentially treacherous.

  So, an early Christmas present from Council HQ would be appreciated…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gay was in a league of his own

 

 

 

There was nobody like Gay, nobody on a par with him, nobody in his league. He operated in a league of his own.

  I liked what John Bowman said this week as the tributes poured in for the voice of our nation. Bowman said the first half of the 20th century was Eamonn de Valera’s Ireland, while those born after 1950 had grown up in Gay Byrne’s Ireland.

  He was wonderful, box office. It was some feat to present a unique two-hour entertainment show live every weekend…for 37 years. Throughout those decades, he also hosted a hugely influential morning radio show. The breadth of his broadcasting talent was extraordinary, this maestro effortlessly switching from serious to light-hearted…a unique, gifted combination of broadcaster, journalist and showman. His greatest qualities as a broadcaster were his ability to listen…and his genius for the disarming question, a technique which helped lift the lid on many dark secrets in a nation that had perhaps more than its share of them.

  Over the years I often wondered what it would be like when this day came. The day when Gaybo died. He was such an enormous influence in our lives, such a link between generations. He utterly dominated our cultural and social landscape. Everyone has a view to what extent he led, shaped or facilitated change in a conservative Ireland…but everyone will agree that he had a major influence on that journey. Even if you disagreed with him, you bowed to his brilliance. He was courageous too, taking on all the institutions of the State, including his own employer!

  He held politicians, the Church and spoofers to account. He had a brilliant instinct for gauging the mood of the nation…and ended up playing that very significant role as, over time, we became a sophisticated, open, tolerant and enlightened nation. He infuriated some people along the way, but so be it. This wasn’t Gay’s agenda that was re-shaping Ireland. Essentially he was the gifted medium through which a long and sometimes difficult but necessary national conversation took place.

  It’s hard to put it better than the Irish Times editorial of Tuesday: “He was the nation’s arch provocateur and favourite son, shocking transgressor and father confessor”. 

  The highlights of his career were numerous, and I will return to this subject in the future. For me, the outstanding Late Late Show moment was possibly the Padraig Flynn interview. Watching it again on Youtube, I appreciated the brilliance of Gay’s role. True, Flynn made an eejit of himself, but this television gold – which led to the Flood (later Mahon) Tribunal – was really mined by Gay’s genius.

  Where another broadcaster might have probed with long, meandering questions that a politician is used to rebuffing, Gay used his lethal, disarming technique.

  Gay: “Running three houses…do you need three houses?”

  Gay: “You know Tom Gilmartin?”

  The trap was set.

  The day when Gaybo died came this week. The response has been as I would have expected; an emotional, nostalgic outpouring of memories and tributes on an enormous scale. A nation rewinding the clock. It’s been moving to hear of Irish people abroad saying they’d like to be at home at a time like this. We grew up with Gay. We often gave out about Gay, but mostly we were mesmerised by him, especially at his stunning peak, when he ruled our screens and airwaves and held the hand of a changing nation. The day of his death finally came, and it is sad. But it is also time to celebrate and remember a uniquely gifted broadcaster and showman.

* It’s a busy news week in Roscommon, with the Cuisle closure dominating. Therefore, it was late when I got home from the office on Tuesday night. I watched a recording of the Late Late Tribute Show…along with our 21-year-old daughter. It was fascinating watching her reaction to the various archive clips…of Gay in his prime, his guests, the debates and rows, the fashion(!)…maybe most of all, of the audience members (from the ‘70s and ‘80s). I wondered what she really thought of it all! Together we sat watching two Irelands…the one in the studio (the one we live in)…and the Ireland of Gaybo’s Late Late Show.

Horse talk…

I read with interest where a racehorse which was seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) was hauled before the High Court. Apparently ‘Labaik’ was once owned by a drug dealer. The High Court ruled that the horse had been purchased with the proceeds of crime.

  A clear case of putting the horse before the court…

Jester Jim!

 

There is only a bounce of a ball between us all, Dublin manager Jim Gavin told the media at the recent All Stars banquet.  

  Hopefully Jim’s career as a stand-up comedian will go as well as his managerial one!

 

Funny Fintan?

 

It was once my favourite TV programme…but I have to agree with the popular wisdom that Have I Got News For You is not remotely as good now as it was at its peak.

  Presumably what they need to do is invite the funniest possible panellists to join team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

  Imagine my reaction then when I saw our own Fintan O’Toole – yes, Fintan O’Toole – grinning back at me on last week’s episode! (In fairness, Fintan did well).

Election speculation...

I see our friends in the UK Parliament – which hasn’t been too dull lately – have voted in favour of a pre-Christmas general election.

  With a ‘No deal’ Brexit now seemingly off the proverbial table, with Fine Gael in confident mood and Fianna Fáil on the back foot, the sudden outbreak of some structure in British politics has revived speculation about an early election here.

  Fine Gael can very reasonably expect a Brexit deal election bounce – Leo Varadkar and his ministers have acquitted themselves very well – and the party has also been gifted an early Christmas present with Votegate, the ‘phantom voting’ controversy in which a handful of TDs were exposed as having voted for colleagues in the Dáil. (Votegate is largely a Fianna Fáil coloured controversy).

  Fine Gael is suddenly flying in the opinion polls, while Fianna Fáil – for now at least – is backpeddling.

  Will Leo take the plunge? His difficulty is that he will not want to be accused of opportunism, and he will also be conscious that many people traditionally frown at the idea of being visited by canvassers at this time of year. It’s bad enough to be dragged from Coronation Street/Dinner/quality family time in the summer, worse if it’s on a wet and cold late autumn/winter evening. And of course Leo is on the record as saying his preference is for a May poll.

  But…but, but…Leo has to be hugely tempted to go to the country before Christmas.

  ‘Fine Gael ministers pushing for snap election’ ran a headline in Monday’s Irish Independent. “Will there ever be a better time?” one minister was quoted as saying.

  For Fianna Fáil, this is a plot twist they did not see coming. I am not suggesting that Votegate puts paid to their chances of leading the next government, but Fianna Fáil would certainly prefer a few months to pass, in the hope that the controversy fades in people’s minds.

  Fianna Fáil TDs may be thinking that Halloween is scary enough – more phantoms around this year than usual – they do not want to see or hear Leo presenting them with an election version of  ‘Trick or Treat’.

  It’s game on for Fianna Fáil if the election isn’t until March-June next year – an election now is a scary prospect for Micheál Martin’s phantom voting battered troops.

* Just as we go to press on Wednesday, there are reports emerging that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ruled out a pre-Christmas election when addressing ministers at a Cabinet meeting. So, that may be that…although experience tells us to rule nothing out in the world of politics!

 

Singers’ Festival hits the right note

It’s probably fair to say (and I don’t wish to judge the celebrity judges) that Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh wouldn’t know what hit them if they landed in Knockcroghery for the South Roscommon Singers Festival.

  I enjoy the informal sessions that link the strands of this intimate festival Friday through to Saturday through to the early hours of Monday morning…an engaging, uplifting marathon of song and storytelling.

  A ‘selling point’ of the festival is its  informality, but there is structure too, and considerable organisation on the part of Declan Coyne and his committee.

  The sessions are enjoyable not least because we are in the relaxed world of singers’ circles. The audience applauds the singer…and the next singer emerges from the audience. There is no hesitancy, no airs and graces either. Some of the songs you will hear are famous, some are little known, or more accurately, at risk of being forgotten. But groups like the South Roscommon Singers Circle are keeping these songs alive, maintaining a great tradition, celebrating our culture. Not just Irish culture either; it’s usual for the festival to attract guests and visitors from Scotland, England, America too.

  The festival bubbled along from JJ Harlow’s to the pubs in Knockcroghery, with a session in Paddy Finn’s in Kilteevan as well.

  We went along to JJ’s on Friday, where the guests included the Strawberry Thieves group from London. The lively ‘Soapbox’ debate on climate change was thought-provoking. While some present did not agree with his no-nonsense contribution, a fired up Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice stole the show. Green Party and Extinction Rebellion representatives who were present made perfectly valid points in their passionate presentations, but Fitzmaurice was only prepared to meet them halfway – at most. In truth, he tore many of their assertions to shreds, and when he finally left the stage to a healthy chorus of cheers and ‘well dones’, he was metaphorically taking the soapbox with him. 

  On Sunday, we spent a couple of hours in Paddy Finn’s, where there was a lovely singing session. Amongst the singers present, and happily keeping a low profile, was Jimmy MacCarthy, the man who wrote ‘Ride On’.

  The Annie McNulty Award, which the Roscommon People sponsors, was presented to An Góilín Traditional Singers’ Club from Dublin. There were a number of singers from the Dublin club present in Paddy Finn’s, one of whom (Gerry O’Reilly) gratefully accepted the award. Chatting to Gerry and indeed to the London visitors, it was evident that the guests from Dublin and the UK all greatly enjoyed the weekend.

  The South Roscommon Singers Festival gets a few local tills chiming a little, but mostly it’s about love of singing, celebrating our culture, people having a good time. Personally, I think it’s wonderful to hear the ‘old songs’ being sung, revived, re-born, celebrated…in these small, intimate, passionate gatherings. Long may it continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rugby woe: seeking refuge with Jacob and Boris

 

 

 

That was grim viewing on Saturday morning…not suitable for children, or indeed for rugby fans or dreamers. New Zealand 46 Ireland 14.

  Ireland made a tame exit from the Rugby World Cup, fanciful dreams of immortality dashed, live from Tokyo. Reality TV indeed. Always knew that Japanese reality TV could be scary enough!

  It was the great Moss Keane who once summed up an Ireland match thus: ‘The first half was even, the second half was even worse’.

  On Saturday, the first half wasn’t even even, if you follow. The first half was bad for Ireland, the second half wasn’t much better. Playing for pride, mused RTE commentator Hugh Cahill, but I’m not sure many viewers were in the mood to embrace salvaged pride.

  Back in studio, when we had been taken out of our misery, the guests were grim-faced, like revellers who had been told that a big party had been called off. Only Eddie O’Sullivan had the stomach for an immediate postmortem.

  All that was missing was a band playing ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’. I didn’t have the stomach for dour Eddie. I switched channels, seeking refuge in Boris and Jacob. Yes, you know it’s a bad afternoon when you’re switching over to a Brexit Debate to lift the gloom.

 

Word tells a thousand Pictures…

Previous owners of the magnificent cinema in Roscommon Town tried their best to keep the project (and projector) going, but I always felt that one basic error had been made: there was never a proper sign on the outside of the premises!

  I was delighted then to see that the new owners (Omniplex) recently put a sign in place. Great move! Better still if they could, in time, advertise the week’s movies outside the cinema, in the great tradition of cinemas worldwide!

  For now, good move. They say a picture tells a thousand words…you could say that here we have one word (‘Omniplex’) telling a thousand (motion) pictures…

 

Power of advertising!

Tuesday morning was beautiful. The town was awake and positively beaming, the to-ing and fro-ing underway.

  I noticed the big van parked just up from Roscommon Fire Station. Maybe it’s been around a while; I hadn’t noticed it before. But I noticed it now. Bright yellow in colour, it had a dramatic message, in huge lettering – ‘Killers for Hire’.

  It was parked just under a big poster for a circus (no, the election posters aren’t up yet, this is an actual circus, not a political one).

  The circus poster under the ‘Killers for Hire’ van said: ‘Daredevil circus’. I was confused. What was going on? Killer clowns?

  ‘Killers for Hire’. I knew that Roscommon’s fire-fighting heroes haven’t branched into freelance killing for hire. Then I looked more closely. All was revealed. In much, much smaller lettering on both sides of the van, below ‘Killers for Hire’…were the words: ‘Japanese Knotweed killing.com’.

  It’s my advertisement of the week.

At least this happened…

Midst all the gloom that inhabits this world, there was some welcome good news, and the prospect of some welcome mischief and joy and amusement in 2020.

  Yeah, Davy Fitz has signed up for two more years as manager of Wexford hurlers… 

This week’s… PRESS THAT BUTTON!

In this week’s episode of PRESS THAT BUTTON! (And win an afternoon off work for a friend)…

  Our first contestant is Timmy from Clare…he’s a Fianna Fáil TD and his hobbies include holding the Government to account while looking as if butter most certainly would not melt in his mouth. Timmy’s playing partner is Niall from Limerick, also a Fianna Fáil TD and part-time altar boy.

  In today’s episode (recorded earlier) watch as Timmy and Niall meet up in the Dáil Chamber. Prepare to be astonished as Timmy whispers sweet nothings in Niall’s ear, points at his seat and then disappears. Prepare to be thrilled as Niall then sits in Timmy’s seat and votes for him (six times) while Timmy remains absent from the chamber.

  After the break: Our next contestant is Lisa from Mayo, also a Fianna Fáil TD. Her hobbies include tendencies towards smugness and being above reproach. Watch as Lisa tells RTE Radio that she has never voted on behalf of a colleague. Tune in later when Lisa reveals that she has voted on behalf of a colleague. Prepare to be entertained royally as Lisa explains that she sat in Dara Colleary’s seat by mistake…casting a vote on his behalf. Drama then as Lisa reveals that she realised she was in the wrong seat, then sat into her own seat and (thankfully) remembered to cast her own vote. Prepare to try to keep a straight face when Lisa explains that the reason she told RTE earlier that she had never voted for a colleague was because she took the question to mean…had she ever ‘intentionally’ or ‘knowingly’ voted for someone else.

  Next, our popular ‘X the TD’ segment – based on the old X the Ball competitions – in which we show you footage of the Dáil chamber, just as an important vote is due to take place, and invite members of the public to guess where their local TD is located (if at all).

  Coming soon: Your chance to vote for or against our TDs. Make sure you vote (or ask a friend to do it for you…) 

* In case I’m accused of advocating personation, I should stress that I didn’t write the above piece…I got a friend to write it while I was absent from the office.

 

 

 

Brexit, Pearses and D(enmark)-Day

 

 

On cusp of a deal

As we go to press on Wednesday night, a deal on Brexit looks an inevitability. Which is quite an achievement. And yet…not that surprising.

  There was always likely to be compromise, always likely to be eleventh hour poker playing. The details of the deal have not emerged as we go to press, but it’s looking good.

   That will be a massive relief to millions of people, not least farmers, small business owners and the public in general…in this country (not to mention in the UK). A no deal Brexit would have been a disaster.

  And yet…assuming a deal is agreed, there is still the hurdle of securing the approval of the House of Commons to be overcome. The House is expected to sit on Saturday. This could yet be a close vote. There will be pressure applied to ensure that the deal is validated by the public in…yes, a referendum. So there may yet be twists and turns this weekend. 

 

Pearses get their day in the sun

 

Sport really can be tough. Utter joy for Padraig Pearses…desolation for Roscommon Gaels. Pearses fully deserved to win Sunday’s County Final, and congratulations to them. Roscommon Gaels made a bright start but were then hit by two great goals, and they never fully recovered. Mind you, the Gaels made a real game of it in a pretty dramatic finale.

  Whatever side you were supporting, the fact is we were witnesses to history on Sunday. This Pearses team is bursting with power and quality, truly a golden generation for the Woodmount club. Watching them finally claim the Fahey Cup, it was hard to believe that the club had never produced county senior football champions before. They often came close – and had some great players and fine teams – but they had never got across the line.

  When the final whistle blew, it was a special moment. A historic one. As Pearses’ fans swarmed on to the pitch, first out of the blocks were a group of young kids, all clad in their club’s colours…the stars of the future at one with the present, and with the emotions stirred by thoughts of the past. A sea of red and white. Hugs, embraces, emotions released.

  The sea of people grew, merging into a red and white symbol of parish joy. The parishes of Moore, Taughmaconnell and Creagh. It was 5.30 pm on Sunday, the 13th of October, 2019. An emotional day, especially when one thinks of all the great Gaels who have gone before. A great day for a great club. Finally, the sea of people drifted towards the stand, and joint captains Niall Carty and Ronan Daly lifted the Fahey Cup high. History made, past heartache eased, new and boundless possibilities to be embraced. 

 

Gloom for the Gaels

 

Monday was dark and dreary and wet in the county town, and that just about summed up the mood of despondent Roscommon Gaels players, management, members and supporters. It was the morning after the day before, and a gloomy Monday in every way. 

  Watching Sunday’s game from the stand, you could sense how much pressure was on the players (and management). On both sides. Both sets of players were desperate to win. Neither side would have cared if the final score was 0-2 to 0-0…as long as they won. Pearses had never won the title; the Gaels were looking to exit a 15-year barren spell.

  It was impossible not to feel great sympathy for the vanquished. The Gaels have been ‘nearly men’ for a few seasons. Coming second holds no appeal to them. Sport is tough when you come so close to the summit, only to see a competitor inch past you in the final stages. Losing a big sporting final sickens your stomach. So much work put in over so many months. So many nights of training; so many scenarios spinning around in your head in the nights before the final. So much hope, that it would work out. And regrets are unavoidable afterwards. Where joy and relief was meant to be, now there are thoughts of what might have been, defining moments relived.

  Roscommon Gaels have put a huge amount into this season’s campaign, and for the most part it has been marked by success and joy. On Sunday, they battled to the very end, getting to within one score of salvation. Nine points behind at one stage, and with two men less for the last twelve minutes or so, they lost with honour. Pearses fully deserved their win, but the Gaels can hold their heads high. This is a club that is prospering on and off the field. I hope they can come back and challenge next year.

 

Soccer team’s D(enmark)-Day

 

The Republic of Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Georgia last Saturday was as boring as a classic episode of Oireachtas Report.

  Unaware that our columnist Frank Brandon was going through similar agony – he reveals in his column today that he deserted the pros for the grassroots (i.e. cutting the lawn) – I too abandoned the game, heading for the office to check in on my emails. There were a few mundane press releases, but, as if symbolically, no offer of a fortune from a foreign prince. Every now and again I had a weak moment and checked the score online…needless to say, still 0-0.

  Fast-forward to Tuesday. This time I stayed on late in the office and asked our daughter to record Switzerland v Ireland. I got home at 9.30 pm with low expectations. More fast-forwarding as I whizzed through the footage. We lost 2-0, but it would appear that we played with some structure and purpose, a good deal better than the toil in Tbilisi. (Then again, I was fast-forwarding).

  Our hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020 now depend on the home game against Denmark next month. Win and we go through. It’s hard to be optimistic. Our lads are game but limited. All the more reason for some perspective, I suppose. We tend to overlook the fact that we are third seeds in the group. You know the mantra, but it’s hard to argue with…all together now: ‘Had we been told before the campaign began that we would be within a home win (in our last game) of qualifying, we’d have been happy…’ (Repeat as required over coming weeks).

  I’m glad the D-Day game is a few weeks’ away. Just now, after one point from two games, we feel vulnerable, exposed, on the cusp of a sad and tame exit. But the days will roll by, and the memory of Tbilisi will fade.

  By the time we face Denmark at home, hype and hope will have merged. The radio stations will crackle with talk of little else. The newspapers will speculate about possibly, just possibly, cutting Great Danes down to size. As limited as we are, we will be able to lift ourselves for that showdown. We will be glued to the telly and we will invoke the spirit of Big Jack. Beyond that, I don’t know. It will be in the lap of the Gods, our fate, if we’re lucky, to be determined by a random set-piece or deflection…

 

Bernard, Bercow and Mrs Brown….

 

The list of Late Late Show offences against the concept of entertainment grows week on week. Some Friday nights, to be fair, it can be grand, but more often than not there is a cringe factor. Then there’s the maddening ‘repeat guests’ – my old chestnut about Dermot Bannon, Diarmuid Gavin, Jason Byrne & Co.

  Last Friday night, we watched in growing horror. Bernard O’Shea – last seen prancing about with the media-shy Marty Morrissey – has written a book, titled: ‘My Wife is Married to a Feckin’ Eejit’. It may well be a funny book, but was its publication worthy of this prime-time coverage?

  I went into a dark room and closed my eyes (not really) and pined for the great days of the Late Late Show pomp.

  Desperate to share my anguish, I tweeted to the world, naming a few of the greats of Late Late Shows past…John Cleese, Tony Curtis, Billy Connolly, Spike Milligan. I forgot to add ‘Peter Sellers’, but enough fellow Tweeters got my point and shared my pain.

  When Bernard had finished explaining his considerable eejitry, I said I’d give last Friday’s Late Late Show another chance. But then Ryan only went and unloaded the entire cast of Mrs. Brown’s Boys on to the set. I thought they’d never stop coming. I actually admire Brendan O’Carroll, and sometimes find him funny. But this love-in (celebrating 20 years of Mrs. Brown’s Boys) was tiresome, excruciating in fact.

  Meanwhile, in the Late Late Show Green Room, John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, must have assumed that he had been lured to Dublin under false pretences and was now being forced to watch this drivel as some sort of Irish revenge for that Brexit hell his countryfolk has subjected us to.

  As Mrs Brown/Brendan modestly listed all the charities the crew have helped, desperate viewers deserted to Graham Norton, where Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen had a slight celebrity status edge over Brendan and Bernard.

  I too switched over to the BBC, for fear that at any moment a giant Mrs. Brown’s Boys’ birthday cake would be wheeled out, and that either Marty Morrissey or Twink would burst from its midst.

  To be continued (no doubt)…

The Budget, Brendan and Ballintubber!

 

 

Paschal spares us!

 

I missed most of the Budget coverage on Tuesday due to a long day at work, but I did catch a few minutes of Paschal Donohoe being interviewed by ‘Matt and Ivan’.

  And I actually heard the Finance Minister counter the charge that he had failed to make even minimal tax cuts by saying…wait for it…that he didn’t want to put more money into people’s pockets and then (if we have had a no deal Brexit) have to take it back off them in a few months’ time.

  So, Paschal was sparing the hard-pressed taxpayers. We might call it the ‘I won’t be giving you an engagement or wedding ring darling, in case we get divorced in future’ policy!

 

Moving tribute to Brendan

 

Episode two of the three-part documentary series featuring the late Brendan Grace aired this week.

  ‘Thanks for the Memories’ was originally intended to follow the famous entertainer’s plans to stage a variety show for dementia sufferers with the Forget-Me-Nots community choir. When Brendan sadly passed away this summer, the programme evolved into an emotionally-charged documentary on his battle with illness.

  Monday night’s episode was extremely moving. Brendan Grace’s immense courage and great humanity shone through. While deeply sad, it is an excellent documentary, a very emotional and fitting tribute to a great man.

Deer – and Bird

On Monday morning, Morning Ireland reported on an appeal to the public not to take selfies with deer in places such as the Phoenix Park.

 The warning to “leave wildlife alone” came as the  ‘rutting’ or mating season begins. Taking selfies with deer could be dangerous, we were told by the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  I’m sure I wasn’t the only listener (easily) amused by the fact the their spokesperson is a Ms. Gillian Bird.

 

It was worth it…

I understand why the Government, Met Éireann and the media are all being accused of over-hyping Storm Lorenzo, which, let’s face it, was a bit of an…er, damp…squib. Thankfully.

  It certainly was over the top, all those solemn updates from the HQ of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group, where our grim-faced masters continuously warned us to ‘stay back, stay high and stay dry’. 

  Still, it was all worth it. After all, it meant we knew where ‘Boxer’ Moran and Eoghan Murphy were at all times, and it kept them out of mischief for a few days…

 

Yellow card for rugby pundits!

 

Ah, those rugby pundits…

  A week or two before the World Cup, Neil Francis intimates that Ireland are peaking at just the right time. After a couple of unconvincing performances, Know-All-Neil has the barbs at the ready.

  Eamonn Sweeney spent much of 2018 lauding Joe Schmidt and Ireland as the greatest thing since fried bread; now he has them down as toast.

  Sometimes I wonder how those of us who work in the media get away with it. So many pundits who unashamedly puff their chests out and co-exist in two parallel universes…enjoying the best of both worlds.

  It was Liam Cosgrave Senior who graciously said of Charles Haughey: “He did more than his critics ever did”.

 

Hey…it was OUR Ballintubber!

 

It’s bad enough losing out to Mayo when they actually beat us in sporting combat, but it’s such a shame to lose out unnecessarily…

  Irish Independent TV critic John Boland, reviewing ‘Raised by the Village’ last Saturday (he wasn’t particularly impressed by the programme) wrote that the so-called ‘troubled teens’ from Dublin had been briefly re-located to Ballintubber, Co. Mayo.

  It was of course Ballintubber, Co. Roscommon that featured on the programme recently.

  In contrast to Boland, Brenda Power in the Sunday Times was very impressed by the programme, reporting that the two teenagers were transformed due to their visit to “rural Co. Roscommon”.

  And I caught a couple of minutes of Gogglebox Ireland, in which the ordinary-people-sitting-on-their-sofas raved about how well the two supposedly troublesome teens had fared when they spent a week in Ballintubber (Co. Roscommon!).

 

Free advice for ‘Week in Politics’

 

RTE’s ‘The Week in Politics’ needs another makeover. Presenter Áine Lawlor does a good job – but the format is jaded.

  Long, circular sofa with (usually) four politicians as guests. In their best suits, except for the cool Lefties who probably think they’re making a game-changing statement with their casual attire. All four wait in turn to have their say. Naturally, they articulate their perspective, stick to their line; spin and hope to win. Blandness rules. There will be no meeting of minds. We learn little or nothing. What’s the solution? Maybe there’s no solution, but it’s not working at present. Current affairs shows in the UK and America seem to have more vigour and energy.

  The Week in Politics needs a shake-up…less guests, maybe even a small studio audience, a review of the Sunday papers, maybe an outspoken commentator/columnist or two…most urgently of all, some real, meaningful, lively and edge debate.

 

Mysterious blaze

 

I spotted the following headline on the RTE website last week:

  ‘We all need Neighbours like this! Jason Donovan tackles blaze in his underpants’. There was a video, with footage of the Australian singer/actor responding heroically.

  I looked at the headline a second time. ‘Jason Donovan tackles blaze in his underpants’.

  And naturally, I immediately wondered…how on earth did a blaze start in Jason Donovan’s underpants?

  Yes, I was reminded of the old Groucho Marx joke (which obviously inspired me to make the above flippant observation).

  Groucho: ‘One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas, I don’t know’.

  Thank you, Groucho. (And if any younger readers/readers don’t know about the Marx Brothers, please correct that position). We need a little more silliness in this world…

 

The late Christy Keane

We lost another good man out our way this week. Just a week after the passing of Fonsie Nolan (RIP), another great neighbour has gone to his eternal reward.

  Christy Keane, of Ballymurray, Roscommon, was the most unassuming of men. Quiet, dignified and soft-spoken, Christy lived life without fuss and was devoted to his wife Marie and children. He had a great sense of humour and always seemed to be cheerful, in fact often mischevious.

  Widely known in farming circles, Christy loved the soil, and nature. He was also a keen race-goer for many years. Of course, many hundreds of people knew Christy through his 35 years’ as the familiar and friendly man behind the wheel of the school bus. Poignantly, he had just recently retired from that role.

  Christy faced his illness with customary serenity and courage. He passed away last Friday and was laid to rest in St. Coman’s Cemetery following Funeral Mass in Kilteevan. A thorough gentleman who had a great way with him, he will be greatly missed and very fondly remembered. May he rest in peace.

 

 

 

Enjoyable launch, brilliant Ballintubber and naughty Patrick...

 

 

Enjoyable book launch

There was a large crowd at Kevin McStay’s book launch in the Abbey Hotel last Thursday night.

  His memoir, ‘The Pressure Game’, is largely about his three years in the hot seat as manager of the Roscommon senior football team, a position he stepped down from in September 2018.

  The Roscommon resident continues to have a high profile as a GAA pundit with RTE, and has been a regular newspaper columnist over the years, most recently with the Irish Times.

  ‘The Pressure Game’ was written with Liam Hayes, an All-Ireland winning player with Meath and an accomplished journalist and publisher. The book was launched by RTE sports broadcaster and commentator Darragh Maloney.

  During an at times emotional speech, McStay recalled the highs and lows of his time as Roscommon manager. The book, he said, was a “warts and all” memoir, “the only way to tell a story”.

  In the book, McStay gives some insight into the breakdown of his relationship with Fergal O’Donnell (the duo were joint managers in 2016).

  On Thursday night, McStay said there had never been a big row…“it was nobody’s fault, it just wasn’t working out. This is life”. 

  He drew strong applause when condemning supporters who abuse players (and managers)…alluding to his contempt for the “sad haters…particularly the online gobshites”.

 The highlight of McStay’s management was a magnificent Connacht final win in 2017. There was also promotion to Division One, and qualification for the inaugural Super 8s.

  On the flip side, the team suffered a sobering All-Ireland quarter-final replay defeat to Mayo in 2017, and heavy losses in the Super 8s in 2018. A number of players would ultimately leave the squad, and McStay addresses this in the book.

  On Thursday night, in a measured reflection on the challenges involved in managing an intercounty team, McStay spoke of how honoured he had been to manage Roscommon, of his pride in all that had been achieved.

  “We won what we won, we lost what we lost…it was a magnificent experience…we had good times and bad times…for those three years, I had only the best of intentions for Roscommon football”.

  This was a proud night for the extended McStay family and a very enjoyable launch. The book will be of huge interest to GAA fans everywhere, particularly in Roscommon and Mayo!

 

Brilliant, Ballintubber!

I usually avoid RTE’s often cringeworthy reality television offerings.

  Show me Francis Brennan prancing around India, and I immediately ring the Indian Embassy in Dublin to profusely apologise (on behalf of the nation) for the embarrassment caused.

  As for ‘Room to Improve,’ I have a love/hate relationship with the phenomenon. Just the other night, I caught sight of Dermot and his victims (sorry, clients) sitting in a bath, together. I only continued watching (from behind the curtains) out of curiosity: Would Diarmuid Gavin saunter in at any moment, strip off his bathrobe and join the bath party?

  Operation Transformation? Great for weight-loss. I immediately switch it off and go for a long walk.

  Of course all such misgivings about this reality tv craze were cast aside last Sunday night when I watched ‘Raised by the Village’ on RTE. It featured Ballintubber in Co. Roscommon. The show’s concept goes something like this: take two ‘unruly’ teenagers from Dublin, move them in with separate families in a rural village, and see if the change of environment can (and I quote the producers) “get their lives back on track”.

  I must say I enjoyed the programme. One thing that really struck me was how beautiful Ballintubber looked…stunning aerial shots showcasing the fabulous landscape, the pretty village. Viewers also got a sense of how close-knit the community in Ballintubber is. All of the locals who featured, including host families the Garveys and Carleys, came across brilliantly. It really was a sensational ‘advertisement’ for Ballintubber.

  I should add that the two children from Dublin – Jordan and Warren – also made a positive impression. 

  Maybe I’ll get in on this reality TV craic. I might even pitch an idea to RTE…how about Daniel and Majella O’Donnell arrive in Ballintubber for a week…with Francis Brennan and Dermot Bannon in the back of the camper van – and viewers get to evict the celebrity of their choice? 

 

Naughty, Patrick!

It was his big moment. We’ve seen the very youthful looking Patrick O’Donovan on Irish TV, but this was a step up. It was Tuesday night…and on the generally superb Newsnight (BBC2), presenter Emily Maitlis was trying to unravel the latest dramatic moves in the Brexit chess game.

  So, Newsnight cut to Limerick…and Patrick O’Donovan’s big moment. Emily got the introduction wrong…“We are now joined by a member of the Irish Government, Patrick O’Donovan, the Minister for Finance”. While she went on to introduce a studio guest, the camera remained on Patrick…and I swear you could see him mulling over what he’d just heard…that lovely, ego-caressing introduction in front of the watching millions in the UK.

  Patrick knew he would have to correct Emily…he would have to do what guests always do in this situation…in this case, say ‘Actually, it’s Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Emily’.

  But he didn’t…instead, he rode it out. He stayed in Paschal Donohoe’s shoes. He lived his moment, he owned the stage. Naughty, Patrick!

 

The late Fonsy Nolan

When Fiona and I moved to Newtown, Roscommon many years ago, our new neighbours included Fonsy and Ann Nolan (and family). Indeed we would not have moved to Newtown at all were it not for the Nolan family, because it was from them that we purchased the site on which our house now stands. At the time, Fonsy was a keen farmer in the area. It was a pleasure dealing with him on that site purchase, a first insight for us into the gentleman in our midst.

  Whether in those days or in more recent years, after they moved to The Spinney in Roscommon Town, it has always been a pleasure to meet Fonsy and Ann, a very popular and highly regarded couple.

  Fonsy was of course very well-known too through his association with Roscommon Races, where he served in many capacities, including as President.

  I was very sad to hear of Fonsy’s passing last Friday. It was always a pleasure to meet this wonderfully friendly, modest and unassuming man. Fittingly, his commitment to community over a long life was reflected at the weekend when Guards of Honour were provided by three distinguished groups: Roscommon Agricultural Show, Roscommon Races and the IFA.

  Fonsy was one of the community’s great gentlemen. Sincere sympathy to his wife Ann, daughters Mary and Clare, son James, and extended family.

  May he rest in peace.

Racecourse tribute: Page 10.

 

 

 

 

Glory, books and egos...

 

The glory game…

 

The Roscommon Senior Football Championship is warming up nicely. Roscommon Gaels are very much a form team, powering into the semi-finals with another good win last weekend, this time against a gallant Elphin. The Gaels certainly won’t want any hype to threaten the hope…but suffice to say they are real live contenders this season.

  Padraig Pearses and Boyle have both been going along very nicely too. Pearses had a big win against perennial heavyweights St. Brigid’s at the weekend…the Woodmount club definitely putting down a firm marker as we move to the business end of the championship.

  Boyle maintained their free-scoring form, defeating Michael Glavey’s as the Ballinlough side struggled to contain the Boyle attack.

  There is so much to admire about Fuerty GAA Club and how they go about their business on and off the field. The club has made great strides in recent years and has enjoyed a terrific campaign at senior level. Their run came to a very dignified end on Sunday when they lost out by two points to Strokestown. It’s great to see a strong Strokestown team…the club/area has long produced teams of flair and quality to grace the game in Roscommon.

  Finally, a word of congratulations to a team from my own neck of the woods…Kilglass Gaels, who won the Ladies Intermediate Final last weekend.

 

Kevin’s book

 

Staying with GAA matters, and former Roscommon manager and long-time RTE pundit Kevin McStay has been putting pen to paper. The launch of his memoir tonight (Thursday) in the Abbey Hotel promises to be a big social event.

  It will be very interesting to see McStay’s perspective on his recent tenure as Roscommon manager, firstly in the ill-fated ‘dream team’ arrangement with Fergal O’Donnell, and then in a more conventional solo capacity. ‘The Pressure Game: Walking the walk on the county sideline’ is a memoir written with Liam Hayes. It promises to be a fascinating and insightful read.

 

Missing Miriam

 

Naturally – when I recovered from the shock – I rang the Editor of Life Magazine (Sunday Independent) to make my complaint.

  “I bought the Sunday Independent yesterday” I explained to the Editor, who listened with ill-disguised impatience.

  I told him that once I had released the Life Magazine from the various sections, I was of course stunned to discover the great omission.

  “What great omission?” he asked, with a sigh.

  “I’ll tell you what great omission!” I said, proceeding to tell him.

  “There was no cover photo of Miriam O’Callaghan, and no eight-page spread on her inside the magazine!” I said, with feeling.

  Stunned by the extraordinary revelation, the Editor apologised profusely and promised that normal service will resume soon. It was, he admitted, a horrendous oversight.

  Miriam, he assured me, would very soon return to her natural home. I don’t know who’s going to break it to Claire Byrne (or Marty Morrissey).

 

One studio, three big egos!

 

I quite like Sky Sports’ unlikely new pundit, Jose Mourinho (Latest appearance: ‘The Main Event’ last Sunday…cue usual excessive hype). Pundit Mourinho is more likeable than tedious, dramatic, self-indulgent Manager Mourinho…in fact some of his tactical insights are fascinating, his knowledge of the game making him quite an interesting addition to the Sky panel.

  On Sunday, it was a heavyweight panel…Graeme Souness, Mourinho and Roy Keane…a lot of ego on show, each guest trying hard to come across as the coolest! (A nervous minute or two for any Sky Sports employee who met those three in the elevator!).

  The Souness/Mourinho/Keane combination worked well enough, but I honestly think they were tiptoeing around one another, none of the three quite ready to presume to assume the ‘top dog’ role just yet. If anything, there seemed to be a bit of deference to Mourinho.

  Solid enough then, if not exactly brilliant, from a line-up that looks mouth-watering on paper. A lot more pedestrian than the often brilliant Brady/Dunphy/Giles dream team of times past (on RTE).

  Mourinho never reached great heights as a player, but this trio would have been a very interesting midfield combination…Souness and Keane intimidating anyone who came near them, Mourinho wearing opponents down by shrugging his shoulders, raising an eyebrow and engaging opponents in philosophical debate.

 

Funny phone call

 

I see Donald Trump’s in all sorts of trouble again, this time for allegedly bad-mouthing potential Presidential election rival Joe Biden in a phone call to the President of the Ukraine.

  But hey, isn’t the newly-elected President of the Ukraine a comedian? Yeah? So what’s the big deal?

  I mean, what’s wrong with two comedians comparing/discussing material in a phone call?

Making the French connection…again

 

 

When we joined the queue at Dublin Port, Joe Duffy was dealing with the usual mix of callers – varying from reasonable and reasoned to mad as a box of frogs. (I’m not sure if it’s acceptable in these politically correct times to describe some Liveline callers thus; it may even be unfair on frogs).

  Dublin was basking in sunshine – we didn’t care. We were bailing out. After lapsing for a couple of years, we were off to France again for a camping holiday. Naturally, we had observed the unwritten rules for Irish people going abroad: (1) Bring too many clothes; (2) Squeeze in as much familiar food as possible, because, let’s face it, you can’t get that sort of stuff over there!

  In front of us was that familiar uplifting sight: several lanes of cars, camper vans and haulage trucks, all waiting to board the ferry to Cherbourg.

  There’s nothing quite like the beginning of a holiday; you suspend the real world, and embrace the escapism. Soon we were on the WB Yeats for the first time, leaving Joe Duffy to deal with unmuzzled dogs and unmuzzled conmen. The WB Yeats compares very favourably with the Oscar Wilde, the ship we know from previous trips. While it is an 18-hour sailing to Cherbourg, it’s comfort – in fact you could say luxury – all the way…with restaurants, a bar, cinema, kids’ play area, a shop, and of course cabins.

  Relaxing on board, we get talking briefly to two couples from Armagh. They introduce themselves as a Catholic couple and a Protestant couple. They hadn’t met before, but had linked up over a drink this evening, seduced by the holiday mood. When three of them disperse for a cigarette on the upper deck, the Protestant man – a haulier who traverses the whole island – tells us of the depressing shadow Brexit is casting. Later, one of the women matter of factly says that while both communities in the North are getting on much better than in the days of the Troubles, tensions remain. It will take time. Hopefully it will get time.

  Our first stop in France was in Normandy, at a park in Lisieux. After a rainy first night, the temperature settled into the late 20s, mercifully cooler than the record-breaking early 40s of a month before. Normandy has many great attractions. Most poignant and fascinating are the D-Day landing beaches.

  Le Mont-Saint-Michel, an island and mainland commune which is one of France’s biggest tourist attractions, is also well worth seeing.

  The Les Castels park has a majestic old house as its focal point, around which are dotted dozens of mobile homes, chalets and camper vans. Facilities for children are fantastic.

  After a relaxing week in Normandy, our drive south to our second destination coincided with a dramatic temperature rise. We drove for five and a half hours in searing 36 degrees’ heat. We weren’t really complaining. Mostly avoiding the busy motorways, we stuck to the ‘D’ roads, savouring the quaint, pretty, flower-adorned remote villages.

  We arrived at our new park, on the edge of the city of Nantes. Another really good site: restaurant/bar, swimming pool, takeaway, mini-golf, launderette, etc. Here, you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of ‘country living’ while being only a 12-minute tram journey from the city centre. Best of both worlds.

  It was our first time in Nantes, a historic city which we instantly liked. The vibrant city centre is brimming with youthfulness. We spent a few afternoons there in the glorious sunshine, enjoying the great late-summer atmosphere. On one walk, we encountered an Irish pub, where we had a very nice bite to eat, surrounded by photos of hurling and football teams from the ‘60s onwards, and by young French people who were not reared on Ring, Mackey, Shefflin, Keaveney or O’Shea.

  The tram service was great. And of course you see all types of people in such city environments. For the most part, the city was buzzing with millennials to-ing and fro-ing. There were people down on their luck too. As we waited for a tram, a man who looked like a very jaded version of the late actor Richard Harris wandered along the platform, bending down every few seconds to pick discarded cigarette butts off the ground. In a world of his own, he caressed each ‘new’ butt and placed it into a plastic bag…for later. A man forgotten by society.

  The French are appalled by Brexit, rolling their eyes at the very mention of it. Not that we converse much in French, not beyond the basics. Mostly, we keep to ourselves. We have always found ‘the locals’ to be friendly. The France we know is rural, friendly, relaxed, slow moving…in short, pretty magical. If any readers are looking to try a family holiday with a difference – particularly if you have small children – I very much recommend these campsites, with their excellent family-friendly facilities.

  Two weeks having sped by, we drove back to Cherbourg with the resignation of the holiday-makers who have been caught by time.

  Back on the WB Yeats, an elderly woman chats animatedly to the Latvian barmaid (“ah, I have a friend in Riga!”) before venturing to her travelling companion “I expect the poor girl is on the minimum wage”.

  The barmaid collected glasses nearby. Above her, the quote on the wall read: ‘Tread softy because you tread on my dreams’.

  Across the way, a very dapper man walked arm in warm with a very dapper woman, as though auditioning for parts in the Downton Abbey movie.

  Five boozy men from Northern Ireland insisted on calling the patient barman ‘Ian Paisley’. It’s time for us to catch up with a movie in the ship’s cinema. 

  Next morning, after a good night’s sleep and a calm sailing, we were reunited with our car and preparing to drive off the WB Yeats. First, a rueful look at the French people who were beginning their holiday in Ireland. Wonder what they’ll make of Joe Duffy?

 

You can’t win with these…politicians!

 

Do the politicians think we’re stupid?

  You can’t really win with these guys – because they play tricks with language, and frequently defy logic! Often, it’s quite insulting.

  On Prime Time the other night, Miriam O’Callaghan pressed Minister David Stanton about the ‘asylum seekers for Oughterard’ controversy.

  “You don’t communicate with the locals in these instances” was the gist of Miriam’s charge. (Cue much nodding at TV screens in Rooskey).

  We do communicate with locals, replied  Minister Stanton disingenuously, adding that the ‘communication’ starts AFTER a deal has been struck with the accommodation provider!

 Precisely. The Department does a deal with an accommodation provider, THEN that information trickles out, and THEN the Department pays lip service to the issue of ‘services’ in the given area.

  Leo’s at it too, I see. He’s taken a leaf out of Richard Bruton’s book. Remember when the scandal over the costs’ overrun regarding the Children’s Hospital was at its peak…Bruton (and colleagues) tried to turn the outcry on its head by pretty much saying ‘Do you really want us to abandon it after all these years?’

  Now the Taoiseach is employing the same tactics. Amidst ongoing concerns about aspects of the mooted National Broadband Plan – not least the likely cost – Mr. Varadkar glibly says: “Rural Ireland does not have a future in the 21st century” unless fibre broadband is delivered to every home.

  So that’s it, Leo. No more questions. No more scrutiny. No more accountability. Just a little pathetic!

 

Man minds net, then tidies up…

 

All over Ireland at the weekend, goalkeepers – in Gaelic Football, hurling and soccer, at varying levels – did the usual mundane stuff at the final whistle in their respective matches. Same as it ever was. Almost the forgotten man. Unlike those outfield ‘heroes’, you have some tidying up to do, some housekeeping. Maybe a spare sliothar or hurl to pick up. A bottle or two of water. A pair of gloves to be untangled from the net and perhaps tucked under your armpit. ‘Let them off back to the dressing room, the rest of them, I’ll pick up my stuff here and trudge back in my own good time’…

  All over Ireland it happened again last weekend, on lumpy, bumpy pitches, the goalkeeper alone with his or her thoughts…wrapping up, even as the handful of diehards who watched the game were impatiently pressing the button to remotely unlock their cars.

  A familiar routine then…none of which explains the sight, last Saturday…of Stephen Cluxton doing his version of this goalkeepers’ routine at the final whistle. This ought to have been just a little different to the scenes that unfold each weekend all over the country. But it wasn’t. At the final whistle in a game played at Croke Park on Saturday, Cluxton – with a pretty vacant expression on his face – did his tidying up duties. How can this be? His Dublin team had just won a historic five-in-a-row! And Stephen was the captain! (Later, on social media, footage of him…sweeping up the dressing room!).

  What a man. What a goalkeeper. What a legend.

 

 

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