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In praise of August Bank Holiday weekend…

 

 

 

On the August Bank Holiday weekend, the whole country is conscious that summer is perhaps beginning to ebb away…and autumn is limbering up in the background

 

On Sunday, at Cemetery Mass in Bornacoola, the man reading the Prayers of the Faithful was wearing shorts and a ‘California’ t-shirt; no-one blinked.

  It’s that time of year…

  At Castlerea Show on Monday, old men in short sleeves talked about the mundane things in life – and football – and the memory of rain-lashed shows in summers past had all but faded.

  Playgrounds and parks dotted around the county bustled with vibrancy, the good weather and school holidays ensuring peak numbers.  

  It’s that time of year, that kind of summer, that kind of weekend.

  Yes, there’s something special about the August Bank Holiday weekend. The country just seems to chill. And communities expand for a brief, heartwarming period. In many households, sons and daughters (or other relatives) are visiting. The dynamic changes. Impressive cars nuzzle up to country houses and confident young couples emerge with their wide-eyed, gadget-clutching children and their updates from the city. The August Bank Holiday has its own rhythm.

  Those who aren’t hosting visitors relax on this weekend too. Many people are on holidays themselves. I think we all sense that summer is beginning to ebb away; Autumn is limbering up on the ‘second pitch’, preparing to take centre stage.

  The August Bank Holiday weekend is probably special too because it’s this subtle confluence of events and feelings. The Galway Races are like a particularly dazzling lighthouse in the sea, drawing in the nation’s attention. Many communities focus in on the August Bank Holiday weekend as a focal point for their festival, carnival or show. The GAA season moves up one more gear and it’s time for teams to surf the increasingly unpredictable and demanding seas, or disappear into the distance and a winter of conversations around what might have been.   

  It’s a milestone weekend, a time for people to enjoy being off work, feed off the buzz from the various activities, and of course for parents to try and salvage some quality time with kids before the school bell sounds.

  Of course we’ll be particularly sorry to see this summer go. This summer has been so good, that while we’ve certainly enjoyed it, we’ve been unable to avoid that Irish thing of being distracted by always fearing the wonderful weather might break at any moment.

  Still, it has been fabulous…that weather never properly broke…and the big holiday weekend stayed loyal to this summer’s trends.

  Bank Holiday Monday in Roscommon town was perfectly peaceful, just like Bank Holiday Mondays are meant to be. The Bank Holiday is not like a normal weekday and it’s not like a Saturday or a Sunday either. Quietness descends.

  I drove up Main Street at 10.30 am. As befits the times we live in (cycling being ‘massive’ now), three men, kitted out in the very best cycling gear, cycled three fine racing bikes past ETL (the well-known landmark premises). Just as they proceeded to turn into the entrance to Gleeson’s (the well-known restaurant/B&B), a middle-aged man cycling an ordinary old bike (the well-known High Nelly type) eased past them. You’d understand it if he had a chuckle to himself. 

  The town was brimming with walkers – like cycling, a phenomenon of our times!

  The weekend itself had been incredibly busy all over the country, but the actual Bank Holiday – the Monday – is a day of calmness, a day for relaxing (unless you happen to be working). On Bank Holidays, we catch our breath.

  Still, it’s just the 6th of August, as I write. Still a few weeks to go until the early mornings, the rushed lunches, the search for uniforms, the twisting and turning of cars outside schools. Still some weeks of summer to savour.

  Then, when September comes, a new season (and we often get excellent weather in that month too). But we will miss this amazing summer of 2018, with its epic heatwaves, its consistently good weather, the World Cup, the trips to the beaches, the barbeques, the hurling, the hockey too!

  Back in Roscommon Town on Monday afternoon, there was hardly a movement in Abbey Street at 3.30 pm. Doors shut…businesses at one with private houses. A drop of rain, but not convincing. An odd car moving here and there. A young couple pushing a toddler in a pram. Roscommon flags still fluttering.

  The town was so quiet, I could hear nothing but the hum of lawnmowers from somewhere in the distance on this lazy August Bank Holiday Monday.

 

Saturday & Sunday

 

It’s become a cliché now to say ‘It was a great weekend of sport’, but there you go. Most people have a degree of interest in sport; many of us are passionate followers. Worldwide, we are now consumers of sport on an unprecedented scale.

  These days, we are blitzed with sports action (and stories) like never before; all sorts of sports too. The relentless media coverage of actual sporting contests is followed by 24/7 reaction and debate on social media…

  Last weekend was good, very good. I dipped in and out, I have to admit. On Saturday I just had to try and get the grass cut. Every now and again I went for radio updates on the GAA, as Kerry dramatically fell from the championship and Monaghan marched on.

  On Sunday, I adopted full ‘armchair critic’ mode, savouring the hurling and gaelic football, and keeping an eye on the hockey.

  It has become the norm just now to describe each new hurling game as ‘a gift from the Gods’, but the start of the Galway/Clare replay suggested that the Gods felt we had been spoilt the previous weekend. Sure, Galway were good, but the first half was nothing special; indeed there were many errors. We don’t have to call every hurling game a classic!

  The second half, however, certainly was thrilling. After falling well behind, just as they had done in the drawn game, Clare rallied back and exposed a recurring weakness in this undoubtedly formidable Galway team. In the end, Galway won by a point, but Clare had self-destructed, hitting a shocking 19 wides.

  I didn’t see that much of Donegal v Tyrone (well, I kept an eye on it), staying loyal to Roscommon, who faced the immensely daunting task of playing Dublin in Croke Park. These two matches were entertaining enough. Dublin easily saw off Roscommon in a high-scoring, irrelevant match. Roscommon never gave up, got some great scores and left the pitch well beaten but with pride intact.

  I was rooting for Donegal, but Tyrone were deserving winners; they are a formidable team. And yet it is hard to see any of Galway, Monaghan or Tyrone stopping Dublin. 

  In London meanwhile, Ireland’s sensational run in the hockey World Cup ended with an honourable defeat to the greatest team on the planet, the hockey heroines from the Netherlands. Ranked 15th of the 16 competing nations at the start of the tournament, the Irish team had made history with their extraordinary feats. Defeat in the final, but the World silver medals and the memories are there forever.

  I never find the Charity Shield (won by Manchester City) of any interest, but on Sunday night I enjoyed reading online accounts of a great start in The Championship by Leeds United.

  There is barely contained excitement at Leeds these days following the appointment of acclaimed manager Marcelo Bielsa. A 3-1 win on the opening day of the season over the bookies’ favourites for promotion (Stoke) will do nothing to control expectations!

  However, long-suffering Leeds fans like myself know perfectly well not to count chickens until they have completed their process of hatching. We’ve waited several years for that return to the Premier League. It will happen at some stage. Maybe this season…

  A very enjoyable weekend of sport then…still, those genuine hurling classics of the weekend before last apart, probably the most enjoyable sporting event I’ve seen in a while was one of the many underage GAA blitzes which are held around the county.

  The one I attended, hosted by St. Dominic’s, was superbly organised and attracted lots of eager teams. It was a credit to all concerned. And the kids had a ball.

  There was no blanket defence, no feigning injury, no diving and no verbal abuse of opponents or the ref.

  Just joy, innocence, carefree football, soft drinks, crisps…and daydreams of what might be in the future…

 

 

 

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