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Not this week, last week ....

Like a few Premiership teams, we didn’t qualify for Europe this year – so, we took a few days off and exchanged camping in France for camping in Fermanagh.

Why Fermanagh? Well, why not? Actually we heard that there’s a nice park/campsite “near Neven Maguire’s restaurant” up Blacklion/Belcoo way.

So we said we’d try it out, this being a great summer and all. We headed off with four children, two tents and one dog. It was our first time camping with tents (usually it’s a mobile home). We got the tents up with a surprising lack of drama.

We pitched by a lake on a beautiful site at Belcoo, on the border of Blacklion. It’s a fine site with friendly hosts and excellent facilities for children too.

The first night was lovely.A couple from a ‘neighbouring tent’ joined us for wine, a sing-song and a chat. This never happens in the fields at home; this is part of the appeal of camping. Next morning we cooked and enjoyed breakfast in the great outdoors. Some swans glided closer to show an interest. We had survived the first night in the tent.

A group of Dutch campers arrived, in clogs, extending greetings and smiles. On the Sunday, we spent a while in Enniskillen.

I escaped from the shopping mall and popped into a pub to see the second half of Dublin v Fermanagh. A few men’s men types had ownership of the corner of the bar counter, where they were lowering pints. Sitting back were several younger people, many in Fermanagh jerseys. When Fermanagh got their first goal, everyone in the bar went crazy. The barmaid rang a bell behind the counter.

Then Fermanagh began to play with renewed swagger, rattling the Dubs just a little, with the wonderful Sean Quigley to the fore. When they scored a second goal, the hard men at the bar could barely contain their emotions. They hugged and beamed, delighted they had scored 2-15 against the mighty Dubs, and only lost by eight. It was impossible not to share their joy.

The next morning, the weather changed. The rain and wind battered our tents. “Stick with it or you’ll never do it again” said a cheerful newcomer in another tent, as she observed the ominous swaying of our temporary home. We stuck with it for a few hours, then we gave in. It was an enjoyable few days.

Driving around Fermanagh confirmed again that there’s no end to the treasures to be discovered on this island. At Marble Arch Caves, the staff could barely cope with the crowds of tourists. “You’ll have to wait an hour and fifteen minutes before we can include you on a tour” the woman behind the counter told us. Fermanagh was good, the camping was good, and we will do it again….when the weather’s less chaotic. We’re glad we dipped our toes into this world, but we need warmer, calmer weather.

C’est la vie.

Saturday

This is a very, very focused Mayo team. Today, they dispatched the always formidable Donegal in very impressive fashion.

I didn’t see the Monaghan/Tyrone game, but gather from reports that it featured some superb acting of Oscar-winning stature. I saw a bit of the circus that was the closing minutes on ‘The Sunday Game’ – guys with wide-eyed, manic/grinning expressions taunting opponents – fellas diving melodramatically – with one player collapsing to the ground after an opponent had merely patted him on the head.

I am glad that, since the final whistle, there has been a media onslaught against Tyrone’s tactics; they ought to sort themselves out or they will lead gaelic football into an ugly future.

Back to Mayo, and I believe they must be viewed as serious All-Ireland contenders this year. Sure, they may have to beat both Dublin and Kerry to finally end the long wait for Sam. So be it. It’s not something to be intimidated about. It’s something to be excited about. I am sure Mayo are in just the right frame of mind. They are two games away. Mayo are well capable of doing it, and I sincerely hope they do.

Monday

Buses.

There are bus stories that can be recalled from all of our memory banks. Back when we were kids my parents bought a giant camper van on a whim. Resembling a bus in appearance, it was an impressive sight, the likes of which we had never seen.

There was an old woman, one of those inquisitive types, who lived in a small house near ours. She had a habit of peering out the window of her porch, through her net curtains, to keep an eye on what the neighbours were up to.

A harmless practice it was, and in fairness, looking back, there wasn’t a lot to do in the evening time all those years ago. One day a few of my friends and I did what small boys shouldn’t do, but ‘do do’; we knocked at the old lady’s front door and then ran off. Impressed by our bravery but then struck by fear, we hopped into the camper van/bus and hid out, marvelling at our audacity.

The next morning my father told us he’d got a complaint from the old woman. We initially denied everything, then we coughed up. It got worse. It was put to us that not only had we knocked at the old woman’s door and run off, but that we had also spent time messing around in the new camper van/bus.

Anyways, we all have memories of buses. On the school bus, the craic was always down at the back.That’s where the extroverts seemed to go. Closer to the front, we sat on dreary mornings with friends (real, human ones that you could see, not from facebook). In our lunchbox a club milk was sunken into a ham sandwich.

The nuns in Newtownforbes awaited. We had no smartphones with us. We travelled with little more than our daydreams – and a few football cards to exchange. ‘I’ll give you Ian Callaghan if you give me Peter Lorimer.’

The bus (which had to go on to Longford) would get us to school 45 minutes before first class. If we were unlucky, Sr. Immaculata (a formidable, great woman, who only passed away two years ago) would get us to pluck some weeds in the front yard. If we were lucky, we got to play football before school, acting out our daydreams and becoming the heroes of our precious football cards. Buses.

The most famous bus in Roscommon now is the Club Rossie bus. It is the butt of jokes from time to time. That’s the risk with a venture like that.

Arrive in a town on the Club Rossie bus and win impressively and you leave looking slick and ‘professional.’ Arrive at an away venue and lose and you leave to some derision from the home fans.

On balance I favour the ambitious Club Rossie bus project. It seems to make financial sense and it sends out a positive message to gaels of all ages and codes. It represents a level of professionalism that is forward-thinking. I am strongly in favour of the slick Club Rossie project which will withstand this season’s disappointing (senior) championship setbacks.

I thought of buses when I saw Conor Lenihan on TV3’s ‘Late Debate’ on Monday night. I met him back in 1990, when the most famous bus in Roscommon was not the Club Rossie one. For a few weeks at least, the most famous bus in the county then was the Presidential campaign bus of the late Brian Lenihan Senior.

The charismatic Deputy Lenihan and family members, advisers and media folk criss-crossed County Roscommon on Fianna Fail’s great, big campaign bus during Presidential Election 1990. Reporting for the Roscommon Champion, I joined the entourage on the bus for a few hours. Conor Lenihan, the candidate’s son, was a journalist at the time. I spared him the story of his father’s visit, with Charlie Haughey, to the Kon Tiki bar and lounge in Rooskey in the early 1970s.

I am not sparing readers of this column… My parents had built and opened the unique Kon Tiki premises. One night, Haughey and Brian Lenihan (Senior) arrived after a meeting with Peter Hanley in Rooskey village. Over a few drinks, Haughey admired antique bar taps that we had on display, promptly bought them and installed them in his bar in Kinsealy, where they reigned for many years. It is our only connection with Haughey and scandal. I presume he paid us in cash.

I spared Conor Lenihan that story on his dad’s presidential campaign bus. I forget what we talked of. His father looked set to become President of Ireland, but fate would intervene. There was stuff in Brian and Charlie’s past, stuff about ringing President Hillery, that would come back to haunt them; and Mary Robinson was ready to take her place in history. Meanwhile, on Monday night, Conor Lenihan told Ger Colleran (standing in for Vincent Browne) that he is writing a book on Haughey and is open to, shall we say, getting back on the bus – with a return to politics.

As for that episode in Rooskey about four decades ago, a mystery remained to be resolved. How did the word get out that we had knocked on the old woman’s door and spent a while messing around in the camper van/bus? Had my parents just happened to witness the night’s mischief – or had the old woman conveyed the information to the world through the net (curtains)?

Wednesday

The Leaving Cert results escaped from captivity today. One sure thing those of us who sat that infamous exam a long time ago know now is that the Leaving Cert is not ‘everything’. It’s something of a milestone in your young life certainly, but most, perhaps all of us, seldom think of it now, many years on.

The Leaving Cert will catapult a lot of students into good places – which is good. But it is also fair to say that other things, other qualities, some of them quite indefinable, will merge together to help shape your future.

Some of the most brilliant achievers in our society either failed, never sat or failed to impress in their Leaving Cert. So to those who did brilliantly or quite well or average, sincere congratulations.

To those who didn’t do as well as they had hoped, don’t worry excessively about it. The Leaving Cert comes and goes. There will be other opportunities – educational and otherwise – around the corner.

Other things, combinations of things, including your own spirit, skills and strengths, will shape your future. To help you succeed. Not to mention that other important thing in life: to help you to be happy!

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