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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

On to the next chapter…

 

 

Congratulations to all the students in Co. Roscommon and beyond who received their Leaving Certificate results this week. I’m one of those who believes it’s a largely unfair and out of date system…but there you go.

 

  The general consensus locally is that students, parents and teachers were – by and large – pleased with how the Leaving Certificate ‘Class of 2019’ fared.

 

  There’s too much pressure on students these days and I have no doubt that those who sat the exams will be relieved and delighted that the long wait is over. Regardless of what points total you achieved, the world is your oyster. Today’s young people can achieve whatever they set out to achieve. An individual exam has nothing on hard work, common sense and good old-fashioned determination. On behalf of all our readers, I wish the Class of 2019 all the very best in the future.

 

Lame leaders!

Seriously…if Boris and Leo (and their officials) cannot agree on whether or not – not to mention where and when – they are meeting, can we really expect them to run their respective countries?

 

Cricket? Nah? Well, maybe…

 

The attitude of a lot of Irish people (certainly not all) to cricket over the centuries: ‘Nah…not for me…don’t even understand the rules, plus it’s boring’.

 

  The attitude of a lot of Irish people to cricket when England recently won the Cricket World Cup…a bit alarmed, a bit relieved it wasn’t the soccer…on reflection, happy enough, but fairly indifferent.

 

  The attitude of a lot of Irish people to cricket when Ireland, a week on from England’s World Cup win, started beating the new champions in a Test match: ‘Eh…did you see the cricket? We bowled England out for 85 this morning! We’re doing brilliant in the cricket! Any update on the cricket?!’

 

  The attitude of a lot of Irish people to cricket when England struck back – to win. ‘The cricket? What cricket? Sure that’s an English game…bring on the hurling and football!’

 

Saving Eoghan…

 

In politics, nothing can be taken for granted.

 

  Eoghan Murphy was well on his way to winning the ‘Worst Politician of the Year’ Award…but then there was a massive swing in the direction of Maria Bailey, and now she has taken the honours…

 

Small crowds...Could it be the football?

 

Most people were shocked by the small attendance (not much more than 30,000) at the Tyrone/Kerry All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final on Sunday.

 

  I’m not sure that the main reason was the sense that Dublin are unbeatable. I do think that the costs being incurred by families – particularly with qualifier games and now the Super 8s – is a big factor in falling attendances.

 

  But I was amused that very few commentators mentioned what must be a primary reason…i.e. the tedious nature of much of the football.

 

  Tyrone’s style of play – and very often the modern game generally – is boring and very difficult to watch.

 

 

 

Seeking a stand-in…

 

They’re all decent people, but I’ve had enough of these stand-in radio presenters already…

 

  If it’s ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’, we want Sean…ditto with ‘The Pat Kenny Show’ and so on. True, people are entitled to holidays, but the ‘stand-in’ blitz every August, coupled with the increasingly frivolous content, leaves us with duller radio.

 

  Until normal service has resumed, someone will have to ‘stand in’ for this listener…

 

Political Love Island…

 

It’s off air at the moment…but will be back soon. On Political Love Island (nightly, Virgin Media, with Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates) Roscommon/Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice remains one of the most popular islanders, as he’s always there – and it looks like he always with be.

 

  But, drama during summer of 2019 in the form of a familiar face…hinting that he might become a potential rival for the affections of Matt and Ivan…i.e. Denis Naughten, who suddenly started appearing as a guest on Political Love Island. Just now, Michael Fitz remains the firm favourite, but he’s not having it all his own way.

 

  Now, as autumn looms, and with normal current affairs coverage on TV to resume soon, the question is: Will Eugene (Murphy) enter the fray to further change the dynamic on Political Love Island?

 

Lilly graces Croker…

 

Last Saturday was a memorable day for one young Roscommon footballer when Lilly Murray (12) got the opportunity to play during half-time in the All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final at Croke Park.

 

  Lilly, a pupil of Ballymurray NS, was the sole Roscommon representative amongst the 42 children who featured in the GAA/INTO Cumann na mBunscol Respect Education Go Games.

 

  Representing their primary schools, the children took part in exhibition games at half-time in the Dublin/Mayo game…in front of an attendance of over 83,000 people!

 

  Lilly is daughter of Anne Marie and Liam Murray of Kilcash, Rahara, Co. Roscommon.

 

 Lilly, who plays with St. Dominics GAA Club, did have to line out in a Mayo jersey, but that was a small price to pay for what was a wonderful experience – and a great honour! (The 42 children involved on Saturday donned the jerseys of Mayo and Dublin for the exhibition games).

 

  It was an unforgettable experience for Lilly and for all involved, particularly given the tremendous atmosphere generated by the Dublin and Mayo fans in what was the most high profile and eagerly awaited GAA game played at Croke Park so far this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super! Rossies sign off with a win…

 

 

 

If only they’d known what was going to happen, Willie and Nigel could have brought a calculator with them...to Cork, last Sunday.

  Between goals and yellow/black cards, the dynamic duo bringing the good news across the radio airwaves briefly struggled to keep count…well, of the cards being brandished, at least. There was no fear of the experienced duo losing count of the goals.

  We’d attended the Cemetery Mass in Bornacoola earlier in the day. We stayed in Rooskey/Dromod area during the afternoon, and there was a nice summer atmosphere. By 4 pm, we had one eye on Tyrone v Dublin and two ears on Cork v Ros.

  I had a good feeling about last Sunday – and little regard for the ‘dead-rubber’ label. It was obvious that both teams were desperate to win. The prize of an All-Ireland semi-final may have been gone, but there was arguably still a fair bit at stake…whatever the national media and neutrals might say. Third place in the group. The morale boost of a championship win. Status/bragging rights amongst the pack chasing the top five. A confidence-booster ahead of next season.

  Winning was arguably particularly important for Roscommon, in light of three disappointing outings in last year’s inaugural Super 8s.

  And win our lads did. It was a typically helter-skelter end of season game, fortunes fluctuating, goals coming thick and fast. The outbreaks of ‘fisticuffs’ was evidence of how much it meant to the players.

  Roscommon prevailed, and by all accounts fully deserved the win. Willie and Nigel did the business in style, with lots of passion. We won our first ever Super 8s’ game. Four championship wins from six outings this season (plus a very competitive showing against Tyrone). Away wins in the same championship season against Mayo, Galway and Cork. A gleaming Nestor Cup. Well done lads. Great stuff. Roll on 2020.

 

No deal Brexit? Just a blip!

Any time you have numerous sightings of a member of a rarely spotted species, it’s worthy of comment.

  Usually they hibernate at this time of year – most of the year in fact – and can really only be found sipping expensive whiskeys and talking with affectation in some lavish lounge deep in the heart of the House of Lords, a House of Commons chamber, an exclusive men’s club, or in their retreat in the south of France.

  Now? Now you’ll find them prowling around the Newsnight, Channel 4 (news) and Sky studios, twitching nervously before going on air, for fear of too much contact with ordinary people. 

  If it weren’t for the fact that the issues under ‘discussion’ are so serious, I’d nearly say they’ve brightened up my summer.

  Yeah, the Tory posh boys/toffs really are back in town.

  The latest to bewilder was one Norman Lamont – last at the heart of Government in 1993 – who added his smug analysis of the Brexit crisis on Newsnight on Tuesday.

  A ‘no deal Brexit’ would merely be a short-term “blip” Lamont told Newsnight.

  I wonder how that comment went down with the thousands of Brits who have already lost their jobs in the car manufacturing industry? Not to mention the millions of people on these islands who are worried about Brexit, particularly a no deal one?

  The prospect of ‘posh boy’ Tories recklessly leading the UK towards a Brexit crash-out is now very real.

  And when it all comes to pass – whatever final twist awaits – the privileged ‘posh boy’ Tories – who wouldn’t be able to tell you the price of a loaf of bread if you gave them 100 guesses – will slink back into the shadows, returning to wherever they live, which is not really in the real world. Their countryfolk, meanwhile, will be left with the ‘blip’…

Marty update…

There I was the other day, listening to the radio and watching the TV…and I could neither hear nor see Marty. Marty Morrissey.

  Naturally, I was stunned at this shock turn of events. I had double-checked all the obscure reality shows, every possible sports programme, even the weather bulletin…but not a single sign of Marty. Very worrying.

  I rang RTE to complain about this lack of Marty, an absence which goes against everything our society has become accustomed to.

  Where is the multi-tasking and omnipresent Marty, I intended to ask.

  The phone rang. And Marty answered.

  I told him I wanted to be put through to the complaints department.

  I am the complaints department, Marty said.

  Give me the commissioning editor, I said.

  I am effectively the commissioning editor, Marty said, not missing a beat, not even a tiny bit embarrassed.

  He put me on hold – the recorded music was Marty singing.

  I thought he was a touch arrogant, so I actually changed tack. Give me the equality officer, you’re on TV and radio too much, I ventured. 

  I am the equality officer, Marty said.

  Put me on to the DG, I said. “It’s Dee Forbes…give me Dee!”

  “People THINK it’s Dee Forbes” Marty said, “but in reality…”

  I gave up.

 

It was August…and the country was emptying…

 

One day, last week. The woman looked at her husband…clutching his smartphone and seemingly determined to make that call.

  “They’re all gone!” she repeated, shaking her head. “Don’t you realise, it’s August…it’ll be more frustrating than ever. The country’s empty!”

  But the poor man was determined. He had a query. He had to speak to someone. He knew all about the automated services, about being put on hold, all that type of thing. But he had to make the call…

 

After twenty minutes, he got an answer. The man nodded at his wife, as if to say ‘told you they’d answer. Country empty?’ She smiled.

  He got a human too…on the other end of the line. “It’s a human!” the man mouthed excitedly to his wife.

“Good morning! Thank you for calling” the human said. “Your call is important to us. Now before proceeding, can I ask you a few security questions…”

“Sure…”

“Can you confirm your name, address, date of birth…weight…”

“Eh…?”

“Regulations! Also, your favourite food, who you’d like to see winning Love Island…”

“Eh?”

“We just have to observe certain guidelines. Thank you, sir. Now, how can I help you today?”

  The man told the lady on the line what his query was.

“Thank you! Now, I’m going to put you back to the switchboard…press 1 if you want to be put through to the desk of David, he’s gone on the holiday of a lifetime to Australia…”

“What?”

“Or press 2 if you want to hear Mozart while you wait…and I can have a coffee”.

“Press 3 if you’d like to be put through to the voicemail of Gordon, he’s golfing in Kerry”.

“Press 4 if you want to leave a message for Michelle, she called in sick, but she’s actually availing of the nice weather and hosting an impromptu barbeque”.

  “Press 5 if you want to leave a voicemail for Yvonne, she’s on gardening leave. No, she’s not suspended, she’s actually taken time off to do some gardening”.

  The poor man mumbled that he just wanted his query dealt with…a sum of money had been deducted from his account.

  The lady was so understanding…

“Well, yes sir, I can confirm that sum you mention has been deducted, but I’m not permitted to discuss your personal account in any more detail. You’d have to speak to my line manager”.

“By any chance…is your line manager there?”

“Surfing in Strandhill, it’s beautiful”.

“Can ANYONE help me?”

“You ARE impatient, sir! Will I put you on hold?”

“No, not the ‘hold option’ please…anything but hold!” the man cried.

“But it’s Mozart…very relaxing…the first half hour in particular…”

“Please! Can you just deal with my query!”

“Well, okay. By the way, Gordon has just birdied the 7th in Ballybunion, he’s thrilled! Okay, I can talk to you about your query…but let’s make it snappy…I’m on a half-day…”

“YOU’RE on a half-day?”

“Of course…Galway Races!”

 

 

Sun shines on ‘festival season’

 

 

Festival season in County Roscommon and surrounding areas is, if Maria Bailey will forgive the expression, in full swing – and the weather’s being kind too.

  We went to Rooskey on Sunday, where the local Heritage Festival was easing towards a successful finale. This year, our friends in Rooskey went for a week-long festival. The event attracted great crowds and provided lots of entertainment.

  Indeed the sight of cars lining both sides of the village street on Sunday was a reminder of times past, when Rooskey’s famous (now sadly idle) bacon factory was in its prime.

  But Rooskey is bouncing back from the setbacks of recent years (closure of the factory, village being bypassed, the recession, downturn of the angling industry and so on). It was nice to see that a new café has opened beside the former Crew’s Inn pub. The new business (formerly Eileen’s Hairdressers) was bustling on Sunday!

  We decided to stay in Rooskey on Sunday evening…along with many more Rooskey-ites who had returned to the village for the festival. There was a great buzz in the village, as there was most evenings last week.

  Meanwhile, festival fever continues throughout the area. The Boyle Arts Festival has once again been a great success. The O’Carolan Harp Festival is taking place over the coming days and is well worth checking out.

  Castlerea Rose Festival kicked off with a colourful opening parade last Sunday, and I know that committee chairperson John Mulligan and his colleagues have a great schedule lined up.

  Last Sunday’s annual Family Day at Donamon Castle was once again a great success. What a wonderful annual event this is. We were sorry to miss it. The great Danny Burke was MC. Well done to Sean Beirne and his committee colleagues.

  Meanwhile, the Ballintubber Heritage Weekend took place last weekend, and was one of the highlights of the month-long celebrations there. We sent photographer Michael McCormack along to the Mock Wedding which was held in Kenny’s – and judging by his photos, it seems to have been a brilliant evening’s entertainment!

  Meanwhile, the nationally renowned Ballygar Carnival starts today (Thursday, August 1st). This year’s gala event is a very special one, as it’s the 75th annual Ballygar Carnival. It promises to be a great family-oriented celebration.  

  These great communal events showcase the wonderful spirit in our communities and also have the effect of lifting the mood – and boosting local businesses. They are also great examples of the magnificent voluntary sector in our midst. Here’s hoping the sun keeps shining on ‘festival season’.

 

‘Mystery music men’ revealed…almost

 

A number of readers have recently got in touch with us here in the Roscommon People in relation to our request for information on this photograph.

  A reader had previously submitted the photograph and explained that it was from “a calendar of ‘The Times Showband’, which was picked up at a dance in the Casino Ballroom in Castlerea in 1977”. Our correspondent wondered if any of our readers recognised this band and its members.

  One reader, Mike Lannon, of Swarbriggs, a shoe shop in Mullingar, called in identifying some of the showband members featured in the photograph. In the background, second from the left, is Des Doherty, and third from the left, Vinnie Baker. In the foreground, on extreme left is Billy Whyte, and second from the left is Greg Donnelly. The reader also mentioned Johnny Dellaman, Mullingar, as manager.

  Another reader, Martina Murray, Four Roads, also got in contact after sending on the photograph to her uncle, Kieran Sullivan – living in London but originally from Banagher, Co. Offaly – who is “an avid music fan and has a vast knowledge of showbands!” He identified the band in question as former members of the The Drifters. Back row left is Jimmy Horan, Mullingar, bass guitarist. Beside him, once again identified was Des Doherty, also known as The Doc, who played the keyboards. He also identified the man furthest right as Joey Gilhenny, playing the trombone, and mentioned a man named Donal Aughey who was the drummer of this band but isn’t pictured in the photo. 

  Thanks to all those readers who got in touch in order to help us to identify our mystery music men. One member still remains unidentified, however, so any further information about the group would be welcome. (Further responses to the Roscommon People at Abbey Street, Roscommon, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 

 

 

 

 

Caught between a Rock and a hard pace…

 

 

It’s probably not the best week to quote that famous Mark Twain line about golf – “A good walk spoiled” – but I was reminded of it in Croke Park last Saturday.

  This, unfortunately, was a good evening out which was spoiled somewhat by the fact that a football match was taking place.

  I am of course, being tongue in cheek: Roscommon were completely outclassed, but they battled on bravely, and the morale-denting defeat does not undo the good of what went previously this season.

  I could have joined the ‘hacks’ in the press box, but instead a number of us gathered high in the Cusack/Davin Stand areas. Every time you visit Croke Park you are wowed by the splendour of this magnificent stadium. Rossies were few and far between. The restaurants and bars are a stunning backdrop to the actual pitch and seating areas. It’s luxury all the way at Croker these days. One can only assume that the designers of the original Croke Park over a century ago would be spellbound if they saw it now.

  With a relatively small crowd (about 36,000) in for the Super 8s’ double-header, the atmosphere was nothing special. At half-time in the Dublin/Roscommon game, fans surged to the bar. As the second half resumed, many of them remained behind the spectacular ‘glass walls’, watching the match from the bar, the one-sided nature of the game draining the afternoon of its promise and potential.

  Of course we hadn’t expected a Roscommon win, but we had hoped Anthony Cunningham’s team might have been able to live with the super Dubs longer than transpired. In fact we were level at 0-3 apiece after ten minutes or so, though even by then, the powerful running of the men in blue was ominous. I loved Diarmuid Murtagh’s confident, brash early point from way out on the right wing, and felt – at the time – that Colin Compton could have tried for a goal in Roscommon’s first attack (he fired over for a point). In fairness, the ‘Sunday Game’ highlights suggested he probably made the right choice.

  Dublin moved up the gears and soon Roscommon were in trouble. Still, we cut through them a few times, Killoran dragging a goal chance wide, Enda Smith lighting up the game with a surging run and pass to Murtagh, the latter trying to palm to the net when it might have been wiser to gather the ball. Already, midst our goal misses and the relentless Dublin surges, a sense of a long evening. Their pace is amazing. Pace, power, physicality and great skill. Dean Rock on fire. Yeah, caught between a Rock and a ‘hard pace’. When Conor Daly was sent off just before half-time, we wanted someone to tell us it was all a dream.

  At half-time, the Dublin fans were indifferent to it all. They weren’t critical of Roscommon’s display, moreso they were just going through the motions, casually analysing another routine demolition job. It’s quite dispiriting for neutrals, for non-Dubs. We prepared for the second half with heavy hearts. An early Dublin goal, and soon Gavin’s giants were seventeen ahead. Roscommon rallied and played some lovely football. Conor Cox was heroically fighting against the tide. Some of his points were beauties, but in a way it was like poking a giant with a twig. Credit also to Conor Hussey, scorer of three points. Roscommon tried gamely to keep the blue-eyed monster at bay, but our dismal fate was not in question. And so, with Cork – pipped earlier by Tyrone – we departed from this year’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, save for the final Super 8s fixture next Sunday week (v Cork).

  It’s been a good season for Roscommon. Saturday’s gruelling outing at HQ was a ruthless reminder of how much further we still have to travel. Of course this Dublin team is an exceptional yardstick. It’s hard to see their gallop being halted; they are magnificent.

  Our lads need to hold their heads up. We are Connacht champions and moving in the right direction. Saturday may have been hard, but we’ve had our super moments this season.

  Back in Croker…fancy bars, tempting menus, state-of-the-art furnishings, elevators…the delights of 21st century super-stadiums, of which Croke Park is one of the best. Around the corner, a GAA Museum in which the feats of our great teams and heroes of the past are celebrated in glorious nostalgia-tinted black and white. In truth, nothing spoiled. Any evening in Croke Park is a good walk, a walk in the shadow of greatness.

 

 

Shane (and his granny) steal the show…

 

 

Move over Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Maura from Love Island – Monday’s front pages belonged to a modest man from Offaly.

  I texted one of my brothers on Sunday: ‘It’s hard to believe that the most talked about golfer on the planet today – the Open champion – is such an ordinary guy, from GAA heartland, in a rural area about 40 minutes up the road’. (Thankfully my brother’s into the golf and knew what this rambling text referred to).

  Into the golf? All of Ireland is ‘into the golf’ this week after Shane Lowry’s sensational feat. Come to think of it, that tribesman in an Amazon rainforest who made the news this week (‘Uncontacted tribesman, bare-chested and carrying a spear’) has probably been googling ‘Clara’ and ‘Lowry’ since Sunday.

  There are two reasons why we’ve all gone Shane-crazy. On a golfing/sporting level, it was a magnificent feat…the Offaly man defeating the world’s best by six shots, burning up the course with a record score on Saturday and then holding his nerve in testing weather conditions on Sunday. The second reason is because he is the ultimate nice guy.

  Lowry is the most ordinary of men (well, except for his golfing prowess). Long before last week, the nation had taken him to its heart. If he wasn’t Shane Lowry, he’s just the type of ordinary guy you’d expect to be beside you in your living room, the pub or on the golf course, cheering Shane Lowry on. If you follow me.

  It’s obvious that Lowry is the product of a typically decent, grounded Irish family, indeed one that is steeped in Offaly GAA. His parents Brendan and Bridget obviously made huge sacrifices in support of their son’s passion for golf. And what a star turn this week by Shane’s granny, Emily Scanlon, who gave priceless media interviews, most notably to Ciaran Mullooly and Joe Duffy of RTE.

  My favourite Emily quote (there were many) came when Joe Duffy asked if she had ever flown to the US to watch Shane play.

 “Fly to America? You wouldn’t get me on a plane…if a plane arrived at the gate this minute I wouldn’t go to Kilbeggan on it!”

  It’s been obvious for a few years that Shane Lowry is a special talent. It’s wonderful to see him win a major. This is a heartwarming story. I suspect there is a lot more to come too.

 

 

 

 

A weekend on Aran Islands

 

 

 

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  “Where are you from?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday

 

 

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

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

Progress on and off the field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Goodbye to Ireland’s comedy king

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Musings on a night at the races

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Paul Healy's week - July 5th

 

A waiting game…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tom fitted in well here…

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

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

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

 

Yeah, right…

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

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

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

 

Revealed! How Roscommon ball
got into Kilkenny shop window…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Networking, Boris, The Dubs and Kilkenny...

 

 

Crossed wires

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

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

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

  The man excitedly switched me…back to the computer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Having a laugh…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I was dreaming…

 I hate it when the telly doesn’t work.

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

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

When you win 14 out of 15…

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

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

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

 

Who put the ball in the Kilkenny shop window?

 

Kilkenny is a great place to visit. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Home are the heroes…

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

  The adults are pretty happy too.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

  It was a thoroughly deserved and magnificent victory.

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

A great weekend in a great town…

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday

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

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

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

 

Friday

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

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

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

 

Saturday

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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