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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

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.

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.

Our own Game of Thrones…

 

 

 

I’ve never seen Game of Thrones – but I signed up (as usual) to the local version last weekend.

  I gather that Game of Thrones had a reputation for being quite gory – as far as I could see it was much more civilised in the Hyde Centre on Saturday and Sunday, while still a good old-fashioned marathon example of the bloodsports’ nature of Irish politics.

  It is, of course, a ‘parallel universe’…the count centre. In some instances, you meet people at a count that you haven’t actually met since the last count! Familiar faces…‘count faces’.

  And within a minute or so of arriving in the count centre, for yet another marathon, we inevitably slip into count-speak. Into the language of the count.

  ‘First preferences. Quotas. Transfers. Tallies. Percentages. Eliminations’.

  Not to mention the questions and comments.

  ‘Any sign of a count? When do you think we’ll have a first count? Any word on how things are going nationally? You wouldn’t have a spare pass by any chance?’

  It’s a world of its own, really. And usually a compelling one. Last weekend’s count in Roscommon was a long way from being the most exciting in memory, but it had its moments.

  I got there after lunch on Saturday, buying in to the marathon once again…as I’ve been doing since the 1980s. Saturday wasn’t a very productive day. There was no first count in any of the three electoral areas in the county (Athlone, Boyle & Roscommon), but the excellent work of tally men and tally women provided us with a strong indication from early on Saturday of how Election ’19 would pan out here.

  It was soon clear that Marty McDermott and Tony Waldron would be two of the day’s headline-makers. I was pleased for both of them. Waldron ran a superb campaign and was flying over the past week or so. A very affable man, he is passionate about his county, believes in its untapped potential, and will be a positive force on the Council.

  Marty McDermott also ran a great campaign, and the Oran man’s common touch and likeability factor led to a huge vote. His supporters proudly pointed out that he is the first Oran native to be elected to the Council. Marty punched the air with pride and emotion following his tremendous success. It was a very special and emotional moment for Marty, his wife and children, and both their families. And it’s good to see young people coming into politics.

  I was pleased too for Donal Kilduff, who pulled off a very impressive win in Athlone/South Roscommon. Donal is what I would describe as an ‘Ideas man’…his campaign was notable for his innovative, environmentally conscious and business-supporting proposals. On a human and political level, it was some achievement by Donal to get elected (at the expense of FF) and after a relatively late entry into the race. He will be a big addition to the Council. A proud moment for his Dad Paddy too. In a quirk of fate, Paddy and Teresa had been booked on a cruise some months ago (a birthday present) and thus missed Donal’s big moment. They only left on Sunday morning, and could hardly be expected to get back that night; not even Paddy can walk on water. No doubt big celebrations will follow in due course.

  There were massive, hugely impressive votes for a range of candidates (Paschal Fitzmaurice, Kathleen Shanagher, John Cummins, Valerie Byrne, Michael Mulligan, Tony Ward, Ivan Connaughton, John Naughten, etc.) Tom Crosby made an impressive comeback after being unlucky to lose out in 2014.

  Finally, Domnick Connolly accepted defeat with dignity and good humour. He has been a very effective councillor for a long time, and is a great community activist and a very popular man. Domnick knows this is how the ball bounces sometimes, he knows all about the twists and turns and high and lows of politics. He was gracious on Sunday, quickly turning the subject to Roscommon’s win over Mayo!

* Well done to Returning Officer Shane Tiernan and all Council staff present who did a great job over the weekend. Also, a reader was in touch to say that while there was understandable insistence on admission by pass only, they were pleased to see that there was discretion applied on Sunday evening and family/supporters of successful candidates were allowed in during the closing stages of the count…so that they could celebrate. Well said!

 

 

 

Leeds United fans 0 Rest of the World 1

 

 

 

 

If you happened to see a few middle-aged men wandering around aimlessly last Thursday – as though worn down by the stresses of the world – their sad demeanour may have had nothing to do with Brexit or bills; quite possibly they were ‘just’ deeply distraught Leeds United fans.

  I got home from work that fateful and now forever damned Wednesday evening, having succeeded in avoiding social media and any update on how THAT match was going. (Leeds were at home to Derby County in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final, and leading 1-0 from the first game).

  In the normal world, that would be a good thing.

  Anyways, I closed the curtains and opened my heart to the possibilities, sitting down to watch this monumentally big match which I had recorded, and the result of which I had avoided. 

  They say it is the hope that kills you, but when it comes to Leeds United in Championship play-offs – this supposed route back into the Premier League – I never allow actual hope to get in the way of the inevitable sense of foreboding. To be honest, it’s the qualifying for the play-offs, rather than gaining automatic promotion, that ‘kills’ Leeds fans. 

  Because Leeds, irrespective of how brilliant they’ve been all season, invariably flounder in these wretched play-offs.

  Some things in life are inevitable, they just keep happening. Our dog, it seems, will always act surprised and bark when the postman’s van arrives in the morning, as it does every weekday morning. Ryan Tubridy will always try to be cool and funny when he’s interviewing a comedian (why does he do this? It’s not as if he produces a lavish meal that he ‘prepared earlier’ whenever he’s interviewing a celebrity chef). I digress…

  Anyways, Leeds, it seems, will always blow it when they get to the Championship play-offs.

  It’s not enough to lose; they have to torture us in the process. In that second leg mayhem the other night, Leeds went 1-0 up against Derby, making it 2-0 on aggregate. An incredible atmosphere at Elland Road…thousands of fans chanting, singing and waving scarves. The Sky commentator musing about it being all over, Leeds marching on. It was, of course, madness. Drama had to reveal itself. And it did. Leeds imploded, Derby won 4-2 on the night, 4-3 overall. At least we were spared getting to the play-off final, and the delusion of escape.

  There is only one way for Leeds to return to the Premier League, and that’s by finishing first or second in the Championship, thus gaining automatic promotion, avoiding this play-off tightrope.

  Next season, I’m hoping Leeds can go straight up, that they can imperiously soar above this play-off torture. It is the only way, the only chance of escape. There is too much at stake…too much at stake for Leeds United, for their huge fan base, indeed for haunted middle-aged men throughout Roscommon…(to be continued, no doubt).

 Musings on First Holy Communion Day…

 

It was such a happy day, a joyful occasion…as it always is.

  Our son Matthew was one of a large number of children receiving their First Holy Communion in Roscommon Town last Saturday. The sun shone brightly, and a little unexpectedly.

  This is always a happy, inspirational ceremony. It’s one that many local families throughout the region have already experienced this year.

  It’s an occasion that glows…the children at the centre of it…sharing their day with siblings, parents, grandparents, further relations, a community’s embrace. 

  In these busy times, there aren’t that many communal events that can create such a calmness, such positivity. Maybe it’s because innocence is at the heart of it. And also, of course, because it’s sacred.

  Sacred. The First Holy Communion ceremony is after all a religious ceremony, and a powerful one too.

  By 10.40 am last Saturday, there were hundreds of people outside the Sacred Heart Church. The excited children…in their beautiful dresses and their dashing suits. There was a little giddiness, and lots of nervous energy…not just on the part of the kids, for the parents too. Pockets of people here and there, everyone dressed to the nines. Mostly they exchanged compliments about the kids, savoured the occasion, but, being honest, some drifted into other important snippets of small talk.

 

Musings on First Holy Communion Day…

 

But always it drifted – quickly – back to the children. The children were in their element. Their big day. When the local teachers (also stars of the day) called the children to order, they  quickly formed a queue, clasping their hands in prayer, preparing for this milestone step in their young lives.

  The ceremony was very special. It was much more inclusive than it used to be (many years ago). There was a lovely touch when three of the First Holy Communicants stood behind the altar and sang. Others read from the altar – superbly. The children received the Eucharist with reverence and were a credit to their parents and their schools.

  Walking up the aisle, they had been paired off, a boy and a girl at a time. As their parents beamed with pride, they completed this opening part of the ceremony with great formality, some of the boys careful not to make too much eye contact with their ‘partner’, as if unsure about this close encounter. (Thinking: Did we really agree to this?).   

  Fr. John Cullen celebrated a lovely Mass, which featured beautiful music from the Choir. A sense of happiness prevailed. And of sacredness. A fast-moving world slowed, for now at least. When the ceremony ended, the cameras and phones came out. The sun was still shining. The children had been great. It was, and is, one of the special days.

 

Finally, some election atmosphere…

 

 

 

Eight days to go, and while you couldn’t say there’s election fever, there’s finally some momentum to Election 2019. Just about!

  Election candidates have relished the excellent weather recently and are out in force, canvassing away. The recent Lamb Festival, the Roscommon v Leitrim match and Roscommon Races were all a bonus for candidates in that they presented an opportunity to meet large numbers of people in the one location.

  In relation to the local elections, the feeling throughout the county amongst people who are interested in this type of thing is that there are probably four to five very strongly fancied candidates in each of the three six-seaters…with one/two seats up for grabs in each area!

 

Thoughts on ‘Pool and Spurs

I was only six or seven years of age – yes, it’s so long ago, Eamon de Valera was probably our President, and the Bay City Rollers were probably in fashion.

  It’s my first memory of seeing, and being mesmerised by, soccer. There was a soccer match on the television – which was rare enough in those days. In black and white, of course. I was smitten by the style and panache of one of the two teams in action. Or were there three teams? I remember being confused. There was one team, and then there was Spurs…and Tottenham Hotspur. What was the commentator at? Eventually it dawned on me…Tottenham and Spurs were the same.

  I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them, with their swashbuckling style, their sense of adventure. Many, many years later (but still a long time ago), I went to an Arsenal-Spurs game. Such excitement! The superstars I  daydreamt of in Rooskey were suddenly there in the flesh. I waited in wonder for Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa and Liam Brady to display their magic. When it ended 0-0, I felt suitably cheated!

  And now Spurs are in the Champions League Final, following an amazing victory over Ajax, another team with plenty of ‘swash’ and ‘buckle’. What Spurs have achieved is remarkable. I met a few still-stunned Spurs fans at the weekend (there are some out there, in Rossie-land) and yet…much as I like the club, my heart is with Liverpool on this one, in this unlikely football fantasy.

  Why? Because Liverpool have been wonderful this season, a relentless, thrilling, honest leave-everything-on-the-pitch football force. I didn’t much like their manager, Klopp, when he first arrived in England. Now I’ve warmed to him. His team has been superb. As has he.

  Liverpool’s extraordinary win over an admittedly defensively pitiful Barcelona gave us one of the great soccer nights in decades. And there really is something very special about big European football nights at Anfield. When the fans sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ there, it is pure hair-standing-on-back-of-neck stuff. Even when I was a teenager, a passionate Leeds fans then as now, there was something special about Anfield on European football nights.

  I like and admire Spurs, but Liverpool have been a joyous rolling pleasure this season. After running Manchester City so close in the Premier League, few would begrudge them victory in the Champions League Final.

    

The Late Late: A-pealing as ever

So in this dream, two top TV executives fly in from the US (where else, for the purposes of this sarcastic piece?).

  They got down to business pretty quickly.

  “So, like we said in our email, you guys have the longest running chat show in the world! You guys are sitting on a phenomenon! Like we said, we gotta check this out! Thanks for meeting us!”

  Being some sort of an Independent guru in the television industry (in this dream), I spluttered: “Eh…you’re going to love it. Are you absolutely sure it’s this Friday night’s show you want to see?”

  The American guests were sure, they had flown in especially.

  The older guy reasoned: “We’ve had Carson, we’ve had Letterman, we’ve had Jimmy Kimmel, we’ve had Stephen Colbert, we’ve had James Corden…we need something new!”

  Sadly, there was time in my dream – just before I woke up – to proceed. And so it came to pass. The two American TV agents, with their big budgets and their desire to find out what was the secret behind the success of the world’s longest running chat show, sat in the Late Late Show studio.

  It was last Friday night. There was nothing I could do. It was too late.

  The executives watched, open-mouthed, when Ryan featured some ladies from the ICA demonstrating how to peel potatoes. 

  They steadied themselves a little when the ‘entertainment’ show then diversified into a discussion with a group of teenagers about exam pressures and such issues.

  I pretended to be asleep (well, I suppose I was) when the pregnant mannequin/robot was brought on to the set, and Ryan and two ‘midwives’ proceeded to deliver a ‘baby’.

  The American TV executives were more bewildered than angry. We had a drink afterwards.  

  “Exam students, old ladies peeling potatoes, a robot giving birth, I can’t understand it” the older guy said, shaking his head while enjoying his Guinness. “I don’t get this Late Late Show thing, I don’t know if we could possibly work with that template…”

  I did some thinking on the spot…I had just started to tell him about Daniel and Majella’s B&B roadshow when I woke up…

  

 

 

Front row view of CJ and Tony

 

 

 

The usher in the Backstage Theatre in Longford checked our tickets, and then started walking. And kept walking. I was about to ask if it was a sponsored walk, when he finally stopped…at the very front row.

  And so it was that Fiona and I found ourselves sitting in the front row last Friday night. The only people in the front row, too. If it was a comedian that was due on stage, I think I’d have done a runner.

  In fact we had received tickets (as a present) for the Fishamble production of ‘Haughey/Gregory’, currently on a nationwide tour.

  Written by Colin Murphy and directed by Conall Morrison, Haughey/Gregory is based on the famous deal made between Independent TD Tony Gregory and Charles Haughey in 1982, when Gregory surprisingly won a Dáil seat – and found himself holding the balance of power.

  The play was very entertaining…a terrific and original production. The excellent five-strong cast played multiple roles, including as Haughey, Gregory, Garret Fitzgerald, Bertie Ahern, George Colley, Des O’Malley, PJ Mara and Des Traynor.

  Morgan C Jones was superb as Haughey, and there were fine performances from Ruairí Heading, Janet Moran, Michael Glenn Murphy and Jonathan White.

  The audience was taken on a nostalgic trip back into the 1980s for a political drama which was laced with lots of humour (and a great soundtrack of hit songs from that era).

  The cast received a deserved standing ovation. I think many readers would enjoy this play.  (Haughey/Gregory is actually on stage in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway tonight, Thursday, May 9th at 8 pm, and in Limerick on Friday night; details from www.fishamble.com).  

  And we survived the front row – bar the odd stare from Haughey.

 

Nice walk, pity about the litter louts

Being a paid-up member of the ‘Fair Weather Walkers’ Club, I only resumed walking last weekend, now that the sun was making a welcome visit.

  Reports that the ‘old bog road’ behind our house had been given a great facelift by the Council proved to be accurate. There was a time when taking a walk there was like re-enacting a scene from an old Tarzan movie – but now the briars and bushes and overhanging branches have all been cleared.

  It’s a lovely walk and a reminder of the beauty of nature…every few steps I took were to the backdrop of creatures rustling in hedges or drains, and birds singing from above. Four cows stared at the human invader of the afternoon’s tranquillity. 

  The only negative aspect of an enjoyable excursion by this fair weather walker came when I emerged on to the main Athlone-Roscommon. I noticed two black bags full of rubbish, abandoned in a drain (on the main road). I have often come across illegal dumping on our local ‘side roads’…this was even more audacious.

  Sunday was a beautiful day. The birds were singing, lambs were playing in the field, our beautiful rural county was looking its finest. What a pity that there are still idiots in our midst who continue to deface the countryside with their shameful activity.

Everyone loves Trump

So finally, a man called Trump who, while strutting across the world stage, does it by uniting instead of dividing. Playing some mesmerising snooker as he defeated the great John Higgins in the final at the Crucible, Judd Trump is a truly worthy world snooker champion… an Alex Higgins for the 21st century!

 

It was easy to be in awe of Eugene…

 

They will lay a great man to rest in Longford today.

  He was a man of many talents. I knew him as a newspaper man…and had a special fondness for him because he gave me my ‘start’ in journalism. 

  As long-time Editor of the Longford Leader, and contributor to numerous national publications, Eugene McGee was a true newspaper man – and a great one.

  He was fiercely loyal to the great traditions of local papers. He knew what this business was all about and cared passionately for it. He had the skills to realise his vision, to see things done as he felt they should be done.

  How McGee wanted things done was…the right way. Done in a way that was true to truth, true to rural Ireland, true to ordinary people and proper values, true to his paper’s readers…while being suitably suspicious of any individual or group not having such a sense of fairness as their primary motivation. McGee was a proper newspaper man, not like many of the imposters who bought their way into the newspaper industry in latter years.

  I’m one of many journalists around Ireland who are thinking this week…‘I’m indebted to McGee’. In 1986, I was the Longford Leader’s humble Rooskey notes correspondent. From behind the bar counter (where I worked) I persistently dispatched sample articles and letters to Eugene McGee, hoping for a break.

  Eventually, an appointment. I sat on one side of his desk, and he sat on the other. He said very little, and I said less. He was himself, and I was intimidated. But then Eugene McGee – in his no frills, no-nonsense manner – offered me a job in the Leader newsroom.

  Not that he seemed entirely sure that he was making the right call. Having complimented my writing, and possibly fearing an unnecessary release of praise, he suddenly checked himself and returned to gruff mode: “Lots of people want to be writers, but nobody seems to want to be a reporter!”

  So, that was it. In my early 20s, I was moving into the world of journalism. I was in awe of Eugene McGee, and in truth I never stopped being in awe of him.

  Some people just command respect and loyalty, make you want to please them. That’s how it was with McGee. I saw him up close and personal for about three years. It was some experience, an education, watching this quite unique man quietly and brilliantly inspire those around him.

  After a period in Longford, I moved to the Cavan Leader, also run by McGee, and where Ciaran Mullooly was his Deputy Editor.

  McGee was as gruff or blunt or shy or non-communicative as people say, but we got used to it. And behind it all, he had a very good sense of humour, a mischevious and quick wit, and a humbling sense of fairness. And he was the consummate local newspaper journalist/editor. The best in the business. Most of what we now know, we learnt from him. That must be the case, because any journalist who worked for ‘McGee’ all those years ago still remembers, still traces so much back to him and his ways.

  Eugene, who sadly passed away last Sunday, leaves a truly remarkable legacy. Loving family man. Pioneering All-Ireland winning manager (with many more GAA achievements too). Brilliant journalist, editor and pundit. Champion of rural Ireland. Wonderfully passionate Longfordian. Honest man, dripping in integrity and decency. True one-off. 

  1982 and all that. The stuff of legend. He is part of GAA folklore. He will be remembered too as a real newspaperman, in the great tradition of real newspaper people. As a man who inspired a lot more than he probably realised. I was in awe of him then, and pretty much still am. May he rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Ireland says 'Big Hello!' while Leeds wave goodbye to promotion!

 

 

Surely some mistake?

Of course I have no issue with the Government’s ‘Big Hello’ event this weekend, which will see local communities hosting gatherings with a view to strengthening community ties. In fact, I welcome the initiative.

  I have no issue with it at all, merely one query: Why didn’t they call it ‘The Big Howya’?

 

Is Mr Lawless Serious?

A Fianna Fáil TD has expressed concern about the possibility of the Chinese state spying on TDs and Senators in the future.

  Deputy James Lawless – an apt surname in the circumstances – has raised the issue following the installation of surveillance cameras manufactured by the Chinese state in Leinster House.

  Now we know that the Skibbereen Eagle newspaper famously warned the Czar of Russia that they were watching him.

  But surely the Chinese authorities aren’t planning to spy on Danny Healy-Rae & Co.?

 

Winner alright!

In a world that sometimes feels like it’s gone just a little mad, it’s reassuring to see that there’s still some normality…

  I’m referring of course to a poll in the esteemed ‘Radio Times’ on the greatest sit-coms of all time. I was pleased to see that reason prevailed in this increasingly mad world – and Fawlty Towers duly won out.

  Mind you, I was very surprised to see Father Ted taking second place. Father Ted was a great comedy, but it’s hardly worthy of such an elevated position. It’s certainly not fit to ‘lace the boots’ of Basil, Sybil, Manuel & Co.

  Meanwhile, Only Fools and Horses finished in sixth place, which was unfair on that classic and even more objectionable than Father Ted’s high placing.

 

Golf ball lands. Crowd goes crazy

Anyone who doubts if there is such a thing as a ‘herd mentality’ should really watch the golf on television.

  Time and time again it happens…a golfer hits a wayward shot and shouts ‘Fore!’…we all await the swish of the tree branches. TV camera zooms in. Someone spots golfer’s ball behind/near tree, perhaps fortuitously in a clearing. They point at it.

  Immediately, hundreds of spectators surge towards the ball. They stand around it, staring at the motionless ball, as though under some sort of a spell.

  It’s always a pretty bizarre sight. Maybe they just want to have a great vantage point for the next shot. Or maybe they all have ‘Late-Late-Show-audience-itis’, defined as ‘I want the folks at home to see me on the telly’.

 

Oops, they did it again…

Honestly, I had major misgivings about the appointment of Ole as Manchester United manager.

  Unless I’m missing something, this is what happened: Manchester United wisely parted company with Jose Mourinho, then appointed an unproven manager (undoubtedly a former playing hero) as interim boss.

  Unexpectedly, Solskjaer oversaw a great winning run. And, frankly, United fans lost the run of themselves! ‘Appoint the new Messiah’, they chanted, oblivious to his managerial track record, the poor quality of some of the opposition, and the reality that many new managers experience an immediate ‘bounce’.

  Next, results change…and suddenly it all goes downhill. Suddenly, Solskjaer looks out of his depth. Nice guy, probably not the right guy. The board acted rashly. I can’t see this one ending happily.

 

Meanwhile, back at Elland Road…

Pity any Leeds United fan who tuned into Sky Sports in the 77th minute of Sunday’s Championship game with Aston Villa…to see Villa’s Albert Adoma walk the ball into the net from the halfway line with the Leeds players standing like statues.

  If any such fan exists, that odd sight won’t have inspired them to believe that Leeds can gain promotion to the Premier League via the upcoming play-offs.

  Happily, there was an explanation for the bizarre ‘uncontested goal’, which is that Leeds gifted it to Villa because their opponents were fuming over the goal Leeds had scored a few minutes earlier. (Villa were unhappy that Leeds had played on after one of the Villa players went down injured).

  Personally, as a Leeds fan – and a sporting one at that – I think it was extremely generous of Leeds to gift Villa the goal.

  Anyways, it all reminded me of a soccer game (well, fixture) in the Rooskey area, more than forty years ago. The opposition didn’t turn up, and the referee asked the Rooskey-based team to kick off (and go through the formality of scoring a goal into the empty net).

  Sadly, after casually working the ball upfield, a Rooskey player carelessly kicked it wide! Unless my memory really is playing tricks with me, a national newspaper reported: ‘Red faces in Rooskey. No score against invisible rivals!’

 

 

Would it happen in a minister’s constituency?

 

 

 

 

 

No surprise here at the dismaying ‘news’ that the fate of the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea has been sealed. We’ve seen it all before. Our local politicians, of all hues, have failed on this one. The Government of the day has let local people down. As ever, they hide behind the coat-tails of faceless people.

  The mantra of Junior Health Minister Jim Daly has become tiresome. Over the years, politicians have always been adept at hiding behind civil servants…in the case of health, they shamelessly hide behind the HSE or HIQA, or both. Daly excels at it.

  He is not the only one. If there’s a positive health story, the politicians are all over the place, smiling for the cameras and slapping themselves on the back. If it’s bad news, they tut-tut and say it’s all down to the civil servants. In the case of the Rosalie Unit, Minister Daly has bluntly said he has no intention of ‘going against clinicians’. He takes his advice, he says, not from local politicians, but from clinicians.

  So that’s it then. In Jim’s world, politicians who have responsibility for the Department of Health cannot intervene. It’s baloney. If the political will was there, Rosalie would remain open in its current guise. I somehow doubt that we would see a similar facility closing down in a minister’s constituency.

 

One to watch: Casey v Ming

 

He may be a divisive figure with controversial views, but I must say I found Peter Casey to be a very friendly interviewee on Monday.

  The Roscommon People was the only local media outlet to meet up with Mr. Casey, who spent Monday – the day on which nominations closed for the European elections – in Roscommon. He and his wife Helen stayed overnight in Gleeson’s in the county town.

  Initially seen as something of a joke candidate (and still derided by many), Casey clearly connected with a huge section of the electorate in last year’s Presidential election, securing 342,727 votes and finishing second to President Michael D. Higgins.

  One week after Marian Harkin’s departure boosted Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s re-election prospects, Casey’s entry into the European election race represents a real challenge to the Castlerea man (and others). 

   And there’s no love lost already between the controversial Casey and the sometimes controversial ‘Ming’. They met for the first time last week, when both were panellists on the Tonight Show with Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates. According to Casey, Ming initially ignored him in the ‘Green Room’ before the show began. Casey told the Roscommon People that during the break he had to ask Ming to stop shouting as it was giving him an earache! For his part, Ming says that Casey is “probably one of the least interesting candidates in the field”.

  After our interview on Monday, I believe Casey popped into a local pub, The Brewery, where he was greeted by surprised locals…who were not expecting the runner-up in the 2018 Presidential election to suddenly walk in and enliven their Monday evening!

 

Marching on together?

 

Of course the sporting comeback that makes what Mr. Woods has achieved look like a walk in the park…or fairway…is tentatively taking shape in Leeds.

  Ready (hopefully) to shake up the world are the mighty men of Leeds United, who might just possibly be about to return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 2004.

  There are numerous Leeds United fans in County Roscommon, some of them even willing to go public on it.

  Only recently, Seamus Comiskey put his head out the window as he was driving past me in Abbey Street, letting out a shout ‘We’re marching on together!’

  Yes, there are lots of Leeds fans in Co. Roscommon who are marching on together just now. You will probably find them hiding behind their sofas when Leeds are in action on Sky Sports, or maybe in their garden shed saying a prayer in front of a poster of the Don Revie team of the 1960s/’70s. All will be revealed in the next few weeks…(in other news, Liverpool are apparently facing off with Manchester City).

 

Tiger shakes up the world…

 

Oh, the magic of sport!

  Last Sunday, organisers brought forward the fourth round of the Masters Golf Tournament – because they feared storms were coming to Atlanta. In fact they got an earthquake.

  Just about everything Tiger Woods has done over the past decade or so could have been accompanied by that dramatic closing theme music on Eastenders. And that’s putting it mildly.

  It’s a crazy narrative. He was the superstar who fell into the gutter. He destroyed his marriage, his personal life unravelling in scandal in front of the entire world. Then came the golfing decline. Woods spent years’ battling severe back pain, plummeting to 1,199 in the world rankings. The Gods were vengeful. He even got the putting Yips. He was a pitiful sight on his arrest for reckless driving. A series of surgeries on his back seemed only to prolong the agony, Woods trapped in an increasingly hapless battle against physical and mental breakdown. A year or two ago, as he sought to scramble any hope of recovery from the wreckage of his career, it was unthinkable that Woods would ever be a force again.

  It was all so different in the beginning. He first shook up the world in 1997, winning his first major at the age of 21. He won 13 more majors in a 9-year spell. Then it all ended. Woods lost his auru on the course and his credibility off it, and was cast into a decade of humiliation, hurt, and justified shame.

  They said he couldn’t win again. They even said he couldn’t play again. Long ago, they even began to avert their gaze. Now he was pitied, the great Tiger dragged down by his own demons and fate.

  Then the miracle began to reveal itself…over the past 18 months or so. Tiger back, on the march again, but older and wiser and more mature now. By last weekend, we had begun to wonder if a sporting immortal might actually drag the glory days back through sheer will.

  ‘I shook up the world’. It’s Ali’s phrase. When Muhammad Ali (well, he was Cassius Clay at the time) sensationally defeated Sonny Liston in 1964, he stood on the ropes of the boxing ring and hollered aloud: ‘I shook up the world! I shook up the world!’  

  Ali defined more than one generation, perhaps he defined the entire 20th century. He transcended and partly shaped historic social change.

  Tiger Woods belongs to a different era, and will never be such a positive force as Ali was. So I am not making a direct comparison; Ali has an iconic status that Woods cannot match.

  Woods wasn’t a nice man in the past. He behaved shockingly in his private life. But this is arguably a story of epic redemption. It was very touching to see those emotional scenes on Sunday, moments after his triumph, as Woods embraced his children.

  Redemption or not, it’s certainly one of the most amazing sporting comebacks of all time. Tiger Woods has shook up the world.

 

 

 

 

Tiger Roll, GOT, CBS, Brexit u-turn

 

 

Tiger then…Tiger again?

 

To win one Grand National is a magnificent, career-defining achievement; to win back-to-back Grand Nationals is the stuff of legend. (Real legend, not the daft, chronically over-used version so often foisted on us these days).

  So, hats off and arms in the air to Tiger Roll and Davy Russell on the weekend’s other big sporting achievement (with Roscommon CBS).

  Tiger Roll just strode effortlessly into the history books. A historic weekend too as Michael O’Leary actually offered free drinks on a Ryanair flight, but let’s concentrate on the horse. Wonderful. I can (just) remember when Red Rum won his second Grand National, in 1974. Red Rum went on to win a third, in 1977. The fact that mere mention of Red Rum still lifts the heart over forty years on is a measure of what Tiger Roll has just achieved.

  And maybe it’s a good omen for the other legendary Tiger. If Tiger Woods happens to emerge from the pack in the Masters at Augusta this weekend, it too would be a triumph for the ages, the stuff of real legend, a sporting comeback and feat that would be spoken of long into the future.

 

Have you heard? It’s back!

 

The newspaper headline I’d like to have seen over the weekend (but didn’t).

  ‘No more headlines about the return of Game of Thrones’.

  The Game of Thrones phenomenon seems to be commanding more newspaper space than Brexit these days – even though the cast of characters in the latter is much scarier.

 

What Kate said next…

 

The Sunday Independent interviewed prominent Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, who helpfully posed for a delightful photograph by siting in long and lush grass.

  Journalist Donal Lynch asked Kate about her colleague, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Is he still the right man for the job?

  As Eoghan was reading this over breakfast, he will undoubtedly have expected a version of ‘Political Stock Answer A’.

  E.G. “Absolutely. I have seen first-hand how passionate Eoghan is about housing. He is absolutely the right man for the job. The opposition are just playing politics. I have full confidence in Eoghan”.

  But that’s not what Kate said. Instead, what she actually said was: “I don’t know”.

  Oops (and sharp intake of breath at the Murphy kitchen table).

  Kate, no longer posing in the lush grass, did elaborate a little, but it didn’t get that much better.

  “He was given the job by the Taoiseach so I guess you could say it’s above my pay scale to say that. He got into politics to make a difference and I can’t doubt his work ethic”.

  Now, as a long-time observer of ‘political-speak’, I can assure you that is not an endorsement. She’s ain’t no fan of the embattled Housing Minister.

  Maybe she’s waiting in the long grass?

 

 

Weekend to remember

 

You have to hand it to the ‘young people’ these days.

  Not content with winning an All-Ireland football title on Saturday, the stunningly successful Roscommon CBS only went and broke a world record the same weekend (as part of Autism Awareness Month).

  What will our all-conquering youth take on next? Saving the planet? Oh sorry, they’ve already started that, with their Climate Change campaigning!

  Joking aside, what a truly great achievement by Roscommon CBS. The manner of the All-Ireland victory was a superb finale to a great campaign. And what a great credit the entire panel have been to their parents, the school, their town and county. Take a bow too the rest of the pupils in the school, and teachers, all of whom have been so supportive of a historic All-Ireland campaign.

 

This is what he said…

 

On Newsnight on Friday night, a slightly embarrassed but philosophical columnist with a leading right-wing UK newspaper was in the process of admitting that, having argued the merits of leaving the EU before and after the referendum, he had now changed his mind and was in favour of remaining.

  While trying to explain his u-turn, he entirely reasonably pointed out that the public had not been fully aware of all that was involved in leaving, or of all the possible implications.

  Then there was the Irish situation, he said, adding: “…Ireland, which has haunted Great Britain for 500 years”.

  They were his exact words. He didn’t explain any further.

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