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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Sunday

We’re in Athlone, having a browse, with all the human traffic relentlessly ebbing and flowing, like the recession was one of those weird dreams that makes no sense.

The multitudes are drawn to the shops bearing the clothes; I stick it for a while, but it becomes monotonous, and soon I have escaped to the book shop.

After a while I am aware that the hour is upon us; I have to abandon Athlone’s shops for some place of refuge with a big TV screen.

I aim for the hotel, but I hear excited patriotic commotion from a pub, and so within a minute I am sitting in an establishment I’ve never really noticed before.

The crowd inside are roaring at the television. Ireland press forward. But Argentina have a big lead. I had forfeited the opening period of the World Rugby Quarter-Final for the joys of shopping/browsing. (I had also recorded the game).

The barman sports huge tattoos on his arm and his face is quite dour, but I don’t point that out to him.

There’s a mighty atmosphere in the pub as the crowd passionately will Ireland to overcome Argentina. This World Cup has really got us going.

And when Henshaw charges forward, it strikes me that I am watching a home-town hero, that the Athlone people around me are celebrating a local gone to battle against the swashbuckling, kind of exotic men from afar.

An Athlone-ite on the world stage taking on the unknown. To me, it’s like a Rooskey footballer went up against Ossie Ardiles or Mario Kempes in ’78.

Briefly, in the second half, Ireland ignite our passions, but we’re outplayed on the day by terrific opponents and we pay a heavy price too for the absence of heroes lost in battle.

When it’s all over, I decide to watch the TV3 ads, which, annoyingly, are punctuated by brief cameo appearances by Matt Cooper and Keith Wood.

I was enjoying those ads… Ten minutes after the final whistle – just ten – I suddenly hear the silence. I turn to my right and realise that everybody – everybody – has left.

The din is gone; the din-makers have dispersed in their mutual disappointment. The pub has emptied, just like the World Cup has suddenly emptied for Ireland.

As I leave, the barman with the tattoos is turned to jelly as he plays with his little daughter, who has entered the bar with the barman’s partner. He has a friendly goodbye for me.

I walk out into the Athlone sunshine as Joe Schmidt’s forlorn face fills the telly, the Ireland coach looking like a man who has had his dreams stolen in broad daylight.

Monday

Whenever I bump into former Roscommon Gaels great Seamus Comiskey, he always says ‘We’ll be back.’

He’s referring to Leeds United. And there are countless thousands of us still out there, still believing. Leeds United fans, that is.

In recent years, I’ve been reasonably okay about the status of the slumbering giants of English football. My logic has been that, as long as Leeds aren’t relegated from The Championship, it’s okay – the ship is steadying, the return to The Premiership will happen.

I have trusted ‘the system’ from afar. But here’s this week’s update.

Leeds (all of a sudden 18th in The Championship, after a run of disappointing results) have just appointed their sixth manager since April 2014.

This can’t be satisfying anyone, bar the guy who makes name plates for the manager’s door/desk. Meanwhile, Massimo Cellino, the seemingly very eccentric owner of Leeds, has been banned by the Football League from running the club, due to his dodgy tax affairs (in Italy).

The new Leeds boss is Steve Evans. Not having heard of him, I googled him. Just who is our (latest) saviour? The first image/story that appeared showed Evans arriving at Elland Road in a t-shirt, flip flops and with a sombrero on his head.

This alarmed me.

It was a fine sombrero, but that’s not the point. I was relieved to read that there was an explanation of sorts; it seems the dressing up in beach wear routine happened in May, after Evans, then manager of Rotterdam, avoided relegation.

They subsequently sacked him anyway. But not before he turned up at a Rotterdam/Leeds game in a sombrero. It’s a long way from the glory days of Don Revie.

Still, I wish Mr. Evans well as Leeds United manager.

I’d send him a postcard congratulating him only it might be out of date by the time it gets to Leeds. As for Seamus Comiskey and all the other Leeds fans, including yours truly, we know the we are being tested – but we will be back.

Tuesday

People who have an interest in such matters keep asking: What’s going on in Fianna Fail? I no longer know what to say.

The Fianna Fail candidate selection saga is a bit like Dallas – great entertainment at its peak, but tiresome towards the end. Or The X Factor; good craic for a while until it became a bit of a farce…

Seriously, what are Fianna Fail up to locally?

One by one various supposed big-hitters are falling by the wayside. Just to remind readers, what we’re talking about here is the race to be the Fianna Fail candidate (or candidates) in Roscommon/Galway in the forthcoming General Election.

Fianna Fail has returned a TD in Roscommon in every single election since 1927…except the last one. With Fine Gael on the back foot since Roscommon A&E closed, you’d have thought Fianna Fail were facing an open goal this time around; but they’re even struggling to select their penalty-taker.

This is working heavily to the advantage of Cllr. Maura Hopkins in the Fine Gael camp. Fianna Fail aren’t likely to prevaricate much longer.

However I won’t be surprised if there’s a few more twists in this political saga before a candidate (finally) emerges.

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy on Eamonn Dunphy’s lament for Wes on the RTE soccer panel; the Rugby World Cup; avoiding the Budget, and giving up cigarettes and a twice-yearly Hamlet habit…
Sunday

We need to talk about Eamonn. Dunphy, that is. I warned before, like others, that this national treasure is in danger of becoming a parody of what he once was. Perhaps it’s too late.

I obviously wouldn’t wish to be accused of being ageist, but I need to say that the RTE soccer panel, the legendary RTE soccer panel, is really continuing to show signs of wear and tear. As a Leeds fan, I bow to the greatness of John Giles.

I’ve always enjoyed Dunphy. And Liam Brady, a truly great player, is the wisest of the three pundits just now. Giles and Dunphy have become a bit tiresome.

There are still times when you listen to Giles and say ‘hey, he is absolutely spot on’ and there are still times – wonderful times – when Dunphy starts a rollicking row with Brady/some other panellist, or the unfortunate presenter.

I mean, Dunphy remains a wonderful one-off, truly a man who has made our lives brighter! But…but, but: this panel is quite simply past its peak.

Dunphy’s tunnel-visioned perspective on the absence of Wes Hoolihan from the starting line-up as Ireland took on Poland on Sunday was tiresome and tedious.

I thought Hoolihan was absolutely brilliant against Germany. He is without doubt our best (only?) creative force in midfield.

But Giles and Dunphy have become obsessed with the Hoolihan issue. He’s not the Irish Messi. If he was, I imagine he’d have worn the jersey of Manchester United or City, Chelsea or Arsenal. And he is 33, so it is reasonable enough perhaps that he couldn’t start against Poland, having been so involved against Germany just three days earlier (not four, as Dunphy erroneously said).

There are times when Giles and Dunphy are frustratingly simplistic, too often sticking rigidly to their long-held beliefs, unwilling to lean towards Brady’s more nuanced views, unwilling to accept that the Martin O’Neills of this world are a bit more in touch with modern-day soccer, not to mention with their own dressing room.

Dunphy in full combative form is still a great sight, but oppose him, and you are put in your place, and told that you never played the game (which is effectively what Dunphy said to presenter Darragh Maloney on Sunday evening). Eamonn loves playing the ‘we’ve been in the game/you haven’t played it’ argument.

Well, Dunphy wrote a major book on U2 many years ago, and he also wrote the official biography of Lester Piggott. But I don’t recall seeing Eamonn lead a world class rock band out on stage, or for that matter crossing the finishing line (on a horse at least) in the Epsom Derby…

Sunday/Monday

The soccer fans were beaming on Sunday evening in Roscommon town as they poured out of the pubs, waved their flags in celebration and beamed as motorists honked their horns. It was no surprise that on Monday morning outside the local schools the soccer fans were still celebrating the big win on Sunday and automatic qualification for Euro 2016. What a day it had been. The unfashionable soccer team had done it, had made it to France without any play-off. The final moments had been tense, but the soccer team had hung on and all over Roscommon, the fans were rightly celebrating. Congratulations to our sizeable Polish community…

Monday

We’re smiling, not because the Budget is imminent, but in the aftermath of Ireland’s stunning performance against France on Sunday in the Rugby World Cup. Today, we’re counting the cost of the injuries received, with the really bleak news that the fabulous Peter O’Mahoney will miss the rest of the tournament. Later, confirmation that Paul O’Connell’s international career is over – also due to injury – is devastating. What a warrior he has been. But the one great positive, amongst many, from Sunday’s win was the evidence of the tremendous squad Joe Schmidt has developed. One reason why I don’t think they’ll be crying for us in Argentina…

Tuesday

I don’t listen to or watch the Budget anymore. Who’d watch a movie when you’ve already heard how it ends?

The Budget details always get leaked now, often weeks in advance. It’s not like the old days, when a grinning or grim-faced Minister for Finance stood outside Leinster House with a battered briefcase before an expectant nation.

Now we seem to get a few Budgets every year, and the showpiece one is leaked to the point where its ‘main points’ have been exposed to the public several days in advance of its unveiling.

I go to the papers on the morning after the Budget but if I can’t find a sample family that exactly reflects ours I give up on trying to work out precisely how the changes in the Budget will affect us.

The thing about Budgets is that they may put a few euro extra in your pocket – that’s welcome – but just as you’re feeling the loose change, the ‘stealth tax’ phantom comes along and begins to raid more from you. And I must say I’m glad that I gave up the old fags when I was nine or ten years of age.

When my family owned the Kon Tiki pub outside Rooskey, my brothers and I were tempted the odd time to smoke the odd cigarette. Thankfully it was a brief flirtation. Then, for a few years in my twenties, I smoked about two and a half Hamlet cigars a year. I gave them up too.

This reminds me of the famous old television ad in which the man reached for a relaxing smoke of a Hamlet cigar every time a crisis or catastrophe loomed. I imagine many smokers, on hearing the latest Budget Day increase on the cost of their habit, are tempted to turn to a cigarette or cigar to cope with the sheer frustration of it all.

Of course it is claimed that putting up the price of cigarettes is a measure aimed at stopping people from smoking, which is a good thing.

Cynics might say that it’s more a question of smokers being seen as a great source of revenue for the State, but in fairness even I give the benefit of the doubt to successive Governments on this one.

Anyways, while I am digressing, I may as well go on. The 50 cent added on to a packet of cigarettes in this week’s Budget will give smokers something else to talk about during their long chats in the smoking areas outside pubs, leaving the rest of the customers inside the pub waiting even longer for their return.

Back in the Healy family run Kon Tiki in Rooskey in the early 1970s, my brothers and I were eventually rumbled. During one militant summer – probably in protest against perceived slave labour –we’d been smuggling soft drinks, peanuts and the odd cigarette into an upstairs loft/hideaway.

When rumbled, we got rid of the evidence, dispatching drinks, peanuts and cigarettes into the field behind the Kon Tiki. There were no major repercussions, save for the odd field mouse/badger developing a bad cough and a nasty smoking habit over the following weeks.

Back to the Budget: it had its good points, and the country is in recovery mode, but I didn’t fancy breaking away from work to hear them droning on in the Dail or on the airwaves. I’m sure many people did give it their full attention.

But I just wonder if any of the old men and women who helped build this country and who are now lying on trolleys in hospital corridors could see or hear any of the coverage from the televisions in the nearby wards?

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy on the right Sean Keane; the enduring appeal of Galway on a Saturday afternoon; Maradona in Leicester; player power way out West, and Enda getting stuck in a lift…
Thursday

It’s quite hard to publish hundreds of thousands of words and hundreds of images each week without making mistakes.

Even the best newspapers in the world make mistakes. Misprints that, when they appear in print, leave editors and journalists covering their eyes in mortification.

Many years ago in the Roscommon Champion, in an advertisement for a Fianna Fail function, instead of printing the words ‘Fianna Fail: The Republican Party’, we published the following: ‘Fianna Fail. The Publican Party.’ (I’m not sure if we received any complaints).

Today, we discover that in our comprehensive coverage of the upcoming Féile Strokestown, we’ve published a photograph of ‘the wrong Sean Keane.’

Apparently we’re not the first Roscommon newspaper to publish a photograph of ‘the wrong Sean Keane’ in recent weeks. There’s a big concert in Strokestown this Saturday night. The stars on stage will include Matt Molloy and the right Sean Keane, a colleague of Matt’s from The Chieftains.

In highlighting the concert, we used a file photograph of the right Matt Molloy – and one of the wrong Sean Keane. So I can confirm this week that the Sean Keane who will be in concert with Matt Molloy (the right Matt Molloy) in Strokestown this Saturday night, is Sean Keane of The Chieftains’ renown, not the well-known Galway singer Sean Keane, brother of Dolores.

And, performing with Matt and Sean will be Arty McGlynn, who we don’t have a photograph of, but who will be the right Arty McGlynn on the night. Now if Sean Keane, brother of Dolores, happens to pop into Strokestown this weekend and performs during one of the many informal sessions there, I give up.

Later on Thursday…

In Naas today, Enda got stuck in a lift with Simon Coveney and Jimmy Deenihan. It could have been worse for Enda, he could have got stuck in a lift with Peter Mathews or Joe Higgins.

I suppose when some of the hangers-on realised they were stuck in a lift with the Taoiseach it may have crossed someone’s mind that this could be seen as a metaphor for what’s been going on in this country.

You know…’stuck in lift with Taoiseach’…’symbolic of a banjaxed country’ ….that type of thing. But, in fairness, Enda has been a lucky General overall, and he could, if challenged with that metaphor argument, emerge from the lift and say ‘Yes, it was broken down, but now it’s fixed and we’re back on the move again.’

Knowing his luck, if Brian Cowen had got stuck in a lift the whole thing would have gone on as long as the Chilean miners’ drama.

Saturday

On the NUI Galway campus, a tall young man stoops down and pulls a sword from his rucksack.

But people either don’t notice, or else they pass no heed, a bit like when fire alarms go off in public places in this country. Anyways, it’s all completely innocent – it may not even have been a real sword – and the young man just chats away to one of the stewards on duty on the day.

After my initial double take, I keep walking, so I really don’t know what was going on. But he wasn’t a terrorist; probably just a student with an interest in the sport of fencing. Satisfied that we’re not about to be held up at sword-point, we continue with our tour of the College.

NUI Galway is hosting an Open Day – and we’re there with our daughter Emma and several hundred more curious, excited teenagers and their nervous parents.

This is new territory for us. We’re impressed. This snapshot of the College is a very positive one. The facilities look really good and the various lecturers ‘sell’ the place well! There’s a really good feel to the place, and the big turnout on a lovely day creates a great buzz.

Later, we pop into the city centre where, as ever, there’s a great atmosphere. There are big crowds, including many tourists, and the pleasant weather means people are sitting outside the bars and cafes.

As ever on Galway’s streets, there’s music everywhere. A man with a very dour face sings ‘I thought love was only true in fairytales.’

After a while he walks off in the Saturday sun and his spot is taken by a young man who belts out ‘Dublin in the rare old times’. There are street performers at every turn.

Galway’s small, quaint shops, with their souvenirs, their Irish Sweaters and their knick-knacks, are buzzing, as are the various food outlets. Two people pass in South African Rugby World Cup jerseys.

A café has a notice on the door which I like: ‘Unattended children will be given an expresso and a small kitten.’ Galway…you have to love it.

Sunday

Imagine you’re a Leicester City football supporter and that you sit in the same seat at your home ground every week.

The extent of your soccer dreams has involved the unfulfilled ambition (shared with millions more) from when you were a child, of becoming a professional player, and now, in adulthood, the hope that Leicester will one day make the big time.

It’s been a bit of a struggle for you, this soccer supporting journey, although Leicester are doing quite well just now.

Still, your soccer journey has been spent at the unfashionable end of things, as opposed to in the glamour and glitz area. Anyways, your team beats Norwich on Saturday and then on Sunday you tune into the Argentina/Tonga Rugby World Cup game because of the novelty of it being played in your stadium, the Leicester City ground.

And there, sitting in your seat – for it had to be someone’s seat – is the utterly compelling figure of Diego Maradona. He was one of the greatest soccer players of all time, the genius who made an entire World Cup tournament his own, and now he’s turned up in Leicester’s stadium, sitting with his friends/minders, and cheering on his countrymen.

Maradona’s enthusiastic reaction every time Argentina score is almost as entertaining as the game itself. That World Cup which he made his own was in 1986, when the magical Maradona waltzed into football folklore as his dazzling skills carried Argentina to glory.

Now, almost thirty years on, his scene-stealing appearance in Leicester was a bright cameo in this illuminating Rugby World Cup. As for the usual occupant of that seat, they’ll return to it next week, perhaps wondering if this odd turn of events, this occupation by Diego, was all a dream.

Later on Sunday, it was nerve-wracking viewing as an unconvincing Ireland narrowly defeated Italy to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Just now, the pep is suddenly gone from our step, but expect a massive Irish performance on Sunday and hopefully a confidence-restoring and tournament-defining victory over France. Over to you, Joe!

Monday

Enda, you really have to stop this carry-on. We experience it during Leaders Questions in the Dail, or when the Taoiseach is approached by journalists.

On Monday, it came to a great house near us… This is what happened at Strokestown Park House on Monday: Jim Callery, the driving force behind Strokestown House and Famine Museum, spoke of Roscommon not yet having experienced the economic recovery which is underway.

When approached by Eoghan Young-Murphy of the Roscommon People a little while later, and asked about (lack of) economic recovery in Roscommon, the Taoiseach responded. Did he mention task forces? Did he mention investment? Did he mention incentivising businesses? Did he stop and pause and give serious consideration to the suggestion that places like Roscommon are being left behind?

If he did, this was his considered response: “You plough a field; you harrow it; you sow it; you roll it. You have all of the hard work done. What do you do then? You have to wait with a degree of patience until the crop grows. It is the same with an economy.”

Oh God. Priceless. Clearly Mr. Kenny spent too long at the ploughing in Ratheniska…

Tuesday

I don’t like so-called player power. Staff in the workplace might have a dud as a boss and may be right in thinking they could run the joint better themselves – or right in thinking a new boss is required – but it doesn’t mean a revolt by them is good practice.

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought players were meant to concentrate on playing – and that County Boards/Boards of Directors have responsibility for management appointments.

Sure, when a manager has lost or is losing the dressing room, there may be a case for players making their feelings known and bending certain ears…with a view to change then, or down the road.

But out and out revolt, effectively seeking and getting a head on a plate? It’s hard to justify, and I certainly don’t think it’s right. Just now out West, there’s a certain smell in the air that isn’t pleasant.

In Galway, quite sensationally, the players are revolting against Anthony Cunningham, even though the team reached the All-Ireland final this year.

In Mayo, there’s a real risk of the perennial ‘Chasing Sam’ project collapsing in tears now that the players there have turned on their management. I am sure the disquiet in both dressing rooms is genuine, and I am sure the players in both camps are really hurting as the long wait continues for All-Ireland success.

And of course their concerns about their respective managers may be very legitimate ones. But, at the end of the day, players should play, and managers should be answerable to the people who ratify their appointments.

Now Galway hurlers and Mayo footballers have just placed a huge spotlight on themselves ahead of next season…

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy on two celebrity Bryans; an emotional eviction; Minister Murphy’s broken-down car; rugby thrills; the appeal of the playground; the Coalition’s spending spree and when Kevin met Fergal…
Saturday

At a book launch in Longford Library, there are at least two very well-known personalities present. The book, written by my sister Audrey, is launched by the actor Bryan Murray.

Bryan is accompanied by his wife, the actress Una Crawford O’Brien. Both of them appear in the very popular RTE ‘soap’ Fair City.

I don’t follow Fair City, but I am aware that it is a huge success, a real RTE winner. Bryan is of course familiar to the public through countless other roles too, including The Irish RM, Bread and Emmerdale.

He’s friendly and chats easily with members of the audience; Longford’s County Librarian Mary Carleton Reynolds, as ever an excellent and friendly host and MC, is in no doubt that Bryan’s presence has added significantly to the turnout.

Meanwhile, a modest presence in the crowd is RTE Six-One News anchor Bryan Dobson, who is very down to earth, affable and sociable. Once the book has been formally launched and before you could say ‘Is that a tear in Bertie’s eye?’, Mr. Dobson is posing for photographs and chatting to locals. ‘Watching Me, Watching You’ is a collection of poems by Audrey Healy, native of Rooskey, resident of Longford and now a veteran of nine books.

Priced at €10, ‘Watching Me, Watching You’ is available in O’Connor’s (formerly Easons) in Longford and Tighe’s Supermarket in Rooskey. (You can order copies by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) .

Saturday/Sunday

In the Rugby World Cup, England v Wales evolved into a thriller in the second half. England looked in control, but paid a price for the concession of too many penalties and for not putting Wales away.

Wales stayed in touch and a late try and penalty edged them ahead. England are being pilloried for not trying for a draw with a late penalty, but had they crossed the line in the closing moments people would have said they had made the right call.

I hope England rescue their tournament against Australia because this party ideally needs the hosts to stay around.

On Sunday Ireland were comfortable winners against Romania, with Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls rampant.

The Irish support at Wembley was incredible. Roll on the rest of this enjoyable tournament.

Sunday

In today’s Sunday Independent, and all over social media, there’s coverage of the turn an ordinary Co. Meath family’s life has taken.

Above the story is the evidence that a picture really can be worth a thousand words. At the door of the house, clearly ready to enter it, are bailiffs and the Gardai. Retired civil servant John Lloyd, who is blind, stands powerless a few feet away, outside the family home.

At the front of the house, under a hanging basket, stand John’s wife Fiona and their ten-year-old son. They are cold, distraught, humiliated, fearful. The boy is wearing shorts. His mother is in a dressing gown. She is on her mobile phone, a look of anguish on her face. She cradles her son. It came to this. It’s a pitiful scene.

Even allowing for the assumption that all appropriate procedures were followed in the particular repossession/eviction case in question, it ought to make ruthless bankers pause in plush boardrooms.

The photograph is a stark reminder of life for some in this great little country of ours. I don’t know the ins and outs of the eviction in Kells, but this can’t be right, can it?

Monday

It’s a beautiful morning, a classic September day, almost taunting the anti-climatic summer days just gone.

Even the parking challenges in the vicinity of the schools in Roscommon town lose their tedious side today as we enjoy gentle sunshine.

On most mornings we have up to fifteen minutes to spare between dropping off our older children and getting our five-year-old son into school.

What to do in those 12-15 minutes? The temptation is to pop into the office and check emails, to make calls on the mobile, to form a ‘to do’ list in your head.

Instead, this morning, we pop into the playground in Loughnaneane Park, in the shadow of the castle. Many more parents and children have done the same. It’s ten minutes of magic for the kids, and precious moments – moments in time – for all concerned.

Yes, it’s a good choice made for this ten-minute package of life – time in the playground, chosen over being a prisoner to the hurly-burly of 21st century life.

When I get to the office a few minutes later, the unopened emails are still there, and no one has been in touch to say the world ended because we stole a few minutes in lovely Loughnaneane Park.

All week

Brussels – the world in fact – heaved a huge collective sigh of relief with the news that Dara Murphy had, like John Cleese in Clockwise, burst into the lobby of the fancy hotel in which he was staying and would, after all, be available to attend that meeting.

All over Brussels and Ireland people stopped and paused like in that footage which accompanies ‘The Angelus’ on RTE as we, the people, digested the great news: Dara had made it to Brussels.

Spare a thought for Dara this week and hail his patriotism. Dara is a Junior Minister in our Government.

You all know the story by now. Dara had to get to Dublin Airport, from his home in Cork. His car broke down. There’s lots of talk now, now that the episode has become public knowledge, of Dara trying but failing to get a taxi; ultimately he called on the Gardai for assistance and a Garda drove the minister from Cork to Dublin Airport.

We are assured that it was a “quiet night” for the Gardai in the area. Which begs the question: Do criminals in Cork phone their schedules into Gardai in advance?

As for dashing Dara, his wriggling since this codology was highlighted has only made things worse. He has resorted to that obnoxious form of apology, the one where people say they are sorry if people feel offended. ‘I’m sorry if people think I’ve wasted Garda resources.’

So Dara, you’re not actually sorry for what at best was arrogant behaviour and at worst an abuse of office?

I have absolutely no doubt that Dara Murphy only did what many other ministers have done in the past.

Not all, but many of our otherwise decent Dail members become laughably arrogant, pompous and out of touch on securing a ministerial appointment. They suffer horrendously from ‘VIP-itis.’

Believe me, Dara is only continuing a long tradition. A few years ago it was revealed that then Minister John O’Donoghue (of Fianna Fail) had spent €472 (our money) on a limo to take him from Terminal Three to Terminal One at Heathrow Airport. (The same journey takes three minutes on the airport’s free shuttle service).

Far from such lavishness ‘The Bull’ was reared. Meanwhile, does anyone remember Bertie Ahern spending €441 a week on make-up?

Or the bould Enda, when he was only Leader of the Opposition, no less, staying in a €1,200 per night hotel room in Rome after travelling there for the Pope’s funeral in 2005?

In fairness, they always acknowledge that we, the people they serve, have made great sacrifices!

Anyways, Europe and the world can breathe easy. Dara made it to Brussels. And they’re getting his car fixed. No doubt we’ll be getting the bill!

Tuesday

I missed media coverage today of Enda and Joan announcing details of a €27bn Capital Plan, but I did see the marvellously deadpan Transport Minister Paschal Donoghue insist on Prime Time tonight that the euro-coated wish-list has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming General Election.

Unfortunately presenter David McCullagh forgot to give out dates and venues for Paschal’s upcoming stand-up comedy gigs.

Wednesday

‘Why should it be anywhere else?’ With those wisely chosen words, Kevin McStay will have endeared himself further to the Roscommon GAA fraternity as he pledges loyalty to our cause and, with Fergal O’Donnell, takes on the challenging task of leading our senior football expedition.

McStay is a gentleman and I have no doubt that he also has the toughness required for the type of management role he is taking on this week.

Liam McHale –also part of the ‘dream team’ now taking over the Roscommon senior footballers – was very highly regarded when working with McStay at the helm of St. Brigid’s, who the Mayo duo famously led to All-Ireland Club glory.

Fergal O’Donnell, set to take on a joint manager role with McStay, is basically revered in Roscommon.

These men know better than most that there are no guarantees about how a project like this will go, and they know too how fickle the relationship can be between a GAA management team and their public.

But it is fair to say Roscommon’s new management team will enjoy huge support from fans. They are respected and tested GAA figures who have their fingers on the pulse of Roscommon GAA.

They will sign up to sleepless nights for the cause we all believe in. They will leave nothing on the pitch after each training session, each battle.

We wish them well and hope and trust, as Paddy Joe the Barber reminds us, that the best is yet to come.

Paul Healy's Week

Saturday

A few men – for it will mostly have been men – might just have dropped a hint in the last few days about “the two of us having a weekend away” in the New Year.

What a lovely thought! Possible locations would include Kerry (“it’s magical”), Cork (“hard to beat”) and Donegal (“just beautiful, and so peaceful”).

If these venues, er…I mean locations, just happen to be hosting Roscommon matches in the 2016 National Football League, sure that’s a very happy coincidence.

The texts did the rounds very speedily on Saturday evening; the fixtures for the National Football League Division One campaign had been drawn up.

We’re back in the big time; back in Division One for the first time in years. And we’re in truly exalted company; each of our seven matches will be against either a glamour county or a modern-day force in the game (in some cases, both).

Reading the fixtures sent a shiver down the spine. Where are the league points going to come from to ensure Roscommon’s survival in the big league? Suddenly, now that the details of where and when Roscommon will be in action had been revealed, this top tier looked even more imposing than previously. Scrolling up and down and digesting the content of the text, it felt like Roscommon were being invited to a party…where we are on the menu.

But then we puffed out our chests and summoned up all our Rossie pride and began to make a case for a point here and a point there, and maybe even the odd brace of points – somewhere!

We were forced to deem the home games against Monaghan, Down and Mayo as the most realistic targets for points. But even they seem ominously difficult! Never mind, it’s a great line-up of games, and Roscommon will surely relish the challenge and hopefully learn greatly from the experience.

Many fans will pile into cars or travel on ‘club buses’ for the day out, while many individuals and couples will no doubt combine the away games with a night or weekend away.

And sure people who dropped hints at the weekend had the best of motives; an appetising weekend away with their partner in a holiday hotspot, garnished with a wet afternoon in the stand watching Roscommon work the ball from left to right in the rain.

For example, you could have an early Valentine’s weekend down in Kerry for Kerry v Roscommon on February 7th; or, for any poor soul who overlooks Valentine’s, a retrospective Valentine’s weekend away in Cork for Cork v Kerry (on 28th of February).

Roscommon’s third away match of the campaign will be in Donegal, where fans could enjoy a pre-St Patrick’s Day weekend away (match on 13th of March). In between the Club Rossie bus and supporters weaving into Kerry, Cork and Donegal, there are home games against Monaghan (31st of January) and Down (6th of March).

Our Division One thrills and spills will finish with home games in late March and early April. If we haven’t already picked up enough points we’ll just have to do the business in those final two home games. They’re against Mayo (27th of March) and Dublin (3rd of April). How much more straightforward could all of this be?

All weekend

It is some achievement for the organisers of the annual Strokestown Agricultural Show to have reached year 149 (with the event, I hasten to add).

In the region of 3,000 participants and spectators entered the fabulous Strokestown Park House grounds last weekend for the latest version of the nationally renowned show.

While the weather was a real dampener on Sunday, the organisers were grateful, at least, for fine weather on Saturday.

Congratulations to all involved in hosting another successful Strokestown Show – and no doubt the preparations are already underway for next year’s massive milestone event, the 150th annual Strokestown Agricultural Show.

Can I be the first to suggest that Harvey Smith, the legendary British showjumper who gruffly but memorable graced the show back in the 1970s, be invited back in 2016?

Monday

Michael Fitzmaurice has a mighty handshake. He’s holding court in the lobby of the Abbey Hotel, moments after the end of an entertaining People’s Debate, recorded there on Monday night.

I had popped out for five minutes and missed one of Michael’s more passionate contributions, when he apparently denounced something as ‘bullsh*t’ and got a great round of applause.

He has the common touch in spades and an affinity with the ordinary man and woman that is his greatest strength. Also chatting to guests in the lobby was Deputy Denis Naughten, who had, almost effortlessly and certainly impressively, been the stand-out politician on the night.

Maura Hopkins was in the line of fire during the debate but, faced with fierce hostility over the Roscommon Hospital issue, she remained admirably composed and stuck to her position, which is that she was not on the scene when promises were made, that she’s a new, young candidate and that’s it now time to look to the future.

Anne Farrell soon discovered that Vincent Browne was going to treat Renua like an imposter on the political landscape. The host part-playfully, part-seriously, went on the attack against Anne, but she battled back gamely and even won a few rounds of their bout.

It had been great to see the ‘house full’ signs up shortly after 7 pm; with over 400 people turning up, it’s clear there’s a great appetite for political debate and indeed that Vincent Browne, the show’s host, is a people’s magnet!

In the lobby afterwards, we chatted about what had come up during the debate – and what hadn’t. And we chatted about who had turned up – and who hadn’t!

Two things kept getting mentioned as the political junkies reviewed the evening: (1) somewhat bizarrely, water quality or water charges hadn’t been mentioned once and (2) there was a depressing lack of young people in the room. The lack of young people there tells us something a bit worrying about the present – and something a bit more worrying about the future.

So it was largely left to us older folk to huddle into the Abbey Hotel function room and lament – primarily – about the state of our health service.

Health dominated the debate, with some references to education, refugees and farming, and lots of playful questioning by Vincent on the subject of future Coalition formations. (Er…what young person wouldn’t enjoy all that?).

Actually, our two teenage daughters attended, and such was the lack of young people present, they were asked by a number of people if they were Vincent Browne’s daughters! By the way, they enjoyed the debate too!

As for Vincent Browne, he charmed just about everyone present and certainly lived up to his reputation as a true one-off.

When filming ended, and later after he had presented his regular nightly show live from the Abbey Hotel, the host was swamped by people looking for a photograph, a quick handshake or maybe even a growl or a sigh.

I hope the Roscommon/Galway debate was widely viewed on Wednesday night and fair play to TV3 for this great initiative, whereby they are travelling around the constituencies on a marathon series of debates.

Paul Healy's Week

Thursday

There’s a fancy ad on television. ‘Are you ready for the return of the Late Late Show?’ it blares, along with swirling images of Mr. Tubridy and some of his guests from last season.

‘Are you ready for the return of the Late Late Show?’ Unfortunately the ad was so quick I didn’t pick up where you’re supposed to send your reply to.

Saturday & Sunday

Paddy Joe the Barber says the best aspects of a Roscommon game are often the parade and the national anthem.

It’s when the ball is thrown in that the problems can start.

It feels a bit like that here in the West this Sunday evening, as we reflect on the promised land that turned out to be a mirage.

The flags were flying all over Connacht over the past week and there was a real buzz of anticipation. We headed into the weekend gripped by – to borrow a phrase – the terrible beauty of Mayo’s relentless quest to win Sam Maguire back; and by the Galway hurlers, in the past so often the purists without the prize, seeking with notably steely determination this year the embrace of Liam McCarthy for the first time since 1988.

In Roscommon, old rivalries with our esteemed neighbours were cast aside and replaced by the hope that the West would be best.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for Mayo and Galway seniors this time. But we’ll keep the faith in the West. We’ll be back!

Sunday morning

Dreams. They can be crazy, can’t they?

Over the weekend I think I dreamt that I was flicking through the television channels, only to see Mr. Tubridy introduce a section on his newly-returned Late Late Show. In the footage that followed, Marty Morrissey is seen dancing at some country wedding. Bizarre.

Something similar happened again last night: I think I dreamt that Daniel O’Donnell broke into the plush BBC studios and invaded the set of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, taking his place with the usual cast of sports people, broadcasters, cooks and soap stars.

It almost looked like he’s going to be a contestant! If these images are from ‘real life,’ it means that Marty Morrissey having the craic at a country wedding was central to the first Late Late Show of the season and that Daniel O’Donnell is going to take part in the massive BBC hit Strictly Come Dancing.

Like I say, I must have been dreaming.

Monday

A great win for the Republic of Ireland tonight against Georgia, followed by a great first programme in a new series from the Apres Match guys. It was funny, nostalgic and poignant (Apres Match that is).

Apres Match of the Day will be well worth watching on the evidence of this very entertaining first edition.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Euro hopes are still very much alive and kicking.

Tuesday

The pages of history are turning in front of our eyes.

But we need to stop on the pages of history and pause and digest what is happening – and act. If we’re honest with one another, most of us watched with more than a touch of apathy and perhaps even ignorance, as this tragedy of historic proportions unfolded in grim instalments, over several months.

While we complained about the rainy summer, over two thousand migrants and asylum seekers were drowning during desperate, often doomed attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

We knew it was happening; the mass deaths left us uncomfortable as they took up regular residency in the daily news bulletins of the first half of 2015.

But, perhaps because it was ‘there’ and not ‘here,’ perhaps for a variety of reasons – some, undoubtedly, to do with attitudes to immigration – we generally looked away.

We’re not looking away any more, thankfully. The popular wisdom is that it took the image of the body of a three-year-old boy washed up on a Turkish beach to finally make the world sit up and take notice of what was happening in the Mediterranean.

We need to remember that many more babies and small children had lost their lives in this catastrophic humanitarian disaster; but it was the shocking, sad simplicity of the image of Aylan Kurdi that made the world stop looking away.

Although ‘ordinary people’ would be well justified in feeling uncomfortable – at the very least – with how long it has taken us to wake up to this crisis, we shouldn’t allow guilt to overcome us.

We should not let European and world leaders off the hook either. We elect them to lead, after all. In fact, even to this day, the ‘ordinary people’ seem to be ahead of their political leaders.

I really don’t wish to Government-bash when what really matters now is the need for an urgent, humane response to an unfolding tragedy, but I will say that our political leaders have been badly wrong-footed over recent weeks.

From the increasingly tetchy Simon Coveney to the ‘Two-eyes-on-the-election’ Joan to the ‘I’ll see which way the wind is blowing’ Enda, they’ve been decidedly uninspiring.

Little more than a week or so ago there was much proud talk amongst our leaders of Ireland taking in 500 migrants.

Then, when the direction and firmness of public opinion became known, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald quickly scrambled to increase that figure up to around 1,800.

Next Joan Burton gets in on the act, anxious to increase the figure (without much apparent consultation with Fine Gael); she rows in with 5,000.

Enda has remained vague. We see it far too often; politicians out of touch, then forced to play an unseemly ‘catch up’ when they have been left under no illusions about the mood of the public.

In fairness, the Irish public would seem to be making their views known now; and our traditional generosity is to the fore. We need to act now. In our own communities, our parishes, our towns and villages, we need to be open and welcoming.

There are too many dead children and adults in the sea. There are hundreds of thousand more people, perhaps millions, whose futures are in the hands of the world leaders and the ordinary people.

There has to be long-term, logistical solutions, of course, but there also has to be an emergency response to a monumental crisis. No more looking away. It’s time to pause on this page in history.

Paul Healy's Week

Friday

Achill is more than sound; it’s special. With no trip to France this year, we’ve been living off hastily-organised mini mini-breaks; the last of which happened just before the school bell rang.

We brought tents, but there were a lot of us in it so we’d rented a house, just in case; after all, you don’t have to assemble the house yourself and naturally, we didn’t trust the weather.

Our destination was Achill; the whole weekend would be lived under a Mayo spell. I don’t know much about Achill.

When I was a kid, our location of choice was usually Enniscrone. In later years I discovered the exotic lure of Salthill, which to us seemed amazing in the early 1980s, only to look a bit the worst for wear when we began to check in on it again years later.

Achill too is ‘showing its age’ in certain respects, but that’s also part of its charm; it reminds you of summer holidays in the 1970s and ‘80’s. In any case, its raw beauty is timeless.

Between adults and children, there were twenty-four of us in all. No wonder someone suggested that we buy a lotto ticket – it’s the sort of thing groups of people do on weekends away, I suppose.

We briefly discussed how we would spend our winnings. Then, the inevitable idle chat about how we’d share the winnings and speculation on how much of it we’d give away. Falling over one another with our phantom generosity…!

Arriving on the island, we set up a couple of tents in the garden while also settling into the house. In the hotel on the hill, the members of a stag party were gathering. In a room off the bar, the ‘stags’ had a pig roasting. No one batted an eyelid at that, least of all the poor pig.

A slow pint when you’re on a weekend break is a lovely experience. Three of us settled in for just an hour.

We watched the stags and took in our surroundings. Two men walked in with two guitars. One large, the other not so large (the men, not the guitars). They ‘played’ Jim McCann and Luke Kelly and other classics.

The ‘stags’ were quiet until one made a loud quip and that was enough to raise the decibel levels and set them off. When we left the bar that evening the merry ‘stags’ were taking photographs of the unfortunate pig on the spit.

Saturday

On Saturday, the island revealed its spectacular beauty to us as we drove around, stopping here and there to savour the magical scenery.

It is sensational; on a par with anywhere in the world, I imagine. Much of Achill is made up of hilly and rough land which is laden with small houses, many of them at unusual angles, the landscape dotted with small flocks of quizzical sheep.

The sheep ‘park’ on the road as often as in a field; oblivious to the stresses of the world. It is quaint and charming, and it replaces the hurly-burly of life with a welcome calmness.

We have a fine dinner in a restaurant/bar which is overlooking the sea. On the short drive there, and everywhere between Roscommon and Achill, Mayo flags fly proudly ahead of the big game with Dublin.

It is now Saturday night, and for a short while a few of us pop back into the hotel on the hill. Alas, there are no men with guitars. The ‘stags’ had left that morning to tour around; now some of them have returned, and they are showing signs of wear and tear.

The proprietor tell us he’s had a good summer, good news which surprises us; he explains that because the weather was so bad, many visitors from the holiday homes, camper vans, mobile homes and tents, spent lots of time in the hotel, as opposed to on the beautiful but rain-battered beaches.

The hotel had certainly been buzzing on Saturday night. We were about to order a final drink at closing time when the bar shut quite abruptly. I think the proprietor was a bit nervous because a few of the stags were getting boisterous.

It was then that we got the text, all the way from Down The Hatch in Roscommon town. We had indeed won the lotto! Fiona’s name had been drawn in the St. Joseph’s 50-50 Draw.

We – well, Fiona – were €402 to the good. We had won the lotto, but the bar in the hotel on the hill was still closed, and, unlike the pig on the spit, this barman was not for turning.

Sunday

It usually happens when the Irish rugby team are trailing in an important match and next thing they’re within sight of the opposition’s line and attacking in waves, and you find yourself out of your chair, shouting at the television, as if your actions could possibly influence what’s happening.

It’s not suited to golf or snooker – this jumping out of your chair and shouting at the telly thing – but it’s perfect for rugby, would suit horseracing and can be utilised too when a boxer has his opponent on the ropes.

Probably the most memorable ‘usage’ of it that I can recall came in 1983 when Eamonn Coghlan passed out his Soviet opponent on the final bend and coasted to the World 5000 Metres Gold.

That was a never to be forgotten out-of-your-chair-and-roar-at-the-telly moment. We were at it again on Sunday when Mayo dragged a sensational draw from seeming certain defeat with a great comeback against Dublin.

We were out of our seats, waving Mayo on, shouting at the telly, screaming at the ref, watching the clock with a mixture of dread, elation and sheer fear. The tension was almost unbearable.

When Mayo came from seven behind to draw level, and with the Dubs dizzy, the Connacht champions had a glorious chance to win it. We roared them on and willed the ball over the bar.

But the chance went and the game swung back down the other end and now, as the Dubs awoke from their slumber, we visualised another epic Mayo heartbreak (‘Do you remember the year we were seven down, drew level in the last nine minutes, missed a chance and then lost it?’) but Cluxton’s sat-nav was banjaxed and common sense prevailed and the war ended in a draw.

I had placed my faith in Mayo. Perhaps the biggest danger now is that there is a growing assumption that they are best placed to win the replay. It is still going to take some performance to beat Dublin.

But I think Mayo will win on Saturday, and I think they will then beat Kerry in the final. And if that happens, even the sheep in Achill will surely look up, show some emotion and join in one of the great parties of all time.

Monday

Imagine being born into the world since January 1st 2010. Imagine being that young! Not only have you missed Italia ’90 – by twenty years – you’ve missed the invasion of Iraq, the emergence of Barack Obama, the rise of Tyrone and Armagh footballers, Fergie time (remember Alex?), Bertie Ahern, Diego Maradona in his prime, the world according to Michael Jackson, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, Elvis and the Beatles, life before the Internet, the jailing and freeing of Nelson Mandela, the OJ Simpson trial, 9/11, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, of course, the birth of the phenomenon known as Dáithí Ó Sé.

Still, there is so much to look forward to… The kids born after 2010 are so much more advanced than Alexander Graham Bell’s envious friends; our four and five year olds all but tweeted from the womb: I’m on my way #Let the fun begin!

Anyways, they started ‘big school’ this week, and from what I could see it was all quite seamless, which is a credit to the great groundwork done in playschools and to the warmth and kindness shown to our children this week (by teachers) when they stepped into their new environment.

Our own five-year-old, Matthew, was amongst those starting out. It’s a great milestone for these children and it’s quite an experience to watch them take these first, tentative, brave steps into the big wide world with all its mystery and challenges. The very best of luck to all in this week’s ‘first day at school’ club.

Tuesday

To save you rushing out and reading the full 300-odd page Fennelly Report (I know, I know, I’m probably too late) I can provide you with a quick summary.

Enda’s vindicated. You want more details? Well, it turns out that the idea of gently ushering former Garda Commissioner Callinane towards the exit door never even crossed Enda’s mind. When the then-Secretary of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell made an early-morning call to the Commissioner, it was in the faint hope of getting a cuppa and some biscuits.

As it happens, Callinane jumped ship after Purcell’s call; but it had nothing to do with Enda. So what happens next?

This is what happens next. Fianna Fail are putting down a motion of no confidence in Enda. When the Dail eventually resumes, TDs will huff and puff and exchange some mock outrage and a lot of very average insults.

As the er…tension mounts, David Davin-Power will stand outside Leinster House, call up his most serious expression and reveal the sensational result: Enda survives.

Following a ‘nightcap’ in the Dail bar/Buswell’s, accompanied by various knowing glances and lame quips, everyone will go to bed. There are some estimates that the bill for the Fennelly Report will be around €2m.

No pensions of top civil servants/politicians were hurt during the making of this drama/comedy.

Paul Healy's Week

Thursday

Michael McDonnell is a mine of information as he guides us from Hodson Bay through Lough Ree and into Athlone aboard his Viking Ship.

Having planned a ‘pre-return to school’ evening out, a group of us board the ‘Viking Ship’ on a fresh but dry day (well, it was dry and pleasant at Hodson Bay; we heard later that the rain was bucketing down in Roscommon town).

The ship is 21 metres long and is a wooden replica of a Viking vessel. Apparently it is the longest serving timber passenger ship on the inland waterways in either Ireland or the UK.

In a typical example of a local not knowing what’s on their own doorstep, I have to admit that I wasn’t fully aware of the deep connection between the Viking era in Ireland and this locality.

However our host, Michael, provides a great overview of the history of the area and its intriguing Viking past during the 90-minute cruise.

There are daily sailings from Hodson Bay into Athlone and Michael also does a separate trip to the famous Monastic Settlement in Clonmacnoise. There are refreshments (as well as Viking souvenirs for the kids) on board and Michael’s running commentary, the beautiful landscape and the tranquillity of the waters are a winning combination.

Afterwards, we had great bar food in the Hodson Bay Hotel, which, I’m glad to report, was brimming with holiday-makers, including a lot of Irish people who were clearly on midweek breaks there.

With Hodson Bay Sports on site, and with the hotel offering such great family facilities in such a central location in the country, the Hodson Bay Hotel is certainly a great success story.

* You can check out Viking Ship Cruises on www.vikingtoursireland.ie; tel: 086-2621136.

Later on Thursday…

There was a great turnout at the launch of the 149th (yes, 149th!) annual Strokestown Agricultural Show.

John O’Beirne did the formalities in his usual very efficient manner and there was a good buzz in the function room of the Percy French Hotel as committee members, farm leaders, sponsors and friends of the show warmed up for the two-day extravaganza (Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th of September).

I was pleased to meet Fr. Eamonn O’Connor, who is settling into his new surroundings in Strokestown, having recently moved there from not-so-far-away Tarmonbarry. We wish him well in his new appointment.

It was unfortunate that former councillor, show stalwart and all-round man of renown Sean Beirne could not be present; he is currently unwell. He was very much in people’s thoughts at the launch and we look forward to seeing Sean out and about again soon.

Not one, not two, but three mart managers were present, while a contingent from Roscommon Show were basking in the glow of the success of their recent event while present to lend their support to the famous Strokestown Show.

As ever the Strokestown committee have a great weekend lined up and we’ll have full details of the launch in our next edition as we look ahead to one of the country’s most famous agricultural shows.

And of course we wish every success to all associated with the 38th annual Elphin Agricultural Show, which takes place this Saturday.

A final word on this launch: any of the locals I spoke to reported that the Percy French Hotel, now under the stewardship of the Murray family, is consistently busy. The hotel is being very well supported by the local community, and that, of course, will be key to its future.

Some months ago the management did a great revamp of the bar area and the ‘new look’ really is eye-catching and welcoming.

We have all observed with regret and indeed alarm the closure of hotels in Ballaghaderreen, Rooskey, Castlerea and Ballinlough. The Percy French was certainly buzzing on Thursday night, underlining again just how critically important a good hotel is to a rural town or village.

Monday/Tuesday

Oh dear! All I wrote in my humble column here – a couple of weeks ago – was that Russia-based Conor Lenihan was back in town, wanted to ‘get back on the bus’ and has his eye on a return to national politics in Ireland.

The last thing I expected was to start a ‘Get Conor into Roscommon’ campaign! Honestly, I had no idea that my comments might have sparked something in someone.

Anyways, I jest, obviously, but we are where we are and it turns out that one of the constituencies under consideration for a Conor comeback is Roscommon/Galway.

Now Conor has been busy claiming (spinning?) over recent days that he certainly didn’t make any approaches to ‘Roscommon’ but that ‘senior’ FF people here are holding out the begging bowl to him.

He’s “flattered” and “honoured” to have been approached – and so on. Just who are these senior party members who are so anxious to get Conor back on the bus? My sources have been unable to shed light on just who did the prospective matchmaking.

What we do know is that Conor Lenihan met with a number of Fianna Fail councillors in County Roscommon last weekend, while also failing to secure meetings with other Fianna Fail councillors.

Whoever threw the admiring glances first, this is clearly part of a process whereby the former minister is – quite legitimately – trying to find a constituency in which to secure a nomination with a view to reviving his political career.

Now Conor Lenihan is a capable and personable man, but I am not sure at all that he is the right ‘fit’ for Roscommon. While his family’s connections with South Roscommon are well-known, Conor has never been resident in Roscommon (Russia, yes, but not Roscommon!) and his entry into the election race here would not go down well with a lot of people.

As an aside, I can’t imagine what declared Fianna Fail hopefuls Paschal Fitzmaurice and Eugene Murphy make of all of this. Several weeks ago they made it quite clear that they will be turning up to the dance all spruced up (as ever) and with their best dance moves and most charming chat-up lines all well rehearsed.

Yet they find that Fianna Fail have firstly asked Dr. Martin Daly for a date; then swooned over Dr. Keith Swanick, and now the party has apparently flirted with Conor Lenihan. Just who will have the first dance?

Last Sunday/next Sunday

Last Sunday Kerry prevailed in the All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final after a good old joust with Tyrone. Kerry did enough to win; a gallant Tyrone will rue their missed goal chances.

This Sunday, we don’t know who will win, which is why they have to play one another. It’s Dublin versus Mayo.

Anything could happen, but what hopefully will happen is this: Dublin will underline their quality by producing some great phases of play, terrorising all watching Mayo-ites with their frightening pace.

There will be times in the game when it’s looking gloomy for Mayo, as though the Dubs are just unstoppable. Then Mayo, who will not panic at any stage, will show all the residual quality they have built up over the last five years.

They will relentlessly pound away, never once shirk, never panic, and in fact will create panic in the Dubs’ corner – the Dubs are prone to wilting under pressure (if you can stay in touch of them).

If Mayo can stay in touch, they can win. Mayo are mentally in perfect shape to cross the line provided they are in the right place with ten minutes to go.

In fact Mayo can go ALL the way this year. That, at least, is what I hope will happen…

The tradition continues – in style.

Saturday

Roscommon Agricultural & Industrial Show attracted a large crowd to Hannon’s Grounds on the Athlone Road.

Thursday had been a beautiful day, when, incidentally, all 32 contestants in the Rose of Tralee descended on Loughnaneane Park/Roscommon Castle, amidst great excitement.

After the lift caused by Thursday’s outbreak of real summer weather – with Roses blooming and lawnmowers finally purring – Friday was poor enough weather-wise, so it was a relief to see pleasant weather usher in another annual show.

It was a very successful event.

There was lots to see and do, with the Dog classes proving particularly popular. There was a ‘full house’ too for the various demonstrations by chef Frank Moynihan, while there was a keen interest amongst participants and spectators alike in classes featuring cattle, horses and various other animals, not to mention the always competitive categories involving farm and garden produce, bakery, arts and suchlike.

Children meanwhile enthusiastically availed of free amusements. All in all it was an excellent show and another great example of a community celebrating all that’s best about rural life.

Spending a few hours there on Saturday afternoon, I was struck by two things: the marvellous work of so many volunteers (who make this happen each year) and the importance of maintaining this tradition and indeed handing on the baton to new generations.

Well done to Christy Tully (chairperson), his committee colleagues and all the volunteers who staged another successful Roscommon Show.

The tradition lives on, and the presence of quite a few young people on Saturday – volunteers, participants and spectators – gives us confidence that this particular form of ‘showbiz’ will thankfully continue long into the future.

Sunday

What an absolutely sensational hurling match that was. From the first puck, it was terrific entertainment. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

Often even the great matches – like some movies or some shows – will start slowly, before building momentum and growing into the greatness that is their destiny.

This one declared its intent from the very start, strutting its stuff and confidently staking claim to its place in the classics’ listings.

I thought Marty Morrissey was in the form of his life as commentator. Take a bow, Marty.

Also in the form of his life was Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan, who fired home his first goal after just forty seconds.

Forlornly trying to stop him, Padraig Mannion threw his hurley into the air; he might as well have thrown in a towel as well because Callanan was about to grace Croke Park with a magical individual performance.

What a game: the hits were ferocious; the skills on show magnificent; the effort of both teams almost beyond belief.

Tipperary edged the early stages but as the first half wore on Galway started to find space and the sliothar began to zoom towards the Tipp uprights. It never relented, this marvellous game.

The marauding Callanan scored three goals, but each time he struck, Galway remained nerveless and responded with calming points.

There was an emotional ovation for Noel McGrath when he came on as a sub for Tipperary with a few minutes to go; the youngster has recovered from a serious illness earlier this year.

When he split the posts to put his team ahead with normal time almost up, we wondered if a fairytale ending might complete this classic story.

It was Galway who edged it in the end however, and no one could begrudge them.

Remarkably, Seamus Callanan scored 3-9 but was on the losing team; indeed the game had several marvellous sub-plots, with gripping duels all over the pitch.

Watching Anthony Cunningham, well-known in these parts (he managed St. Brigid’s footballers up to a few seasons ago) would have been worth the admission price alone; this great Gael remonstrated with the referee in animated fashion throughout; fist-pumped with enthusiasm as his heroic side left the field at half-time; and finally, was typically dignified and sporting at the end, searching out for McGrath and offering him words of encouragement and praise and a heartfelt handshake.

Humanity merging with heroism.

The world has begun to discover hurling, but for anyone who hasn’t, they really should sit down in a quiet room and watch a recording of this from start to finish.

It was hurling from the Heavens, a classic shaped by giants.

Later on Sunday

Although I know now that he passed away on August 9th, I only found out about the death of the great English comedy writer David Nobbs in today’s Sunday Independent. While he had a long and distinguished career as a writer for various television productions, Nobbs is most associated with being the creator of the ‘Reginald Perrin’ character.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin was a classic British sitcom from the 1970s which is widely and rightly considered to be one of the best and most original comedy programmes of all time. Well, I think so anyway.

I read David Nobbs’ autobiography – ‘I didn’t get where I am today’ – a number of years ago and it was a highly amusing and entertaining read.

He was a gifted creative writer who had many strings to his bow but he will indeed be most remembered – with great fondness – for giving us the wonderful Perrin, played to perfection by the late Leonard Rossiter.

Monday

Another Monday, another avalanche of headlines about the antics of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

We are only two games into the new Premiership season. The newspapers – tabloid and broadsheet – as well as radio, television and social media, are brimming with Mourinho mayhem.

What’s all the ‘controversy’ about? From what I can gather, he (a) criticised his own club doctors, (b) said Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Chelsea was a ‘fake’ and (c) sparked a bit of a media frenzy by (for the first time ever) substituting John Terry.

It must be very upsetting for modest and shy Jose to be the centre of attention. Wouldn’t it be great if every single newspaper (and all other media types) ignored him completely after the next match?

Presumably Jose would welcome it if the spotlight was taken off him. Presumably he would emit a great sigh of absolutely enormous relief.

After all, his outbursts are, I assume, unfortunate heat-of-the-moment responses which merely reflect his passion…rather than contrived, egotistical, self-serving utterances aimed at building a siege mentality while also publicly caressing his own ego? Now I wonder which is it? Still, I suppose he’s entertaining…

Tuesday

I went along to Kilteevan Community Centre this morning where pride of place was in spectacular evidence.

Kilteevan Community Development Association have been nominated for a Pride of Place award and the judges were in town.

The judges have also visited Ballyleague, Cavetown and Roscommon town over the past few days. Ballyleague Village Renewal, The Quad Youth Centre and Cavetown Residents Development Company have all been nominated in the all-island competition.

Beautiful sunshine greeted the judges and Kilteevan was looking just fabulous. There was a marvellous turnout of locals.

Inspiring speeches by Eileen Fahey and Michael Spellman left the distinguished guests in no doubt, I imagine, of the scale of the work that has been done in Kilteevan over the years.

The wonderful community spirit which exists in this small – but very proud – place was much in evidence as the people of Kilteevan showcased all that has been achieved over the past thirteen years (since the formation of the Development Association).

“Uplifting” commented one of the judges, both of whom seemed genuinely bowled over by the presentation on the day.

I am quite sure it’s a similar story in Ballyleague and Cavetown and I have some knowledge (through my involvement with Roscommon Lions Club) of the fantastic monument to hard work and vision that the Quad (Youth) Centre is.

Indeed the Quad Centre is without doubt one of the most inspiring community-led projects to have been undertaken anywhere in County Roscommon in the past half-century and its value to the community will be apparent for many decades to come.

Here’s wishing the very best of luck to all four local nominees in the Pride of Place. We’re proud of you!

Every day (virtually)

Rain. Incessant, relentless, dirty, ugly – wet – rain.

It’s Wednesday, and it’s pouring down. We’ve had so much rain, it can only inspire the expectation that next year, we’re going to have one of the most wonderful summers ever.

Start lining up that sun cream now…!

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