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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

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…!

Not this week, last week ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C’est la vie.

Saturday

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

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

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

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

Monday

Buses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Healy's Week

Every day

People say ‘any news?’ and you kind of instinctively say ‘no, nothing new’ or ‘not a thing.’ But there is news if you think about it.

For a start, there’s lime in our water, and I haven’t ordered lime (okay, it’s a different lime) since I used to combine it with Harp back in the late 1980s.

So, my starting position is that I don’t want lime (or silt) in anything. But here we are, in 21st Century Roscommon, with the unpleasant reality of lime in our water at a time when countless millions of euro are being approved for water services in the county and ‘boil water’ notices are being lifted – amidst scenes of joy and jubilation (in Irish Water and the offices of Government backbenchers and spin doctors).

Actually, according to the always-reliable Roscommon People, ‘water problems’ are back with a bit of a vengeance.

We’ve noticed lime in our water, but so too have many other householders, in Roscommon, Castlerea and adjoining areas. And some complaints have emerged from South Roscommon too, where a ‘boil water’ notice was recently lifted.

Given that commitments (and funds) have been provided by Minister Alan Kelly/Irish Water, I suppose we should remain patient on this saga for a little longer.

But not for much longer, because the very least we should expect at a time when we are seeing the introduction of water charges is that we have a water supply of the highest standard.

As for ‘other news,’ well, what is the story with the broadband service? It too is very poor of late; frustratingly slow and basically inadequate.

As for the mobile phone signal in Kilteevan (where we live), it’s moodier than Basil Fawlty in his heyday.

What to do about it all? Well, I could ring in to complain about the mobile phone service. This will involve me wandering around the garden (no reliable signal in the house) in the summer rain as I am put on hold and told that my call is very important – much to look forward to there.

As for the water, we’ll wait and see.

Actually a nice man did call to our house two weeks ago in his role as a sub-contractor for a sub-contractor of Irish Water.

He was quick to point out that he wouldn’t be doing any installing of meters; he was a freelancer whose job it is to detect our water point.

Turns out he could talk for Ireland. He was happy to stay a long time (we made him a cup of coffee with our less-than-perfect water).

So we sat back for a long chat, water source detection man and I. We didn’t resolve Roscommon’s water woes but we made a fair bit of progress in discussing this year’s All-Ireland Football Championship.

He couldn’t understand what went wrong with Roscommon/is unsure about Donegal/wouldn’t write off Kerry or Mayo but thinks the Dubs are the team to beat.

As for the home computer or whatever they’re called these days, I know grindingly slow broadband isn’t really his area of expertise, but the next time that Indian chap phones us to urgently advise that there’s something wrong with our computer, I might fill him in on the broadband, the mobile phone signal and the water.

And maybe find out who his tip is to win the All-Ireland.

Virtually every day

We need to have a debate about the weather. We never seem to talk about it in this country!

Maybe we should have a weather inquiry, because the banking inquiry will yield nothing. I suggest a weather inquiry, where we call various key ‘witnesses,’ including the prone-to-being-smug Evelyn Cusack and the prone-to-being-incredibly-irritating Martin King.

We could also summon in the amateur forecasters from Donegal, Australia, etc. plus a few folk from Met Eireann and the odd farmer or two. And call Enda and Micheal and Joan and Gerry in too, just to annoy them.

It must be the wettest July in living memory. We’ve a Spanish student staying with us (a very nice young girl who it was a pleasure to host) and almost everything she’s seen of the Emerald Isle has been through a wall of water.

We’ve almost taken to wallpapering the rooms with images of sunshine. It’s embarrassing, this dreadful wet July, but we are assured that ‘Spanish students’ and visitors to Ireland in general don’t expect good weather and aren’t concerned about the rain.

As for the rest of us, who aren’t visitors or Spanish students, we’re sick and tired of this wretched summer. We feel cheated, with no barbeques on long sun-drenched evenings, no scorching days at the races and hardly a chance to cut the grass.

I felt sorry for the organisers of local festivals (and the Family Open Day in Donamon) as I watched the rain fall relentlessly on Sunday.

Still, if the Rooskey Heritage Festival (see coverage on pages 28-29) is anything to go by, people defied the elements and came out in large numbers to support their local communities.

We brought our Spanish student to the festival and boat rally in Rooskey on Sunday so that she could see a bit more water before she goes back.

Paul Healy's Week

 

Any day

You collect the clutter, not thinking you’re collecting it – you’re just not throwing it away. How long are you meant to keep bank statements for, or indeed bills?

How long are you meant to keep documents relating to house insurance or the car for? Into folders they go…for when you need them again…when they’ll be easy to find and handy to have. Yeah, right. It never quite works out that way.

Then, when junk is being sorted, perhaps once a year – the big clear-out – the turmoil in your head as you wonder whether or not you should hold on to certain items. ‘We got that on holiday in such and such a place.’ ‘Keep that, it could come in useful.’ ‘There’s another part to that…I think it’s in the attic…we’ll keep it, just in case.’ ‘That would look nice in the hall.’ (No it wouldn’t).

So we keep the stuff, relentlessly building up the clutter, week on week, month on month, year on year. Not letting go, but perhaps demoting them…from the ‘good’ rooms to the lesser rooms to under the stairs and eventually to the shed. Keep the stuff, throw nothing away, in a way we’re saving money, aren’t we?

Then, the day inevitably comes when you ring up and order a skip – again. Hire the skip, pay for the skip, fling everything into the skip, including the paint cans with tiny quantities of paint, the bits of utterly useless timber, the broken toys and discarded lamps and ornaments. You keep filling the skip, you’re going well, and then… ‘Oh, look what I’ve found! Haven’t seen that in ages. Will we keep it…? It might come in useful some day…’

Sunday

So we were at a very enjoyable family Christening celebration, and then, at the appointed time, we tuned into Willie and Donie from Brewster Park.

The early updates were encouraging enough; then it got better and better, and by half-time Roscommon were in a great position, five points in front. Fermanagh started the second half well, but Roscommon steadied the ship.

Willie was sending greetings to listeners all over the world and Donie was tut-tutting about the referee; but Roscommon were on the cusp of a great championship statement of intent, because any win away to Ulster opposition in the championship is a superb afternoon’s work.

I left for seven or eight minutes to impart the good news of Roscommon’s healthy lead, returning to the radio just as Fermanagh were awarded a penalty. Or ‘not a penalty” as Donie would have it. (And replays that night on ‘The Sunday Game’ seemed to support Donie’s view).

Roscommon were leading 0-14 to 0-8, but Fermanagh converted the penalty and now we got that old familiar heart-in-the-mouth feeling. A run-of-the-mill story was turning into a drama.

Yet Roscommon steadied the ship again and led by five points with seven minutes remaining. Now drama turned to horror.

Listening to the final minutes on radio was like having a horror story read to you, where you know there’s a gruesome new twist waiting to be discovered on each turning page. As we willed time to move faster there was a sense of grim inevitability about events as Fermanagh relentlessly dismantled Roscommon’s lead, point by ruthless point.

We were in Paddy Finn’s in Kilteevan. Our pain was being shared in America, Australia, Asia and Europe. And in Keadue, Tulsk, Ballaghaderrren and Ballyforan. You could almost touch the shared sense of helplessness now linking Rossies all over the world.

Fermanagh just kept scoring, ripping our lead to shreds, undoing over an hour’s good work by Roscommon in a few minutes. Not even the clock would save a sinking Roscommon. When they levelled, we thought Roscommon can’t realistically win in extra-time, as all of the momentum has switched, and Fermanagh players and supporters know they have their prey trapped. But there would be no extra-time.

The suffering was brought to an abrupt end, with Fermanagh’s sixth point in eight minutes. It was an epic win for Fermanagh. We can’t deny that what unfolded is one of the very reasons why we are so attracted to sport. We congratulate Fermanagh on their victory.

For Roscommon, it’s been a rough championship ride in 2015, a season of heartbreak. But we’ve a fine young, developing team and there will be much better days ahead. In the meantime, anyone for cricket?

Monday evening

I popped back into the office for a moment at about 7 pm, checked my emails, and there it was, a statement confirming that Fine Gael Deputy Frank Feighan will not be contesting the next General Election.

Intentionally or otherwise, he made his announcement four years to the day since the fateful closure of Roscommon A&E. Notwithstanding my anger over the A&E closure and his misguided and ill-fated refusal to stand with the people of Roscommon at the time, my first thoughts were to feel some sympathy for Frank Feighan on a human level.

As I’ve often written before, Roscommon Hospital is, at the end of the day, all about the people – but there’s always been this utterly fascinating political dimension to it too, with the short-term ‘health’ of political parties locally and the fate of individual politicians in this county at the mercy of whatever twists and turns the saga takes.

While the Roscommon People campaigned aggressively on the hospital issue when the ‘war’ raged at its peak a few years ago, and while I’ve had my strong differences with Frank Feighan on the issue over that time, I believe it’s only right to express some sympathy for the Boyle man this week on both a human and a political level.

Feighan has talked a lot about standing by the Government and the country, yet he has now, to all intents and purposes, had to sacrifice his political career. He may end up in the Seanad in the future, but the cold truth is that a Dail career that might have continued for the next fifteen or even twenty years has come crashing down because of the Roscommon Hospital fall-out.

Frank Feighan has, in the end, paid a big political price. Consultant Liam McMullin told Health Minister Leo Varadkar that the people of Roscommon had been thrown to the wolves; in some respects, Feighan, who can take a fair share of the blame himself, has been thrown on the political scrapheap, ending up there because of the calamitous handling by his party of the A&E issue.

Leaving aside the premature ending of his Dail career, I also feel some sympathy for Frank Feighan this week on a personal, human level; the hospital war bruised him, isolated him and changed him. He must surely feel a weight off his shoulders this week. I hope he does.

All of this said, I haven’t changed my view that Frank Feighan could have done things differently; he made fateful decisions, he defended what I consider to be indefensible, and while one could acknowledge (admire is too strong a word) his loyalty to his party and to his own lonely position on the hospital, on every step of his journey since 2011 he was moving closer to his own political demise.

This journey-end was pretty much inevitable despite the fact that Feighan can undoubtedly point to having delivered on a series of projects to the benefit of County Roscommon and the wider constituency.

From the development of the marina at Lough Key, to the Ballaghaderreen Bypass, to funding for water and any number of other smaller projects, Feighan certainly got through a body of work. There was big investment for the hospital too. But his relentless claims that the hospital was safer – and busier – than ever before were met with scepticism by most people.

In the end, Feighan, for all his endeavour, could not shake off the shadows of 2011. Without question Frank Feighan part-authored his own downfall, but he was assisted by ghost-writers – two that spring to mind are Enda Kenny and James Reilly.

Had Feighan gone before the people, he probably would have lost his seat. He just could not shake the hospital ghost away. In reality, the decision not to contest the election was probably taken several months ago. That’s why, in 2014, FG HQ unearthed, groomed and continues to promote Cllr. Maura Hopkins as the Boyle man’s anointed successor.

I have no doubt that, contrary to the public pronouncements, this was not Frank Feighan’s decision alone. The ghost-writers who, in grim instalments these past four years, helped pen his downfall, also helped write his resignation letter.

Before the hospital war, Frank Feighan was a dream candidate for Fine Gael; personable, sociable, well-known, a vote-puller who, such was his popularity in North Roscommon particularly, could even attract support from Fianna Fail households.

When Hospital-gate happened, the political fortunes of Fine Gael’s dream team – Denis Naughten and Frank Feighan – dramatically changed.

Naughten is now an ex-Fine Gael TD and Feighan will be an ex-Fine TD within a matter of months. Fine Gael’s folly on the hospital destroyed the dream team just when it looked set to dominate Roscommon politics for a generation.

Something of an irony in this entire saga is the fact that Feighan hadn’t paid much attention to the hospital issue in the build-up to the 2011 General Election. Naughten was the top man on that issue and dealt with the HAC and with the Fine Gael health spokesperson, James Reilly. What subsequently unfolded when Reilly and Enda Kenny got into power is now history.

Naughten made the decision to resign; he could hardly have stayed, having made the running on the hospital issue and effectively drafted the letter which James Reilly so irresponsibly sent to the people of Roscommon.

Feighan made his own fateful call. Some will say there is merit in Feighan’s argument that he was better of “in government” working for the constituency than leaving Fine Gael over the hospital debacle. But ultimately Feighan could not escape from the hospital shadow.

The betrayal (by Fine Gael and Labour) over Roscommon Hospital had been too big. The hospital ghost stalked Feighan since 2011. The party could not contemplate Feighan going before the people (private FG polls indicated their best chance of winning a seat was with another candidate). Feighan had to be sacrificed.

Ultimately, the political dimension is interesting, even dramatic, a soap opera, a sport, real life too. But the hospital is about the people. The people were let down. The A&E closure should not have happened. It was a fiasco and a tragedy. Frank Feighan has paid his price.

I think, looking back, he was naïve and he was used. Also bruised by the war, and with an election imminent, the people of Roscommon wait to see if anyone will address the deficit on emergency services here. Who will stand up, in a meaningful way (not idle promises) for the people of Roscommon? We were thrown to the wolves, Liam McMullin said.

What political party or parties or individuals will save us from the wolves? And a word to ghost-writers everywhere; the people of Roscommon have long memories.

Paul Healy's Week

Saturday

If Carlsberg did All-Ireland Football Championship 2nd round qualifiers….

Okay, so perhaps not; it wasn’t a classic, but it was an entertaining match and it was a beautiful evening. I

f you’ve ever dreaded going to a party, only for it to turn out to be a great night, you’ll have a sense of what it was like to experience the weather conditions in Cavan on Saturday evening.

We left Roscommon suitably untrusting of the skies, armed with coat and umbrella, only to discover as the evening went on that the sun would rule the skies. By this summer’s standards at least, it was a beautiful evening.

The pitch was in fabulous condition too. As for Kingspan Breffni Park, it has changed a lot since I used to report on games there in the late 1980s. It’s a nice, welcoming venue, and turning into a field of dreams for visiting Rossies.

We conceded a goal within 26 seconds but such early scores rarely worry me; early goals concentrate minds! Roscommon were on their game from the throw-in, and produced some fine scores.

I think they would have won regardless of the sending off that undoubtedly struck at the heart of Cavan’s chances. Roscommon were very much up for this and while there was some sloppy play, much of the performance was very impressive.

Scoring 3-17 against very respectable opponents speaks for itself. There were excellent performances from many players, including Cathal Cregg, Ultan Harney, David Keenan and Enda Smith.

Smith’s first goal was audacious – a calm finish after a surge from halfway – although the Cavan defence was a bit too accommodating. Substitute Diarmuid Murtagh was like a child who had finally been allowed into the playground.

On now to Brewster Park, expecting more of the same!

Monday

I like a bit of nostalgia, something which may be obvious from some of my previous columns.

Ah yes, I fondly remember getting all nostalgic in a column or two in the past…those were the days.

Anyways, I’ve seen a bit of the tennis from Wimbledon, but sadly I haven’t got time to sit in front of the telly for hours on end to enjoy what I don’t doubt is superb BBC coverage.

The bits I’ve seen have been gripping enough, but I couldn’t watch without thinking of Ille Nastase play-acting with ball-boys and umpire; being mischevious with the crowd; producing eccentric shots and helping staff/volunteers to cover the court when the rain came.

Nor could I watch without thinking of Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, a grunting Jimmy Connors or even ice-cool, charmless but eerily fascinating Ivan Lendl.

Most of all, I couldn’t watch without thinking of how, growing up in Rooskey, we were entranced, summer after summer, by the coolest of them all, Bjorn Borg, the sensational Swede who won five Wimbledon titles in a row.

In particular his games against John McEnroe were memorable, and McEnroe v Borg became one of the great sporting rivalries of all time. Maybe the only moral of the story is that we have far more time to watch television when we’re teenagers.

This Saturday

This coming Saturday (July 11) it will be four years to the day since Roscommon Accident & Emergency Unit closes its doors. The war was over.There were casualties everywhere.

Much of the focus was on the impact on local political careers, on the grim-faced HSE chiefs, on the broken promises and shallow excuses of Government ‘leaders,’ but the real victims were of course the public.

The anger has clearly dissipated to a degree as the years have gone by, but my own view remains the same now as it was then: this was a gross betrayal of the people by Enda Kenny and James Reilly.

It shouldn’t have happened, not then, not that way, at least not until contingency plans or an equal or better service were in place. Claims that the facility had to close because HIQA had deemed it unsafe have been utterly discredited. HIQA hadn’t even visited Roscommon A&E.

Claims relating to cardiac-related deaths in Roscommon have also been utterly discredited. We are dealing here with very accomplished and ruthless spin doctors. In 2011 Roscommon may not, strictly speaking, have been ‘safe’ by the standards now being insisted upon, but that argument is just a smokescreen.

If the political will was there, the safety issues could have been addressed. If James Reilly had any doubts about safety and Roscommon Hospital, why did he make cast-iron assurances to voters here before the 2011 General Election? If he didn’t know enough about services in Roscommon when he dispatched his letter, why didn’t he know enough? If he didn’t know, why did he persist in issuing the letter?

In any event, any safety shortcomings could have been addressed if the political will was there. And, needless to say, we have not got the superb ambulance service we were promised.

I am not going to fall into the trap of saying ‘I know there’s millions of euro being invested in the hospital and that’s welcome’ because, as long as we’re talking about emergency services, reference to other developments at the hospital is a distraction.

On emergency services, not only is the jury not out – there’s no need for a jury. What happened four years ago was a debacle. We were, in the words of Hospital Consultant Liam McMullin, “thrown to the wolves.” As we approach another General Election, I wait with interest to hear what Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour, Sinn Fein and others propose in respect of emergency services in Roscommon over the coming weeks.

John Joe, tragedy in Tunisia, Midsummer's Festival and Cavan game

 

Friday 

 

There is a certain magic to the words ‘John Joe Nerney.’

  There aren’t many people around who saw him in his prime but his legend is long established.

  By all accounts he was a highly accomplished footballer, and a remarkable athlete. He played club football from the 1930s to the 1970s, meaning he was lining out for Boyle when he was well into his fifties! He ran marathons into his sixties and continued to go on regular runs for many years more.

  Much decorated as a footballer, he went on to become President of Roscommon County Board and, like all involved in the All-Ireland winning teams of 1943 and ’44, he has a deserved place in the history books.

  Paying our respects in Boyle today, we met Tony Conboy, the great chronicler of Roscommon GAA, who confirmed that there are now just two players (Liam Gilmartin and Paddy Beisty) from that era who are still with us. Tony, of course, spoke glowingly of John Joe, whose passing is an emotional milestone for people in Boyle, Roscommon and beyond.  

  Sympathies to John Joe’s family. May he rest in peace.

 

Saturday

 

I like to try and keep this column pretty light-hearted, but there is no escaping the grim news that has shocked the county this weekend.

  The shocking deaths of Larry (‘Lonnie’) and Martina Hayes in the appalling terrorist attack in Tunisia was confirmed today.

  Martina (nee Kelly) was the youngest of eleven, born in Carrick, Kiltoom. All of her siblings live locally to this day, so it is fair to say that her family are deeply rooted in the community here.

  Indeed the Kelly family members are highly respected and popular, as, by all accounts, are the Hayes family members (Larry Hayes was from Garrycastle, near Athlone).

  The horrific murder of this unassuming, well-liked couple represents the first link (that I am aware of) between the sickening ‘modern terrorism’ and this county.

  ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) terrorism has impacted on an innocent family in South Roscommon.

  Our hearts go out to the victims’ daughter Sinead and extended family members.

  They are victims of actions that are barbaric and evil.

  They will know that they have the support and prayers of the people of Roscommon at this very difficult time.

 

Sunday

 

Roscommon town was hijacked (happily) by hat and boot wearing country music fans throughout Sunday – and what a day it was.

  We got to Roscommon Racecourse at around 2 o’clock for our first taste of the now annual ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars.’

  The huge number of cars, buses and camper vans was an immediate indication that there was a good crowd gathering.

  The weather stayed dry and the atmosphere was great as Ireland’s leading country acts – sixteen of them in all – took to the stage to entertain thousands of concert-goers.

  I had to leave for a little while so I missed a few of the acts, but I really enjoyed Jimmy Buckley, Lisa McHugh, Patrick Feeney and of course the headliner, Nathan Carter. Others raved about Mike Denver, Robert Mizzel and various other favourites.

  ‘Cowboy hats’ were the popular accessory of choice and it was notable (though not that surprising) to see huge number of young fans in the crowd.

  Country music, as promoter and concert MC Joe Finnegan said from the stage, is absolutely flying in Ireland just now, and these acts are packing out venues just about every night of the week.

  While I am reporting on the concert, I must say that the organisation was first class, and the success of the event underlines just how great an asset the racecourse is to the town and county.

  There were attractions for children, lots of food and drink available, magnificent stewarding, excellent free parking and a friendly Garda presence.

  Indeed the whole atmosphere on the day was friendly and good-humoured; this was a toe-tappin’ tonic for the town.

  Later, driving down Main Street, it was clear that the feelgood mood from the racecourse had been transferred to some local pubs, with country music revellers dancing on the streets and more cowboy hats in evidence than you’d see in a John Wayne classic. There seemed to be a particularly large number of country fans from Northern Ireland down for the concert and many of them stayed on to enjoy the Roscommon hospitality.  

  ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars’ was a great success and a very enjoyable experience. The fans loved every minute of it – and it was a timely boost to the local economy too.

  I’ll eat my (cowboy) hat if it doesn’t continue long into the future…

  

Next Saturday

 

Without doubt Roscommon is amongst the most GAA-obsessed places/one of the counties with the most passionate fans.

  Mayo’s have to be near or at the top of the tree; I would add in Cavan, where, as in Roscommon and Mayo, the hunger is fierce and the passion strong and unyielding.

  I know this, because I worked in Cavan for a few years (a long time ago), and, despite being starved of senior football success then – as now – the Cavan people seemed to live and breathe football.

  They weren’t slow about holding their under-performing footballers to account either; the older Cavan folk had seen truly great teams from the county and younger Cavan folk had grown up on stories of great men and great feats.

  As in Roscommon and Mayo…passionate people pining for past glories, always believing, whatever the ominous odds, in a return to the GAA’s top tier.

  I served my journalistic apprenticeship in Cavan and have fond memories of Breffni Park, a big, sprawling venue where Sunday afternoons can be mundane or magical.

  One Monday morning during my stint at the Cavan Leader (then run by Eugene McGee) I received a clear instruction to put together a few sentences on every single club game played on the previous Sunday. There were eleven. I made enquiries about all eleven matches, contacting club secretaries and PROs. In this era before mobile phones and the Internet (it was about 1988) I drew a complete blank on one game. It was Redhills versus Killygarry, I think (it was certainly Redhills).

  Desperate to please Mr. McGee, and with ten reports ‘in the can,’ I decided to cobble together two or three sentences ‘on the blind.’ (Well, it was a long time ago).

  Helpfully, the Irish Independent had published all the club results. The relevant one read something like ‘Killygarry 0-7 Redhills 0-0.’

  Knowing the previous form of both teams – but knowing nothing else about the game – I created two or three paragraphs.

  ‘Killygarry continued their winning ways….it’s a setback for Redhills….some fine points scored…Redhills will want to atone in their next game…humiliation for Redhills, who, uniquely in GAA, failed to score…’

  Being really clever, I headlined the ‘report’:

  ‘RED FACES FOR REDHILLS.’

  I suppose I will never meet the Irish Independent copy-taker who made the error. It was a misprint in the national paper. Redhills had scored 0-9, not 0-0.

  To add to my humiliation, Redhills GAA Club were running a Monster Draw (first prize was a car) and several club members were lined on Cavan’s Main Street the following morning, selling tickets and proudly standing beside the vehicle in question.

  I couldn’t even support their draw in the circumstances, given that I remained on the opposite side of the street.

  There are two conclusions to draw. Firstly, Redhills had (contrary to reports) a decent enough forward-line around 1988, and secondly, you really do need to check your facts as a journalist – and not make presumptions.

  Anyways, this Saturday Roscommon are off on that famous road to Cavan, on which the trick is not to get stuck behind a lorry.

  We travel to ‘Breffni’ to mix with the locals, great GAA people (especially the folk from Redhills) and with hopes high that John Evans and his team can rescue Roscommon’s season.

  Best of luck to Roscommon. 

Paul Healy's Week

 

Friday 

 

There is a certain magic to the words ‘John Joe Nerney.’

  There aren’t many people around who saw him in his prime but his legend is long established.

  By all accounts he was a highly accomplished footballer, and a remarkable athlete. He played club football from the 1930s to the 1970s, meaning he was lining out for Boyle when he was well into his fifties! He ran marathons into his sixties and continued to go on regular runs for many years more.

  Much decorated as a footballer, he went on to become President of Roscommon County Board and, like all involved in the All-Ireland winning teams of 1943 and ’44, he has a deserved place in the history books.

  Paying our respects in Boyle today, we met Tony Conboy, the great chronicler of Roscommon GAA, who confirmed that there are now just two players (Liam Gilmartin and Paddy Beisty) from that era who are still with us. Tony, of course, spoke glowingly of John Joe, whose passing is an emotional milestone for people in Boyle, Roscommon and beyond.  

  Sympathies to John Joe’s family. May he rest in peace.

 

Saturday

 

I like to try and keep this column pretty light-hearted, but there is no escaping the grim news that has shocked the county this weekend.

  The shocking deaths of Larry (‘Lonnie’) and Martina Hayes in the appalling terrorist attack in Tunisia was confirmed today.

  Martina (nee Kelly) was the youngest of eleven, born in Carrick, Kiltoom. All of her siblings live locally to this day, so it is fair to say that her family are deeply rooted in the community here.

  Indeed the Kelly family members are highly respected and popular, as, by all accounts, are the Hayes family members (Larry Hayes was from Garrycastle, near Athlone).

  The horrific murder of this unassuming, well-liked couple represents the first link (that I am aware of) between the sickening ‘modern terrorism’ and this county.

  ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) terrorism has impacted on an innocent family in South Roscommon.

  Our hearts go out to the victims’ daughter Sinead and extended family members.

  They are victims of actions that are barbaric and evil.

  They will know that they have the support and prayers of the people of Roscommon at this very difficult time.

 

Sunday

 

Roscommon town was hijacked (happily) by hat and boot wearing country music fans throughout Sunday – and what a day it was.

  We got to Roscommon Racecourse at around 2 o’clock for our first taste of the now annual ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars.’

  The huge number of cars, buses and camper vans was an immediate indication that there was a good crowd gathering.

  The weather stayed dry and the atmosphere was great as Ireland’s leading country acts – sixteen of them in all – took to the stage to entertain thousands of concert-goers.

  I had to leave for a little while so I missed a few of the acts, but I really enjoyed Jimmy Buckley, Lisa McHugh, Patrick Feeney and of course the headliner, Nathan Carter. Others raved about Mike Denver, Robert Mizzel and various other favourites.

  ‘Cowboy hats’ were the popular accessory of choice and it was notable (though not that surprising) to see huge number of young fans in the crowd.

  Country music, as promoter and concert MC Joe Finnegan said from the stage, is absolutely flying in Ireland just now, and these acts are packing out venues just about every night of the week.

  While I am reporting on the concert, I must say that the organisation was first class, and the success of the event underlines just how great an asset the racecourse is to the town and county.

  There were attractions for children, lots of food and drink available, magnificent stewarding, excellent free parking and a friendly Garda presence.

  Indeed the whole atmosphere on the day was friendly and good-humoured; this was a toe-tappin’ tonic for the town.

  Later, driving down Main Street, it was clear that the feelgood mood from the racecourse had been transferred to some local pubs, with country music revellers dancing on the streets and more cowboy hats in evidence than you’d see in a John Wayne classic. There seemed to be a particularly large number of country fans from Northern Ireland down for the concert and many of them stayed on to enjoy the Roscommon hospitality.  

  ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars’ was a great success and a very enjoyable experience. The fans loved every minute of it – and it was a timely boost to the local economy too.

  I’ll eat my (cowboy) hat if it doesn’t continue long into the future…

  

Next Saturday

 

Without doubt Roscommon is amongst the most GAA-obsessed places/one of the counties with the most passionate fans.

  Mayo’s have to be near or at the top of the tree; I would add in Cavan, where, as in Roscommon and Mayo, the hunger is fierce and the passion strong and unyielding.

  I know this, because I worked in Cavan for a few years (a long time ago), and, despite being starved of senior football success then – as now – the Cavan people seemed to live and breathe football.

  They weren’t slow about holding their under-performing footballers to account either; the older Cavan folk had seen truly great teams from the county and younger Cavan folk had grown up on stories of great men and great feats.

  As in Roscommon and Mayo…passionate people pining for past glories, always believing, whatever the ominous odds, in a return to the GAA’s top tier.

  I served my journalistic apprenticeship in Cavan and have fond memories of Breffni Park, a big, sprawling venue where Sunday afternoons can be mundane or magical.

  One Monday morning during my stint at the Cavan Leader (then run by Eugene McGee) I received a clear instruction to put together a few sentences on every single club game played on the previous Sunday. There were eleven. I made enquiries about all eleven matches, contacting club secretaries and PROs. In this era before mobile phones and the Internet (it was about 1988) I drew a complete blank on one game. It was Redhills versus Killygarry, I think (it was certainly Redhills).

  Desperate to please Mr. McGee, and with ten reports ‘in the can,’ I decided to cobble together two or three sentences ‘on the blind.’ (Well, it was a long time ago).

  Helpfully, the Irish Independent had published all the club results. The relevant one read something like ‘Killygarry 0-7 Redhills 0-0.’

  Knowing the previous form of both teams – but knowing nothing else about the game – I created two or three paragraphs.

  ‘Killygarry continued their winning ways….it’s a setback for Redhills….some fine points scored…Redhills will want to atone in their next game…humiliation for Redhills, who, uniquely in GAA, failed to score…’

  Being really clever, I headlined the ‘report’:

  ‘RED FACES FOR REDHILLS.’

  I suppose I will never meet the Irish Independent copy-taker who made the error. It was a misprint in the national paper. Redhills had scored 0-9, not 0-0.

  To add to my humiliation, Redhills GAA Club were running a Monster Draw (first prize was a car) and several club members were lined on Cavan’s Main Street the following morning, selling tickets and proudly standing beside the vehicle in question.

  I couldn’t even support their draw in the circumstances, given that I remained on the opposite side of the street.

  There are two conclusions to draw. Firstly, Redhills had (contrary to reports) a decent enough forward-line around 1988, and secondly, you really do need to check your facts as a journalist – and not make presumptions.

  Anyways, this Saturday Roscommon are off on that famous road to Cavan, on which the trick is not to get stuck behind a lorry.

  We travel to ‘Breffni’ to mix with the locals, great GAA people (especially the folk from Redhills) and with hopes high that John Evans and his team can rescue Roscommon’s season.

  Best of luck to Roscommon. 

Paul Healy's Week

Saturday

 

It was billed as Messi’s day – but another ‘Special M’ claimed the limelight early on Saturday with an intervention straight from the world of boyhood dreams. What a sporting moment it was, courtesy of Micheal Kelly.

  I’m not sure if a reporter or a friend or even a voice in Micheal’s head said the following to him in the days leading up to Saturday’s Nicky Rackard Cup Final, but most of us have imagined a scenario something like this at some point in our lives…

  ‘So Micheal, Roscommon are playing in a national final in Croke Park. You are the captain. Time is up…the seventy minutes have elapsed and the one minute of injury-time has elapsed. You are trailing by two points. You’re awarded a free from about twenty metres out. Your opponents fill the goal with men. You strike an unstoppable shot past everyone, high into the net, and seconds later the referee blows the final whistle. Roscommon win by a point and you collect the cup in the stand.’

  It is, as I say, the stuff of boyhood dreams. It’s no longer a dream. It did happen. Roscommon trailed hot favourites Armagh by two points after 71 minutes of today’s Nicky Rackard Cup Final. Roscommon, at one stage five behind and having had a man sent off, were heroic.

  Kelly lines up the free. Kelly lofts the sliothar into the air. Time stops still. It is his Roy of the Rovers moment. It’s his Special M moment on the very day that Messi is (again) in the world spotlight. It’s Micheal’s boyhood dreams paused. Then the strike, which looks more fabulous every time you see it.

  For Micheal Kelly, you could say that it was the moment when hurling and history and hope all rhymed. And well done to the entire panel and management and ‘backroom’ folk; it was a victory secured by skill and courage, and a welcome boost for Roscommon hurling.

  (In ‘other news’, Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a 3-1 win over Juventus in an entertaining Champions League Cup Final).

 

Sunday

 

In the ‘LIFE’ magazine in the Sunday Independent, they’ve asked ‘Ireland’s best known people’ what the secret to happiness is. ‘Ireland’s best known people, from Bertie Ahern to Chris de Burg’ is the slightly less than appetising cover headline.

  I had a quick look, and was stunned to discover that Miriam O’Callaghan wasn’t amongst those interviewed. Cue a serious fall in happiness levels all over the country, one assumes.

  Still, all wasn’t lost: Imagine my relief when I found that Gerald Kean, Lucinda Creighton, Rosanna Davison and Mary O’Rourke had been included amongst the contributors.

  Happy days!

 

Monday

 

We’re used to seeing the odd television and assorted items appearing in drains near where we live, as people persist with littering our otherwise beautiful countryside.

  This morning, at Casey’s roundabout at ‘round about’ 9.20 am, there suddenly emerged from the car in front of me a bag of crisps (Hunky Dorys, no less) which was brazenly dumped on to the road.

  Yes, a half-full bag of Hunky Dorys, its contents spewing all over the place, flung from a moving car on a sunny morning at a roundabout in Roscommon town – in full view of other motorists.

  By the way, the Tidy Towns judges are due to visit in June and/or July.

  Perhaps this less than ‘hunky dory’ motorist had just decided to start a diet at that very moment. As in ‘It’s Monday morning, I’m starting today!’ But they could at least have waited until they got home…

 

All week

 

Cute hoorism has not been completely banished from the land. In decades gone by, it was to be found in every town and village in Ireland, and in every walk of life.

  Then cute hoorism was outed and attempts were made to remove it from Irish society. Initially it looked like this process had been a significant success, but we were only fooling ourselves.

  It turns out that cute hoorism, like golden circles, is extremely difficult to completely eradicate.

  Over the past week or so, the FAI boss John Delaney’s conduct has reminded us that cute hoorism is alive and well. I didn’t hear his interview with Ray D’Arcy at the time, but Delaney had already been grating on me in the days after the FIFA scandal broke.

  Delaney was popping up in the papers virtually every day, invariably with a righteous perspective on the FIFA story. It was becoming tedious; then the ‘€5m payment to the FAI’ story broke.

  Now one can argue for or against the €5m payment, but what many people are increasingly feeling uncomfortable with when it comes to Delaney is his demeanour, how he conducts himself.

  He may be a really nice man, but too often his behaviour lacks the dignity one would associate with his prestigious position. In the interview with Ray D’Arcy, Delaney began by saying he didn’t like Sepp Blatter’s “modus operandi” and “style” and accused him of having a big ego. One might say much the same of Delaney.

  This was a crass interview by the FAI man, in which Delaney took every opportunity to be scathing of Blatter and to try and come across as a cool, clean hero. He scoffed at Blatter’s alleged staring at Delaney’s girlfriend; boasted that he had used expletives to put the FIFA chief in his place; even said, with a condescending chuckle, “he’s four foot something” when asked what height Blatter is (he’s five foot seven!).

  What was the purpose of all this childishness? It was to reinforce the sense of Delaney as a man of the people, a tough-talking hero who gets things done, a nice guy with the common touch. I don’t think it worked; Delaney, who went on to take credit for the now infamous €5m payment, merely reminded us that cute hoorism is alive and well.

  Still, let’s not kick a man when he’s down. Delaney should learn his lesson. He should remain in office, concentrate on what he’s good at – and rein in his ego.

 

 

 

Paul Healy's Week

 

Friday 

The late and great Bill O’Herlihy was laid to rest today, following a sudden departure which has touched hundreds of thousands of people.

  I had a chance today to throw in my tuppence worth on the life and times of Bill on the Joe Finnegan Show on Shannonside Radio.

  The point I made, and reiterate now, is that Bill would have been considered a journalistic giant even if he never hosted a single RTE soccer programme. His career as a current affairs journalist and his work on events such as the Olympic Games (and much more besides) would have justified many plaudits on his passing, but it was his anchoring of memorable, often classic RTE panel discussions on soccer matches that cemented his place in our hearts.

  Often while watching Bill and John Giles and Eamonn Dunphy and Liam Brady, I’ve found myself thinking this can’t continue, this magic will have to end some time. These particularly good times, in the bosom of these characters, couldn’t go on forever. An era ended when Bill retired last year, but at least we knew he was still around, still, as Enda Kenny said, a national treasure. What we didn’t expect, was his untimely passing.

  Although it has occasionally lapsed into caricature territory in recent years, the RTE soccer coverage has been truly great, and frequently fans tuned in for the debates, with the actual on-field action being secondary. Bill’s anchoring of the arguments, full-scale rows and humorous exchanges, was invariably brilliant.

  The chemistry between Bill and Giles, Dunphy and Brady led to years of heartwarming, memorable viewing. He was indeed a national treasure; a genial broadcaser who put a smile on our faces. What can we say only ‘thanks for the memories, Bill.’

 

Later on Friday...

The taxi-ing (of our children) continues; I’m not complaining ¬– just observing. On Friday night there was a ‘youth disco’ in Roscommon town, and what an experience it is (for ‘first-time’ parents). Hundreds of people who, not that long ago, used to queue to go to discos on a Friday night, now queued to park outside a disco and watch as their teenage offspring retraced the steps their parents took in the 1980s and 1990s.

  What excitement for the parents…drop the kids off, then back to watch a bit of the Late Late, keep checking the watch/mobile phone, then back into town to join the slightly chaotic queue of vehicles in the carpark, the cars slowly twisting and turning in the dark, a bit reminiscent of one of those slow sets inside Rockford’s twenty years or so ago.

  The excitement level rises further as we pop over to Forte’s takeaway, where every other customer is a slightly sheepish looking father who wants a bag of chips and the ‘thud, thud’ sound from the nightclub across the road to end.

  The slightly sheepish fathers talk, and all agree that it wasn’t like this when we were teenagers, because our parents wouldn’t be sitting waiting in their cars to collect us. (We had no mobile phones either, etc., etc.)

  After a bit of salt and vinegar and knowing nods, it’s back to the carpark, where our peers are twisting and turning their cars in the dark, as the teenagers begin to emerge from the youth disco in a blur of energy, happiness and chatter. The ‘thud, thud’ is easing. I don’t know what music it is, but there doesn’t seem to be any reference to a little ditty about Jack & Diane…

Saturday 

When we were kids, we lined up in the schoolyard to play football, waiting first for that often awkward process whereby the teams are picked by two of the natural leaders amongst our peers pointing a finger at their preferred choices. It could be an unpleasant experience. The names were called out without sensitivity.

  This was no space for sensitivity.

  As friends were summoned to the left or right, you felt more and more self-conscious as you waited for confirmation of your role in the pecking order. If you were called out even halfway through this process, you were relieved, happy. If you were second-last to be picked for a team, you made the most of it and ruthlessly took comfort from the fact that some poor soul was left behind as you shuffled towards your waiting team-mates.

  If you were the last boy standing, it could be a lonely experience, but you just got on with it; maybe next time you’d get the nod earlier.

  For some reason I thought of all of this as I watched the FA Cup Final today. It struck me that if the Aston Villa and Arsenal players had lined up in one big group, like we used to do in the schoolyard, anyone picking one team from the starting 22 would probably have selected eleven Arsenal players. So the game went according to logic, with Villa simply outclassed by Arsenal. Arsenal played the beautiful game in that sublime way they often do. (They won 4-0).

  Meanwhile, I note that, after scoring another great goal tonight (this time against Athletic Bilbao) Lionel Messi’s still doing it like we did in the schoolyard. Lionel generally got picked early in the schoolyard when he was a young boy.

Sunday 

There’s a nice buzz in Roscommon Golf Club tonight, where prizes are being presented to winners of various competitions throughout the month of May. Something most speakers refer to is the success of the Irish Seniors Open, hosted by the club last week.

  I was having a quiet pint during the week when I got chatting to a Scottish man who was over to play in the Open. I left my Irish Independent down and asked him about his experience here. He spoke with great enthusiasm about the tournament and the hospitality.

  He lavished praise on Roscommon Golf Club, on the hotels and bars in the town, and on the warmth of the welcome received from local people. This golfer has played in Ireland – both North and South – about three times a year over the years, but had never been to Roscommon before.

  I gather that his ‘review’ was typical of the positive feedback for Roscommon’s hosting of the tournament, in which about 120 players participated. Well done to everyone associated with Roscommon Golf Club, including new GUI President Michael Connaughton, on a successful week which reminds us all of the amenities we have in this locality and of the endless potential there is for the continued promotion of Roscommon as a tourist destination.

  My Scottish friend returned to his company with the drinks he had ordered. I returned to my Irish Independent, proud as punch of Roscommon.

Monday 

The weather battered the county today. What a shame for the organisers of the festival in Ballyleague and the festival and fair in Athleague.

  It’s the first of June, and weather-wise, it’s a shocker. Sean Browne in Castlerea, who has a trained eye for a good photo, emails me one of a man putting up a billboard in Castlerea in the middle of an unforgiving downpour.

  The poor man was getting soaked but he stuck manfully to his task, precariously standing on a ladder and securing the advertisement in place. The billboard read: ‘It’s Summer’!

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