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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week - 18th December

 
Paul Healy on a dodgy plumber with attitude; Mario and Willie’s duet; the wilting X Factor; the Minister for People Being More Important Than Fish…and Seamus Sweeney and Sam…
It could have happened…

Looking back, we should never have got that plumber in. He was down from Dublin, looking for a bit of work, and – regrettably – we asked him to do a few odd jobs around our house.

Fair enough, he was full of enthusiasm, hyper in fact, but from the very beginning I thought he had a bit of attitude. On day one, he tackled our bathroom, and I was rightly put out when, instead of fixing the shower, he seemed to spend the whole day preening his rather over-the-top ginger beard.

Weird, I remember thinking. We should never have hired that plumber.

By day two I had no option but to tell him to get a move on, get his act together. He responded by glaring at me and then suddenly adopting a bizarre pose, whereby he crouched down like some maniac, making himself no taller than the kitchen sink that he was meant to be unblocking. You’re an idiot, I muttered, you’ll be on the scrapheap in a year or two.

By day three, my patience was really wearing thin. None of our plumbing problems had been sorted, and by now the hairy poser was almost out of control. We came home from work for a bite to eat at lunchtime and he was somersaulting around the kitchen and karate-kicking the cat. There was absolutely no need for that.

I had to challenge this useless plumber, once I got him to stand still. “You’re no good” I said, “you’ll never get anywhere in life.” Undeterred, he jumped onto our couch and began punching cushions furiously. “You’re not worth whatever few bob you plan to charge” I said. “About five million” he said with a strange smile, “and by the way, I will fix that bath – failure is not an option.” I was on the point of giving him an early bath.

By day four it was just getting ridiculous. We came home to find the self-styled ‘Dublin’s finest plumber’ prancing around on the trampoline in the garden, rebounding off the netting and waving his fists manically. “I belong in this ring” he bellowed at me, doing that now familiar annoying glare of his. I’d had enough. If I wasn’t such a pacifist I’d have clattered him, and I can’t imagine he’d have mustered much resistance.

I decided to pay him off. I reached for the chequebook. “Make it out to Conor,” he said, as he held our cat down in some ludicrous wrestling grip. “Conor McGregor…and remember the name.” Yeah, right. I’ve heard of dodgy tradesmen, but that guy was just notorious.

Saturday

The old Sky Plus thing is great all the same. Recording stuff is handy when you’re too busy to see it in ‘real time’ – as we are at this time of year.

So we record bits and pieces and then when the Roscommon People is out in the shops, we might catch up later in the week. I worked Saturday, so I had to record the draw for EURO 2016.

I still haven’t checked to see how the Republic of Ireland got on, but as long as we avoided Italy (I’m nervous about them) I’m happy. Oh, and as long as we avoided the number one team in the world as well, then great.

And as long as we avoided that team that Ibrahimovic plays for as well, we should be alright. I also recorded the Conor McGregor fight. I don’t bother with the long introductions, so I set it to record after about 20, or maybe 14 or 15, seconds into the bout. Can’t wait to watch it…

Some night, then repeated…

I have been avoiding Mario Rosenstock’s new TV series – because I generally don’t find it funny. To be fair to Mr. Rosenstock and Oliver Callan, their emergence into our lives in recent years has been very welcome. Post the ‘breakfast roll boom’ and the collapse that followed it, the people of Ireland were given one choice. Laugh or cry.

Mario and Oliver at least gave us the option of laughing sometimes. They were very funny, they held ‘important people’ up to ridicule, and it was sharp comedy that worked.

On radio. Unfortunately, I don’t think their exploits transfer that well to television. I did come across Mario’s show the other night and, once again, most of it fell flat.

Taking Rosenstock’s ‘impressions’ to television has led to, at best, hit and miss comedy, I feel. His ‘Vincent Browne’ is woefully unfunny. On the other hand, or other wig, his ‘Miriam O’Callaghan’ is very good. His ‘Marty Morrissey’ makes for rather compelling viewing.

I credit Mario and his team on some very inventive ideas for sketches, but taking his comedy from radio to television isn’t the smoothest transition. As with any impressionist, the effect suffers when they don’t particularly physically resemble the subject of their impression. Still, the series has its moments.

The other night I thought the cringe factor would be unbearable when I saw Mario, as Joan Burton, preparing to sing a duet with the real Willie O’Dea. As it turned out, for some weird reason, their version of ‘I Got You Babe’ turned out to be quite funny. Of course some people would say that Willie O’Dea has been doing a comedy routine for years.

Sunday

We haven’t bothered with the wilting X Factor this year (I find it lacks the suspense of Telly Bingo). But, with a bug ‘going around’ and checking in on most of us, we saw a fair bit of telly in recent days – and just happened to come across the final moments of the final of the X Factor.

If you missed it, here are the highlights: Lots of screaming/you just nailed it/ad breaks/are you nervous?/I just want to thank everyone who voted for me/do you know, I can’t call this…it’s that close… Followed by… I’ve dreamt about this day all my life/I cannot speak/It feels like I’m living a dream/Oh my God!/This is surreal, etc.

What that translates into is that some new wannabee emerged from the pack. Mind you, she’s a nice singer, and I wish her well. As for the judges, Simon Cowell looked as smug as ever and I must say that Louis Walsh must have had ‘something done’ as he looks younger than ever.

Oh, don’t say they replaced poor Louis?

Tuesday

According to a headline on a two-page spread in today’s Irish Independent, Minister Simon Harris has declared that “people are more important than fish.”

Just to clarify: “People are more important than fish.” I’m impressed. It’s leadership. In the war against flooding, I suppose it’s a start…

Tuesday

Fair play to new County Board Chairperson Seamus Sweeney, who has declared, as he takes up the reins, that winning the Sam Maguire Cup remains the ultimate goal for Roscommon. I could understand why there was a bit of an outcry when former manager John Evans spoke of winning ‘Sam’ within five years.

While I liked Evans’ blunt style, that was kind of putting pressure on his young players. It was almost imposing a deadline, certainly creating a hostage to fortune. It’s quite a different thing for our premier GAA office-holder to clearly state where our ambition lies.

Sure, there’s no short-term prospect of winning Sam, but Seamus Sweeney is absolutely right to remind the Roscommon GAA family of the ‘ultimate goal.’ After all, we consider ourselves to be a serious GAA county. We are a serious GAA county.

And hasn’t winning Sam been our ‘goal’ since the first ball was thrown in at the start of the 1945 Championship?

Paul Healy's Week - 11th December

Paul Healy on heroic community resistance in Athleague as the ‘ghost of floods past’ threatens to visit again; the need to get Jeremy Kyle off the telly in the County Hospital…and an urgent call on people to use that hospital more…
Sunday evening

Athleague, 8.40 pm. It’s dark, still, almost eerily quiet. All evening there have been ominous vibes, text messages, a sense of foreboding.

Turning into the village, it’s a relief to see no actual flooding (yet), but the sight of hundreds of sandbags forming a protective embrace around private houses and businesses is deeply worrying.

Driving into the heart of Athleague, and dozens of volunteers are suddenly in view, clad in hi-viz jackets, their faces stern, worried, but determined too, a tapestry of humankind at work. Most concern is centred on the vicinity of the community centre, with fears that water will soon penetrate its defences.

The atmosphere is sombre; the sense of foreboding won’t leave. How do you stop nature? How, in particular, can you reason with rain? In the houses along Athleague’s Main Street, curtains are open, rooms are lit up; it’s as if normality is wrestling with fear. You know that the residents, tormented by the spectre of history repeating itself, are grappling for answers that are wrapped inside the mystery of the hours and days that are slowly coming

. Outside the Bridge House pub, there’s a generator, more sandbags, and locals huddled together. We turn. There are familiar faces, but it’s not a night for intrusion, not beyond a quick hello, a wave of awkward solidarity. Passing the community centre again, and in the falling darkness there are the outlines of the faces of heroes. The volunteers have been working day and night to try to stem the ghost of 2009 as it threatens to return.

Athleague is dripping in heroicism. A similar resistance is underway in other parts of the county and region. But there is something about Athleague, this homely village that was ambushed by the floods in 2009, that fought back, and that is now under threat again.

And yet you are left with a clear sense that no matter what nature does, the people are beyond being defeated. Passing the Church on the way home to Roscommon, we leave the heroes at their toil, everyone waiting for the mystery of the coming hours to reveal itself.

Recently…

There I was, sitting in the Urgent Care Centre in Roscommon Hospital, and not another patient to be seen. I wasn’t in urgent care for any urgent reason, by the way.

Anyways, I was pleased to see that the Jeremy Kyle Show wasn’t on the telly, because any time I’ve been in the hospital over the years, the tiresome Kyle with his tiresome guests and his head-wrecking topics always seems to be on a telly nearby. Not very suitable viewing for patients in their beds, I’ve often thought…

Anyways, there was no sign or sound of Jeremy, but then I realised that it was some sort of a TV3 lifestyle show that was on this time, and Martin King was holding court. He was soon doing my head in. Are the HSE imposing Jeremy and Martin on hospital-users for some dark reason?

Anyways, to get to the two serious points that I want to make. Firstly, I have pleasure in reporting that the quality of care provided by staff at Roscommon County Hospital continues to be fantastic. Secondly, is this Urgent Care Centre being greviously under-used by the public? I strongly suspect that this is the case. On the occasion of one of my recent visits, I was the only person present, over a long period.

Later, I got the views of a few people, and it would be fair to say that there is some concern that low ‘throughput’ in the Urgent Care Centre is a worry and could have implications in the future. Are some GPs in the county referring, to hospitals in other counties, patients who could instead be referred to Roscommon? Are some members of the public confused about what services are available in Roscommon, and at what times, and do these people just decide to go to Ballinasloe or Galway without giving our local hospital due consideration?

The A&E may be gone – don’t worry, we’ll mention the ‘war’ again here soon – but, if anything, that makes it more important than ever to ‘use’ Roscommon Hospital. I should say that on one of my recent visits to the Urgent Care Centre there were about ten patients ahead of me. Ten patients, and one TV above us.

That was the day I sat through two episodes of Judge Judy.

Paul Healy's Week - 4th December

Paul Healy on talking to Joe; Ryan Tubridy’s jumper; Roscommon treasure John’s memories of the Snug; A singing Santa in his Santamobile and er…young people and politics…

Friday morning

I’m sitting in the Shannonside Radio Studios, as a guest on the ‘Review of the Week’ panel. Host Joe Finnegan is asking one of the other guests whether or not the banking enquiry – approximate cost €5m – has been “good value” for the Irish people.

As the very pleasant IFA man from Longford addresses a value for money question (story of his week, no doubt), the Sinn Fein candidate (a Cavan woman) sitting beside me has some notes on the banking enquiry scribbled down in front of her.

Good idea… I realise that I haven’t passed any heed on the banking enquiry for several weeks, not since Bertie Ahern emerged from obscurity to confound his critics with a confident appearance. The banking enquiry? Is that really still trundling along? Is that where Joe Higgins has been hiding?

I prepare my thoughts, i.e. it’s a waste of money, the public have no interest in it, it’s been politicised beyond rescue, we’ve learnt nothing and it’s time to move on. Joe seems happy enough with that. I had meant to say something even more profound; that the Irish people were far more preoccupied last Friday with what jumper Ryan Tubridy would be wearing on the Toy Show than they are with the discredited autopsy on our banking collapse.

Friday evening

They say you learn something new every day, and this evening I learn that John Kerrigan has a fine singing voice. John is a well-known historian, who lives in his beloved Henry Street, of which he is a native.

This evening he’s launching his DVD, ‘Memories of the Snug’, in which John reminisces about the two quaint snugs which are at the front of the landmark JJ Harlow’s bar in Roscommon town, which John aptly describes as a “a truly authentic old-style pub.”

When John, who is now in his 70s, was a small boy, his grandmother regularly brought him to the snug in Harlow’s, and to this day he has fond memories of the “gracious old ladies in black shawls” who gathered there for a glass of stout and a chat, and for whom the small, partitioned-off snug was like “a confessional.”

On Friday night, there’s a great crowd present for the launch. After welcoming guests, John introduces the DVD. The lights go down and the audience savours what follows.

It’s a lovely trip down memory lane, with John regaling us with his memories and providing insights into the various antiques/old photographs adorning the walls and shelves of the pub. It’s a very stylish production (well done Mimar Media in Athleague).

There’s a great story about John writing a poem about Lady Betty (the infamous Hangwoman) on beermats, and references to products and town personalities from the past that will prove nostalgic for people.

A real highlight of the DVD is John’s singing of some songs from his childhood. Like I say, I’ve now discovered that John is a fine singer! When the screening ends, there’s a big round of applause.

John swivels around in his front row seat, takes a bow, then, glass of whiskey in hand, he poses a question… “Why would a man of my age take on this project? Because I want to leave something behind of lasting value.”

It was an emotional moment really. He will leave a lot behind, and he has lots more to do. He is a historian who delights in passing his extensive knowledge of the town on to younger generations. This he does through speaking in schools, hosting tours, writing extensively and now in DVD form.

Truly a one-off, John Kerrigan is a town treasure.

* ‘Memories of The Snug’ is a beautiful DVD which I highly recommend. A great Christmas gift, but make sure to get a copy for yourself too! It is likely to be particularly cherished by people with any association with Roscommon town ‘in the old days.’ It’s available now (€15) in ETL, Roscommon and in JJ Harlow’s.

Friday night

There are times during the year when the Late Late Show in general and Mr. Tubridy himself can leave you screaming at the telly. Or just switching channels…

But there’s no doubt about it, the golden boy is excellent at hosting the annual Toy Show. It seems he can sing too – and dance. I didn’t think it was one of the great Late Late Toy Shows, but it was still good, and Ryan Tubridy was superb.

In the great Toy Show tradition, he wore a ‘fun’ jumper; meanwhile the studio audience were weighed down with presents, leaving the television audience at home gritting its collective teeth!

Midst the many new toys, it was great to see ‘The Field’ – created by Castlecoote man Padraic Cuddy – featuring prominently, and I hope it’s a huge success for the local entrepreneur.

Sunday

Santa was in great form when he arrived in Roscommon town on Sunday – and he can sing too! He mesmerised the huge crowds as he eased through the Main Street on his special Santamobile, disembarking at the Square, greeting his captivated audience, leading all present in a few festive songs, and then formally switching on the Christmas lights.

This man gets around even more than Enda. It was a wonderful evening, with local business people playing a blinder as they handed out complimentary hot drinks to cold but happy (and grateful) members of the public.

As ever, the Christmas lights in the county town are excellent. Congratulations to all involved in the project. I know that similar tremendous work is being done in other towns and villages and well done to all of the volunteers involved.

There is real anecdotal ‘evidence’ of a budding revival in our fortunes, I think. And it is obvious that the Council/community Town Teams are playing an important role in this. Anyways, and not to digress too much, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll have received confirmation that John Kerrigan, Ryan Tubridy and Santa can all sing.

Tuesday

Ah, we give out about them, but you have to admire how in touch the political parties are with the young people of this country.

Like our son. He’s five.

See, four years ago, certainly not because of any political leaning, but because I am friendly with the ticket seller, I signed up (in a moment of weakness) to a ‘super draw’ which one of the political parties was running. (First prize: A recession, but I digress!).

Anyways, in that peculiar tradition whereby doting parents put a child’s (one of their own) name on a ticket, I put down our son’s name. Our son, Matthew, was only a few months old at the time.

Now the political party in question writes to Matthew every year, asking if he’d like to buy a (€50) ticket for the super draw.

The letter is personally addressed to Matthew. I’m in a real dilemma, because I know if I ask Matthew if he’d like to fork out €50 on this, he’ll probably want something else. Like a dinosaur, or a character from Star Wars (The Force Awakens).

Mind you, the letter to Matthew is very nicely worded. The thoughtful political party in question makes a point of thanking Matthew for everything he has done and “continues to do” for the party.

Surely just a bit of scribbling on leaflets over the years? Or has our five-year-old son been secretly helping the party formulate policy, even as he keeps one eye on Spongebob Squarepants?

Anyways, decisions, decisions… Will Matthew commit €50 (not that he has it) to help “deliver a fairer Ireland for all”…or suggest some other cause for the money?

See you in the dinosaur section of the toy store, I imagine.

Resilient response to Paris atrocities shows that good can overcome evil

It’s a nice enough Monday morning after a wild (weather-wise) weekend but l suppose it’s understandable that there is no other story dominating world headlines more than the terrible atrocity that took place in the French Capital, Paris, on last Friday night.

Over 130 people were coldly and callously murdered as they went about their ordinary everyday business, by Islamic state suicide terrorists, while another 352 were injured, with almost one hundred of them being in a critical condition.

Without being a medical genius, it’s safe to assume that there will be another good few fatalities from those injuries, so a night out at such diverse things as a soccer match, and a rock concert, or just having a meal or a drink, was to end for so many people in unimaginable tragedy.

As an ordinary Joe Soap who is no expert on international conflicts, and who doesn’t really understand who is to blame for allowing such a thing to happen, the huge fear is that it seems almost impossible to prevent such a random series of attacks from taking place.

Up to now there seems to have been some misguided reasoning behind their attacks like the one on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, but the terrifying thing about Friday night’s massacre was the fact that everyone and anyone was a target – men, women or children, it made no difference.

However the big thing for us all is to carry on doing all the normal things that people do and it does appear as if the population of Paris is resilient, courageous and determined not to let the terrorists bring down their city.

It’s another example of good defying evil, and hopefully good will come out on top. All we can do is remember the dead and injured in our prayers.

‘Drama in the hall’

Changing subjects entirely and many years ago when I was a young lad, before the arrival of televisions and all other modern entertainment gadgets, people came up with all kinds of ways to amuse themselves and we can all remember different acts coming regularly to the local national schools.

Punch and Judy shows were always popular, and there were magicians, clowns, jugglers and comedians (some not so magical or funny) calling every month or two, and as children we would always look forward to the visits of the travelling snow people.

Out in the world inhabited by the adults, local halls played a huge part in providing entertainment for the parishioners, and, in my time, I can recall boxing tournaments, badminton, indoor soccer, concerts, fashion shows, dances, discos (not in my time), and parties of every kind taking place in our local St. Mary’s Kilbegnet Hall. And of course there was the drama.

Over the years many many top class productions have been put on on the Kilbegnet stage, most of which raised badly-needed funds for several worthy causes, and all of which were staged in front of packed houses.

And so I am delighted to tell you that on this Friday night (20th) the Kilbegnet drama group are staging a three-act play by AJ Stanley in Kilbegnet Hall with doors opening at 8 pm.

It’s a poignant moment for the local drama group, as its their first production since they were devastated by the recent very sad deaths of two of their most prominent members, Theresa O’Rourke and Maria Maloney, and I ask you all to get there early and support a very worthwhile local effort. You will not be disappointed!

Remembering road accident victims

Back to tragedy, and yesterday was the World Day of Remembrance for road traffic victims, and there was a memorial service held in a Dublin Church, as family members of those who had died gathered to remember their loved ones by placing a leaf bearing their name on a tree of remembrance, and by placing a candle on the altar.

Each week some new families are left distraught and heartbroken by the tragic death of a family member in a road accident, and only last week we saw two young lady drivers, a male driver and a male cyclist, all killed in horrific crashes.

I don’t think any family, or indeed communities, ever forget or get over the effects of road traffic deaths, and one of the major factors in such accidents is excessive speed. I have many faults as a driver (or so I’m told), but speeding is not one of them, and, if anything, I am told that I go too slow.

And so this morning I conducted a little experiment on my way to work in Lynn Antiques in Athlone, and I was surprised at the results. I decided to stick rigidly to the 100 km speed limit and waited to see how many cars would pass me.

I eventually felt like the Pied Piper, with a long line of cars behind me, something I actually hate, and even though they had loads of chances to do so, believe it or not, only one driver sped by me.

And even that’s not fair, because having got past me, whoever it was didn’t put down the boot, but stayed just slightly ahead of me. Now it doesn’t prove anything, but at least this morning, motorists were obeying the speed limits, and let’s hope they continue to do so all the time, and especially, over the Christmas period.

From antiques to technological era…

The big news, before I finish up, is that today’s piece marks my first ever email, and so it’s a historic day for me (definitely worth a Christmas Party) and even more so for Serena, Martha and Martina and all the others who have had to try to decipher my scribbles over the last six years.

As I’m doing it on my new shop tablet, I have to thank Lynn Antiques for bringing me into the technological era. I don’t mean any of that last bit, but I don’t know how to clear this yoke yet, so I’m sure they’ll read this, but they can’t give out to me, as I’ve mentioned them twice.

* (This email breakthrough is truly a media milestone, a historic day – on behalf of all in the Roscommon People, thanks for making the move, Frank! – Editor).

And finally…

Finally for this week its hard to believe it, but on Saturday, 28th of November the launch of the 21st Barrie Harris Walk takes place in Mikeen Roarke’s in Creggs when the sponsorship cards will be given out.

Everyone who reads my piece will know how important the walk is for raising funds for very many charities so let you all come to Mikeen’s, get your cards, and raise as much money as you can. I will fill you in next week, so, from my first email…

‘Till next week,

Bye for now

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy…on meeting a remarkable Roscommon-born priest; Ciaran Mullooly’s book launch (and Enda’s moustache); terror in Paris; watching Ireland’s crunch Euro 2016 tie by fast-forwarding; …and Anthony Cunningham’s ‘Kangaroo Court’…

Thursday

Today I meet a remarkable Roscommon man. Fr. Gerry O’Rourke, now in his 91st year, is in impressive physical condition and presently enjoying a holiday ‘home from America.’ He is a nephew of the late, great Dan O’Rourke and spent almost his entire childhood living in Abbey Street, Roscommon. Fr. Gerry has spent most of his 65 years (to date) in the priesthood in America, and is currently based in California. His has been no ordinary life; he has been to the forefront of many prominent and well-received initiatives, including in the area of peace and reconciliation amongst people (across the world) of diverse religious and political backgrounds. Fr. O’Rourke will concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in Rome next week; before that, he got to talk to me about Roscommon GAA, his life and times – and Fianna Fail!.

Friday

There are no plans (yet) for Ciaran Mullooly to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis (see previous item), but the RTE Midlands Correspondent is surely in the good books of the Catholic Church following his acclaimed documentary (first shown on RTE last Christmas) on the restoration of St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford.

Fresh from his successful foray into the world of documentary-making with ‘The Longford Phoenix,’ Ciaran has now published a book in which he reflects on challenges facing rural Ireland.

Many of Ciaran’s experiences over thirty years working as a journalist are alluded to in a book which is part-social history, part-political and part-biographical. Partly-based on Ciaran’s always thought-provoking columns in the Roscommon Champion, the book is a considered overview of life in rural Ireland, and an exploration of how – working together within our communities – we can deal with the challenges we face.

The Roscommon town launch of ‘Back to the Future’ took place in the County Library on Friday evening and a very enjoyable occasion it was.

Speakers complimented the author on both his work as a journalist and his community endeavours, to the point where Ciaran quipped that it was like being present at his own funeral!

Ciaran, if he’s reading this, should look away now, because I will take this opportunity of praising him further (normal service will resume shortly).

In between his family commitments and responsibilities for RTE, Ciaran is, as I noted on Friday night, a great community activist. I’ve seen him operating at close range; his energy, passion and forward-thinking approach are attributes that have significantly helped communities in counties Longford and Roscommon.

There are of course many other volunteers in our community who do similar work; their resilience, ambition and collective endeavour is needed now more than ever. As I said on Friday night, ‘more Ciaran Mulloolys’ in our community would be greatly to the benefit of rural Ireland.

As for the book, I very much recommend it. The book addresses, with just the right journalistic edge, issues affecting this area – the author by times challenging both himself and the reader, by times putting forward possible solutions to problems affecting this region. Ciaran writes movingly about the loss of family members – particularly poignantly about his late mother’s experience of Alzheimer’s.

Some of the proceeds from sales of the book are being donated to the Carers Association. It’s great to see ‘local’ books being published. We are taking the fight to the Internet! ‘Back to the Future’ is a great read and an ideal Christmas present.

People present…

The book launch was performed by Roscommon town actor Enda Oates. I hadn’t met Enda in about seven or eight years and didn’t recognise him at first; it turns out he’s sporting a fine moustache, as he’s playing the part of James Connolly in an upcoming series on the 1916 Rising which will be broadcast on TG4.

The assumption that people in the acting profession live an entirely glamorous life has long been debunked and it is now widely accepted that, for the vast majority of actors, making a living and getting regular work can be a struggle.

Happily, Enda’s career seems to be peaking in recent years and he is popping up regularly on our television screens (and in theatre and film). He is now, without question, established as one of our most popular, hardest-working, most-in-demand and most accomplished actors and, as Ciaran Mullooly said on Friday night, we in Roscommon are suitably proud of Enda’s achievements and ongoing success.

The attendance included public representatives, community leaders, friends of Ciaran and Angela Mullooly and many colleagues from community organisations which the RTE Midlands Correspondent is involved in.

Fresh from a very respectable showing in that morning’s Seanad Bye-Election was Dr. Keith Swanick, who arrived at the launch in great form and looking very like a politician of the future.

Dr. Keith, a Castlerea native who is based in Mayo, won’t be seeking a nomination for Fianna Fail in the forthcoming General Election, but he has his sights set on a Senate seat.

We chatted to Michael and Eileen Fahey. Eileen, a great community champion in Kilteevan, was looking forward to the following morning’s Pride of Place Awards, but not expecting further accolades beyond those already gained by the local Development Group’s inclusion as one of the nominees.

As it turned out, there would be cause for further local ‘Pride of Place’ celebrations, as both Kilteevan Community and the Roscommon Lions Club sponsored Quad Youth Centre project in Roscommon town were recognised with awards on Saturday. Congratulations to both!

Saturday/Sunday

The shock-waves following the terror attacks in Paris continue to reverberate around the world. Paris is a majestic, wonderful city with fabulous architecture, many beautiful sights – a certain grace and majesty – and populated by a proud people.

It is heartbreaking to think that this great city is now living on its nerves, a regular target for random and senseless and despicable attacks.

However, in the days since the attacks, it has been heartening, inspirational indeed, to see and hear people in France and throughout the world insist that they will continue to live life as normally as possible, in defiance of the terrorists. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Monday

We were on the road, driving, as the match kicked off. How does that happen? I guess it just does happen sometimes. I know many people are less smitten now by the exploits of the Irish soccer team than in the past, but still, this was a big, big occasion…

Yet, despite it being a big event, I’m on the road, in the car, nowhere near a television screen. The kids are insisting on ‘The Kinks’ CD being played (it’s flavour of the month in our car at the moment).

This suited me, ‘cos I had recorded Ireland v Bosnia & Herzegovina, and didn’t want Newstalk or RTE Radio giving me any update on the game. By 8.20 pm or so, making sure not to check my mobile, I was clueless as to how the game was going and getting closer to home.

‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ was blaring out and I was the only one in the car aware of the unfolding crisis. Great song, but it was time to find out how Ireland were doing.

When I finally got home to the remote, a decision to make: go live to the game – or race through what had already been recorded? I did the latter, fast-forwarding every time there was a throw-in or any such stoppage, but, needless to say, I saw Ireland take the lead in fast-forward mode, not as it happened.

So I had to rewind to see the penalty decision, all of the suspense drained, as I already knew that the spot-kick would be successful. At (my) half-time, I skipped the ads and the three wise men (Dunphy, Giles and Brady).

I began fast-forwarding through the still-recording second half, desperately trying to catch up with the live action at the Aviva. Every now and again I pressed ‘pause’, but the temptation to speed it up remained (fast tempo to this game, actually).

Yep, sure enough, I missed the second goal in real time. While fast-forwarding, I suddenly gleaned that there were more ecstatic celebrations, so I re-wound to see the goal. I finally caught up with the live version of the game with about a minute to go. I don’t know about the Irish players, but I was certainly mentally exhausted by the full-time whistle.

Tuesday

Today’s papers have extensive coverage of the confirmed demise – in instalments – of Anthony Cunningham’s doomed management of the Galway senior hurlers.

Cunningham bowed to the inevitable on Monday night, bringing an unseemly saga to a close by stepping down.

He parted with a strongly-worded press statement, in the course of which he complained bitterly of being the victim of a ‘kangaroo court.’ I share his sentiments. My view is no doubt an old-fashioned one that some people will feel is tunnel-visioned, but I think so-called ‘player power’ stinks.

Players should play, managers should manage and administrators, who are answerable to the clubs, should deal with the business end of things.

Anthony Cunningham has been treated appallingly and I suspect the players have only succeeded in putting more time and space between Galway hurling and the ‘Holy Grail.’

Paul Healy's Week - USA Special

On a recent family trip to America, Paul Healy picked up some bits and pieces for his column…so, here goes… reporting now on… beautiful Boston; meeting a charismatic Batman in Times Square; sightseeing in New York; a be-witching night in Salem; Halloween magic on Beacon Hill… and the dude on the bus…

‘Something for the column’

So there I was, twenty-two years ago, lying in the back of a hearse (I will explain), pounding along the highways and byways of Australia.

Stopping every now and again in the hope of locating a fax machine… That was 1993, and I’ve learnt since then that, when a (so-called) columnist is on holidays, a newspaper can wait for its column… Twenty-two years ago myself and Fiona and my future sister-in-law Sinead had embarked on a wonderful trip to Australia.

At the time, I was writing a column – ‘Hold the Back Page’ – for the Roscommon Champion, and I had, a little rashly, committed to sending home four columns over the course of our month in Australia.

The columns would reflect the highlights of the holiday. Our month in Australia began in Gympie, north of Brisbane, where Fiona and Sinead’s uncle – former Roscommon footballer Coman Reynolds from Elphin – was by then an established member of the community.

Coman and his wife Emma were very successful (they still are!) in the funeral undertaking business, which is how the visitors from Ireland came to borrow an old, retired car/hearse in which to explore The Gold Coast.

Fiona took to the driving challenge brilliantly; at times I actually did have to lie in the back (they have low ceilings). I probably had the best view anyone’s ever had from that position.

Anyways, actually writing the column with pen and paper was merely time-consuming; finding a fax machine each week was a nightmare.

Twenty-two years on and, notwithstanding the mind-boggling technological advances since, I gave no such hostages to fortune when we went to the USA on a family holiday last month.

Writing about your holidays in a newspaper is a bit strange, but no stranger than publicly admitting to being a Leeds United fan; anyways, people usually say ‘sure you’ll have something for your column’, so here it is…something for my column…a column from the USA…without notes, just from memory…and not by fax.

Thursday, October 22

I realise now that I should have taken notes. Let’s see…okay, we flew from Shannon to Boston, an enjoyable flight with a memorable ending for us.

Our five-year-old son, Matthew, was watching as most passengers thanked the Aer Lingus staff as they disembarked. So he too said ‘thanks’ to one of the staff, who was suitably charmed and responded by asking if Matthew would like to see the cockpit of the plane. Moments later he was sitting in the pilot’s seat posing for a photograph.

Thursday-Saturday

Boston is beautiful, friendly, atmospheric, small enough in city terms to feel intimate. If you’re near Boston Common, you’re pretty centrally located. It’s a lovely park, populated by locals, tourists, squirrels and statues.

From the moment you step into Boston Common, you really begin to inhale the magic of this city. We were staying with relations, in a beautiful residence in Beacon Hill, an idyllic area of Boston where quintessentially American streets, quaint shops and stylish houses merge to form a very special place.

Although more than a week to Halloween, residents were busy adorning their houses with extravagant, tasteful and expensive decorations. We were assured that Halloween in Boston would be very special indeed. From our experience (it was our second visit to the city) the people of Boston are extremely friendly and welcoming. They’re sports-mad too, obsessed (from what I could see) with the various sports, especially American Football.

The local team, the New England Patriots, are on a winning streak just now. This is proving very exciting for the locals and it was easy to get caught up in that excitement as they hammered the Miami Dolphins, making it seven wins in a row for the Bostonians.

A trip to the Museum of Science in Boston is recommended. We spent a few very enjoyable hours there, but really a full day needs to be set aside for this particular treat.

Over the weekend we spent some time in Lakeville, a beautiful, peaceful ‘country area’ away from the bustling city. America in ‘The Fall’ is very special and the colours of the trees and the cascading leaves was absolutely stunning.

Most of the houses around Lakeville, and this is typical of rural USA I imagine, are made of timber. The houses, while invariably similar in build, are quite individualistic in design.

Typically the lawns in front of them are ‘open plan,’ with no walls or fences. While we were there, householders were going to amazing lengths to prepare for Halloween, with skeletons and ghosts and ghouls adorning the houses and gardens!

Sunday, October 25

After three great days in Boston (and with more to come) we took a four-and-a-half-hour bus journey to spend three nights in the city that never sleeps.

It was our first ever trip to New York and we were staying in a hotel centrally located in Manhattan, with a good view of Times Square. We walked from the bus station, and within a moment or two found ourselves sucked into the dizzying madness of Times Square. It’s all lights, billboards, people, noise, colour, fun and frenzy.

On Times Square, just about everyone is trying to make a buck. Our children love the hit TV show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and (in our first highly cultural move) we found McGees Bar in Midtown Manhattan, where the comedy series was created.

It serves good food too! Later that night, we were relaxing in Times Square – paradise for people-watchers – when, seemingly out of nowhere, Batman suddenly appeared… Why he came to our aid I don’t know…it’s not as if we were in any peril or anything.

So, as Matthew (aged five) stared in awe at what I must admit was a very charismatic and authentic looking Batman, the guy himself engaged us with all his charm.

Moments later he had the kids crouching down in the middle of Times Square with himself (Batman) on their tail. He was a nice guy and the pose he set up made for a great photograph, so I certainly didn’t begrudge him the few dollars’ tip, but I do recall saying to the children ‘Let’s get out of here before Superman arrives.’

Monday-Tuesday

We spent most of both days hopping on and hopping off the buses, which offer excellent tours of all the leading sights. And what sights there are to enjoy…Madison Square Garden, the Empire State building, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty (by boat) and much more.

We visited Ground Zero/9/11 Memorial, where silence reigns, minds weighed down by the overwhelming poignancy. Later, we branch off into a side street and pop into a souvenir shop.

There are hundreds of little items featuring landmark attractions in New York, and, given our location, many mementos relating to the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

I buy two or three items, hand in a fifty-dollar note and am stopped in my tracks when I glance at the receipt: My change is ‘9 11’ – nine dollars and eleven cent. That felt very strange!

Wednesday, October 28

After a morning spent visiting the Museum of Modern Art, as well as Central Park and a few more attractions, we’re taking a 2 pm bus journey back to Boston.

For the only time on our holiday, there’s rain, and it’s pelting down with a vengeance. At the back of the bus there’s a guy who’s clearly had more than Rice Krispies for breakfast. His head is bobbing back and forth like he’s some sort of demented tennis umpire and next he starts joining his hands to form an imaginary gun. He points out the window and hisses out gunshot sounds.

Then he leans over to the woman sitting in front of him and asks her what day it is. He gives her three options: ‘Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday?’ With the rain pelting down and a five-hour journey to Boston ahead of us, we’re a bit rattled by the behaviour of the ‘Passenger from Hell.’

We’d booked online and distinctly remember not requesting a terrorist. As his erratic actions continued, the woman who had been given the multiple choice question regarding what day of the week it was mouthed ‘He’s freaking me out’ in our direction – and other passengers were also beginning to look around a little nervously.

So I walked up to the front of the bus and conveyed our concerns to the driver. She was at that point trying to navigate the bus through busy New York streets, but at the first opportunity she pulled over, marched down to the back seat and firmly and professionally confronted the ‘dude,’ asking if he had taken any illegal substances and/or if he was under the influence of alcohol.

He looked surprised. “No mam, I’m just enjoying the ride.’ When the driver informed him that other people weren’t fully enjoying the ride and that some passengers had expressed concern about his behaviour, I took a keen interest in the shapes which the raindrops were forming on the windows of the bus.

Next, she frogmarched him up to the front of the bus “so that if you need anything, you can ask me.” We were glad to note that there was quite a bit of protective glass around the driver’s seat.

The ‘dude’ continued to act a bit strange in his new seat but after an hour or so he had calmed down quite a bit.

A woman in front of me would probably have made mincemeat of the young man. She’s chatting to her mother so loudly that everyone hears the conversation. It seems they need to meet a lawyer next week but the lawyer has been messing them about and now he wants to bring their meeting forward by an hour or two…

The woman in front of me is having none of it. ‘Hell Mom, he can kick rocks! If that dumbass thinks we gonna get there early just to suit him, I’ll deal with him…cos I’m gonna have my coffee and muffin and he can sit on the highway!’

Thursday-Sunday

So, after a six-hour bus journey, we returned safely to Boston, where a really special Halloween weekend atmosphere was ‘brewing.’

On Friday night we went to Salem, travelling by ferry. It was a wonderful 50-minute journey from Boston Harbour which showcased the fabulous city skyline.

Salem is where witch trials were held in 1692, with several local people being executed for allegedly practising witchcraft. Now this town has been transformed into an impressive tourist attraction, all themed around witches and all things scary. Even the police cars have witches logos on them!

The former home of the trial Judge is now known as the ‘Witch House’ and most of the residential buildings are evocative of witches and witchcraft.

We didn’t get there until 6.30 pm in the evening but it was the night before Halloween, so a perfect time to be in Salem. The place was thronged with tourists.

There are ‘haunted houses’ aplenty, museums, restaurants and bars, souvenir shops, and lots of witch-related sights to see and things to enjoy. Over 40,000 people live their normal lives there against the background of the entire area being one big witch-themed attraction.

Then on Saturday night, we discovered that all the exciting talk of Halloween on Beacon Hill had not been overstated. It seems Halloween is ‘massive’ in the USA. In Boston there were big queues outside a popular shop containing hundreds of costume options for adults and children.

From about 6 o’clock in the evening, the magic happened. All of the mystery of the much-hyped Halloween celebrations faded as a spectacular experience presented itself. Thousands – yes, thousands – of people descended on the streets of Beacon Hill (all traffic cut off) and began trick or treating in a wonderful atmosphere of fun and friendship.

Just about everyone was kitted out in a great costume, making this a spectacular and heart-warming sight. All doors were open; children queued for candy, reserves of which eventually ran out, such was the extraordinary scale of the crowds. A truly memorable night.

Monday, November 2

Anyone I spoke to about the US Presidential election was mortified at the prospect of Donald Trump winning.

Maybe it was just the people I spoke to… Coverage of the campaign was pretty much wall to wall on television.

Glancing at the newspapers meanwhile really brought home to me that racial tensions are still very much to the fore in the USA – race and alleged discrimination seemed to dominate the papers.

It was the last day of a great holiday, the memories of which we will cherish. A bit of a shopping blitz, (daughters Emma, Alannah and Ciara had to spend their last few dollars), final photographs taken, and then, a cab to Logan Airport, where, in security, a smiling American police officer stuck a security sticker on Matthew and said: ‘You’re in charge.’

Five hours or so later, we were back in Shannon Airport, and there wasn’t a dumbass to be seen anywhere.

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…

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