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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Why rally was a bridge too far…




Breaking news: Rooskey, as a community, doesn’t do racism. The village was cosmopolitan and multicultural several decades ago, at a time when most of the rest of the country hadn’t even heard of those words!

  Different nationalities in Rooskey is nothing new – and I’m not just referring to holiday-makers on cruisers on the Shannon and to anglers doing their thing on the riverbank.

  Since as far back as the 1960s, people from England, Germany, The Netherlands, etc. have been setting up home in the area.

  Yes, I am well aware that the potential arrival of 80 refugees is a different eh… ‘kettle of fish’ – but you can be opposed to an asylum centre being located in your village (as I am) for all sorts of reasons. In actual fact, should this project go ahead, I expect even opponents of what is a very dubious proposal to still very much welcome the asylum seekers, who, after all, are not to blame for what is a chronically flawed policy. 

  The fact that the Rooskey community doesn’t do racism was probably one of the reasons why locals completely (well, a tiny handful of people aside) ignored Sunday’s anti-racism rally.

  When I arrived at the village on Sunday morning, I immediately saw that large crowds of locals had gathered…for Mass.

  There was lots of activity outside the local Church. But the locals weren’t then travelling down the village, to where the anti-racism rally was being held (in response to the alleged arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel, which has been earmarked as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers).

  There was no traffic jam or congestion at the bridge. It was quickly apparent that Sunday’s rally was being snubbed by locals. The people of Rooskey felt no affinity with this event. 

  The reason the people of Rooskey didn’t attend the rally is not because they aren’t against racism…it’s because they’re against the notion that there is a racism issue in their community.  

  Locals clearly felt that, by attending the rally, they would be legitimising the ‘racist narrative’ in this saga. The Rooskey community’s unspoken message seemed to be: There is no racism to express opposition to.

  So, to a man and woman, they stayed away.

  That said, the rally was (not unreasonably) deemed a success by organisers. By 12.30, there were 50 or so people gathered on the water’s edge, opposite the two landmark pubs, Reynolds’ and The Weir Lodge. There was a further dozen or so media personnel there. A woman in a Leitrim jersey was playing the guitar, and campaigners from various groups were chanting ‘One race, the human race’. The atmosphere was good-humoured. There was a discreet Garda presence – four squad cars by my estimation. A handful of curious onlookers stood on the bridge, but did not join in. One of the few cars that passed hooted its horn. In the background, the hotel and its uncertain future loomed large.

  As Leah Doherty introduced speaker after speaker, the message remained consistent: the organisers were not associating the people of Rooskey with racism, but were accusing ‘Alt-right’ elements, fascists and online ‘haters’ of stirring up feelings. There were calls for asylum seekers to be welcomed to Ireland and for direct provision to be ended by the Government.

  The crowd grew to perhaps 80 or so. Many of those present cheerfully held placards. ‘End homelessness’. ‘Direct Provision makes us monsters’. ‘Direct Provision is a prison’. A few Roscommon and Leitrim flags fluttered side by side. One man held an umbrella from ‘The World Meeting of Families’. There was no need; the sun had come out. Two Gardai stood under a Guinness sign outside The Weir Lodge. Just up the road, the hotel remains cordoned off.

  Rooskey’s past shadowed its tense present. The speeches were delivered below an old Bus Éireann sign, under which a notice still advertises the now defunct bus routes. Across the road, a Foster & Allen concert is advertised.

  The absence of locals from the village was impossible to ignore. The attendance was almost entirely made up of activists from various groups, though organisers were anxious to point out that most of these people live in the general Roscommon/Leitrim area. The organisers were complimentary about villagers, emphasising that they consider Rooskey to be a welcoming area. Their ire was directed anywhere but Rooskey.

  When it ended, just after 1.30 pm, there was a quick photo outside the hotel. Then those present were invited to Dromod for refreshments, presumably because you can’t get refreshments in Rooskey just now.  

  Me? I took a walk back to the scene of the rally at around 3 o’clock. The two pubs were still closed, the hotel was still cordoned off, the waters were calm and the sign that no longer stops any bus was still standing, an unintentionally provocative reminder of better times.

Being an effective Healy-Rae and the magic of the cup


Revealed! The 10 rules for being an effective Healy-Rae



1: When making a speech in the Dáil, always adopt an indignant, serious tone. While it’s not always possible, try to avoid being included in camera shot with Michael Lowry and/or Mattie McGrath as they er…lack credibility.

2: Whatever you’re speaking about – whether it’s the decline of post offices or the rise of Putin – make sure to namecheck Kerry towns, villages, townlands, actual voters, pets…at every opportunity.

3: Never forget the Golden Rule: It’s all the fault of ‘them up there in Dublin’ and/or Dublin 4. Sneer with an extravagant flourish as rehearsed.

4: Before condemning all initiatives to do with rural transport/drink-driving/motoring offences, make it absolutely clear that you are not condoning drink-driving, “nor would you ever”. Look stunned/angry/perplexed if so accused. Remember what we rehearsed: ‘Ivan/Matt/Pat/Claire, if you think I’m going to sit here and take that from you…’

5: In any discussion on drink-driving, always remember to cite the example of the poor ould fellas who are being prevented from going to the pub and enjoying “one or two glasses” of stout. Yes, er…glasses, not pints (stick with that line at all costs, keep straight face).

6: Until further notice (e.g. Government formation talks) Simon Harris is a young pup, Shane Ross has never been past ‘the Red Cow’, Leo Varadkar would want to get out of his ivory tower.

7: Always stick to the Healy-Rae Gospel: “They won’t be happy ‘til they have rural Ireland closed down”.

8: Whatever they say ‘in Dublin’, or in ‘da meeja’, never forget the plain people of Kerry. After all, they are the second most important group in society (after the Healy-Raes, that is).

9: Michael: Always, we mean ALWAYS, wear that cap. Danny: Always, we mean ALWAYS, wear an open-necked shirt (no tie). As long as ye have the cap and no tie, the locals are receiving the signals, loud and clear.

10: If all else fails, adopt that expression which we discussed at length. As you know, we code-named it ‘The Poll-topper’. You know the one, you must remember…yes, that’s it: Adopt that facial expression which suggests that a group of people from Dublin 4 have stolen everything in Co. Kerry overnight…and you have just heard the news. That’s the one!


George the TV repair man…and when the Cup was magic…


George Latimer was the man who fixed televisions – in between enjoying life with great relish.

  He had a broad smile, a big hearty laugh and a mischevious glint in his eye. ‘Mr & Mrs Latimer’ enjoyed themselves socially, and we often saw them in our parents’ pub in Rooskey, where their arrival was much welcomed.

  Now I needed George to deliver in his day job – because he had our telly, and I wanted it back!

  It was 1979, and for a (very) young lad, amongst the scariest sentences in the English language was: “Sure drop the telly into us and we’ll get it back to you in a few days”.

  Bringing your broken telly into a TV repair shop was like loaning a favourite book to a friend – you could never be sure when you’d see it again.

  In the TV repair shop, once-healthy televisions tended to gather dust as they took their place on the musty shelves – the likely length of their captivity was anyone’s guess.

  Which is not to say that we didn’t appreciate the TV repair man – because we did. Because once the telly went on the blink, the TV repair man was our last hope. If he called to your house, the most dreaded words you could hear after his inspection were: “I’m afraid the valve is gone”. Cue anxious look in direction of parents…

  Anyways, George was our friendly TV repair man, his headquarters in Mohill. And in May 1979, he had our telly in his TV repair shop. At home in Rooskey, we survived the first few days without the telly. But then, as the big day got closer, we became more nervous. Life without a functioning telly on a normal day was bad enough; life without telly on FA Cup Final weekend was unthinkable.

  Fast-forward for a moment to last weekend (we will return to George)… and my mind returned to that frantic fear of possibly not having a telly for the 1979 FA Cup Final forty years ago. Last weekend, the BBC bombarded viewers with FA Cup third round action. There were several hours’ of live football and highlights shows, and while it all was entertaining enough, the quantity – even the quality – simply can’t rekindle what we once had. 

  And what we once had was great. In its heyday, the FA Cup was a huge part of our lives…arguably up there with the heavyweight boxing from Madison Square Garden, the snooker from The Crucible and the tennis from Wimbledon. In one and two channel Ireland in the late 1970s, at a time when live TV soccer was restricted to a handful of games a year, FA Cup Final day – with a five-hour celebrity-inspired build-up – was magical.

  Oh yes, that word…‘magic’. Now I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that a memo went out to all BBC commentators last weekend, but every time a great goal was scored (there were many) and every time a great giant-killing act unfolded (there were many) the man or woman with the mike excitedly referenced the ‘magic’ or ‘romance’ of the cup. And yes, for teams from the lower divisions who turn over high profile opponents, there is, I guess, still some magic and romance in the cup. The reality of course is that almost all of the Premier League clubs are fielding ‘second strings’, reflecting the extent to which the FA Cup is no longer a priority or a glamour competition for the ‘big boys’. 

  For three days before that 1979 final, we implored our parents to keep the pressure on George, the avuncular, larger than life TV repair man from Mohill. Telephone calls, personal visits, homing pigeon, whatever it took. It went down to the wire. Our telly had been in with George for perhaps a fortnight. Kick-off in the 1979 FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United was at 3 o’clock on the Saturday (naturally).

  Our father arrived home from Mohill with the TV at 3.05. We had missed Little and Large during the extensive ITV build-up, but so be it. Telly plugged in. Intake of breath. Pictures. And Sound. All good. Working. Massive relief.

  We saw the first goal, and the four that followed. It was one of the all-time great FA Cup finals. It was Liam Brady’s final. We were bursting with pride as the Irishman made Wembley his playground. Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2. Thanks to our father, thanks to George the TV repair man…thanks to Liam Brady…we had witnessed more of the magic of the FA Cup.

  Little and Large? We caught up with them again…



A (sort of) Christmas Diary…



So say all of us…

A few days before Christmas, and our youngest is (finally) writing his letter to Santa. Half-done, he asks one of his sisters: “Could I ask for better Wifi?”

Getting a haircut for Christmas

I accept the arguments against getting a pet for Christmas – but it seems that every man on the planet has to get a haircut before the festivities begin.

  Solving world poverty or climate change isn’t easy – but try getting a ‘haircut for Christmas’! It’s almost impossible…

  It’s our own fault. We all know, say three weeks before the Christmas rush, that we are probably due a haircut, and that we’d really better think about getting one…what with Christmas coming up and all that.

  Every morning, we remind ourselves. ‘Must get a haircut’.

  It’s all part of the mad pre-Christmas panic, the obsession with trying to have everything perfect for the one day that, like any other, will indeed come and pass.

  Two weeks before Christmas, it began to weigh on my mind. ‘Need a haircut, really need to get that haircut’.

  But it was so busy at work…and the hours and days race on.

  When you eventually get to the barber’s a couple of days before Christmas, your heart sinks. Because there’s usually a very long queue already in place, as the frantic ‘Must get a haircut before Christmas’ obsession takes full effect.

  Next year it will be different, and I’ll hopefully be seeing a friendly barber at the end of November…

Not for us, thanks…

Another er…great Christmas tradition in recent years is that old reliable…‘Spotting the mad young ones doing the 12 pubs’.

  I don’t go out of my way to witness this dubious phenomenon, but on a couple of occasions in recent years I have come across ‘edited highlights’…seldom, if ever, from inside a pub, because most people over the age of 30 try to avoid the ‘12 pubs brigade’.

  This year, I knew it was ‘12 pubs evening’ when I saw two young lads coming down the street as ‘wheelbarrows,’ i.e. the two lads with their hands on the pavements as their friends held their legs and steered them towards the next pub. Personally, I’d have walked.

  I gather that on the morning after the night before, there was a hangover for publicans and other businesses, with a trail of broken glasses on pavements. To be fair to all ’12 pubs’ participants, there were absolutely no reports of ‘trouble’ – but some glasses didn’t survive the partying. Happily, Christmas cheer overcame the over-exuberant Christmas ‘Cheers!’ of the previous night as locals invoked the ‘meitheal’ spirit of old and quickly returned the town to its familiar glory.

A joyous atmosphere

Church ceremonies were extremely well attended over the Christmas period. There was a great, joyous vibe throughout the festive season. In Roscommon town, the airing of Christmas carols/songs – a Chamber of Commerce initiative – creates a lovely seasonal atmosphere. All parts of Co. Roscommon benefitted from the return of ‘Rossies’ from abroad and from other parts of the country.

All the bread’s gone…again

4.30 pm, New Year’s Day: In the first shop I went into, there was no bread. No need to panic, surely? But there was no bread in the second shop either. Wow! Suddenly, a sense of déjà vu came over me. Storm clouds gathering in my mind, although no storm had been forecast, not like last March, when trepidation in advance of the imminent arrival of ‘The Beast from the East’ led to the Great Bread Disappearance.

  Back to last Tuesday: I tried a third shop, this time a ‘superstore’…where, incredibly, massive rows of bread shelves were utterly devoid of bread. Not a single loaf, not a crumb. What calamity had befallen? Had the shoppers of Roscommon town gone bread-crazy again, this time on New Year’s Eve presumably? I ventured into a fourth shop. Approaching the rows of shelves, I saw what appeared to be two isolated brown sliced pans. A man stood by. On the shelf above, there was a solitary white batch loaf. I hadn’t time to get my hopes up. Having given the two brown loaves some thought, the man placed his hands on the ‘white batch’ and made off with the prize. So there you go. It’s happened again.

   There was – of course – an outcry. Well, one woman commented.

  “Not a single loaf of (white) bread to be found in town” the lady beside me lamented (in that fourth shop). “And I could have thrown bread out last week”.

  Normal service has now resumed – until the next crisis.

The question we all wanted the answer to…

I didn’t get to the Hodson Bay Hotel on Sunday evening to collect my new house, but as evening became night I remained quietly confident that the good folk in Roscommon GAA would ring any moment with the good news.

  I didn’t even get to watch what I gather was a highly professional event (live on Facebook), as we had visitors that evening. Obviously I struggled to focus on what our visitors were saying/doing as I continued to visualise turning the key in our new house in the New Year.

  With the hours passing and no sign of the phone to ring, I did begin to wonder if something had gone wrong. And, if we’d won, surely Willie Hegarty would have called in with a broad smile when passing our house on the way home?

  Eventually, the social media monster revealed all (basically our visitors left) and the waiting was over. It turned out that a staggering 14,000 plus tickets had been sold. Like everyone else, I was curious to see who’d won. Was it a well-known local? Was it even a local? It wasn’t. It was Kumar Gangah from Dublin, and congratulations to him.

  The draw was a tremendous success, suffice to say – you can read all about it on pages 18 & 19.

   In the meantime, it’s back to the Lotto…

Great Christmas & New Year clichés

Did you hear them…and/or say them?


Before Christmas…

“Ah sure it’s an awful lot of fuss for just one day”

“It’ll all be over before we know it”

“People filling trolleys (in shops) like there’s no tomorrow”

“Sure it’s mainly for the kids anyway”


After Christmas…

“Still, you’d be sick of turkey sandwiches”

“That’s it now for another year”

“You won’t find ‘til the evenings are getting longer”

“There was absolutely nothing on the telly” 


‘Where did your father get the name?’




“Will you tell me one thing…where did your father get the name…Rutledge?”

  His Christian name wasn’t the only thing that was unique about my father.

  Looking back, it was fitting that he had a very distinctive, individualistic first name. It suited. Because he was an unconventional man in some ways…different, even a touch eccentric. Then again, everyone’s father is unique...to them.

  In latter years, certainly the last two or three, he was one of the main reasons why I hardly ever missed a column deadline. Up to recently, I probably managed 99 columns in 100 weeks, that sort of consistency! Part of the reason for the new-found discipline was because my father always looked out for it. He loved his newspapers.

  If I didn’t get around to writing a column, it was always noted.

  “You had no page in the paper today” he’d say, triggering just enough guilt in me to ensure I tried harder the following week.

  But there has been no column these past five, six, weeks. The man with the unusual name, Rutledge, would have been the first to miss it.

  He – and his generation – loved newspapers. The regional papers were read every week, my father keeping an eye on events in Leitrim, Roscommon and Longford. Above all, he needed to see the Irish Independent. Every day. The death notices. The actual news, or what was deemed to be news. The commentary. The gossip. The photographs. The court reports. The quirky story tucked away in the corner of an otherwise ordinary page. The property pages.

  “Do you know where that house that’s up for auction is?” “Those two politicians that are fighting, I suppose they’re as thick as thieves behind it all?” “There’s a man dead in Castlerea, would he be anything to…?”

  The newspaper was a window on the world for him all his life, every morning…curiosity satisfied, imagination sparked.

  Death comes. It came to our family a few weeks ago. My father had a great long life. I am in a privileged position, I guess, in that I write this newspaper column. It purports (often tongue in cheek) to be some sort of (usually light-hearted) chronicle of ‘my week’. It would be odd if I didn’t refer to our recent loss. It is also an opportunity for me to dedicate a column to him, to mark his passing, to give him a send-off in the pages he enjoyed browsing.

  He was born in Knockvicar, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, in 1930. In our youth, he intrigued us with stories of his upbringing there. He was one of six children.

  “We were very poor. We were so poor, when we were small kids, the six of us slept in the one bed. We were like spoons. In the middle of the night, when one turned, everyone had to turn”.

  He walked to school in his bare feet, himself and his siblings bringing turf from home, in for the school fire. Later, as a teenager, he worked on the Rockingham Estate, with other local lads from the Boyle area. At Rockingham, they tended to the gentry on the pheasant shoot. Sir Cecil Stafford King Harman and guests went out hunting, Rutledge and his friends carried the cartridges. When “the gentry” dined in the ‘Big House’, the young lads were each given a bottle of stout and a beef sandwich. Which was fair enough. The day’s wages was four shillings. In later years, Rockingham House was destroyed by fire (in 1957). My father recalled that night: “Sir Cecil was away that night…the blaze broke out at night and the neighbours over a wide area could see the flames lighting up the sky”.

  Like so many of his peers, he was distributing social history all his life, without really realising it. He had an endless supply of stories, yarns, jokes. Most of them were true, but not all. Maybe not even most of them. His stories of growing up in North Roscommon were rich with humour, featuring a marvellous array of characters and escapades, of old customs too. Social history.

  After a few years in England (lots of different jobs and more escapades) he returned to Ireland. In Dublin, he met May Monahan from Cavan, the woman who would become his lifetime partner. Fifty-nine years of marriage would follow. They were always together and had great times together.

  He was an entrepreneur, a self-made man with a gambler’s instinct. Our association with Rooskey began in 1969, when our parents brought their ‘Kon Tiki’ dream to life. Inspired by a themed bar they’d seen on holiday in America, they went looking for a suitable site ‘down the country’. A farmhouse a mile or two outside Rooskey was identified. On this site, my father built a unique ‘singing pub’, complete with a pool of water in the centre of it. The band (there was live music every night) played on a raft in the middle of the water. Later, live fish were added. Special effects created tropical storms. It was a tribute to Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who had crossed the shark-infested Pacific Ocean on a balsa raft (the ‘Kon Tiki’).

  The Kon Tiki was a bit of a sensation, attracting the top performers of the day, and visitors from near and far. When the Kon Tiki first opened, three local characters took a break from saving the hay and called in for a look. They ordered three pints. My father closed the blinds and activated the ‘tropical storms’ with his gadgetry behind the counter. The three lads looked at one another. ‘Sure we might as well stay where we are, the weather is after taking a bad turn. Give us three more pints’.

  Later, there were more business ventures – in Rooskey village, Strokestown, Dublin, Longford. A host of amusing stories, many of which have been retold in recent weeks. Some of these I have recounted in ‘God Save All Here’ and ‘Nothing About Sheep Stealing’. His business dealings had little to do with number-crunching and everything to do with instinct. He was fearless…buying and selling, wheeling and dealing, enjoying the thrill of it all even as he advanced into his mid-80s (and beyond). He never retired, never really acknowledged old age. While it took its toll on him, he remained positive and young at heart.

  I am conscious, particularly now, of how democratic death is, of how democratic loss and grief are. For families who have experienced loss, there are tough moments all year, often to a greater degree at Christmas. The empty chair is more visible than ever this week…in thousands of homes across the country.

  My father passed away last month. We were fortunate that he lived a long and fulfilled life, into his 89th year…alert, curious and quick-witted to the end, browsing the newspaper pages, chatting away, in the care of his family.

  It’s timely also to think of all the families who will be thinking this Christmas of loved ones who went to their reward this year, or indeed in the past. Their memories will live on.

  That name...‘Rutledge’? Long story, kind of. His grandmother’s surname was ‘Rutledge’, she passed it to her son as a (very rare) first name. Her son then dispensed with it when he became a Christian Brother, taking the name ‘Fintan’. With the name ‘Rutledge’ then at risk of ‘disappearing’, my father’s mother granted it as a first name to her son when he was born.

  Hence, Rutledge Healy. Straightforward!

  So…I suppose I’m back writing my column, and I’m proud to dedicate it to my Dad this week. He was a one-off. He will always be with us.







‘There were highs and lows, but somehow Rooskey’s very own hotel kept ticking over’




It was known as ‘The Beeches’ – presumably because there were Beech trees nearby.

  I’m probably doing that old building an injustice, but my memory is that it was an eerie and drab place.

  Even by the late 1970s, it was long vacant, a ruin in fact. It had been a public house, in its day.

  ‘The Beeches’ was an intimidating old ruin that night when a few of us decided to get a closer look. The derelict and mysterious building dominated the landscape when you crossed Rooskey bridge, on to the Leitrim side. 

  As young lads, we had to explore it…we were drawn to the very thing that was scaring us.

   Having a name like ‘The Beeches’ added to its auru…as though it belonged to a novel or a movie. That cold and wet night, we were feeling adventurous, brave and apprehensive, all rolled into one.

  We approached the building from behind, presumably to avoid detection. We entered, via an unlocked rear door. We even tiptoed upstairs...jumping with alarm or probably even terror at every sight of a shattered window, every gust of wind, every imagined shadowy image. We survived.

  A decade or so on, ‘The Beeches’ had been purchased…and a new chapter in its history beckoned. The building would be knocked, and in its place, Rooskey would have its very own hotel. 

  The imminent arrival of a hotel certainly caused quite a stir. And in a marketing masterstroke, the owners invited the public to suggest a name for it. Readers submitted suggestions to a local newspaper. ‘Shalamar’ (or ‘Shalimar’) won out. The first owner of Rooskey’s own hotel was Phil McGovern, who was affectionately known as ‘Phil Baby’. The fact that ‘Phil Baby’ had been in America for many years seemed to give him a special aura – sure the locals were fascinated. With or without an American vibe, Phil had a great personality. He was quite a charismatic character, with a ready smile and a great turn of phrase.  

  Some years later, the ‘Shalamar’ (or ‘Shalimar’) became ‘The Marina’. Over the years, the hotel changed hands a few times. There were highs and lows, but somehow Rooskey’s very own hotel kept ticking over.

  In more recent times, the hotel was renamed ‘The Shannon Key West’. This was probably its most successful era…seemingly flying during times of prosperity, hanging in there when the recession bared its teeth. It can’t have been easy to keep going, in such a competitive industry.

  Up to as recently as six or seven years ago, it was usual to see the carvery area packed at weekends (especially Sundays). At night, crowds enjoyed the music of local performers.

  Then came the demise. The doors had closed before, but someone had always come to its rescue. But now, societal trends were a foe. The village was bypassed, the recession had hit hard, big dinner dances were dying out. Many of the young people who might have held wedding receptions in Rooskey’s own hotel were now in Australia, Canada or elsewhere. 

  The years went by, and the doors never re-opened. Hope ebbed away.

  There was talk last March of a takeover by a consortium that would restore the hotel to its former glory (‘A well-managed 3 or 4 star hotel’ the headlines screamed). Nothing came of it. More misplaced optimism.

  Now, this week’s news suggests that long-standing rumours appear to have been built on substance. It’s the news that many people didn’t want to hear. Others may be fine with it. I find it very disappointing. Rooskey’s own hotel is apparently set to become an asylum centre. It will, we are told, cater for around 80 asylum seekers – and it’s all likely to  happen within the coming weeks.

  Although the rumours had been circulating, many local people are stunned. It seems they are not getting their hotel back. And they are concerned that Rooskey – a great village which was devastated by the loss of the old Hanley Bacon factory to fire in 2002 – simply does not have the facilities and services in place to provide for the influx of 80 or so asylum seekers.

  Challenging times ahead. It appears that the music has died, the Sunday afternoon carvery buzz will be no more. It’s an uncertain new chapter for what was the ‘The Beeches’, for what was ‘Rooskey’s own hotel’.


The write stuff from Paul (again)


I didn’t get to Gleeson’s on Saturday for the launch of Paul Connolly’s new book, but I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Mount Talbot man on his latest project.

  Paul’s late brother, Tommy, was a great friend of the Roscommon People (and, in a previous era, of the Champion). Many years ago I ‘recruited’ Tommy as a local notes correspondent (he also submitted excellent hurling reports).

  Paul has taken the Connolly writing flair and love of place to new levels. A few years ago Paul wrote an extensive history of Mount Talbot. His latest work is ‘The Landed Estates of County Roscommon’ and I very much look forward to reading it. The book is a celebration of the history and folklore behind each of the stately homes and ‘Landed Estates’ of County Roscommon. It’s available in local outlets at €30. What a valuable addition to Roscommon’s impressive literary output.


Wanted: Manager, and some positivity…


I haven’t been rubbing shoulders with the barstool experts for ages – and I use the term with affection, not sarcasm – and neither have I delved much into the social media commentary.

  So I’m not entirely up to date with how the Roscommon GAA community feels about the saga surrounding the vacant senior team management position.

  However, from just chatting to people on the street or at a shop counter, it’s fair to say that fans/GAA activists are becoming demoralised with the current impasse.

  Obviously the people mandated to find a new manager are working away behind the scenes, and no doubt a candidate will emerge soon. To which one might add, the sooner the better.

  The delay in making an appointment, which is largely down to the poorly handled Aidan O’Rourke last-gasp withdrawal, is not good for Roscommon football. We all know that.

  It’s probably inevitable in the absence of an appointment that a negative mood, certainly a sense of frustration, would fill that vacuum.  

  Still, an outbreak of positive thinking would do no harm. After all, Roscommon are now a Division One team again. We have a lot going for us. We were Connacht champions in 2017 and finalists this year. We made it to the inaugural Super 8s, and we have some very exciting talent.

  We need to shake ourselves out of this unfortunate (but no doubt temporary) post-McStay era stalemate period and get back on course.

  We need a manager to be appointed as soon as possible – urgently at this stage. There is no denying that the O’Rourke episode left many people angry, no denying that it’s been a highly frustrating few weeks. What we need now is an appointment, and then let’s get down to business. Sideshows like focusing on who is or isn’t leaking to the media are daft – it’s trivial stuff, like complaining of a few draughts when you’re halfway through building a fine house.

  Yeah, we took a few hammerings from the very elite in the Super 8s. But on balance I think we’ve been very much on an upward curve the last few years. We need to regain and then build momentum. We’re in Division One. A new season beckons. Let’s get back to the process of continuing to…er...make Roscommon great again!







Michael D in different league, Casey rattles establishment




In the end, the end couldn’t come quick enough. It was a listless and unsatisfactory Presidential campaign. The incumbent was prone to smugness, and could afford to be; he knew he was in a different league.

  Smug or not, Michael D is a class act, and it’s very evident that he’s a popular President. He did a fine job in his first term and he will continue to represent Ireland extremely well.

  His victory was very comprehensive, but the competition was less than world class. We shouldn’t denounce the other candidates for that; they are decent people who did their best (albeit that some of them have delusions of grandeur).

  Blame for the absence of a proper humdinger of an election lies with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Both parties were too cowardly to take Michael D on, preferring to take no chances, keep their money safe and hopefully hang on to the President’s coat-tails as he sauntered to success.

Here’s my view of the not so famous five who trailed behind Michael D…

Peter Casey

Peter Casey played his cards well, and make no mistake – despite his public aversion to the US President – they were Trump cards.

  Casey’s public speaking style is not very polished, he is full of contradictions, he often seems to be speaking off the cuff, he makes unsubstantiated allegations for fun, he rattles the cosy consensus, talks straight, ruffles feathers and – most of all – he attacks the politically correct culture. I don’t know about you, but that reminds me of a chap in the USA. So yes, Casey cleverly took some pointers from the Donald Trump Guide to Rocking the Establishment and Speaking for A Fed Up section of the Squeezed Middle who resent how society is going.

Sean Gallagher

The big loser of the election. Cut a forlorn figure throughout most of the campaign. I had no sympathy for him, well, not beyond the respect I would afford any person who goes before the electorate and gives it their best. But, long before the end, Gallagher came across as a man living in the past. I thought he was arrogant, presumptuous, and had nothing much to offer – bar waffle.

Liadh Ní Riada

I was quite impressed with Ní Riada’s campaign, and yet she attracted a poor vote. She’s a good speaker and a formidable and talented individual, but ‘Poppygate’ cost her a good bit of Sinn Fein support, and she slipped up badly when claiming that her take-home pay of around €60k was in line with the average industrial wage. This affected her credibility. 

Joan Freeman

Joan is a genuine, warm, sincere individual, but the wheels came off her campaign pretty quickly. The work she has done in relation to Pieta House is phenomenal, but she arguably focussed too much on mental health. She performed poorly in the debates, at times coming across (unfairly, I’m guessing) as quite egotistical (I appreciate that having a big ego seems to be an essential part of the package when it comes to presidential candidates). She also lost her cool a few times in the debates. Freeman clearly did not have a full grasp of the Constitution. She described herself as a “one-trick pony”, which was a tactical error. Ultimately, voters got bored with Joan. They saw her as a very worthy person, but they didn’t see a President.

Gavin Duffy

Gavin Duffy is much better than this paltry 2% that he mustered. Duffy is an intelligent man. On one level he’s a good communicator, but in this instance he got the nuances of his campaign wrong. He was so anxious to come across as a decent, reasonable guy (which he is), he boxed himself into an anonymous space. He became irrelevant. And while he is normally a good communicator, he didn’t, during this campaign, talk in quite the right language, and accordingly did not connect with the electorate. He became the forgotten man of the campaign.

Going around in circles in Roscommon town

Participation in a new game in Roscommon town – it’s for all the community – peaked on Friday last.

  It’s called ‘How do we get our car home/anywhere?’ and involves hundreds of slightly/very frustrated motorists trying to move from one part of town to the other as gridlock grips the county town.

  Okay, we’re tongue in cheek here – it’s not quite Dublin at rush hour – but traffic tailbacks are on the increase in Roscommon town! Mostly this is good news, reflecting excellent footfall as the shopping facilities in town attract customers from adjoining areas. Circular Road (in particular) on a Friday is very slow moving.

  However, traffic build-ups have reached new levels in the past couple of weeks due to lots of those essential roadworks that are underway.

  And so, last Friday, we had this bizarre new ‘game’ as motorists patiently tried to find escape routes from town centre back to their homes or places of work.

  At around 4 pm, the area around McNeill’s roundabout was chock-a-block; I drove back down Abbey Street, headed towards the Civic HQ, then turned right for Main Street. Here I was thwarted again, because there are roadworks at The Square. I turned in the vicinity of St. Ciaran’s Park…back towards the Church…hoping to emerge on to the Fuerty Road. Silly of me. It was chaotic there too; virtually at a standstill. A number of parents who had collected their children from school were turning in the Church carpark, perhaps hoping for some Divine help in the process.

  The whole town was a motoring riddle – with drivers wondering how to get out of the clogged-up centre.

  More of the same on Tuesday (after the weekend respite) where at the roundabout opposite the Arts Centre, a beautiful vintage car – from the 1930s, I’d say – joined the slow moving traffic. Motoring’s sedate past suddenly merging with motoring’s sometimes frantic present.

  So, slow times for motorists in Roscommon town, but no doubt it will all be worth it in the end! At least the schools are off this week!

Tragedy at Leicester

What has unfolded at Leicester City FC in recent years would have been deemed far-fetched if penned by a fiction writer.   

  Premier League players – and sometimes fans of the game – get a fair bit of flak, but there was a touching show of unity by the entire ‘football family’ at the weekend as people reacted with shock, grief and solemn dignity to the awful tragedy at Leicester.

  Triumph, farce and tragedy…it’s been a bewildering few years’ at the club. Their Premier title triumph in 2016 defied belief. It was just extraordinary…unfashionable Leicester doing what appeared to be impossible…strutting to Premier League success with a team mostly made up of journeymen, the world class big boys at more illustrious clubs left in their wake. The following season, Claudio Raniera, the manager who led Leicester to glory, was dispensed with. Poor results sealed his fate: sentiment and the scale of the historic achievement of the previous season wasn’t enough to protect him from the ruthless and unforgiving demands of modern-day football.

  Last weekend, a horrible new twist in Leicester’s recent history. A helicopter carrying five people, including Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – the club’s very popular owner – crashed outside the King Power Stadium, shortly after Leicester’s draw with West Ham. There were no survivors.

  The tragedy puts sport – even epic sporting acheivements, like’s Leicester’s in 2016 – into perspective. It is such a sad chapter in what is still a great, powerful and emotional story.


Morning after the night before...




Rooskey was calm and serene on a stunningly beautiful Monday afternoon when I took a walk into the heart of the village.

  Opposite McGuire’s garage, the lone fisherman who was there on Sunday was gone, with or without fish, I have no idea.

  The empty hotel looms large, a constant reminder of lively seasons past – and of unfulfilled potential. We are tiring now of asking ‘Any sign of the hotel re-opening?’ – but we live in hope.

  Crossing the bridge, a few passing cars and shoppers popping into Tighe’s Centra were the first signs of activity. It was a beautiful day, graced by bright, warm sunshine. It was the day after the local GAA club dug out a famous county title win. Flags fluttered from poles and windows. A plaque on the outside of the derelict factory – once the heart of the village – solemnly declares: ‘Site of Bacon Factory. Hanley’s/Glanbia. Destroyed by fire 2002’. In the spacious carpark, the markings for car parking spaces are still clear, but there’s no army of men and women in white overalls, no life there, nothing only memories.

  It was a very serene afternoon, but suddenly I could hear loud music booming from further up the village. It turned out that after big celebrations on Sunday night, part 2 of the party was underway. “Most of the team are in there” a local man said to me, pointing at Cox’s famous bar. They were too. It sounded like a great party (I passed, continuing on my walk).

  Next I met Tommy Washington, also out for a walk. Now there’s a great GAA man, and also, aptly enough, a man synonymous with Hanley’s factory. Tommy was a legendary sales rep with Hanley’s in its great heyday. Now we chatted for a few minutes about Kilglass Gaels’ great win on Sunday. “A great boost” we agreed. Tommy went one way and I went the other. Two players emerged from Cox’s, where the music was still blaring. They had earned their party and their great celebrations.

  I was delighted for Kilglass Gaels, for everyone associated with the club, for the village too. It’s my own village, where I spent my childhood. Commiserations of course to Clann na nGael, a club which will continue to prosper at all levels. It’s harder for much smaller clubs, like Kilglass. Emigration, unemployment and lack of opportunity drains places like Rooskey of many of their young people. Kilglass lost the last two County Junior Finals, but, with great perseverance and heart, somehow summoned the resolve to return again and claim the title at the third time of asking. A win such as this is a once-off boost to an area but  also injects new belief that adversity can be overcome. Rural Ireland might be under pressure, but small communities can, thanks to the amazing resilience of the people, still achieve great things. Proof of that in Kilglass/Rooskey last weekend.

  I crossed the bridge again – when I came to it – the blaring music easing with every step I took. Past the hotel, past McGuire’s, down a familiar path and road. In the fisherman’s field opposite the Shannon, still no sign of that lone fisherman. So be it. Kilglass Gaels had landed their own big catch, the one that got away in 2016 and 2017. It was a great weekend for Rooskey.

Meanwhile…in Kilteevan…


While my native village of Rooskey was toasting a great win (Kilglass Gaels) at the weekend, there were similar celebrations in Kilteevan, where we now live!

  Like many other small rural clubs, St. Joseph’s have battled not just for success, but for actual survival, in recent years. The fact that St. Joseph’s have managed to overcome the type of challenges that face so many clubs is a great credit to the very dedicated volunteers involved.

  This season, results have been improving too. The year was already a success before last Saturday, when the team travelled to Boyle to take on the home side in the Division 5 League Final. It had been fifteen years since St. Joseph’s last tasted outright victory in a competition (the Junior Championship triumph in 2003). Remarkably, five of the players who were involved in 2003 were still playing for the club last Saturday!

  Cheered on by a big support from the parish, St. Joseph’s upset the odds and won last Saturday’s final by 5-6 to 0-11. The cup was presented to proud captain, Paul Gilleran.

  This tremendous win is just reward for the dedication of so many people over the years, not least this season, when the players took it upon themselves to do individual training sessions outside of group sessions to help achieve promotion and ultimately win Saturday’s final.

  My brother-in-law, Ronan Beirne (vice-captain), informs me that the celebrations in Paddy Finn’s were very special indeed. At that very calm gathering, a number of club awards were presented, so congratulations to David Gibbons (Player of the Year) and to Paul Gilleran, who received a Special Recognition Award recognising the fact that he was a member of the Roscommon Masters (over 40s) team that won an All-Ireland title this year.

  And congratulations to everyone involved with St. Joseph’s on a great win.


‘It’s malogen’– Brian

Brian Kerr – by now a national treasure – is famous for his distinctive Dublin drawl and his often pricelessly bizarre and entertaining use of language.

  No-one can question Brian’s knowledge of soccer, and he has great and sometimes underappreciated coaching credentials. Now, as a regular media contributor, he is famous for his unique way with words…a combination of Bertie-esque mangling of the English language and Kerr-esque wit.

  Last Saturday, Today FM had live commentary on the Chelsea/Manchester United match. The commentator was UK-based Englishman Adam Lindsay. Kerr provided expert analysis alongside Adam.

  Catching a few minutes of it, and aware of Kerr’s growing fan base, I wondered what English-born  commentators like Lindsay make of Kerr’s accent, wit and quirky phrases.

  As I listened to the polished tones of the English commentator and the unique Kerr, I thought our man is very well informed, very individualistic…this was going well.

  In the final seconds, the commentator asked Kerr if United would be happy with a point, despite conceding a late goal.

  Me: (Go on Brian…you can do it…give us a sophisticated summary…)

  Kerr: “I think so…they were malogen in the first half!”

  You have to love him!


Bill’s well worth tuning into!

A couple of years ago I ‘discovered’ Bill Maher, a comedian/presenter whose weekly show ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ can be seen in these parts on Sky Atlantic.

  I enjoy American current affairs shows, and am well aware that many of them are unashamedly politically biased. Watching Maher, it was soon clear that he was not just anti-Republican Party, but genuinely terrified of the prospect of Donald Trump winning the Presidency. His shows prior to Trump’s win were engrossing; then his worst fears were realised. His shows since the dramatic event have been utterly dominated, week on week, by Maher’s obsession with Trump and the host’s fear that democracy itself is now very much under threat.

  Sometimes Maher’s jokes fall flat, and his pro-Democrat bias is blatant, but more often than not his show is very entertaining and insightful and features excellent guests (usually, but not always, folk who are fiercely anti-Trump).

  Bill’s been around a long time, but I only discovered him two years ago. I wasn’t sure how credible he is, but this week’s show was a 25th anniversary special and some of the highlights of past shows (and tributes from showbiz folk and others) were great. They convinced me that this guy is pretty special, quite a one-off. Readers might like to check him out. Real Time with Bill Maher is on Sky Atlantic on Sunday nights (usually 11.35 pm). 




Dogs in the street (especially the dogs in the Áras) know this is over…


Irish Presidential elections are meant to be exciting – this one is as dull as a Martin O’Neill press conference.  

  I suspect the wider public have little enough interest in a campaign that, so far at least, is tediously uneventful.

  The candidates are waffling…offering us mostly tiresome platitudes. I’m all in favour of every citizen being entitled to put their name on a ballot paper, but really, some of these candidates are just wasting our time. It is downright arrogant of them to think they are worthy of being President.

  The media is no longer interested in hearing about the supposed ‘vision’ and qualities of each candidate – and you can hardly blame the media for that. Instead, journalists are desperately trying to spark the campaign into life by unearthing some dark secrets from the past, or perhaps by forcing a monumental error from a candidate. We are looking for the David Norris moment. Almost every question posed to a candidate is an intended trap, an attempt to catch the interviewee out.

  Have you ever made a settlement with Revenue? What’s this about you being involved in a car crash when you were in your 20s? Who is your favourite poet?  (This latter question was actually put to Gavin Duffy, in the hope that it would expose him and thus present him as being ‘culturally unfit’); Where have you been the last seven years? How much are you spending on your campaign? Where did you get your money? All pretty tiresome.

  I listened to the RTE Radio 1 debate on Saturday, which at least had all six candidates present. For the first 20 minutes, the wannabees ganged up on Michael D, all of them apparently appalled at the alleged extravagance of his term in office. Thereafter, the wily Michael D settled into his stride. Once all that unseemly talk of money was out of the way, his presidential auru descended over his rueful opponents.

  Given that Monday night’s first TV debate was not starring Michael D or Sean G, I convinced myself that I would pass on it, but when the time came, I tuned in. It was so bad it was almost riveting. Fair play to Gavin Duffy, who angrily took presenter Claire Byrne/RTE to task for reading out a response from a spokesperson for President Higgins. (The Áras had the hump about Peter Casey alleging that costs associated with caring for the President’s dogs are covered by taxpayers). How dare all the President’s men, women (and dogs) seek immediate right of reply when he (Michael D) had turned down an invitation to take part in the debate?

  Peter Casey (I think unintentionally) provided some surreal moments, Joan Freeman was solid (if trying too hard to ‘sound’ presidential), Gavin Duffy was slick enough (maybe even too slick) and Liadh Ní Riada did well overall.

  The arrogant absence of both Michael D and Sean G undermined the whole event. The debate was utterly forgettable; and I hope to have utterly forgotten about it very soon.

  One audience member walked out in protest – a gesture that seemed to sum up the mood of the nation regarding this lacklustre presidential election.  

  Zero out of ten to Michael D for not showing up, but it looks like he’s sleepwalking to victory. Even the dogs in the street (and especially the pampered dogs in the Áras) know that.


Where’s Dave when you need him?

I once jokingly tweeted that the scariest words in the English language are ‘And now, sitting in for Ryan Tubridy…it’s Dave Fanning’.

  Radio channel-hopping on Monday, I discovered that Derek Mooney was sitting in for Ryan, the latter no doubt recovering from his much-hyped broadcasting rollercoaster in London.

  Derek’s fine, but it was much too early in the morning (for me) to buy into chirpy, happy and doubtlessly daft musings on life – and so I switched the dial, in the hope that Pat Kenny might have some misery radio on offer. I knew I could rely on Pat for some discussion on Brexit, or on our wobbly Government, or maybe even on the latest Trump controversy. Pat is as polished as ever – an excellent broadcaster. If there’s one thing that’s annoying about him, it’s his tendency to strut the stage and show off his magnificent bulging intellect/current affairs knowledge (the spellbound audience oohing and aahing, while possibly also rolling their eyes). Sometimes Pat isn’t just content to exhibit his expertise; sometimes he seems to answer his own questions.  

  So yeah, Pat does quite a lot of the talking, but at least he knows what he’s talking about, whereas we don’t really want to hear Dave Fanning (or Derek Mooney) pondering on Brexit or the National Broaband Plan or on the alleged murder of a Saudi Arabian journalist.

  (Neither do I want to hear Dave prattling on about what name Meghan and Prince Harry should give to their baby, which is the sort of nonsense that morning radio inflicts on us).

  JF on Shannonside has of course got his pulse on the local (and national) scene – and is always well worth a listen. Still, sometimes you have to channel-hop.

  When I’m on the school run, as 9 am approaches, the temptation is to keep switching the dial in search of the latest breaking news. This usually involves a brief stop at Newstalk. Speaking of which, one of my ambitions in life is to have the will to survive an entire 10-minute exchange between presenters Shane Coleman and Paul Williams, but sadly this would appear to be too ambitious. Coleman is a good journalist/broadcaster, and Williams is a proven crime reporter with a fondness for bombast and sensationalism, but their efforts as a wise-cracking double-act between interviews can be excruciating, mostly because of Williams’ crassness.

  So, thanks to Paul Williams doing my head in, I can seldom stay with Newstalk in the morning for any more than two or three minutes (there’s some excellent output on that station later in the day). Switching to channels where the morning shows apparently require two or three presenters (why?) is not an option either. Why does a radio show need two (or three) presenters? And why do said presenters think they are some magical combination of Groucho Marx, Billy Connolly, Joan Rivers and Jason Byrne? Do listeners really want to hear their inane, unfunny reflections on their lives?

  There’s a lot to be said for the calming tones of Bryan Dobson, the incisive questioning of Rachael English or Audrey Carville.

  It may have been partly responsible for depressing the entire nation from 2008-2010, but that historic act of torture aside, Morning Ireland remains a solid and popular institution. Most mornings, I will end up gravitating towards the ‘old reliable’.

  By 8.40 am each morning this week on Morning Ireland, a new Presidential candidate was on air, ready to tell us why we should invest our hopes and dreams in them. On Monday it was Gavin, on Tuesday it was Sean. Oh God. That didn’t satisfy me either. Gavin, too soothing, too much ‘ask me anything’ nonsense; Sean, too earnest, like a man trying to claim his lotto winnings when he knows the deadline was in 2011.

  Where’s Dave Fanning and those baby names when you need them?


The crisis that keeps on giving…



The chaotic rollercoaster ride continues. On it goes, this not so magical mystery tour in which the passengers, unsure of their final destination or their exact fate, pass the time bickering furiously while wondering how they got into such strange territory in the first place.

  Brexit is the crisis that keeps on giving. With a few months to go to the UK’s EU exit, the sense of chaos is actually growing. Sure, you could expect brinkmanship as we approach the eleventh hour, but to suggest that our friends ‘across the water’ are playing a clever tactical  hand would surely be to give too much credit. More likely, it is what it looks like: utter chaos.

  One has to admire the tenacity of the Prime Minister, Ms. May. She is battling on gamely, despite the fact that her Conservative party is split, her Cabinet partly made up of rebels-in-waiting, some of whom have daggers and letters of resignation lying side by side in their briefcases.

  Widely seen as having been humiliated by EU leaders in Salzburg, the PM responded with fighting talk of her own the next day. Demanding respect from the EU, she is standing by her proposals for a deal on the UK’s exit, while reiterating that no deal is preferable to a bad one.

  On this side of the Irish Sea, we are to some extent at the mercy of others. The EU’s support for the Irish ‘no hard border’ position appears to be absolute. Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has been playing a blinder. He and Leo are talking in calm, measured tones, dripping in common sense. Still, the worry will be that if the critical Northern Ireland issue isn’t resolved/addressed until the very end, the Irish Government could be wrong-footed, forced into some kind of softening of its position by the EU/UK in the interests of a Brexit deal.

  Meanwhile, underlining the sense of last-minute chaos, the British Labour Party appears to be moving towards considering not just a People’s Vote, but maybe even an actual new referendum which would give the option of remaining in the UK.

  Anything could happen. We could even see Theresa May overthrown. We could have a UK General Election, followed by a Labour win, followed by a new referendum with ‘Remain’ as a tempting option. Maybe a bit far-fetched, but who knows?

  For now, the rollercoaster ride continues, hurtling towards Brexit on this not so magical mystery tour.


Great sporting theatre  as Tiger roars back


A magician with a golf club, and a bit of a time travel expert too, it seems.

  On Sunday night, that man Tiger made a lot of people somehow feel a lot younger!

  It was epic sporting theatre…as we watched the great Tiger Woods complete an astonishing sporting comeback.

  It was five years since he had last won on tour, but that ‘stat’ reveals little of this amazing story. The real story is why he didn’t win, why the man who is arguably the greatest golfer of all time couldn’t even dream of winning. Once on a golfing planet of his own, Woods had plunged the depths, to the point where he ‘couldn’t hit a ball further than 60 yards’.

  The darkness descended almost nine years ago. Revelations about his serial infidelities led to the break-up of his marriage in front of a stunned world. Subsequently, catastrophic back spasms led to the complete collapse of his capacity to play golf competitively. Several comeback attempts failed, sometimes in mid-tournament, Woods literally collapsing in agony in front of spectators. It was over, the genius now a memory in the minds of people ‘of a certain age’. Millions of young fans grew up hearing of Woods the legend, but seeing only a traumatised man in a lonely and seemingly doomed pursuit of his past. The odd time we saw Tiger on a golf course, he was a pathetic shadow of what he once was. His efforts to overcome injury and rebuild his game went from heroic to sad. Tiger was gone, replaced by a ghost of his great past.

  Yet… the man’s extraordinary persistence somehow kept him going, and this year he began to tentatively compete again. And, four back operations later, his body has given him a break. All year, Tiger’s consistently good play has stunned the golfing world, leaving us all to wonder if this story might just take us somewhere new.

  It took us to Atlanta, to a scene of sporting fantasy. Last Sunday as he claimed the Tour Championship, Tiger made us all feel a lot younger. We were back in 1997.

  This was the Tiger of old, leading from the front, sinking long putts, his sheer aura seeping the hope from the chasing pack.

  Walking towards the 18th hole with a two-stroke lead, Tiger was suddenly immersed in an image that will define him as much as those runaway major triumphs during his career peak. In extraordinary scenes, thousands of fans walked every foot of the way with Woods as he strode towards his redemption. This was Woods as a sporting Pied Piper, a Pied Piper with a sensational short game.

  When Woods sunk the putt that confirmed his win, millions of fans shared in his emotional outpouring of joy.

  Cue mayhem around the 18th, a kind of Mad Hatters Tea Party as players, fans and media mingled to celebrate the return of the past. Justin Rose, the likeable English golfer who had just won $10m, was good-humouredly apologising to anyone who would listen…because he had collected ten million and kind of crashed the party. But no-one was listening. If Rose had started handing out 50 dollar bills to people, no-one would have noticed.

  He served up some scandals, and he was always famous for being grouchy, but I think we are seeing a more humble man now, a more vulnerable and therefore more likeable person. Anyways, this isn’t a tale of morality or likeability; it’s the story of a sporting icon who captures the imagination of millions, also a story of extraordinary human spirit.

  The ghost is out of bounds, the genius is strutting his stuff in the middle of the fairways again. And the sight of Tiger hunting down the new generations of golfing superstars – the guys who might have thought they had escaped him – that’s going to be some fun. It’s a great sporting story revealing itself in our lifetimes.





A welcome win for decency over thuggery





When ‘Traditional old salt-of-the-earth decency’ met ‘Young, spoilt, pathetic thieving thugs’ in Cork on Saturday, the odds favoured the latter.

  I was delighted therefore to see the former beat the odds – and the thugs – in this unscheduled showdown in a bookmakers.

  When three masked and armed raiders charged into the Glanmire bookmakers shop, they met more than they had bargained for.

  Wielding hammers and “what appeared to be a shotgun”, the thugs ran into the premises on Saturday night, demanding cash.

  However, they were confronted by the manager of the premises, who was joined in the resistance by 84-year-old great-granddad, Denis O’Connor. Indeed, speaking on RTE Radio on Monday, the manager generously conceded that he only challenged the raiders after the brave octogenarian did!

  While challenging raiders is probably not recommended, every decent person in the country will be hailing Mr. O’Connor’s bravery and heroicism.  

  The 84-year-old challenged one of the hammer-wielding raiders, and the manager of the premises joined in. All three raiders fled.

  Described by locals as “an absolute gentleman”, Mr. O’Connor strikes me as being typical of the type of elderly men and women you see in a bookies’; salt-of-the-earth folk who have led good, honest lives and for whom an afternoon in the bookmakers is an enjoyable indulging of a hobby, not to mention a social interaction.

  The thugs, on the other hand, are cowardly layabouts who should be locked up until they learn some manners and decide to contribute positively to society!

  So well done to Denis O’Connor, who bravely ensured that this ill-fated ‘treble’ backed a loser last Saturday.


Harrington heroics

On he goes…away now from the spotlight, but still displaying glimpses of his greatness.

  I suspect some people can’t quite put him in at no. 1 when those ‘Who is Ireland’s greatest ever sports person?’ debates are in full flow. And that’s fine. Because as the years go by and we travel further from Padraig Harrington’s great peak, it is understandable that appreciation of the enormity of his golfing achievements might diminish a little. Also, people can make very legitimate claims for other contenders for the ‘Best ever’ status, such as, for example, the great Brian O’Driscoll.

  For me, it’s always been Harrington, his three majors (won in the 2007-2008 period) sealing the deal. Of course it’s a silly enough exercise, this ‘Who is the greatest?’ speculation. Because you probably can’t really compare a man sinking a pressure putt to beat the world’s elite to a rugby superstar, or indeed to the great middle-distance runner, Sonia O’Sullivan. Can’t we celebrate them all with equal pride?

  What’s great about Harrington is that he keeps plodding away with varying degrees of success, some years on now from the glory days. Two weeks ago, he finished second in Prague, on 20 under par. Last Sunday, he finished fifth in the KLM Open in Holland, on 13 under.

  That’s 33 under for his last eight rounds – life in the ‘old dog’ yet, 22 years after his first professional win. And he’s a gentleman too!


‘Beyonce’s not answering…call Marty and Aine’


There was an unexpected boost for Ireland’s struggling pubs last Saturday night when RTE experimented with a new reality show which is sure to leave living rooms abandoned and pubs with fresh hope…

  Or perhaps I was dreaming…anyways, channel-hopping, I arrived at the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTE 1 on Saturday night.

  In what appears to be a daring new experiment, the show featured a breathlessly giggly duo…a GAA commentator and a current affairs broadcaster…who spoke at length about how they will patronise thousands of welly-wearing people in a field in Co. Offaly this week, where they will offset any sagging in the silly chat with outbreaks of mad dancing.

  The dancing dimension to the Ploughing presentation by Marty Morrissey and Aine Lawlor has been introduced because a bizarre persona has been created for Marty whereby he will forever more be labelled a ‘mighty dancer and party animal’, just because he was a sporting, if leaden-footed participant in a tedious reality dance show. Aine is gamely playing along.

  In case anyone in the open-mouthed audience did not quite get the concept, host Ray D’Arcy invited Marty to remind the captives in studio and the watching nation of just how good his moves are.

  As anguished viewers desperately searched under cushions for the damn remote, a woman was ushered from the audience to have her Marty moment. She was a big fan of Marty’s, but an even bigger fan of Nathan Carter’s. Fortuitously, the producers had Nathan’s ‘Wagon Wheel’ lined up. Cue Marty and Woman from Audience jiving (sort of) while Ray clapped along in the background, possibly wondering if his €400,000 salary needs an upward review at this point.

  Now I know it’s all harmless fun, but for nostalgic fans of the great chat show era, it’s traumatic stuff! Two nice RTE ‘old hands’ are presenting the ploughing; why are they prime time guests on a Saturday night chat show? Beyonce and Madonna not answering?

  As I desperately tried to banish visions of Miriam O’Callaghan and Bernard O’Shea doing a rock and roll routine next week, I (again) fantasised about a time when interesting celebrity guests talked about their interesting celebrity lives on chat shows.

  I dreamt of Muhammad Ali and Bob Hope and Billy Connolly and Bette Davis and Joan Rivers on Parkinson, of Hollywood A-listers on Graham Norton, and of John Cleese, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Tony Curtis on the Late Late Show.

  Alas, all’s changed – utterly. Over on Virgin Media, the most obnoxiously vain and self-centred and idiotic wannabees are taking part in Big Brother; the X Factor is now so staged as to be more or less completely devoid of whatever credibility it once had.

  Back in RTE chat show land, your best chance of getting on ‘the telly’ is if you are an actual RTE presenter who has an RTE show coming up.

  Hence, the painfully dull succession of familiar faces coming on to Ryan and Ray’s couches/chairs to talk about their exciting new series’. Both programmes have their good moments, but the general trend is not great. 

  Meanwhile, Wednesday’s storm-related cancellation notwithstanding, the actual welly-fest itself is dominating the media this week, which is fine I guess. It’s a great event. I didn’t go, for fear of bumping into a cliché-sporting presidential candidate with a fixed smile, an outstretched hand and a vision of Ireland for everyone in the audience.

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