Diary of the times that are (part 14)

Sunday

 

Lockdown has afforded an opportunity to enjoy more TV/radio/Netflix, etc. Today I came across ‘Everton – Howard’s Way’, a documentary on Howard Kendall’s reign as Everton manager in the 1980s. It was very enjoyable and nostalgic, with great contributions from former players such as Andy Gray, Peter Reid and the wonderful Neville Southall. It was a reminder too of how gifted the Irish international Kevin Sheedy was. Everton had unprecedented success under Kendall, who sadly died in 2015, aged just 69.

It’s certainly given me an appetite for some of the acclaimed sports documentaries which I’m aware of but have yet to see, including The Last Dance (Michael Jordan), Lance (Lance Armstrong) and recommended ones on Sunderland FC and Leeds United FC.

On Off the Ball on Newstalk, another great Irish footballer, Kevin Moran, was interviewed by Joe Molloy. After winning two All-Ireland senior medals as an outstanding young GAA player with Dublin, Moran sensationally switched codes, joining Manchester United in 1978, at the age of 22. I still remember how shocked my school friends and I were on hearing this news. A Dublin GAA star joining Manchester United! Moran went on to have a great career in English football, and with Ireland. The podcast of the interview is well worth listening to.

Finally, on Sunday night, while channel-hopping, I joined ‘Philomena’ about 15 minutes in (BBC 1). It’s the critically acclaimed true story of an Irish woman’s tireless search for the son she had been forced to give up for adoption.

An unmarried teenage mother in 1950s’ Ireland, Philomena had placed her baby son in the care of the now notorious Magdalene Laundries. Incredibly, the nuns and priests who ran such institutions often sold babies of ‘shamed mothers’ to childless American couples. As one reviewer wrote: “It was a baby-farm business model that ran on cruelty and hypocrisy”.

This grim, emotional story – which has some extraordinary twists – is very well told in the film.

Judi Dench is superb as Philomena, and Steve Coogan (as the journalist who helped uncover the truth) is excellent too.

 

Monday

 

And the crowds, they gathered in their thousands (well, hundreds, at least). And they were all drawn to the one magical thing. Young and old, they swarmed towards the light, the opening, the wonder of it all.

Some of those observing this strange movement of people mused that a UFO may had landed. Others whispered that there might have been a religious apparition. Others didn’t whisper at all, they just stopped what they were doing and followed the masses.

And on and on they went, these people, drawn by the light, drawn by the promise of something new, of some hope midst the darkness and the gloom. And to a man (actually, it was mostly women) they showed no fear or apprehension. They weren’t afraid, they didn’t worry for their safety. They were brave. Some held the hands of loved ones (immediate family only)…others felt the comfort of the presence of friends, some brave souls ventured forward alone.

Yes, they were brave, and they were curious, and they would not be stopped or held back. On and on they moved, followed now by an inquisitive and intrigued media posse, the gathering growing with every hour, as darkness turned to light. And still the observers wondered might it be a UFO or a religious apparition.

But no, it was just Penneys’ reopening.

 

Later on Monday

 

3.30 pm, and I’m walking on the Athlone Road, enjoying the sunshine and wondering if the predicted thunder and lightning is bypassing Roscommon.

The traffic is steady. A vehicle whooshes by. Helpfully, it says ‘Horses’ on the back, and sure enough, there are horses inside it. Then another truck passes, also heading for Roscommon, also with horses.

At once, I feel delighted that there’s a race meeting in Roscommon today, but the sight of the flying horses is also a reminder of all that we have lost this summer. The weather is beautiful, it’s a Monday in June, and the horses are heading for the starting line. Hopefully the punters/casual race-goers will be in hot pursuit soon!

 

Tuesday

 

On Virgin Media’s Tonight Show, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan and Fine Gael TD Damien English are in studio. On Monday, their parties, with Fianna Fáil, unveiled a draft Programme for Government. Happy days, Damien might have been thinking.

Neasa was one of the Greens’ negotiating team. But after signing off on the deal, she abstained when the plan was put to a vote at parliamentary party level. Matt Cooper then asked if she’d vote for it in her capacity as a party member. Neasa – who helped negotiate the deal – said she couldn’t commit at the moment. She’d have to read it again!

Matt arched an eyebrow upwards. Damien? He must have felt like a prospective partner in an arranged marriage who has just realised that the ceremony could be cancelled!

 

Wednesday

 

Some years after his playing peak, Willie Thorne, who sadly died in the early hours today, visited Roscommon for a snooker exhibition. With Thorne was a young man who would go on to become arguably the greatest player of all time – Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The duo played an exhibition in Roscommon town. It’s likely that this is the trip which O’Sullivan was referring to when he paid tribute to Thorne on Wednesday.

O’Sullivan tweeted: ‘…a beautiful man, big heart, great company. Had a week in Ireland with him I’ll never forget. Will be missed by a lot of people in the snooker world. RIP WT’.

Willie Thorne may not have been one of the all-time great players, but he belonged to snooker’s golden era. And he was a super player, renowned for his century breaks (and maximum 147s). He was twice a quarter-finalist in the World Championships.

His impact in the sport was significant. He was one of the game’s greatest ever characters, immensely popular with fellow players and fans. He went on to become a top commentator. Aged just 66, Willie Thorne died in Spain after a short illness. Snooker fans all over the world are mourning one of the legends of the sport. He will be greatly missed.