Following in footsteps of The Dubliners (and the man from Moldova)

Many is the time we would bemoan that there is nothing on; no party, no nothing, nowhere to go (although I am happy enough to go to Mikeen’s), but the weekend just gone by was like the old tale of the two buses – you wait ages for one and then a second one appears at the very same time.

And so it was that on Friday night, a load of the staff from this newspaper and whatever the likes of me is called (Editor’s note: We’re happy to go with ‘Valued freelance columnist’) headed to P. Kelly’s to have a dram or two and bid adieu to Martina as she headed off to pastures new with the HSE. I told you all about Martina last week, but somehow it escaped my attention until Friday night that the renowned radio commentator and well-known GAA personality, Willie Hegarty, is her brother, and she told me she is rightly proud of the bould Willie.

We had a lovely night in Kelly’s, good drink, good food, and great craic, and I ran into Jack the Higher who was there along with a large gang from the Council, who were also bidding farewell to a work colleague. However, I left early-ish, as I was due to fulfil a promise I made to my nephew David over the Christmas period. David plays All-Ireland rugby up in the Capital city with Old Belvedere and I had long wanted to go and see him in action, and so, on Saturday morning, myself and Carol found ourselves on the 9 am Bus Eireann service from Athlone (no free travel yet) and bound for the lovely Anglesea Road venue, where Belvedere were to host their cross-town neighbours, Clontarf.

My trips to Dublin are not complete without a visit to Eddie Rocket’s for the Power Rocket breakfast, (don’t tell my heart specialist, my nutritionist, my dietician, or my wife – only kidding, she was there) and as usual it was well worth waiting for. Duly fortified, it was off to Belvo for the game. Sadly Clontarf were way too strong for the home side and won well; David, however, was brilliant in defence, with a number of tremendous tackles, including at least two try-saving ones, but he was to pay the price for his heroic defending when he went off in the second half, suffering from concussion.

We didn’t get to see much of him in attack as Clontarf bossed them in the pack, but as we left I could certainly say he is plenty good enough to play at that level – and if the rest of the team showed as much defiance and commitment, they might have done a good deal better.

Anyway, after the game we had a look in the clubhouse but, as it was packed to capacity, we decided to give a miss to the post-match celebrations and headed to De Brun’s in Castleknock where we had a bite to eat. The place has a good reputation, and in fairness to it, it lived up to our expectations. Then it was out to our daughter Lisa’s house, where we got ready for the night and shortly after 8 pm we were settling down in an already crowded O’Donoghue’s on Baggot Street, a pub made famous by the fact that The Dubliners set out on their musical journey many years ago from within its hallowed walls.

And the good news for me, as it’s at least 40 years since I was last in there, was that very little has changed – the first thing that hit us was the sound of traditional music being played by a large group of musicians just inside the front door, and the place itself had hardly changed at all. We managed to get ourselves seats at a little table, and I enjoyed a number of top quality pints of Guinness; by now there was live music in the three different downstairs bars, and a gentleman with long grey hair (he reminded me of someone), bombarded us with the peculiar sounds he was able to knock out of his mouth organ. I would have to admit I have heard better, but in a pub where a true Dub told me he could feel Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly’s presence, I was not going to run down any musician and felt privileged to be back in a place where musical history was made a few decades ago.

Time is catching up with me and, unusually, I pulled out of O’Donoghue’s before closing time, and was back in bed not too long after midnight, but I have to say I enjoyed one of my rare visits to the Capital and – even though I know it won’t happen – I resolved to go back again before too long and sample some more of the exceptional nightlife. The other great thing about towns and cities is the availability of public transport, and once again it highlighted the huge problems the people of rural Ireland face with the drink-driving laws.

Now I do not advocate drink-driving in any way, but as most rural areas have neither buses nor taxis, it is very difficult for lonely people to get out to socialise, and maybe a little leniency with the drink-driving laws might be of some help. Minister Shane Ross is trying to get an absolute nil drinks limit in and I think he should leave it as it is; it has always been my opinion that speed is a bigger factor in the many road accidents that ruin so many lives.

Anyway, a man from Moldova drove us home and, in fairness to him, he knew his way around the city the same as if he was a bred, born and reared Dub.

The truth about Enda and me

It’s yet another Monday morning and as I drove from Creggs to Athlone I realised for the first time that I have something in common with our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Both of us are about to become pensioners, but apart from us both having the free travel, that is where the similarity, sadly, ends.

 After working for close on fifty years, since 1968, I will get the weekly sum of €233, almost the full contributory pension, until I depart this mortal earth; Enda will get an annual sum of €124,000, almost two and a half thousand a week, until he too passes on along – with a little matter of a lump sum of close to €400,000. Now, if you know me, you will know that I would not be the slightest bit jealous (well maybe a little bit) about Enda’s good fortune, as he has given the people of Mayo, and latterly Ireland, a lot of his time and indeed his life since he was first elected to the Dáil in 1974.

  However, those people who feel he should be allowed to pick and choose when he steps down as leader of Fine Gael are totally misguided, as even the dogs on the street know he is now a lame duck Taoiseach – and, in a time of huge political instability, that’s the last thing we need; in my opinion he should go now and not waste any more time. He can console himself with his lump sum and maybe his beloved Mayo might even win the Sam Maguire.

And finally…

Finally for this week, and back to Dublin, where obviously the building boom is back again.

It was amazing to see the number of high rise cranes dotted all over the city. It was reminiscent of the Celtic Tiger years at their best and, especially in the docks area, building seems to be going on everywhere.

It’s no wonder we are being told that things are on the up and up, and all I can do is hope it doesn’t go belly up, like it did last time round. We’ll wait and see.

‘Till next week, bye for now!