Frank Brandon’s Column

Dubs were wrong – meanwhile, opponents will ponder that early bird catches the worm!

Our man Frank on Fr Norman’s milestone birthday; readers’ response on Knock Shrine article; celebrating the role of the GAA…and tut-tutting (with a warning) about that early-morning Dublin training session…

It’s a beautiful Easter Sunday afternoon, and my four-legged friend (Hope) and I are on our daily walk up Lenamarla.

Lenamarla is a lovely rural area, where spring-life is bursting out all around us, with primroses appearing on all the ditches (not as many as last year, but plentiful nonetheless), and there’s loads of dandelions which seem to thrive no matter what conditions they have to endure. In the fields, the new-born lambs are playing in the warm sunshine, and the blackbirds and thrushes are singing.

However, my mind is far away, because in normal times I would be on the side of some pitch in some part of County Roscommon, supporting Creggs footballers in an O’Gara Cup game, shouting encouragement (sometimes), at our players, probably shouting abuse at the poor referee, and simply enjoying something that we have always taken for granted. Obviously there are no matches just now, but as I walk up the road I think of the big draw that Creggs GAA are holding later this evening, and of the GAA’s importance in rural Ireland for well over 100 years.

For a small club to survive nowadays, it takes a huge commitment from so many people, and this is the case in Creggs. Yesterday morning (Easter Saturday), I went to O’Rourkes for the paper and stuff and ran into two men: club secretary Eugene Hanley, and my brother Duff (Sean), who is club chairperson. Even at that hour of the morning (10 am), the only thing on their minds was the draw, and the importance of putting in one big final effort to sell more tickets and make sure the whole thing was a success.

My brother Duff gave me a pep talk that I haven’t had the likes of since before the County Final in 1974 (that one didn’t work that well, as we lost to Roscommon Gaels, but I’m glad to say Duff’s was a bit more successful).

I am also thinking of the great organisation the GAA is, and how some of its best known players and ex-players – Sean Og O’Halpin, Kevin McManamon, John Divilly, Kevin McStay, Shane Curran, Niall Kilroy, Galway captain Shane Walsh, and Roscommon captain Enda Smith – have all taken time out to wish the little club well, and encouraged people to buy tickets.

As I’m writing this, the draw is yet to take place, but the word is that it has been very well supported. In Creggs and in every other GAA club, big or small, the key is effort and organisation. In that regard, we are very lucky to have had a young, committed and enthusiastic finance committee, which, along with Duff, Eugene, and several others, co-ordinated the whole thing and made it the success that it undoubtedly is.

In case you think this is only about Creggs, you would be wrong, because down the road (well a good bit) Éire Og GAA Club (of which our own Creggs man Richard Canny was a prominent member) are holding a draw for an amazing prize – a new €70,000 camper van. They too will need a huge effort from their club members to make it a success.

Just as we think all is good in the GAA world, we have the news that the Dubs (or nine members of the panel) broke Covid guidelines by holding a sneaky training session in Malahide  at 7 am on Wednesday of last week. There is no doubt that, as role models for so many young supporters, this conduct by these players set a very bad example.

Personally, I can’t see a lot wrong with a non-contact session in the open-air on a football pitch, but rules, whether right or wrong, are rules. It was a blatant breach of Government advice, and as such  should be harshly dealt with. Ordinary folk who break the rules, if caught, are penalised, so let’s hope the Dubs who did so do not get off scot-free.

However, in the midst of all the anger and condemnation of that training session, one important fact seems to have been overlooked. That is the fact that some of the most decorated and successful footballers in the history of the game were prepared to train at 7 am on an April morning, a fair sign that they have no intention of easing off, and obviously have the seven-in-a-row in their sights. If I was the manager of any other county football team, I have to say that I’d be angry they broke the rules, but twice as worried that the Dubs are laying down a marker, and that they will be odds-on favourites to win Sam again this year. Covid couldn’t stop them last year, and it probably won’t be able to stop them this year either.


Fr Norman’s milestone

A few years ago, I had the great honour of being allowed into the beautiful Donamon Castle. There, I had the pleasure of having a chat with Fr. Norman Davitt, during which he told me of his early childhood days, his school and college education, and the road that led him to Donamon way back in 1939, to commence a Novitiate that lasted for three years. Later, after being ordained in Techny outside Chicago in 1947, he came back again in 1955 for another three years. Then, in 1998, he arrived back for the third time, and there he remains to this day.

When I talked to him, he was a sprightly 97 years old, fit as a fiddle, and reading a book: ‘How to live to be 110’. In my article, I said that, “If I was a betting man, I would certainly be backing him to make it that far”.

Well, the good news is that he’s well on the way. Last Monday week (March 29th), Fr. Norman reached the magical milestone of 100 years of age, and I offer him my heartiest congratulations. He is one of the best known and most recognisable people in the entire area, and everyone in the community wishes him well.

I hope Michael D sent his contribution, but whether he did or not, well done Fr. Davitt, only ten more to go to prove you were reading the right book – and I am more confident than ever that you will make it!


Knock Shrine: Big reader response

Staying with religious matters…in all the years I’ve doing this column for the Roscommon People, I have never had a reaction like the one I got for my recent piece about the elevation of Knock by Pope Francis, where I wrote about its belated recognition as an International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine, and the subsequent objectionable article on the Daily Star.

I want to thank all those that sent me long letters about the article, especially a woman who sent me on a beautiful Mass Book. Sometimes it is easy to think that we, as a nation, have gone away from the faith, but judging by all the letters I received, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we say goodbye to Easter Week, it seems to me the faith is alive and well!


And finally…

We have always been told that a cat has nine lives, and that may or may not be true, but over in the Isle of Wight, a cat (originally called Jess but later known as Tibby) made international news when he was reunited with his owners after going missing for fourteen years.

In May 2007, Jess disappeared after joining some other cats for, I presume, a cat’s party at a friend’s house. For the next fourteen years, he lived on the grounds of an assisted living home, where the residents renamed him Tibby. He was, for all intents and purposes, a street cat, living off scraps and the kindness of the residents of the care home. That would probably have been that, until he started to show his age and the care home people decided he needed a permanent home, where he would be fed and properly looked after.

Jess, now Tibby, was scanned for a microchip, and amazingly, his owner had kept his details up to date throughout the fourteen years. And so the wonderful news is that Tibby, now known again as Jess, is back where it all started all those years ago, with his original owner Leigh Bateman, who says she is so pleased to have him home.

I’m not sure if there is any moral to this story, but if there is one, maybe it does show that a cat can indeed have nine lives!