Frank Brandon’s Column

Back at the football as country reopens!

Our man Frank on a welcome return to normality, Aoife O’Rourke’s Olympic dreams, scary seagulls, and our local hard-working publicans…


It’s Monday morning of the Bank Holiday weekend and after months of lockdown, there is a sense of excitement in the air as things are finally about to return to a semblance of normality. In the words of the national media, the country is about to reopen again. It’s as if we are getting a second spring; we’re about to experience a new birth and a whole load of new life, and people are definitely in a much more positive and upbeat mood.

Out here in Creggs, we don’t have to wait long for the first sign of the new dawn because, at 11 am in Mulhern Park, our footballers are making their first public appearance in more than six months. Even though it is only a challenge match, there is an unusual air of expectation and anticipation about the fixture.

The players in every club around the country must be chomping at the bit to get out on the pitch to show their wares, and now that 100 people can attend matches, it’s as if the shackles have come off and we have a certain amount of freedom back in our lives.

So off I went to Fuerty for the 11 o’clock throw in, and it was obvious that we were all in the same boat. Quite a decent crowd turned up for a game that was remarkably high in quality and extremely competitive, and a great warm-up for both clubs with the championship looming. Our lads came out on top by a couple of points, but with both sides short a good number of regulars, neither will read too much into the result. However, the big result for us all was the fact that the game actually took place with spectators in attendance. Hopefully it will be the start of a summer of great sporting action, with so many big national and international events to take place.


Aoife books her seat for Tokyo!

When it comes to big international events, there are none as big as the Olympics, and the achievement of Castlerea’s Aoife O’Rourke (daughter of Creggs Rugby legend Kevin and his wife Anne) in qualifying for the middleweight boxing finals in Tokyo ranks up there with the highest achievements of anyone from the west of Ireland in any sport, as she has become the first ever female fighter from west of the Shannon to become an Olympian.

Heartiest congratulations Aoife, well done – as a number of former teammates of your father will testify, he too had a fearsome left hook and powerful body shot. You’re heading for Tokyo later this year to represent yourself, your family, your county, and your country, and I have no doubt you will do so in the best possible way.

Before I leave sport, you may recall that last week I congratulated Denis Buckley on the occasion of his 200th Connacht Cap – a feat that made him one of only three players to reach such an amazing milestone. I was saddened to hear later that there is no sentiment in professional sport, as only thirty seconds into his 200th game he suffered a serious leg injury that resulted in his having to leave the field. The injury may now mean he will miss a good part of the upcoming rugby season.

On the same subject (again showing how unforgiving sport at the highest level can be), Leinster’s Andrew Porter, also a prop forward, is going to miss out on what might well be his only chance to be a British and Irish Lion, as he too got injured in Leinster’s game last Friday night against Glasgow, and will miss this summer’s Lions’ tour to South Africa.

To miss out on what players regard as the highest accolade in rugby this side of the world, becoming a Lion, is a huge blow, and so I wish both him and Denis well in their recovery battles. Please God, we will see both back better than ever next season.


Sympathy for victims of seagull attacks

One of the casualties of the recent cyber attack on the HSE was the fact that a lot of normal medical events were postponed. As such, an MRI that a member of my family was to have went by the wayside the very first day after the attack. However, last Thursday evening we got word to head for the old regional hospital in Galway for 5 o’clock in the evening to get the job done. We left the house at three and just about made it with a few minutes to spare.

I told you a couple of weeks ago about another trip I had there, and how I was pleasantly surprised to find that the car parking was free. The sad news is that on Thursday, all was back to normal – the parking metre was working fine, and well able to clock up the charges!

Anyway, my patient went in for the MRI and as I stayed in the car, my eyes were drawn to two lads doing some work up on the fourth floor of the hospital. They were wearing Hi Vis jackets, and became a magnet for a number of seagulls flying around. I have often heard of dive-bombing seagulls in seaside resorts, and how they attack unsuspecting people – usually those with some sort of food in their possession – but until Thursday I had never actually seen them in action. I can tell you now it’s a very scary sight.

A number of them kept flying at the two lads who were obviously terrified, and after a few minutes of trying to shoo the birds away, the lads gave up and ran for their lives. Whatever work they were meant to do was put on hold, and all I could see was the lads reaching the safety of the nearest door and disappearing inside, never to reappear (while I was there at least).

Up to now, I used to treat such incidents with a certain amount of amusement, but I have to say that the whole thing looked very frightening. The next time I read of a dive-bombing attack by seagulls anywhere, I will have more sympathy for the victims than I used to have.

The funny thing is that even after the lads disappeared, the seagulls were still doing their thing, so there is no chance that the lads got back out. I wonder are they still in hiding up on the fourth floor in University Hospital, Galway, or did they figure out a way to make their escape?


Local publicans have done Trojan work

One of my favourite pastimes over the last few weeks has been wondering what local pubs would open up on Monday, June 7th and what, if any, efforts they had made to make their premises more welcoming for the outdoor drinker.

In last week’s Roscommon People, reporter Dan Dooner showed us the commendable work done by several publicans around the county, including Carol’s niece, Anouska, who runs Ned’s Bar in Knockcroghery.

Well, the good news is that our two local publicans, Joe Dolan and Mikeen O’Rourke (to give him his full title), have both put in Trojan work. Both places, along with Joe’s other premises, D’Alton’s in Fuerty, are more than ready to accommodate all their thirsty customers. In fact, they are so ready, willing, and able to look after us, that as soon as I have finished this piece, I’m heading for Creggs to sample the first pint of plain I’ve had in more than six months. Slainté!


Finally for this week…

Heartiest congratulations to our niece Anouska’s mammy (and my sister-in-law) Eucharia, who last week celebrated a special birthday. I am not going to tell you what age she is, but she has once again caught up with me, so you can figure that out for yourselves!


Till next week, Bye for now!