Frank Brandon’s Column

Kicking it with the ‘Junior Bs’ in Fuerty!

Our man Frank on football for all ages in Creggs, memories of a ‘rugby tour’ to County Clare in the 70s, and a man who had 39 wives and 94 children…

It’s Monday morning, and I am back from my lovely walk around the rugby club grounds in Creggs, where, as usual, there were a few others out for their daily exercise. I’ve been reflecting on a weekend that, to my mind, conclusively confirmed that life is almost back to normal – at least for those of us who are fully vaccinated.

On Friday evening, it was off to Mulhern Park in Fuerty, where our Junior B football team was in league action against St. Brigid’s. It was the first competitive game any of our lads had had since September last year, and we won a very entertaining match by a couple of points.

For a small club like Creggs to be able to field a Junior B team is a very positive thing. It gives football to older lads who mightn’t make the Intermediate team, but aren’t ready to retire and still have plenty to offer. It also gives a chance for the young lads coming through to get game time and benefit from the experience of playing alongside some of the veterans.

An incident in the game summed it up for me, when my own lad Mark linked up a couple of times with young Evan Coleman in a move that ended with Mark scoring a Creggs’ point. Mark is coming to the end of a long career with Creggs and young Evan is starting out on what is shaping up to be a productive spell for him, and without giving away any specifics, we figured out that my lad was almost two and a third times older than Evan. Stuff like that is what makes the GAA so important in rural communities, and having the Junior B competition makes such little things possible.

On my way home from the fantastic set-up that is Creggs Rugby Club on Monday, I called into the GAA pitch to see the work going on there. While it is totally dug up now, it looks as if in a year or so we will have a pitch to match any in the county.

As I looked at it, and thought of the four fabulous pitches that the rugby lads now have to play on, I wished I could turn back the clock and just have one more run out on either pitch. Sadly, no clock exists that could be turned back that far and so I, like so many more of my generation, have to rely on my fast fading memories.

 

Memories of Creggs Rugby on tour in Kilrush

Speaking of memories, after the Mulhern Park trip, I met up with my brother Billy for a couple of lovely, open-air pints. We got talking about rugby tours we had been on down through the years, and while you might think that trips to Cardiff, Murrayfield, Twickenham, or Paris (one I missed), would get a mention, it was actually our very first one – to Kilrush in County Clare – that came to mind.

The year was 1978, and we were the reigning Connacht Junior Cup champions. Our captain, the Rasher, was working in the bank down in Kilrush, and as they were just getting a rugby club started again after a number of years, they invited us down for a weekend, during which we would play them in a friendly game. So off we headed to Kilrush, about twenty-five of us.

We arrived into town early on Friday afternoon, and booked into our accommodation, which happened to be over Tommy Mangan’s very popular bar. Being young and single, we felt very much at home in Tommy’s, and set about enjoying his hospitality fairly early in the afternoon. By about one o’clock in the morning, some of the lads had ventured into the pool room, and a mini tournament had started up.

As time wore on, more and more of us went in to have a look at what was going on. Eventually it was time for the final, but by then, Tommy was getting lonely in the bar and his bar takings had dropped. So, just as the balls were set up for the final, he arrived into the pool room, leaned his big frame over the table, scooped up all the balls into a big bag, and announced to us all: “Ye’re not drinking fast enough, lads”.

With that, he ushered us all back into the public bar, where, having been there most of the day, we did the best we could to keep Tommy happy. Eventually we must have headed up the stairs to bed. The pool final never did take place, but I will never forget the manner in which it came to an abrupt end.

For a little while in the early evening, we headed off to another pub called Looney’s. There we met a man who told us he had been the winner of the big Draw the previous Christmas. His prize was 365 pints of cider, but when he went to collect his winnings, he found out he was already in the book for 450 pints and so he felt very hard done by when he got no more. The scandalous thought crossed our minds that maybe it was a fix, and was the only way to make a dent in his cider account. Anyway, we took pity on him and said we’d bring him to Mangan’s for a pint or two, but sadly he said he was already barred there and couldn’t join us.

The following day, a big crowd turned out to see the rugby match, but no one had told the Kilrush lads the rules. And so, we played hybrid game of Australian Rules and Gaelic football with the rugby ball. Kilrush won it by a mile, and we retired to Tommy Mangan’s to lick our wounds. But by then the pool table was gone – Tommy was taking no chances with any potential distraction for his drinkers!

Kilrush Rugby Club has flourished in the meantime. For us, tours will come and tours will go, but our tour to Clare will live forever in our memories. Sadly Tommy Mangan’s is no more, but there still seems to be a Looney’s pub in the town, so, if I ever make it back, I will see if the unluckiest prize winner of all time ever got to clear his bill.

 

And finally…

Spare a thought for a religious leader in India, Ziona Chana, who had 39 wives, and who passed away this week at the age of 76.

Ziona had as many as 94 children during his interesting life. It is said there were a total of 167 members in his immediate family, all of whom lived in a huge four-story, pink house with about 100 rooms in Baktawng (a remote village in India). He had diabetes and high blood pressure (I suppose, having 39 wives, it’s no wonder!).

He always liked to have seven or eight wives by his side at all times, and declared in 2011 that he considered himself a lucky man to have so many people to care for. Any man who can handle the pressure of having 39 wives must be one of the greatest humans of all time, and after his exhausting life on this earth, the least I can hope for is that Ziona rests in peace!

 

‘Till next week, Bye for now!