Achill is more than sound; it’s special. With no trip to France this year, we’ve been living off hastily-organised mini mini-breaks; the last of which happened just before the school bell rang.
We brought tents, but there were a lot of us in it so we’d rented a house, just in case; after all, you don’t have to assemble the house yourself and naturally, we didn’t trust the weather.
Our destination was Achill; the whole weekend would be lived under a Mayo spell. I don’t know much about Achill.
When I was a kid, our location of choice was usually Enniscrone. In later years I discovered the exotic lure of Salthill, which to us seemed amazing in the early 1980s, only to look a bit the worst for wear when we began to check in on it again years later.
Achill too is ‘showing its age’ in certain respects, but that’s also part of its charm; it reminds you of summer holidays in the 1970s and ‘80’s. In any case, its raw beauty is timeless.
Between adults and children, there were twenty-four of us in all. No wonder someone suggested that we buy a lotto ticket – it’s the sort of thing groups of people do on weekends away, I suppose.
We briefly discussed how we would spend our winnings. Then, the inevitable idle chat about how we’d share the winnings and speculation on how much of it we’d give away. Falling over one another with our phantom generosity…!
Arriving on the island, we set up a couple of tents in the garden while also settling into the house. In the hotel on the hill, the members of a stag party were gathering. In a room off the bar, the ‘stags’ had a pig roasting. No one batted an eyelid at that, least of all the poor pig.
A slow pint when you’re on a weekend break is a lovely experience. Three of us settled in for just an hour.
We watched the stags and took in our surroundings. Two men walked in with two guitars. One large, the other not so large (the men, not the guitars). They ‘played’ Jim McCann and Luke Kelly and other classics.
The ‘stags’ were quiet until one made a loud quip and that was enough to raise the decibel levels and set them off. When we left the bar that evening the merry ‘stags’ were taking photographs of the unfortunate pig on the spit.
On Saturday, the island revealed its spectacular beauty to us as we drove around, stopping here and there to savour the magical scenery.
It is sensational; on a par with anywhere in the world, I imagine. Much of Achill is made up of hilly and rough land which is laden with small houses, many of them at unusual angles, the landscape dotted with small flocks of quizzical sheep.
The sheep ‘park’ on the road as often as in a field; oblivious to the stresses of the world. It is quaint and charming, and it replaces the hurly-burly of life with a welcome calmness.
We have a fine dinner in a restaurant/bar which is overlooking the sea. On the short drive there, and everywhere between Roscommon and Achill, Mayo flags fly proudly ahead of the big game with Dublin.
It is now Saturday night, and for a short while a few of us pop back into the hotel on the hill. Alas, there are no men with guitars. The ‘stags’ had left that morning to tour around; now some of them have returned, and they are showing signs of wear and tear.
The proprietor tell us he’s had a good summer, good news which surprises us; he explains that because the weather was so bad, many visitors from the holiday homes, camper vans, mobile homes and tents, spent lots of time in the hotel, as opposed to on the beautiful but rain-battered beaches.
The hotel had certainly been buzzing on Saturday night. We were about to order a final drink at closing time when the bar shut quite abruptly. I think the proprietor was a bit nervous because a few of the stags were getting boisterous.
It was then that we got the text, all the way from Down The Hatch in Roscommon town. We had indeed won the lotto! Fiona’s name had been drawn in the St. Joseph’s 50-50 Draw.
We – well, Fiona – were €402 to the good. We had won the lotto, but the bar in the hotel on the hill was still closed, and, unlike the pig on the spit, this barman was not for turning.
It usually happens when the Irish rugby team are trailing in an important match and next thing they’re within sight of the opposition’s line and attacking in waves, and you find yourself out of your chair, shouting at the television, as if your actions could possibly influence what’s happening.
It’s not suited to golf or snooker – this jumping out of your chair and shouting at the telly thing – but it’s perfect for rugby, would suit horseracing and can be utilised too when a boxer has his opponent on the ropes.
Probably the most memorable ‘usage’ of it that I can recall came in 1983 when Eamonn Coghlan passed out his Soviet opponent on the final bend and coasted to the World 5000 Metres Gold.
That was a never to be forgotten out-of-your-chair-and-roar-at-the-telly moment. We were at it again on Sunday when Mayo dragged a sensational draw from seeming certain defeat with a great comeback against Dublin.
We were out of our seats, waving Mayo on, shouting at the telly, screaming at the ref, watching the clock with a mixture of dread, elation and sheer fear. The tension was almost unbearable.
When Mayo came from seven behind to draw level, and with the Dubs dizzy, the Connacht champions had a glorious chance to win it. We roared them on and willed the ball over the bar.
But the chance went and the game swung back down the other end and now, as the Dubs awoke from their slumber, we visualised another epic Mayo heartbreak (‘Do you remember the year we were seven down, drew level in the last nine minutes, missed a chance and then lost it?’) but Cluxton’s sat-nav was banjaxed and common sense prevailed and the war ended in a draw.
I had placed my faith in Mayo. Perhaps the biggest danger now is that there is a growing assumption that they are best placed to win the replay. It is still going to take some performance to beat Dublin.
But I think Mayo will win on Saturday, and I think they will then beat Kerry in the final. And if that happens, even the sheep in Achill will surely look up, show some emotion and join in one of the great parties of all time.
Imagine being born into the world since January 1st 2010. Imagine being that young! Not only have you missed Italia ’90 – by twenty years – you’ve missed the invasion of Iraq, the emergence of Barack Obama, the rise of Tyrone and Armagh footballers, Fergie time (remember Alex?), Bertie Ahern, Diego Maradona in his prime, the world according to Michael Jackson, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, Elvis and the Beatles, life before the Internet, the jailing and freeing of Nelson Mandela, the OJ Simpson trial, 9/11, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, of course, the birth of the phenomenon known as Dáithí Ó Sé.
Still, there is so much to look forward to… The kids born after 2010 are so much more advanced than Alexander Graham Bell’s envious friends; our four and five year olds all but tweeted from the womb: I’m on my way #Let the fun begin!
Anyways, they started ‘big school’ this week, and from what I could see it was all quite seamless, which is a credit to the great groundwork done in playschools and to the warmth and kindness shown to our children this week (by teachers) when they stepped into their new environment.
Our own five-year-old, Matthew, was amongst those starting out. It’s a great milestone for these children and it’s quite an experience to watch them take these first, tentative, brave steps into the big wide world with all its mystery and challenges. The very best of luck to all in this week’s ‘first day at school’ club.
To save you rushing out and reading the full 300-odd page Fennelly Report (I know, I know, I’m probably too late) I can provide you with a quick summary.
Enda’s vindicated. You want more details? Well, it turns out that the idea of gently ushering former Garda Commissioner Callinane towards the exit door never even crossed Enda’s mind. When the then-Secretary of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell made an early-morning call to the Commissioner, it was in the faint hope of getting a cuppa and some biscuits.
As it happens, Callinane jumped ship after Purcell’s call; but it had nothing to do with Enda. So what happens next?
This is what happens next. Fianna Fail are putting down a motion of no confidence in Enda. When the Dail eventually resumes, TDs will huff and puff and exchange some mock outrage and a lot of very average insults.
As the er…tension mounts, David Davin-Power will stand outside Leinster House, call up his most serious expression and reveal the sensational result: Enda survives.
Following a ‘nightcap’ in the Dail bar/Buswell’s, accompanied by various knowing glances and lame quips, everyone will go to bed. There are some estimates that the bill for the Fennelly Report will be around €2m.
No pensions of top civil servants/politicians were hurt during the making of this drama/comedy.