Paul Healy’s Week


A few men – for it will mostly have been men – might just have dropped a hint in the last few days about “the two of us having a weekend away” in the New Year.

What a lovely thought! Possible locations would include Kerry (“it’s magical”), Cork (“hard to beat”) and Donegal (“just beautiful, and so peaceful”).

If these venues, er…I mean locations, just happen to be hosting Roscommon matches in the 2016 National Football League, sure that’s a very happy coincidence.

The texts did the rounds very speedily on Saturday evening; the fixtures for the National Football League Division One campaign had been drawn up.

We’re back in the big time; back in Division One for the first time in years. And we’re in truly exalted company; each of our seven matches will be against either a glamour county or a modern-day force in the game (in some cases, both).

Reading the fixtures sent a shiver down the spine. Where are the league points going to come from to ensure Roscommon’s survival in the big league? Suddenly, now that the details of where and when Roscommon will be in action had been revealed, this top tier looked even more imposing than previously. Scrolling up and down and digesting the content of the text, it felt like Roscommon were being invited to a party…where we are on the menu.

But then we puffed out our chests and summoned up all our Rossie pride and began to make a case for a point here and a point there, and maybe even the odd brace of points – somewhere!

We were forced to deem the home games against Monaghan, Down and Mayo as the most realistic targets for points. But even they seem ominously difficult! Never mind, it’s a great line-up of games, and Roscommon will surely relish the challenge and hopefully learn greatly from the experience.

Many fans will pile into cars or travel on ‘club buses’ for the day out, while many individuals and couples will no doubt combine the away games with a night or weekend away.

And sure people who dropped hints at the weekend had the best of motives; an appetising weekend away with their partner in a holiday hotspot, garnished with a wet afternoon in the stand watching Roscommon work the ball from left to right in the rain.

For example, you could have an early Valentine’s weekend down in Kerry for Kerry v Roscommon on February 7th; or, for any poor soul who overlooks Valentine’s, a retrospective Valentine’s weekend away in Cork for Cork v Kerry (on 28th of February).

Roscommon’s third away match of the campaign will be in Donegal, where fans could enjoy a pre-St Patrick’s Day weekend away (match on 13th of March). In between the Club Rossie bus and supporters weaving into Kerry, Cork and Donegal, there are home games against Monaghan (31st of January) and Down (6th of March).

Our Division One thrills and spills will finish with home games in late March and early April. If we haven’t already picked up enough points we’ll just have to do the business in those final two home games. They’re against Mayo (27th of March) and Dublin (3rd of April). How much more straightforward could all of this be?

All weekend

It is some achievement for the organisers of the annual Strokestown Agricultural Show to have reached year 149 (with the event, I hasten to add).

In the region of 3,000 participants and spectators entered the fabulous Strokestown Park House grounds last weekend for the latest version of the nationally renowned show.

While the weather was a real dampener on Sunday, the organisers were grateful, at least, for fine weather on Saturday.

Congratulations to all involved in hosting another successful Strokestown Show – and no doubt the preparations are already underway for next year’s massive milestone event, the 150th annual Strokestown Agricultural Show.

Can I be the first to suggest that Harvey Smith, the legendary British showjumper who gruffly but memorable graced the show back in the 1970s, be invited back in 2016?


Michael Fitzmaurice has a mighty handshake. He’s holding court in the lobby of the Abbey Hotel, moments after the end of an entertaining People’s Debate, recorded there on Monday night.

I had popped out for five minutes and missed one of Michael’s more passionate contributions, when he apparently denounced something as ‘bullsh*t’ and got a great round of applause.

He has the common touch in spades and an affinity with the ordinary man and woman that is his greatest strength. Also chatting to guests in the lobby was Deputy Denis Naughten, who had, almost effortlessly and certainly impressively, been the stand-out politician on the night.

Maura Hopkins was in the line of fire during the debate but, faced with fierce hostility over the Roscommon Hospital issue, she remained admirably composed and stuck to her position, which is that she was not on the scene when promises were made, that she’s a new, young candidate and that’s it now time to look to the future.

Anne Farrell soon discovered that Vincent Browne was going to treat Renua like an imposter on the political landscape. The host part-playfully, part-seriously, went on the attack against Anne, but she battled back gamely and even won a few rounds of their bout.

It had been great to see the ‘house full’ signs up shortly after 7 pm; with over 400 people turning up, it’s clear there’s a great appetite for political debate and indeed that Vincent Browne, the show’s host, is a people’s magnet!

In the lobby afterwards, we chatted about what had come up during the debate – and what hadn’t. And we chatted about who had turned up – and who hadn’t!

Two things kept getting mentioned as the political junkies reviewed the evening: (1) somewhat bizarrely, water quality or water charges hadn’t been mentioned once and (2) there was a depressing lack of young people in the room. The lack of young people there tells us something a bit worrying about the present – and something a bit more worrying about the future.

So it was largely left to us older folk to huddle into the Abbey Hotel function room and lament – primarily – about the state of our health service.

Health dominated the debate, with some references to education, refugees and farming, and lots of playful questioning by Vincent on the subject of future Coalition formations. (Er…what young person wouldn’t enjoy all that?).

Actually, our two teenage daughters attended, and such was the lack of young people present, they were asked by a number of people if they were Vincent Browne’s daughters! By the way, they enjoyed the debate too!

As for Vincent Browne, he charmed just about everyone present and certainly lived up to his reputation as a true one-off.

When filming ended, and later after he had presented his regular nightly show live from the Abbey Hotel, the host was swamped by people looking for a photograph, a quick handshake or maybe even a growl or a sigh.

I hope the Roscommon/Galway debate was widely viewed on Wednesday night and fair play to TV3 for this great initiative, whereby they are travelling around the constituencies on a marathon series of debates.