Thursday, November 16, 2017

Update 16th November

Visiting Barcelona in Interesting Times 
We arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday morning October 24th. It was the first half of a very interesting trip to Catalonia. The second half I dealt with last time, it relating to Sitges with a large Boyle group. 
After arriving at Barcelona airport we took the bus to our mid-city destination, Placa de Catalunya. At just €8 for two it was pretty good value. Then, as a friend of mine is wont to say ‘going anywhere abroad, from Ireland, is invariably cost effective. The most expensive thing, proportionally, is if you have something to eat at …..Dublin Airport.”   

Our fairly basic hotel Lloret –at a basic cost- was on the main street of La Rambla. Having booked online to visit the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s cathedral masterpiece, we took the Metro after the usual exploration regarding route and tickets. The Metro has a reputation for pickpockets so care is needed and the basic safety strategies of the tourist are required. The primary one being is to try and not look or act like a tourist! Not easy on the first day. With a couple of days familiarisation things improve. 
At 3.30 we join our booked tour. This is an extraordinary building. I have been in many cathedrals in different countries but the Sagrada is certainly a once off in every sense of the word. Its problems around the outside are the milling crowds, however within this abated. After the insights given by the tour guide we are allowed to spend time absorbing the unique features of the building and the use of natural light to enhance the experience through the stained glass windows. On journeys later we see other examples of Gaudi’s work with other buildings.
 Later we walk along much of La Rambla which is an open theatre in itself with various artists, picture painters, restaurants, stalls, gymnasts and an audience of strolling people. We have good food and wine –a rarity for me-in a side street cafĂ©.
The following day we take the Orange line tour on an open-topped bus. This is the most efficient way to see Barcelona.  We had pre-booked at €70 for two days for two people on two different circuits. There are too many sights to mention here but we got off on the hill where we visited the Olympic Stadium (free) of ’92. I had a memory of this from an Olympic iconic picture of a diver with the city underneath him.  There were stunning views over the city from this hill. The next stop I got off at was the home of Barcelona Soccer, the Nou Camp. I did a self-tour there for €25. It was very impressive and again value for the charge. It is a magnificent stadium if a bit dated now and had an incredible museum. It requires a much longer time than I allowed, perhaps a half a day. Near the end of the bus tour we see another example of Gaudi’s work a house with the fish scaled roof.
Later that evening we discovered a really impressive and bustling colourful market just off Ramble not far from our hotel. It was an occasion to eat Paella on La Rambla. Later we visited a  tourist port area at end of Rambla. Huge reconstruction work had been done there in preparation for the Olympics. 

On our third day we took the Green line tour. The early part of the tour was all along the restored waterfront which was very impressive.  We passed the Sagrada Familia and stopped off at Park Guell another Gaudi must see. We did not go into the heart of it but there was plenty to take in plus two very good sessions of Spanish music and dance. The two bus tours were very impressive and a great introduction to the city of Barcelona and great value.

While I was well aware of the political climate it was not strikingly obvious in the first days but that changed by Thursday and a student rally. We found our way to the epicentre of political activity and possibility which was the Generalitat (Government) Square where there was an independence rally with huge international media interest. There I talked for over half an hour to a local who was mildly in favour of Independence. Later that night we sought out the actual Parliament itself. It was a long trek but eventually we found it but it was screened off by Guardia Civil police. The possibility of the Catalan Parliamentary Declaration of Independence was very much in the ether all the time and so it came to pass on Friday at midday by which time we were in Sitges still Catalonia but politically inactive.
Barcelona is a very interesting city to visit. The beauty of visiting these Mediterranean cities is that the weather is invariably on your side.

Our two bookings were a real help so consider those. Try not to carry vital documents –passports- and more money than you need for the day on your person and ‘own your space’.        

Catalonia declared Independence on Friday October 27th. I scanned the Spanish papers the following day and one sidebar article described this declaration as ‘Frivolous and Irresponsible’. While a section of the Catalan people feel historically and currently at odds with greater Spain they are trying to adopt a very difficult path. A number of their local Parliamentary Independence leaders have been arrested and are in prison. Their leader-a very mild leader indeed- Carles Puigdemont is in Belgium currently and will possibly be returned to Spain. There are certain parallels with Northern Ireland in the politics of the region. It will be very interesting to see what emerges from the December elections called by the national Government. Certainly as an example of a Revolution, so far it is the mildest one that I am aware of historically. Of course the danger is that some sparks or hot heads could set things on a more dangerous course which could be volcanic. Hopefully that will not happen and that, as in many disputes, compromises will be enough to avoid a more belligerent conflict.

Week End Sport
Like so many week-ends these past few days have been festooned with major sporting events.

Ireland Collapse v Denmark
I will not say a lot about this as there is so much ‘out there’ generally on the event. The Friday night draw in Copenhagen was accepted as being reasonably good though the famous ‘away’ goal possibility was a big ache.

The build-up to Tuesday night was tinged with this element also and the difficulty of Ireland getting the two goals that most thought they would need thus accepting that Denmark would score one. When Ireland scored there was a sense of disbelief but a good sense. Then the frailty with two Danish goals and the dream of going to the World Cup evaporating. The two Irish  substitutions at half- time gave the star player Christian Erikson the space to demonstrate his world class skills with some help from Irish mistakes. By the 75th minute the Irish defence and challenge had collapsed and it was sad to see a bedraggled Irish team towards the end. It was not that they did not try as was evidenced by the efforts of James McClean but the heart had been shredded from the Irish effort and Denmark was in a different class at this stage. The only consolation was that it was all clear cut and not like the Northern Ireland exit at the hands of a very poor refereeing decision.

The pain was shown by James McClean as he tried to converse with a post-match interviewer Tony O’Donoghue. That was understandable as the team would now miss out on the biggest tournament in world sport. O’Donoghue was sympathetic to McClean as was right but tried a different approach with team Manager Martin O’Neill. I thought this unfair to an obviously shell-shocked manager so soon after a devastating defeat.

In summary; Denmark were clear and deserving winners on the night. The Ireland team had achieved a considerable amount by getting so close. Their limitations showed up at the last hurdle. A sad thing for Irish soccer is that the future does not look bright as there does not appear to be many if any young stars emerging. This is evidenced by the barometer of playing at a decent level in English football. 

And the World Rugby Cup 2023 goes to ... France
After all the hype about Ireland’s application to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup they finished third of the three applications. While Ireland might feel somewhat aggrieved South Africa can feel worse. They were ahead at the end of a technical review etc. Ireland were well behind in this which was a major failing. They had placed their bid on a number of stadia including GAA grounds Pair Ui Caoimh, Killarney, Salthill, Castlebar and Belfast. When these were put under the microscope they did not front up. I suppose a big negative for say Belfast was that Casement Park did not even have planning permission! As one advocate for the hosting suggested; “Ireland had the best of things that could not be measured” such a big following in rugby heartlands like Mayo, Galway and Cork would you believe. There was a lot of puff pastry in the submission when it came under scrutiny and in the end facilities in situ and money won out with France. We can moan about not being supported by Wales and Scotland which is historical of course! The only country who really believed all the hype was of course Ireland!

I could go on but if you are really interested in the Devil’s Advocate position you can source it from;   “In praise of losing the Rugby World Cup”....Nov. 3rd '17. Ewan MacKenna.

Boyle Celtic Slip Up and Out of FAI Junior Cup 
There must have been considerable disappointment in the Boyle Celtic community seeing their team go out of the FAI Junior Cup at a very early stage last Sunday. They were defeated by Moore Utd. 4 -2. This is the competition in which they had reached the All-Ireland Semi-Finals last spring only to go out on penalties to Evergreen of Kilkenny before a large Boyle following at Sligo Rovers grounds ‘The Showgrounds’.

 It was felt that the team had added to the overall strength of their panel this year. While they have hardly ever had a full group to choose from they seemed to have the strength in depth which would see them through the early stages of such a competition. The injury to Sean Purcell has been telling. I have been at the league game v Moore early in the season which Boyle won after a tough challenge. I still I felt that, while Moore would be a tough team to crack, the quality in the Boyle side would see them advance.

So now it is back to the Roscommon League and especially the Connacht Cup where they got to the Semi-Finals also last year.  Still we will miss last year’s journey or journeys.    

St. Brigid’s v Corofin.    
St. Brigid’s and Corofin played out a top game in the Connacht Senior club Final at Tuam on Sunday last. Corofin who had overwhelmed St. Brigid’s last year in Carrick-on Shannon were probably deserved winners in extra time. But it is obvious that St. Brigid’s are on the rise again after a blip in 2015. Their minor team won the Connacht minor competition, in its first year. Liam Clifford suggested to me that this was the best Roscommon club minor team that he has seen in decades. So with wins in minor, junior and senior (the U 20 competition is in progress at the moment) it seems as if the St. Brigid’s Organisation/Juggernaut is the future.
There were a couple of interesting results at the week-end. Perhaps the most telling was the Rathnew, Wicklow victory over hot favourites St. Vincent’s of Dublin.

I watched a poor Portlaoise v Moorfield (Kildare) game. The most notable feature of the game were the numerous outfield interventions of the Portlaoise goalkeeper. I know Shane Curran had his moments but the Portlaoise keeper must have the imprimatur of his management team to be such an outfield participant. Perhaps he has set a trend!

Ireland v Australia Compromise Rules
I hope Enda Smith is ok to participate in next Saturday’s game in Perth. The first game in Adelaide was a pretty polite affair with the Australians coming out on top and they now lead by over ten points going into Perth. The Irish stars from the first game were Ml. Murphy from Donegal and Conor Mac Manus from Monaghan. Whether they win or lose is not going to get people too energised but it is nice that players from a variety of counties get a pat on the back for their efforts.

Melbourne Cup Unique Result.
The first, second and third of Irish horses in ‘the race which stops a nation’ (Australia) has to be one of the really great international sporting achievements of recent times. There are incredible sub-stories there also. The fact that 25 year Joseph O’Brien trained to winner ‘Rekindling’ to defeat his dad Aidan’s horse  ‘Vermeer’ into second must be unique in racing history. I am not a racing person so my knowledge of it would be very sketchy. Third was a Willie Mullen’s trained Max Dynamite.

The death of Mayo GAA star of the sixties ‘Jinkin’  Joe Corcoran
Mayo has of course produced a huge number of great players. Amongst that group is one of my favourite players Joe Corcoran who played for Mayo in the sixties. He was a gifted player with great ball control and a signature swerve/dummy during his electric solo runs.  He was also a fine golfer. He was school caretaker in Ballina. Apparently he was a very private man who subsequently avoided the limelight. However when he played at his best the spotlight was very much on him with a fine Mayo team of the late 60s’.

Congratulations To
Congrats to Ronan Garvin from Ballinameen who is part of the Athlone Town U15 side who are in the Semi-Finals of the National League teams U 15 competition. Ronan must be a pretty good soccer player to be achieving at this level.

Topics I might have touched on; Homelessness, House and Rent Prices, lack of optimism with house building, Roscommon politics and so. 


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