Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The people have spoken / Paul Earley / G.A.A. Fixture Postponements / Boyle Celtic

The people have spoken ... loudly!

And they have been pretty articulate and nuanced as well. Once again the small party in a coalition has been whipped. In a J.F. Kennedy speech he said; ‘He who rides the tiger often ends up inside’. Labour have taken the big hit. As Pat Rabbite said; ‘Labour have taken 80% of the blame for 20% of the input’. It may not be fair but ….

In the Roscommon County Council elections, with the luxury  of hindsight, things went almost as expected though. John Cummins did excellently and deservedly so as it did for Valeria Byrne. Rachael Doherty continued the family tradition. Charlie Hopkins experienced the difficulty of making the come-back. Gerry Garvey saw the tight geographical zone could not do it all in the unwieldy electoral area. The real surprise was the performance of Maura Hopkins.

Indeed the performances of many first timers in these elections was pretty awesome. While Miss Hopkins would probably take the plaudit of coming from nowhere Kathleen Shanagher in Roscommon town was pretty impressive also. Oral Leyden and Dominick Connolly did pretty well  seeing that they could not vote for themselves! Nigel Dineen showed the competitive edge with a fine win. While there were many disappointed contenders the sight and thoughts of long-time councillor Sean Beirne of Mid Roscommon after defeat represented the heartache. He is quoted as saying ‘The party might be able to save the country but they are not fit to save themselves’. Being a councillor was the totality of his life and what to do now - perhaps too old to reinvent himself. It is the dilemma and the trauma faced by thousands who lose or have lost their jobs generally.

In the European elections there were a number of spectacular first timers also. Perhaps Luke Ming Flanagan was top of the podium in that respect despite the claims of the three Sinn Fein winners in Dublin, the South and the Midlands North West constituencies.

When one considers Ming, the historians of political firsts might look again at Roscommon which has broken the mould a number of times down the years. This started with the election of Count Plunkett in 1917 who after election declared he would absent himself from Westminster and became the first Sinn Fein member elected. In the late forties footballer Jack McQuillan became a Clann na Poblachta T.D. The suggestion by his running mate - I think he was Michael Kelly - that; ‘With my brains and McQuillan’s boots I should take the seat’. As it happened the boots of McQuillan proved the winner.

A few years later McQuillan, having left Clann na Poblachta, formed a formidable Dail combination with Dr. Noel Browne. Then in later decades there was the turn of Tom Fox the then defender of the status of Roscommon Hospital.

In 2011 came the most unique winner of them all with the victory of Luke Ming Flanagan. His ascent has been meteoric. One can only imagine the impression- visual or otherwise - he will make in the corridors  of Europe. He will certainly get the wider media attention now.
The marathon count has not ended as I write but Marian Harkin looks a real possibility of winning thus returning two independents, one Sinn Fein and one Fine Gael M.E.P. in this constituency. The length of this count especially has revived calls for electronic voting.

In Germany where the election was on Sunday all was sorted by Monday with a multiple of Ireland’s population and M.E.P's. In terms of observing the count one was divided between the myriad of media sources. However I think in those terms the Twitter contribution of Hugh Lynn deserves special commendation. Hugh was short of health warnings which permeated all other sources.

So while Minister Phil Hogan may have suggested that ‘Paddy now knows the price of water’ a few weeks ago perhaps Big Phil now knows the cost of the water price in the only really hard currency available to the general public i.e. the ballot box. This encouraged commentator John Bowman to suggest that this was a ‘Historic election’ with ‘no vote like it in one hundred years’ possibly heralding  ‘a Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition’. There was an awful lot  there for the power brokers to think about.    

Paul Earley;

It was sad to hear of an accident to Paul Earley incurred while he was cycling in tandem with the Ras. Paul was on social media relaying his experience and saying also that it might have been even more serious but for the quality of his helmet. While the rise of cycling is to be applauded it is a risky activity on narrow Irish roads and streets. This country makes little or no allowance for cyclists now. During the last week I drove to a game out the Strandhill Road and passing cyclists on that winding narrow road was a real challenge. Cycling in cities like Dublin is also growing but challenging. As I said recently mutual respect and consideration is vital. So I wish Paul a speedy recovery and I hope that it does not hinder  his developing T.V. sports career. 

G.A.A. Fixture Postponements;

The postponing of club league games last week raised one of the real thorny problems within G.A.A. activity. This is the dual allegiance of players to club and to county. It a problem seemingly impossible to resolve to everybody’s satisfaction. The progress of the flagship county senior team is in everybody’s interest but leaving a huge number of ordinary club players just training, training, training is most unsatisfactory and will cause disaffection and may even cause rebellion. Roscommon’s postponement cause was not helped over the week end on hearing that Mayo had a pretty full programme of fixtures. It is not just a Roscommon dilemma of course. Certainly some study and imagination is necessary in its resolution. Perhaps we are at the point where there is a nominated county core panel of around twenty players and that the Leagues are played without these players and that some regard is given to Championship record –where club teams have to be allowed their full team-in retaining League status also. 

Boyle Celtic;

This Wednesday Boyle Celtic V Calry Bohs in Boyle at 7 . Friday away to Real Tubber and Sunday home to Cartron Utd. 
Celtic require two wins from these three games to win this league for the first time in, I would guess, fifteen years.   


Thursday, May 22, 2014

May 22nd update

Boyle Celtic Edge Closer to Title

Wednesday’s  team v Carrick Suffin/Purcell/McGowan/Connolly/McCrann/Carlos/Conboy/Carty/Calpin/McKilleen/Brennan with Roddy/Harrington and Brennan. 

The end of soccer seasons everywhere can throw up tense and sometime dramatic final fixtures. Boyle Celtic are facing a pretty critical period as they head into their remaining four games in the Sligo-Leitrim Super League.  The games are coming thick and fast as the season comes to a close. Boyle have done very well under the pressure of these fixtures.  On  Wednesday evening they defeated Carrick-on-Shannon in Carrick’s ground 5 to nil. Next up is Real Tubber in Boyle @ 7 on Friday and away on May 30th. On Wednesday the 28th their opponents are Calry Bohs also at home. The only other contenders and current table toppers at this stage are City Utd. (At  the week-end City 5 Calry 4. City were awarded 3 penalties in that game!) Celtic’s final game is v Cartron Utd. on Sunday June the first. 
In summary City Utd now at 53 points could achieve 59 points with two wins from their remaining two games v Aughanagh Celtic on Friday and Ballymote on Wednesday 
Boyle Celtic now on 51 points could reach 63 points if they win all four remaining games. They could lose one and still be winners. 
Celtic’s Niall Brennan is the league top scorer as of now with 18 goals followed by Paul McTiernan of Aughanagh on 17. Lee McKilleen of Boyle has 13.
Boyle Celtic has a fine defensive record with just 17 goals conceded which also gives them a goal difference edge over City if continued.     
So if you get a chance perhaps you might drop down to support them for these end games. (Dates as listed above are liable to change).   

‘D’ Day.

Friday the 23rd  will be the culmination of a lot of hoopla over the last month or so. The terribly unwieldy electoral divisions which now obtain will prompt some soul searching and head scratching. Because of this restructuring those who get elected this time will see themselves in pole position for other elections to come in the future. In many constituencies or electoral areas there are very prominent front runners but after nominating two perhaps three as very likely it gets very problematic. Then one is influenced by one’s own perception of the person locally with which he or she is most familiar.  In the Boyle District there are 6 seats with 14 candidates with 8 existing and one former councillor. So obviously two of the existing councillors will lose out. Oddly fine Gael does not have a Boyle town contender. Of course the person rather than the party is very important in local elections. While I thought that I might nominate a prediction for possible winners  in the Boyle area I just had to give up. So a little like the Eurovision where it’s not the songs that give the entertainment but the actual count Saturday promises to be a very interesting day on that front.

Independents Day.

The European constituencies are just huge and name profile is the first requirement. There are 4 seats in the Midlands-North-West.  According to the polls Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan looks to have a great chance of going all the way to Europe and will certainly present a very different figure there to the traditional suited and booted. According to the polls Matt Cathy of Sinn Fein is also a very real possibility. Mairead McGuinness of Fine Gael has broad recognition profile leaving the fourth seat between sitting M.E.P. Marian Harkin who is strong in our area whether this carries to the wider zone I do not know. Fiona Fail as they aficionados say has a ‘quota’ so one would imagine that Marian Harkin will do well to stave off Gallagher or Byrne with sitting M.E.P. Jim Higgins bidding adieu. So it looks very much like Ming, Cathy, McGuinness and Gallagher or Harkin. 

The Growing Tragedy of Homelessness

Apart from the election the big topic of the moment is homelessness and house prices through the country. The rising prices in Dublin is very reminiscent of the worst of the ‘Bubble’ in 2006/2007. On the R.T.E. programme on Monday ‘Desperate House Buys’ we saw the dilemma of young couples seeking house in various locations in Dublin. Apparently there is a huge disparity between the supply of houses and the current demand. Guide prices are now being outstripped. While this is fine for a number of sections such as the vendors and the auctioneers and also for those who bought at the height of the previous stampede in ’06 and ’07 as they see the value of their houses, which had dipped dramatically from ’08 to 2012, now recover from their deep negative equity. One auctioneer did not do  the image of his profession much of a favour as he smugly announced after a house viewing which had  a considerable interest ‘That’s as good as it gets’ . Local auctioneer Michael Smith had a more down to earth story with no blowing of bubbles as he relayed the reality of Boyle’s property story. It was an interesting view of the status of that industry allied to a previous programme on homelessness and the incredible stories there with rising rent and the alarm bells being rung by David McWilliams on 'The Late Late Show'.       

Friday, May 16, 2014

Songs - the Soundtrack of our Lives.

Songs - the Soundtrack of our Lives.

Last Monday night I watched a programme on R.T.E. profiling one of my favourite singers, Dolores Keane. Dolores comes from  a great tradition of singers as her aunts, Rita and Sarah have been nationally known for their unique style as is her brother Sean Keane. Dolores is, or I suppose was now, a fine singer with a very distinctive voice. She was brought up by her aunts in Caherlestrane near Headford in County Galway. In her home, music and song were a constant backdrop. “The door was never closed or the fire was never raked” as she relayed it. She joined one of the country’s finest traditional groups, De Dannan in 1975 for a couple of years. She met John Faulkner and they lived in London for a time, married and returned to live in a cottage near her aunts and extended family. Dolores re-joined De Dannan in ’85 with Mary Black and they had a great decade of success.
In 1989 Dolores sang a fine and important song, written by her husband, titled ‘Lion in a Cage’ on the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. It became a rallying anthem  with a chorus line of ‘Mandela will be Free’, which he was in February 1990. Amongst her other great songs was a particular version of ‘Galway Bay’, ‘Caledonia’ and ‘Sonny’ with Mary Black and Nancy Griffith who referred to her as ‘The voice of Ireland’.
Dolores with Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Black, Maura O’Connell and Sharon Shannon released the ground –breaking album ‘A Woman’s Heart’ in the summer of 1992 which sold 750, 000 copies. 
However difficulties ensued and led to a troubled decline in her powers. In the documentary she spoke with candour of her problems brought on by her alcohol addiction including marriage break-up. It brought her to a place where as she relayed "It wasn’t that I didn’t care no more it was that I couldn’t care, to throw away my life and talent was almost an insult to the memories of the people who had gone before me". Eventually she sought help for her addiction in Hope House. Her subsequent and current challenge is with breast cancer. Through the film she referred to ‘the gift’ and ‘the tradition’ in her ‘vera’ distinctive Galway accent. In her prime Dolores was powerful and unique voice and in her recordings has left us a fine legacy. It is always sad to see decline in these gifted people.
Boyle of course has a great tradition of singers and I look forward to John Spillane’s song on Johnny Reilly which will be one of the fruits of his trip to Boyle last week. I am told by someone who would know these things that it is a very good song. Johnny Reilly lived in Boyle in the sixties and was a repository of some very good traditional songs. Christy Moore adopted a number of these songs such as ‘The Well Below the Valley’ and ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’. Christy returns for a concert in Boyle in June supported by The Grehan Sisters, great friends to Johnny Reilly.  It is interesting that one Christy’s own songs, ‘Lisdoonvarna’ was included in a secondary school poetry anthology a few years ago. Two famous poems became popular songs later, Kavanagh’s ‘Raglan Road’ and Yeats’s ‘Salley Gardens’.
While I have heard many good Boyle singers a singer-composer is a different level and Donie O’Connor has composed many lovely and thoughtful songs. Musician Bernard Flaherty is another fine singers especially when in full flight with ‘Mary and the Soldier’. Then there are the Gaffneys as Liz O’Dowd said once; ‘I mightn’t know much about Irish music but I love those Gaffneys singing'. Then of course there is Kevin Flynn and his wife Mary Flaherty which brings me to her mam Tess Flaherty and the ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’. One could go on of course and maybe I will some other time. 

Let the Games Begin:

The Roscommon GAA fraternity begin their traditional pilgrimage on Sunday next when we go to see their senior team play Leitrim in the first round of the championship. The U 21 defeat has left Roscommon supporters a bit nervous and their expectations are now more muted. The word from Leitrim is that they are not the force or threat they can be. On the basis that Roscommon have had a good spring, winning the Division Three League coupled with the achievement of the U 21s’ in getting to the All-Ireland again, I expect the Roscommon side to have a decent win on Sunday.

Tragedy of the Streets:

Tragedies once seemed a rare occurrence just like funerals were when one was young. One’s heart goes out to a number of families this week. The Dolan parents, Joe and Rosie of Carrick-on-Shannon spoke powerfully about the tragic loss of their son Andrew in an act of gratuitous violence in Mullingar after a social outing in December 2011. They questioned the reasons why these incidents occur on such a regular basis and they called for people to support the Organ Donor Card campaign as student colleagues have done with a wrist band ‘Be a Hero Be a Donor’.  

Famine and Tragedy: 

A major National Famine Commemoration 2014 of the Irish Famine of the 1840's took place in Strokestown last week. We rightly remember this tragic historical event of one hundred and sixty seven or so years ago. In our supposed enlightened world of today tragic events continue as with the abduction of the schoolchildren in Nigeria. The greatest tragic event of our time has been the Rwandan Genocide from April to July of 1994, just twenty years ago. Between 500,000 and 1 million people were killed in that slaughter. While Rwanda has calmed and is trying to cope with their tragedy it has now spilled over to a country we know little about - the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While we can be sure that a Famine like 1847 would not happen again, could a tragedy on the scale of Rwanda happen again in Africa after just twenty years as the outside world looks on?  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

8th May, Tony Conboy's Oblique View

Boyle Streets League team from the early 60's.
Front: Gerry McGlynn, Barry Feely, Austin Beisty
Back: Jim Maughan, Johnny Beirne, Cormac McConnell paddy Conlon

Well, as the Norwegian commentator espoused all those years ago, when Norway beat England, our 'boys took a hell of a beating' in the U21 All-Ireland Final at Tullamore. I doubt anyone saw this coming. We were blown away in that first half and seemed to suffer from stage fright. It has to be handed to the Dubs they put in a helluva performance all over the field as they raced into that match winning half-time lead of Dublin 14 points Roscommon 1 point. Then as the half-time whistle blew the Dublin team reacted as one and buzzed to their dressing room as if the result was still in doubt.
As spectators we were watching in disbelief. This was not the team we saw against Cork in Portlaoise. There was a suggestion of that during a short period in the second half with a three goal flurry.
Personally I still believe there are many fine players in this team. Allied to those of the last couple of years and those from what should be competitive U 21 teams to come in the next two years, all should combine to form the core of a competitive senior team for the next decade or so.
While last Saturday was very disappointing and showed up deficiencies hidden until Saturday, a month will heal that disappointment and we will follow with hope as we always do. They were beaten by a very good side who were well organised, knew what they were about, moved with pace and took their chances with aplomb which Roscommon had done in Poartlaoise. Anyway they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger or as Gerry Dodd used say in the Pantomimes 'words to that effect'. 
Boyle Seniors, short a number of important players had a good draw with St. Croan's in Boyle on Monday. My 'Man of the Match' was former county player Seanie Purcell who continued where he left off last season. Also well done to the ladies U 16s' on their league win.

"Now Folks"

Christy Regan, an iconic figure of Boyle, passed away last weekend. Christy will have left an invaluable archive of images on film. He was a most genial affable gentleman and as I listened to his son Enda give a brief outline of his life and times it showed the many strings, literally, Christy had in his bow of life.
Taking photographs is not an easy job. It has its pressures. Even I who have tried to get a recent record of Boyle GAA teams, I know the difficulty in asking a team, keyed up for a game, to pose for a picture and then when it is snapped seeing a couple of stragglers still emerging from the dressing rooms. Christy did his work with grace, courtesy, patience and good humour with his catch call, for me was 'Now Folks'.

'I wanna tell you something, try it sometime'.

I caught up with the section of The Late Late Show dealing with a new book on the culture of entitlement of a political era of a short while ago. The book is titled 'Tom Gilmartin; The Man Who Brought Down a Taoiseach and Exposed the Greed and Corruption at the Heart of Irish Politics'. The Taoiseach in question was Bertie Ahern. It was just incredible stuff with the cast of Pádraig Flynn, former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, Ray Burke and Liam Lawlor. One views again with disbelief the clip of Pádraig Flynn on the Late Late Show where he enunciates regarding the health of the Gilmartins and of his own difficulties(!) in keeping houses in Castlebar, Dublin and Brussels; 'I wanna tell you something, try it sometime'. I wonder are books like this, and there have been a few about those times, read in university economic or sociology classes. They might even be suggested for a Leaving Certificate reading list. It was something that a senior man had to struggle through years of Tribunal hearings to help unravel that endemic corruption and feeling of entitlement.

Water Charges:

I may have referred to this previously but I really feel an injustice in the probability of having to pay for water while we cannot drink it from the tap. This will be the case from October. I wonder how accurate that the suggested 'average' water charge of €240 will be the norm, if it ever is. I believe that this estimate is an illusion and with time the real cost, for many, will be closer to double that as the behemoth of the Water Board gets in its stride.