Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Boyle Arts Week: / Sports Review:

Boyle Arts Week:

Boyle Arts Week is regarded as one of the finest such festivals in the country. This is a tribute to the people who have been involved down the years. It celebrates 25 years of the best of Irish Arts and Culture this year. I cannot really say what was the highlight of those years for me. I would want to google my memory for that. Perhaps it was meeting one of my heroes, Seamus Heaney, and having him autograph my son’s leaving certificate anthology for him. I later acquired a lovely drawing of Mister Heaney from the Local Artists Exhibition by a talented young man named Shane Meehan. One of the pictures from the King House exhibition also sticks very much in my mind is of a boot and blood flowing from it into a sidewalk culvert. It was representing the Northern Troubles.
I have gone through this summer’s programme and have marked a number of the many events which I could easily attend. They include Kieran Goss on Friday night and Donie O’Connor on Sunday with Brian Friel’s ‘The Communication Cord’ in between. The three talented ladies Lizzie, Lynda and Ceara entertain on Monday though one might develop a conscience for allowing oneself the luxury of an afternoon  indulgence. On Tuesday Joseph O’Connor continues the tradition of an impressive array of writers of fact and fiction who have been present down the years. Mister O’Connor is a very impressive contributor to the Drivetime Radio Show with his ‘Drivetime Diaries’. I had meant to access his address at the Royal Albert Hall for the Michael D. Higgins concert, on the occasion of the President’s English visit, but it slipped through the net. On Wednesday there is the Mayo ‘Band of Brass’ in the Church of Ireland and ‘The Plains of Boyle’ concert on Friday night. Perhaps I might get to a talk by one of Boyle’s gentlemen, Michael Archer, on ‘Habitats and Wildflowers’ on the Saturday. On Sunday August the 3rd I am obliquely involved in the celebration of the visit of Maureen O’Sullivan to Boyle over 25 years ago. I will treat of that next week. Oh yes on further review there is the gifted guitar playing of Frankie Simon on Saturday the 26th and John Carty and company on Tuesday night. There is a feast of events so do not miss out.  ‘Nothing Beats Being There’ .

Sports Review: Approaching  the Business End of the All-Ireland Championships:
While I do my best, I happened to miss a game I would like to have been at, that is Boyle’s under 12 League Final win over St. Brigid’s in Oran. It was an impressive display and a convincing victory I am told and the names from this side will resonate over the coming years on Boyle teams. It is nice to hear the sound of the traditional winning cavalcade as they do their victory tour of the town subsequently. Memories of these evenings last a long time. 
Armagh proved too strong for Roscommon on a muggy evening in Hyde Park. It was a difficult evening for football due to the rain but Armagh adapted well and suffocated Roscommon’s efforts. Still this team is a work in progress and being in division Two of the League next season should provide the experience and maturation for a championship challenge in 2015. Hope springs eternal and I am optimistic for real progress in the next two or three years. The quality of the GAA football Championship this summer to date has been pretty miserable. As all the indicators suggest It is hard to see Dublin being beaten. The blitzkrieg style that humbled Meath on Sunday looks imperious at the moment. This week-end has Cork v Sligo with the winners playing Mayo in the Quarter Finals/Tipperary v Galway, winners play Kerry/followed by Armagh v Meath and Kildare v Monaghan winners playing Dublin and Donegal. It is hard to go beyond the provincial winners for the semi-finals.   
It is left to the hurling to provide the drama again  as it did last year. This coming week-end has Limerick playing the welcome surprise packet of the summer in Wexford and Tipperary, a real All-Ireland challenger, should overcome Dublin. Dublin have become stranded at a level that is just not going to make what would be a historic and meaningful  breakthrough.

In Roscommon we are now back to ‘domestic’ fare with League and championship games coming thick and fast so keep an eye on the fixtures.         

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Boyle Tourism / Brazil and The World Cup / Roscommon GAA Advance / Boyle Ladies GAA / Garth Brooks Concerts / Political Discomfort.

An Observation on Current Boyle Tourism

While I may be wrong, from my observation there seem to be a good few visitors on the streets of Boyle at the moment. Hopefully this is the experience of people in the hospitality business. With the Arts Week in the offing this bodes well for the town, a town which has benefitted from a facelift in recent weeks. I have not heard of the impact which the Shuttle Bus to and from the park has had. Hopefully it is doing ok and is one of the contributors to my assessment. Also there seem to be a good few people stopping off in the town supplemented recently by some tourist buses. Perhaps it is the publicity which Boyle has received generally from such as Moone Boy and other areas allied to the very significant visitor attractions locally.
Why visitor numbers to the town would actually rise is something I would be curious about but difficult to ascertain casually.   
The emergence of a number of restaurants to complement those already there is a very positive element. The problem there is consistency in opening times and the restaurants not all being closed at the same times or days. Sean is publishing the times and details on realboyle.com so perhaps this will be helpful. 
Recently with holidaying friends I visited the Model Railway project. My friends were very impressed but the visitor numbers there were not what one might expect. It is certainly another impressive prospect when it finds a true home.
In any event the visitor barometer, as I observe it, is positive and hopefully this progress will continue and can be built on.

Brazil and The World Cup

It is a time of withdrawal symptoms from the World Cup which as anyone who has read these paragraphs will have gathered I really enjoyed. In the end the best team won and even if this is debateable history will record it so. I was surprised to see a Northern Ireland company -Moy Park- being displayed prominently around some of the football grounds. Apparently it was taken over by a Brazilian company called Marfrig with its brand name being retained hence its presence on the hoardings. The words on the Brazilian flag translate from Portuguese to ‘Order and Progress’. Now that the World Cup is over with its ecstasy and agony that is the challenge that now faces that country. I’ll be meeting Killina native Father Tony Conry soon. He will be home on holidays from Brazil and I will get a first-hand account of it all.  Father Tony once had a very interesting column in the Roscommon Herald.

Roscommon GAA Advance

Roscommon overcame a very poor Cavan team in Breffni Park on Saturday evening. The first half was pretty dire but Roscommon really got going in the second half and Enda and later Donal Smith contributed greatly to that. It is nice to have people saying to you as you exit the grounds “Yer Boyle lads did well” 
So it is another step on the upward ladder on Saturday next at 5 in Hyde Park. Armagh having beaten Tyrone in their last game, are still in a rebuilding process but will be formidable opposition and a real guide as to Roscommon’s progress. There is history between us  also from ’53 when Armagh overcame Roscommon in the All-Ireland Semi-Final repeating this in ’77 after a replay but Roscommon got a Semi-final back in 1980. It is felt by many that the fine Armagh team from a decade or so ago  were short-changed by winning just the one All-Ireland in 2002. 
The Roscommon minors gave a pretty good looking Mayo side a real good run in Castlebar and they now face the Ulster Champions which is another big challenge for the side and team manager Fergal O’Donnell.

Boyle Ladies GAA

Boyle Ladies had a good win over Shannon Gaels on Sunday in the Abbey Park. The speed , skill and commitment of these young ladies is really admirable. If they can improve in their shooting in the scoring zone then they should be real contenders in the Intermediate Championship.

Garth Brooks Concerts

The debacle of the Garth Brooks concerts is nearly over now I presume. Still a few curious details continue to emerge. There is a populist phrase which says; ‘You couldn’t make it up’. There certainly is material for a book, film, opera or musical in it all. For a country that has much going for it how come we manage to mess up so often?

Political Discomfort

There was a disconcerting picture of the new Labour Party leader, Joan Burton, in the media in the last few days. She did not seem at all happy and it suggests that the relationship with the Taoiseach will be a fragile one. While this Coalition will certainly want to go the distance the mood music of the moment suggests otherwise. Still being there for the Centenary of 1916 is a strong incentive.

Another Minister who was in an uncomfortable situation in the last few days was The Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Frances Fitzgerald, when putting the Irish State’s case before the European Human Rights Commission. Chairman, Nigel Rodley, gave a withering summary of the state’s historic failings on a number of fronts as the Minister listened.     

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Garth Brooks Concerts / Roscommon v Cavan / Boyle Ladies GAA / World Cup and the Death of Di Stephano

Garth Brooks Concerts….What a Mess.

Sometimes when things go wrong at a high level the barstool sages casually espouse; ‘I could have told them that’. To actually sell up to 400,000 tickets for five concerts subject to licence, (I was going to use ‘seems to me’ but I’ll leave the qualification aside) was just hugely irresponsible. The result now is a huge loss to many different groups. First there are the people who bought the tickets though they are expected to get their money back and what an operation that will be. The Joe Duffy show  is likely to have enough material for the foreseeable future in the travails that will emerge there. Those worst effected are the people from abroad who have booked flights, hotels and bought tickets. Then there are the multitude of service providers in Dublin City, hotels, bars restaurants, B.& B.s’ and so on. Many people, possibly students, were to have a period of part-time employment on the foot of the concerts. Croke Park, referred to by objectors as Corporate Croke Park, which I presume is the group running the stadium as a fund-raising machine will also lose of course and the regime which will emerge will be considearably more restrictive on the stadium’s use. The objectors will possibly have to keep their heads down with the loss of so many part-time jobs and the ‘legacy fund’ of 500,00 for local amenity projects now gone. It was of course their right to object and so on and it is more likely that it was the City Council executive who were the final arbitrers in all  five concerts not going ahead being unlicensed. Perhaps, though I have not heard it said, they were worried about the scale of it all and if there was a disaster who would then be accountable? Then there is the country’s reputaional damage as against what would have a huge good news and promotional story for Ireland Inc. How so many agencies could not see the light in the tunnel being an oncoming train is mind-boggling. There was the distinct Celtic Tiger attitude of ‘build it and seek retention’.  It has been regularly suggested that the Church, Fianna Fail and the GAA were the great Irish institutions; two have been rocked, is this a body blow to the third?      
The reality of all the brinkmanship is that there should have been a much earlier intervention and awareness and perhaps the sage Kieran Mulvey should have been consulted earlier. Even I might have suggested that there was (possible) trouble ahead. (As I finish this note did I hear correctly that Garth Brooks was still asking that the five would go ahead?)

Roscommon v Cavan:

Next Saturday Roscommon GAA supporters head for Kingscourt Breffni Park, Cavan for a championship game. Roscommon and Cavan have a history. In 1943 when Roscommon won their first All-Ireland they defeated Cavan in a replay, a robust affair. In ’44 Roscommon disposed of Cavan in the Semi-Final before beating Kerry in the Final and making it two in a row. It looked as if Roscommon would rule for a time with a great side They were shocked by Mayo in ’45 but returned in ’46 but lost to Kerry in a replay. Cavan were their opponents in the ’47 Semi-Final the year the All-Ireland took place in the Polo grounds in New York a great prize. Cavan won and beat Kerry in New York. The two counties did not meet again at this level until 1962 when Roscommon were victors before going down to Kerry in the final. This was to be Gerry O’Malley’s final. After the early fifties both Roscommon and Cavan went into decline but occasionally the old embers sparked into life and the hugely dedicated supporters, of both counties, shook off their disappointments and emerged re-energised. So we travel to Cavan on Saturday evening to a football tradition where as Seamus Heaney said about Derry ‘ Where hope and History Rhyme’.
(Best wishes to the Boyle connections involved at the week-end Enda and Donie Smith on Saturday and Evan McGrath on Sunday in Castlebar with the minors plus Fergal O’Donnell and Stephen Bohan of their management team).

Boyle Ladies GAA:

Boyle Ladies GAA team play Shannon Gaels in the Intermediate team Championship at 12 noon (High!) in Boyle. When I asked if this was an ‘important’ game the response I got was; ‘Every game against Shannon Gaels is an important game!’ Tradition!

World Cup and the Death of Di Stephano.

A good few people including myself will have withdrawal symptoms as the World Cup comes to a conclusion. It has been a feast of drama, theatre and entertainment. I really enjoyed it. The German victory over Brazil had elements of GUBU about it. The goals were pouring in when the person I was watching it with got a message on his I Phone with an altered picture of the towering statue of Christ the Redeemer over Rio with his his hands over his eyes! Another story came from the Roisin Dubh pub in Galway who had the offer of 50 cent reduction on a German lager for every goal German scored from a starting price of 4 euro. Near the end of the game therefore they were down to 50 cent.
One of the greatest soccer players in the game’s history Alfredo di Stephano died in Madrid this week. He was born in Argentina but became a naturlised Spaniard. He was part of the great Real Madrid side which won five European Cups in a row from ’55 to ’60 inclusive. It included some other special players such as Gento and the Hungarian legend Puskas.  That final was played at Hampden Park Glasgow and was watched by 127,000 people. Real won scoring 7 goals to Eintracht Frankfurt’s 3. Stefano, the ‘blonde arrow’, scored 4. It was the first game of soccer I saw being on a snowy television screen. It was on May 18th 1960 and I still seem to remember it.        

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The World Cup Carnival / Shorts on the GAA Scene.

The World Cup Carnival

Although I occasionally get a little guilty at the amount of time I spend watching the World Cup, especially the earlier evening games, it makes for compelling viewing for the football enthusiast especially. There may have been some poor games but they have been submerged by the drama and entertainment in the overall package. While a number of the big guns have departed a number of the traditional football blue bloods are still there. It seems as these are having the luck or maybe make their luck. I think it was golfer Gary Player who said; “The more I practise the luckier I get”. In the luck stakes for one side to have it means there has to be a balancing hard luck side.
To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and all that. Last night it was the case of the U.S. missing out against Belgium again in extra time like a number of enthralling games. While Belgium were the better team overall the huge effort by the U.S. team was as they might say awesome. The wish of most observers was that the game would go to penalties and the opportunities existed to make that happen. Still if your goalkeeper is the team’s hero then it is a barometer of the overall balance of play and the truth of the result.
Algeria too had to yield to Germany in similar circumstances as did Switzerland to Argentina. A late, late, penalty garnered by Arjen Robben meant heartbreak for Mexico. Greece too went down in another thriller which meant that at least one real minnow, Costa Rica, survived into the quarter-finals. Costa Rica’s supposed practising of penalties paid off with them converting all five to three for Greece.
The quarter-finals begin on Friday with a possible chess game between heavyweights of the game Germany and France.  Brazil v Colombia is the later game. On Saturday Argentina take on Belgium with the Netherlands playing Costa Rica.
The first semi-final will be on Tuesday and the  second on Wednesday. There are four previous winners in the last eight so the odds are stacked on this trend continuing. Indeed the number of winners is small overall with four failing to get to this stage; Uruguay, Italy, England and Spain. Still the challenge of many smaller nations in this World Cup promotes the idea that new names will emerge to join the elite group.
The possibility of a country from Africa, Asia or especially a U.S. win would have a huge impact on this truly world game. While these are just football games many of them, in this World Cup more than one can remember of any other, are embellished with high drama and emotion with more to come.

 The Roscommon team in the Abbey Park on Sunday v Sligo 

Roscommon team manager John Evans in the Abbey Park

Shorts on the GAA Scene

I had not meant these paragraphs to be so sports orientated but it is hard to avoid it with all that is going on. Next week does not look too promising on that score either. Perhaps when the Arts Festival starts some calm will emerge. On Saturday last the Fergal O’Donnell managed Roscommon minors overcame a fancied Leitrim side. This puts them in the Connacht final against Mayo who beat Galway. Galway had earlier defeated Sligo.
Boyle’s representative on the Roscommon team, Evan McGrath, had an outstanding game, especially in the second half. Again as in the World Cup one has to feel for Leitrim who put such an effort into the preparation of this team for which they had such high hopes. 
On Sunday, in the sunshine of the resplendent Abbey Park, Roscommon overcame Sligo in a good challenge. Boyle’s representatives here, Enda and Donal Smith, were prominent with Donal, knowing the local geography, taking some fine scores. Roscommon journey to Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday evening in the championship. This will be a real acid test for what I see as an emerging side of consequence. 
The Abbey Park is a hive of activity this week with the Kellogs Cul Camps catering for over one hundred young people as they train up in the game and have fun. 
Last Sunday saw Kilkenny defeat Galway in a replay at Tullamore. While this would indicate that ‘the cats’ are still there they are not the force of a few seasons ago. Still they should add another Leinster title at Dublin’s expense on Sunday in Croke Park. Galway’s runner-up prize from Tullamore is a knock out joust with Tipperary at Semple Stadium on Saturday evening. It was hardly a prize at all.