Thursday, June 25, 2015

Update 25th June

Gallant John Joe

Members of the winning Roscommon teams of ‘43/’44 return to Croke Park in September 2001 Left to Right: Liam Gilmartin, Phelim Murray, Dr. Hugh Gibbons, Jimmy Murray, Brendan Lynch, John Joe Nerney.

(This pic. is the property ofAoifa Rice/Sportsfile). 

The town of Boyle was saddened on Wednesday evening when the news that their hero from all those years ago had passed away. With modern communications technology the news flew far and wide. The GAA community in Boyle and Roscommon had lost one of the three remaining links with days when Roscommon football shone brightest. It was in the dark era of ‘World War Two’ known in Ireland as ‘ The Emergency’ when a new team in primrose and blue emerged from the West challenged and conquered the traditional custodians for the GAA’s for highest honours.

John Joe joined the team in his home town of Boyle for the championship replay against Sligo in 1944. They were a team of all talents with a variety of skills. The majestic midfield of Boland and Gilmartin, the powerful halfback line of Lynch, Carlos and Murray, the golden goals of Kinlough and the captaincy of Jimmy Murray. Nerney added his foraging skills to complement all this. Liam Gilmartin said last September ‘Nerney was a small man but he did not know that he was a small man. He was one of the best pound for pound footballers Roscommon ever had’. John Joe was honoured by being selected on the Roscommon team of the Millennium in 1999. He was not one to blow his own trumpet but always referred to his team mates. ‘Looking around in the dressing room before a game and seeing those powerful men there made me feel we couldn’t lose. We should have won a couple more I suppose. Still we did alright and we became great friends throughout our lives and met often’. They were a ‘Band of Brothers’ like so many in the battle zones of the times.

Gerry O’Malley said when he heard the news of his death  ‘John Joe was a warrior and you were glad to have him on your team rather than the opposition’. Gerry and John Joe shared a lovely occasion in 2010 with the opening of the fine new dressing room complex in Boyle’s Abbey Park. Roscommon County Board too honoured him by having him as their President for a term in 2009 when the County Convention was held in Boyle. There are many very good photographs of John Joe including one particular action picture which Sean has on the Home page and is hanging proudly on the wall in The Craobhin. My favourite one though is of him with Jimmy and Phelim Murray, Brendan Lynch, Dr. Hugh Gibbons and Liam Gilmartin as they walk in line, on an occasion, in Croke Park in 2001 where once they were kings.

So we too, like Cavan, had our ‘Gallant John Joe’ and it has been a sense of pride to Boyle GAA people that we had our representative, our football hero, in that team of football heroes. John Joe would not want that accolade but he is a constant reminder that one of our own strode Croke Park with the very best.

Ni bheidh a leithéid ann aris. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis

Roscommon v Sligo A Bad Day at the Office

The post-match analysis on Roscommon’s performance versus Sligo has been pretty severe. I’ve distilled them to a number of lines for myself.
1. We were getting carried away with ourselves in our estimations of the team we had. As Christy Ring once said to someone who was extolling the virtues of a new ‘star’ player ‘Let us see when the corncrake is trying to sing and the championship battles are on’. This is the time where the true mettle of the man surfaces. 
2. Nothing went right for the team and particular players on the day. The more some of them tried the worse things went. I felt for Senan Kilbride as it was just a very bad day.
3. Due credit to Sligo. They deserved their victory no question about that. They played very well, with a pace, crispness and purpose that their manager and supporters had to revel in. It was not the first time that Roscommon has slipped on the Sligo banana skin. It nearly happened to them in Boyle in 1944 when Roscommon were All-Ireland champions!  
4. The challenge now is a big one and a performance of quality against Cavan on Saturday week is, hopefully, possible. A severe salvo of mid-term criticism is no help. Project Roscommon GAA is in the melting pot but a good team hardly becomes a very bad team overnight.

The Passing of Tipp Legend Jimmy Doyle  

Thurles and Tipperary, like ourselves, are mourning with the death of their legendary sportsman in the hurler Jimmy Doyle at the age of 76. A good few years ago now while driving home from a distance I happened on a Mick Dunne interview with Jimmy Doyle. It certainly shortened the journey. Tipperary or Tipp. had one of the great hurling teams in the history of the game in the 60s’. The humility of the great man was exemplary and is part of the reason he is loved in his native place. He was selected on the hurling Team of the Century and of The Millennium. He was a six time All-Ireland Senior winner two times as captain, 7 League titles and 10 Tipp. senior championship medals plus many other competitions such as Railway Cup. He was a county minor at the tender age of 14 in goals v Dublin in 1954. He was brought up in humble surroundings in the shadow of Semple Stadium, Thurles and hurling became his life despite some serious injuries. I have heard from someone who met him how nice a man he was and this week I saw a recent interview with him as he wished he could begin it all again. May the great Jimmy Doyle rest in peace. He left us all and especially his native place a great sporting legacy.

The Berkeley Tragedy Reflection

In the time since the Berkeley tragedy there have been many moving accounts and tributes paid in print, on radio and television. The contribution of Charlie McGettigan stood out though, occasionally expressed in the parental love song ‘Feet of a Dancer’   

Feet of a Dancer 

I hope you find the feet of a dancer,
I hope you can sing in the rain,
I hope you find all the easy answers to your pain;
It won’t be easy, what can I say,
There will be trouble along the way;
‘Round every corner there’s terror and fear,
Always remember that we’re here.

I hope you find the feet of a dancer,
I hope you can sing in the rain,
I hope you find all the easy answers to your pain;
I hope you find love and affection,
I hope you find someone who cares;
I hope you find all the right directions everywhere,

A shoulder to cry on whenever you’re alone,
You can rely on us you know;
Nothing too crazy, nothing too dear,
Always remember that we’re here.

Composed by Charlie McGettigan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Berkeley Update 17th June

Irish Student Tragedy at Berkeley California

The heart aches with the news from California of the tragic deaths of six Irish students on Tuesday morning. The whole country feels their loss. Like all parents who have had young family members travelling abroad the nightmare scenario has emerged for their families, friends and communities of those whose lives were tragically cut short and of those injured whose lives will never be the same again. Writing about anything else this week is inconsequential and irrelevant.

In the late sixties I spent three summers on a J1 Visa in the United States in the cities of New York and Philadelphia. They were memorable summers. Thousands of students have followed in the succeeding decades. Eight thousand young people have gone abroad this summer. One hundred and fifty thousand students have availed of it in its fifty years of existence.  It is part of what is referred to as a ‘Right of Passage in Life’. Their presence can only act as a great bond, understanding and empathy for the host country.

There have been tragedies with the deaths of young students over the years. I remember the death of Shane McGettigan, son of Charlie, who died in a construction site accident in Boston in August 1998 with his colleague Ronan Stewart. It has happened in more tragic circumstances in this country to a visiting student with the murder of Swiss student Manuela Riedo in October 2007 in what we would imagine as the benign city of Galway.

Ironically as I try to type out these very inadequate words on Wednesday, at 1.50 in the afternoon, the father of Shane McGettigan, Charlie, is on Liveline talking to Damien O’Reilly and telling of Shane death. He references the support and consolation of the community in Leitrim and especially of the Irish community in Boston. Charlie relates how the Irish community on the ground and particularly the usual stand out people within that community stood with them and I am sure that the Irish community in California will rally around and give equally immense support. The coming days and weeks will be particularly traumatic while the hurt and grief will be lifelong. 

Charlie tells of the knock on the door at the unusual time and the immediate consciousness that something terrible had happened. Is this a dream he had wondered and hoped? 

Shane was a student at DIT and his family and his dad wished him well after a football game in Tuam as he took a lift to Dublin to begin his travels. They were happy for him and knew that is was part of life’s adventure, experience and enrichment.

“Time doesn’t heal but it helps you to cope. It is not what people say it is that they are there with you” Charlie relates. He tells of the impact of the President of the time, Mary McAleese, calling to their door and staying hours talking and supporting them. The constant question remains though, along the lines of; what would he be doing now?  

Maybe this tragedy will inspire those young people on their travels to take as much care as is possible for their own safety in the first instance and in knowledge that they are the most important people in the lives of many others and their parents most significantly of all.

These fine young people in Berkeley, as evidenced by the achievements in their brief lives, have left families and friends with a host of memories. Those cherished memories will not diminish with age now but will shine brightly through the years to come. Hopefully these memories will act as some ongoing consolation to their families for the tragic and unimaginable loss of their children.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Update 12th June

Summer Sport Dominate

Galway blitz Dublin

It seems as if we are going to have the full range of emotions called into play as we watch, observe or take on board this summer’s GAA Championships. Perhaps once again the hurling will easily trump the football for quality as it invariably does. Galway exploded against Dublin the Leinster Championship replay and the game was decided very early as a consequence of the three goal fest by Cathal Mannion. I have said often that, like so many neutrals, I would love to see Dublin win an All-Ireland hurling as it would tick a number of GAA boxes and be such a boost for the great game of hurling. While Galway looked good their problem is consistency and the challenge now is to put a series of performances together that will show that they are serious contenders for honours.

While one has to be pleased for Laois with their long awaited win over Offaly a person has to feel sorry for the decline of Offaly on both the hurling and football fronts. Also the hurt that this generates was evident in the demeanour of Offaly manager and former hurling great Brian Whelehan.
Laois now meet Galway so that will be a real test as to their quality or otherwise. Wexford were too good for what we thought were an emerging Westmeath. Wexford now play Kilkenny in Kilkenny in a traditional Leinster Championship battle. Kilkenny are restructuring after the loss of some of their superstars. Still there are a lot of very recognisable names on the Kilkenny panel and it will be interesting to see if Brian Coady can shape another powerful team. It is said in many places that the quality is a bit below par in Kilkenny at the moment but that has a habit of being an illusion.
It was great to see Waterford reach the Munster Final where they will play the winners of Tipp. and Limerick. It continues the idea that any one of say of about seven can win the All-Ireland hurling Championship. The rise of Kerry hurling too is interesting. In football there seems to be but three real contenders; Dublin, Kerry or Donegal.

Roscommon hurlers late, late win at Croke Park

For me the sporting moment of the week-end was at the end of the Nicky Rackard Cup final in Croke on Saturday between Roscommon and Armagh. Armagh had been leading for most of the game and in the last seconds were two points up when Roscommon were awarded a free-not a penalty- from around 25 metres out. Up stepped Micheal Kelly, Roscommon’s captain, who fired a rocket of a shot to the net through a forest of Armagh hurleys to give Roscommon an unlikely win. I wrote once about a Roscommon win versus Laois in the All-Ireland Football Semi-Final of 1946 as follows; “If Roscommon has had many unlucky days at Croke Park this was not one of them”. So it could be said of last Saturday. For the small tight-net hurling community of mid Roscommon it was a deserved boost to their efforts. It is a slight regret of mine that I did not try to promote hurling in Boyle when I came to the town first in the early seventies. A legendary man by the name of Bob Carr –from Laois- had done a good deal of work with its promotion in the county and some in Boyle. This was continued by Limerick and Munster hurler, the army officer P.J.Keane now resident in Sligo. There were a few very good young hurlers in Boyle under his tutelage including Martin Candon and T.P. Toolan. I suppose the challenge of keeping the football going was enough as dual clubs create their own demands and issues.

This week-end Boyle play Padraig Pearse's in the O’Rourke Cup in Boyle. I looked at the club’s Facebook site for a time for this but there was no reference to it. I presume there is an arrangement with Pearse’s regarding county players as I would imagine that John Evans would not be letting county players play this type of game a week before the key championship fixture against Sligo.
Also on Sunday morning there is an under the U 12s’ (second team) play Pearse’s in a Division 5 League. In my time ‘coaching’ and later following club football this was the area I could enjoy most where enthusiasm and commitment is unbounded.            

Barcelona and Juventus Champagne Soccer versus Blatter’s Circus 
The beautiful game was hugely evident in the Champions League Final between Barcelona and Juventus. The skills of the many great players in the Barcelona team flowed like champagne. The three front players of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, a potent mixture of talent, now pose a log-term threat of dominating football in Spain with a phenomenal scoring record this past season. The conductor of this classic team is Andres Iniesta.
It is just as well that football is a simple game and can occupy a parallel universe to the machinations of its administrators. It has taken a long time to bring the searchlight effectively on Sepp Blatter, the circus ringmaster, but it seems as if the Americans oddly enough have done the deed as they have done before in say the Lance Armstrong affair. Then with great Irish assistance from David Walsh. This time though just when the Secretary of the Irish Association, John Delaney, was crowing and seemed to occupy the ‘high moral ground’ along came the fact that he had accepted the princely sum of €5m for the Association in compensation for a piece of smug satire regarding Ireland wanting to be the 33rd team at the African World Cup by Blatter. While this was pretty ridiculous it pales when compared to Qatar getting the hosting of the World Cup. So the rug was pulled from under the display of Irish righteousness. This all had the effect of prompting the Taoisech Enda Kenny to comment on the football situation while he seemed mute about the very serious issue of IBRC, Siteserve and Dennis O’Brien’s ‘power and influence’ ascendancy. The real star of the moment is Catherine Murphy T.D.
If the Champions League Final was champagne the Ireland versus England game was at the other end of the spectrum and not for the first time. Next Saturday Ireland plays Scotland in what one expects to be a close encounter of hopefully a more dramatic nature.

Italia ’90 25th Anniversary

Photo: Christy Regan
Click on photo to view a large version

Italia ’90 was one of the memorable periods in Irish sporting history. For a couple of week the Irish sporting public were engrossed in the happenings of the Irish soccer team in Italy for the1990 World Cup. The fact that the team scored just 2 goals, I think, from play was submerged in the national euphoria. One of the great subsequent headlines was:

‘I missed Italia ’90 I was in Italy’.
I use here one of my favourite pictures and it is of the Forest View ‘gang’ of that time in celebratory mood after the Romania penalty shoot-out. The picture was taken by Christy Regan. I have all the names but the two people on the right obscured by the flag. One is a girl with a ‘Fair Isle’ type cardigan and the other a teenage boy. If anyone can come up with their names then I have the complete set.

Soccer World Cup June 2015

You may not be aware of the fact that there is a Soccer World Cup in progress in Canada right now. It is the ladies who now take centre stage.

Last summer I really enjoyed the festival of soccer that was the men’s Soccer World Cup in Brazil with some amazing performances, exultation and heartache, new stars and old reliables,  the destruction of Brazil and one of the traditional winners, Germany,  going home with the  spoils.
Monday night saw the beginning of the Women’s’ World Cup with an interesting game between one of the powerhouses of the game, Sweden, against Nigeria. It ended in a 2 all draw and those involved with Nigeria were hugely pleased. This is the first African team to make an impression on the game at this level.
The second game saw a great United States side who are two times winners and one of the favourites once again grind down Australia to win by 3 goals to 1. The reigning champions are Japan while other top teams include Brazil, France, England, Canada, Norway and of course Germany.
While the coverage on BBC 2 is patchy I imagine the business end of the competition will be as exciting as ever.    

Sin e.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Update 4th June

Student UCD Accommodation
I was talking to the parents of a U.C.D. student earlier this year regarding their experience of seeking accommodation for their family member, last summer, who was starting in the college in the autumn. In essence it was a tough story because accommodation is so difficult to access and also perhaps they had not begun looking for it early enough. Students are at the mercy of the providers, for the most part private landlords. As is well known accommodation is very difficult and very expensive in the college cities with Dublin being at the point of the pyramid.  The student in question has forwarded me the link for the UCD Residence accommodation which states that they will have over 1100 bed places for new students this coming autumn. It also seems that they have abandoned the ‘first come’ basis which is enlightening. Anyone interested re. UCD accommodation may study all this by going on the link

Two fine BBC 2 programmes on the immediate post World War Two consequences ‘1945: The Savage Peace’
The CBS in Roscommon, where I went to secondary school, had the advantage of having immediately opposite its gates the County Library. I ‘used’ it pretty regularly then. Oddly, I suppose, I developed a big interest in books on World War Two. Perhaps this was because I shared my interest in this with my dad. Later, in the early 1970s, ITV transmitted a magnificent classic series on the war titled ‘The World at War’ made by Jeremy Isaacs with mesmerising narration by the actor Laurence Olivier and appropriately haunting theme music by Carl Davis.
Last week I happened on two very different programmes which dealt with a kind of epilogue to the war. They were also very insightful. While of course Germany lost the war there is very little written from their perspective about it. Perhaps there is but I am not aware of it. There are a small number of excellent films such as Peckinpah’s ‘Cross of Iron’, ‘Das Boot’ directed by Wolfgang Petersen and the film depicting the last days of Hitler titled ‘Downfall’. (Of course one of the great First World War films was ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’.)
One of two pieces I saw last week was titled ‘1945: The Savage Peace’. The programme apparently takes its title from a joke that circulated among German soldiers towards the end of the war which went: ‘Enjoy the war because the peace will be savage’. This is the way it turned out for millions of Germans with the expulsion of some 12 million ethnic Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries in the post war days. There were also the huge reprisals on German civilians who of course had no real protection and were easy prey for those seeking revenge for the terrible atrocities meted out by the Fascist German state before and during the war. It was a disturbing insight into the role and attitude of some of the victors. It is a story that gets little attention as Germans are probably reluctant to visit that period seeking disclosure or recompense because of their country’s own record.

 ‘Churchill: When Britain Said No’
It is a common theme that history is written by the victors. One of its comprehensive writers on the Second World War was Winston Churchill; Britain’s much lauded war leader. The television programme last week however dealt with Churchill’s rapid disposal by the British public even before the war had ended. The programme was titled ‘Churchill: When Britain Said No’. This dealt with the British election of 1945. Labour's landslide in the 1945 general election remains one of the greatest shocks in British political history. How did Winston Churchill, a hugely popular national hero, fail to win?

Politics in peacetime
Between 1940 and 1945 Winston Churchill was probably the most popular British prime minister of all time. With few exceptions, politicians and commentators confidently predicted that he would lead the Conservatives to victory in the ’45 general election. In the event, he led them to one of their greatest ever defeats. It was also one for which he was partly responsible, because the very qualities that had made him a great leader in war were not what the electorate were looking for in a peacetime leader. From the campaign trail there is film footage of Churchill being heckled at a political rally and looking very confused by it all. Churchill’s past mistakes had not been forgotten, the Gallipoli disaster, his attitude to the miners in the late twenties and as his wife Clementine (Clemie to Winston) is heard to say ‘Winston knows nothing about the lives of ordinary people’.  In his own constituency the opposing parties, out of respect, did not oppose him. But late in the day an unknown independent candidate did so and got around a third of the votes which was a considerable embarrassment and a barometer of the general public’s attitude. While the election took place in early July the result did not materialise until the end of the month because of the collections of service men’s votes from abroad. 
Labour under Clement Attlee swept into power with a resounding victory. While Churchill had included Attlee in his coalition government from 1940 he did not seem to hold him in high regard answering someone who suggested that ‘Clement Attlee is a humble man’ with one of his famous quips ‘Attlee has a lot to be humble about’. Still Attlee had accompanied Churchill to the July Potsdam conference with Stalin and Truman the new President of the United States. The Labour government set out to introduce a policy of ‘social equality’, much referred to today. This included nationalisation of utilities, housing provision and most famously the introduction of the Welfare State of universal health as envisioned by the 'Beveridge Report'. I dipped into that a little in the sixties.
Churchill occupied the following years writing his account of the war in six volumes as one commentator observed “breaking the Official Secrets Act wholesale in the process”. This helped him become an unlikely Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1953. He had returned as Prime Minister in 1951 until 1955 and died in 1965.    
The result of the ’45 British election showed how a people could change course and the programme ‘Churchill: When Britain Said No’ gave a short but illuminating insight into their reasoning for doing so.  

Top Performance by Boyle GAA Seniors.
Boyle, 1.11 Elphin, 2.7.
Though it was wet, windy and cold in the Abbey Park on Sunday afternoon both Boyle and Elphin contributed to a fine game of football in the second round of senior championship. At half time Boyle 1.6 led Elphin 1.2 and were good value for this lead. An early point in the second half extended this lead. However Elphin continued to battle and threaten and a Frankie Cregg goal mid-way in the half brought the lead back to just two points Boyle 1.9 Elphin 2. 4. A draw seemed a distinct possibility from there but a fine Mark O’Donohoe point gave Boyle a two point cushion which saw Boyle home in an eventful final couple of minutes.
I have said this before but there are rare times when it is hard to say who played well but on this occasion it would be hard to say who played poorly for Boyle, if one went down that road. In all consideration of the game one has to keep in mind the conditions which were very difficult. The type of football too was encouraging. While there was the usual possession stakes this was done crisply, with effect and the ball moved forward with pace. There were few of the inverted U style punts forward. While there were a certain number of times when possession was turned over that was more a credit to opposition pressure than mistakes. In it all I include both sides here. While the final minutes and what was regarded as questionable red cards took from the games result and were the main talking point at the end the real deal was the fact we were treated to a fine game of football played in an excellent spirit by all concerned.
As I have said the Boyle team overall did very well so I will restrict myself to mentioning a couple of performances of players as representative of the team. Newcomer to the senior ranks Dylan East was the star turn on this occasion. His early goal, after three minutes, showed Boyle the way and he was a busy and continuous threat. Well done to Dylan. Enda Smith was a powerhouse.  It is a treat to see him driving forward.
The Boyle team was as follows: T. Lowe (0.1, a ’45), C. Brennan, K. Cox, C. McGowan, M. Hanmore, M.O’Connor, T. McKenna, E. Smith (0.1), R. Hanmore, E. McGrath( 0.2, one free) , S. Purcell, J. Suffin, D. East, (1,2), D. Smith, (0.3) M.O’Donohoe (0.2) with K. Cox, B. Furey, S. Tonra.
*Coincidentally the same two teams meet in Boyle on Sunday in the Division One League at 2 so it a very immediate opportunity to see how the teams shape up without the Championship motivation. The league carries its own motivational requirements of course.
*I was talking to former Boyle player T.P.Toolan, now resident in Meath, who keeps a keen eye on Boyle and its GAA activities. He was hugely complimentary of the set up at Abbey Park, the game and the progress that is obvious in the Abbey Park since he played there regularly. Positive comment such as T.P.’s is always nice to hear and encouraging.
*On the negative side the Boyle team not playing as per the numbers on the programme was a mistake that confused people and has possible consequences. Perhaps it was just a mistake.

Kellogg’s Cul CampsProviding safe interesting things for young people who are on school holidays during the summer is a taxing issue for many parents especially in the town environment. Roscommon GAA runs fifteen Kellogg's Cul Camps throughout the county. Around 89,000 youngsters participated nationally in these camps in 2014. The Boyle camp involving Gaelic football and rounders takes place from July 6th to 10th and the man to contact is Willie Hegarty @ 086 8534709. The fee is 55 euro with concessions for further family members.