Thursday, January 14, 2016

Update 14th January


Blog Jan. 13th 2016.

HELP SAVE ROSCOMMON COUNTY FROM THE LOSS OF A SWATHE OF SOUTH ROSCOMMON

A formal Public Notice was published 1st December 2015, inviting submissions with regard to the review. Submissions are to be received by 5pm Wednesday 27th of January 2016 and can be made:
•By hard copy to:  Áras An Chontae, Mount Street, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath N91 FH4N
•By e-mail to:  submissions@westmeathcoco.ie

**It is curious that submissions are to be submitted to Westmeath County Council which one would have thought as being a ‘vested interest’ in the process. 

The huge issue of the moment in County Roscommon is the review of the boundary in South Roscommon between Athlone, County Westmeath and County Roscommon. There is a proposal and fear that a large swathe of an area adjacent to Athlone but historically part of Roscommon County will be shorn from Roscommon and added to Athlone and County Westmeath. This will involve a population shift of around 7,000 people (10% of the county’s population), 30 square kilometres and huge financial issues for Roscommon County Council because of the rates and incomes from the urban and developed area of Monksland and surrounding zones. This area provides more than one third of all the commercial rates in this county. In natural geographic and historic circumstances it might have been felt that the natural border would be the bridge of Athlone but this has not been the case since the late 1800s’. Now it is proposed to extend the boundary of Athlone and Westmeath in a major way at the expense of Roscommon County and its people.

This is not just a huge issue for the people of those areas it a huge issue for all of us who see ourselves as steadfastly Roscommon people. So while we in North Roscommon may feel it is a kind of semi-distant debate it will affect us and the generations who follow us. It is also a case that we must show our solidarity with our friends and fellow county people in South Roscommon. Not alone is it being imposed on them against their wishes it is being imposed on all of us Roscommon people home and abroad. It will do irreparable damage to the dynamic of the county on many levels. One of those areas is in GAA where the catchment area of the two great clubs Clann na Gael and St. Brigid’s will be sliced in two with potential erosion of players  to Westmeath over time.

One of the organisers of the ‘SAVE ROSCOMMON’ campaign is Ger Ahern of St. Brigid’s Club. He said on Monday night that “Minister Kelly is trying to force through this separation of the county without any regard for the wishes of the people”. Saying that; “There would be no such thing as a referendum of the wishes of the people as the Government  Minister was vesting the total decision- making powers in himself which is not in accordance to the principles of natural justice” . Indeed the proposal will do the chances of present Government candidates major damage if there is not a credible u turn. This would not be the first time this has happened.
 I wonder who are the vested interests and what motivates this proposed carve up?        

The whole issue is covered in great detail in this week’s Roscommon Herald with its editorial on page 46 and on pages 49 to 51 inclusive. And I imagine the Roscommon People will follow in the same vein this evening.  It behoves all of us to familiarise ourselves with what is happening, with great haste I might add. There was a major meeting outlining opposition to the proposal on Monday night last in Athlone which I had hoped to attend but was flu bound. I was in the area on Friday last at the burial of a Roscommon hero  Gerry O’Malley and I can imagine how he would have felt if he was aware of how his beloved county was being treated.

Indeed in this historic year of 2016 in which the nation remembers those who struck to enable our country to be ruled and administered fairly by their own people, for their own people, how cruelly ironic it is that the wishes of the people of that area, and might I insist the people of all Roscommon county as a whole, are being so contemptuously disregarded. The proposal “Beggars belief that it is being imposed” declared the Roscommon CEO Eugene Cummins at the meeting on Monday night.
Will Roscommon County as whole rise to the challenge with which it is being presented invoking the spirit of a previous age and save the integrity of our county?

Let your opinion be heard by submission-as above- and wherever you feel it can be an influence.  
And remember this is not an issue to put on the long finger as submissions must be in by Wednesday Jan 27th.   


My Personal Memories of Gerry O’Malley

I was boy of around ten years old as I accompanied my father amongst the crowd out of St. Coman’s Park, up the town hill, after a Connacht championship game in the fifties. Just a few yards from us were two Roscommon players still in their playing gear as they made their way up to McCrann’s in The Square to ‘tog in’. I heard their whispered names circulating in the crowd. They were Eamon Donoghue and Gerry O’Malley. To think that I had seen them and Roscommon play was good enough but to be so close to two of my heroes made it a special day irrespective of the result which I cannot remember. Later I was to learn that O’Malley and the elegant, laconic O’Donoghue were marvellous friends.

At school the next day I had a present of a story to tell my classmates. I had been within touching distance of Gerry O’Malley. How little I could have known that I would have the honour later of being one of his friends.

Young people today have a universal landscape in which to identify and associate with their ‘heroes’. In the fifties it was a narrower spectrum. Gaelic football was the seam from which we mined our heroes and at the pinnacle was O’Malley. Through the fifties of growing from a boy to a teenager in the sixties Gerry was the heartbeat of our football lives. We followed Roscommon and Gerry in down times and then in some good times which were heightened by the contrast with the poorer times. Galway broke our hearts but we always had O’Malley. And each March we would set aside our Galway despair and as a united Connacht travel to Croke Park for the Railway Cup and applaud Purcell, Stockwell and ‘Pook’ Dillon as if they were our own. Of course we would have our Leitrim allies Packie McGarty and Cathal Flynn with Naas O’Dowd from Sligo and Mayo's Willie Casey, John Nallen and Padraig Carney. But at the heart of it all was our hero O’Malley. We walked taller because of his presence and were validated by it. Then came a very good Roscommon team in ’61 and a prized Connacht victory over Galway which was surpassed by a thrilling comeback in ’62 when O’Malley played a hero’s role. Being there was an emotional joy. It led to an All-Ireland defeat however and the ecstasy of the ‘Broken Crossbar’ victory turned to grave disappointment as the county and most of the country wished O’Malley that prized medal. But it was not to be. “It was the greatest disappointment of my sporting career” he said later. At a re-union of that ‘61/’62 team in Croke Park only  a few years ago, he said in an understated way; “ We mightn’t have been a great team but we were a GOOD team”. 

He was to get an All-Ireland Junior hurling medal in October ’65 when Roscommon defeated Warwickshire in St. Coman’s Park and we were happy to be there to witness it.

He told me recently that his last game for Roscommon was a hurling game, in ’68 if I remember correctly. He just loved hurling and that shone through when he reflected on his teenage years and his introduction to the game by Johnny Mee and Four Roads.

My adult relationship with Gerry emerged in the lead up to the county finals of Centenary Year 1984 which involved Four Roads v Padraig Pearse's in hurling and St. Brigid’s v Clan na Gael in football. The two major clubs in his life were to the fore. I was involved in the programme for those finals and had Gerry pen a piece for it. It was wonderful article reflecting on his happy memories in hurling with Four Roads and his pride in the development of his home club St. Brigid’s. We communicated pretty regularly afterwards and he attended some GAA functions in Boyle down the years. When he said once that he had not explored North Roscommon at all and had only ‘passed through Boyle going to matches with the Dublin load’, I invited him to come down and promised him the ‘grand tour’. This he and his wife Mary did in 2003 and we did the tour and visited some football colleagues from the area who were delighted to see him in their homes, Dr. Hugh Gibbons, Micheal Shivnan, Ned Moriarty and of course John Joe Nerney or just Nerney as he regularly referred to him; ‘How’s Nerney?’ He always asked smiling at some remembered devilment from the same man. He reminisced on that visit many times. He was to take me on a tour of his own area afterwards but we never got around to that just a meeting in July 2013 at the Brideswell Pattern for the dedication of O’Malley’s field beside his home. Someone else will have to show me ‘his long style field’ but it will not be the same.

He came with Mary to Boyle again in May 2010 for the opening of our new dressing rooms. He was an inspirational speaker as the old passion and optimism had never waned. As his health declined I visited Gerry in hospital and had a memorable visit with Liam Gilmartin to his home in Swords in March of ’14. Then it was to the care home in North County Dublin with Frances Kinlough daughter of his great friend Frank Kinlough of Shannonbridge and he waxed lyrical of happy times spent in Frank’s company in an area and among people who brightened his life. My last visit was on the Tuesday of Christmas week past. Though he had declined physically, his mind and memory were as keen as ever and I promised to visit him again on St. Bridget’s Day when the daffodils would be in bloom and the days lengthening. He smiled.

Gerry O’Malley had all the noble qualities a man could have, apart from his sporting prowess. He was a caring husband, father and grandfather. He was the most conscientious of workers. He was a humble man, a man of honour, a man of faith. He was a friend who had many good friends and he enriched their lives. Like all fine people his is a generous legacy especially for us in his beloved Roscommon. I cannot doubt but that, having run the race, he has now got his final due reward and is resting in peace.

Gerry O'Malley, Photographs I took at his funeral ...

photo © Tony Conboy

photo © Tony Conboy

Tomás Beades and current county player Senan Kilbride with their St. Brigid’s Club colleagues carry the remains of Gerry O’Malley to his final resting place in Cam cemetery, Bridewell on Friday January 8th. Alongside are members of the Four Roads Hurling Club for which Gerry played his hurling who were also pall bearers earlier.
photo © Tony Conboy

Tomás Beades and current county player Senan Kilbride
photo © Tony Conboy

photo © Tony Conboy

photo © Tony Conboy

Former playing colleague and life-time friend Frank Kenny, reads his final tribute to Gerry at his graveside. In the background are Noel Murray, P.J.Martin and Sean Kilbride
photo © Tony Conboy
                                 





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