Friday, June 24, 2016

Update 24th June

The Death of Joe Cox M.P.

I’d just like to mention and remember at the beginning of these brief notes the cruel death of an English M.P. last week, named Joe Cox. I recognise that in history there have been numerous assassinations of presidents, ministers, prime ministers and politicians down the years. We can see the huge criticism that people in public life often endure from politics to sport. People can do many things quietly but for many working in public view is the demand of their particular work be it politics, sport or whatever. I read today of the concern for the mental health of English footballer Raheen Sterling from ‘vile’ online criticism in the wake of his poor performances. This is bad enough but I would have thought that in our western European society the killing of a public representative would not envisaged. The Guardian headline summed up the character of Joe Cox and the many public Joe Cox’s “She believed in a better world and fought for it every day”.       

The U.K. European Vote

As I write on Thursday morning people throughout the UK are going to vote on their future with the EU. While there have some swings on which way it will go recent days have suggested that the UK voters will vote to stay with the EU and most people in Ireland hope that that is accurate. This would be a reflection of the Scottish Independence vote when a late surge voted to remain in the UK when crunch time really came.

Sporting Kaleidoscope. 

Ireland v Italy

What a week it has been for sport with an Irish hue. After the drubbing Ireland took from Belgium last Saturday last night’s recovery to achieve the necessary ‘result’ against Italy was a huge credit to the tem and management. While the fact that they were playing a much under-strength Italian team will be included in current commentary the legacy sporting history will not dwell on that. Last night saw a fine first performance when Ireland might have had a couple of goals. How a player can almost be strangled in a  headlock and not get a free/penalty escapes me. The general foul play shenanigans in the box in soccer now and how it tolerated by referees is a puzzle to me. Then there was a clear –to me- penalty in front of the referee when McClean was turned over. The second half dipped and after Wes Holahan missed a good chance it seemed as if it was going to be one of those ‘what might have been’ occasions we have all experienced in watching sport. Robbie Brady did a Wimbledon moment in going to his family in the crowd immediately after the game he played such a part in winning with a great goal.
I watched the game in Kit O’Connor’s house in the good company of Joan O’Gara and Sean Casey who are visiting Boyle and numerous other places and people being home from Perth in Western Australia. 

These are the last sixteen fixtures:

Sat. 25th 
Switzerland v Poland @ 2/Wales v Northern Ireland @ 5 Paris/Croatia v Portugal @ 8.

Sun. France v Ireland @ 2 Lyons. (I am sure this has caused a few headaches and frantic re-timing of various events, sporting and otherwise, for Sunday)/Germany v Slovakia @ 5/ Hungary v Belgium @ 9 (check)

Mon. Italy v Spain @ 5 and England v Iceland @ 8.

There are numerous interesting fixtures there. it is regrettable that Northern Ireland have to meet Wales but with all the local teams qualifying –a big achievement-there  was a real possibility of such a clash.
Sunday is the big day with Ireland taking on one of the favourites France. Very interesting.  While Portugal v Belgium is another potential cracker. 
Monday has two varying games, a meeting of two giants in Italy and Spain while England cannot lose to Iceland……surely not!

I see from reports today that airlines are quoting supporters who wish to go to France for the game on Sunday  astronomical prices. This reminds me of the story where the scorpion stings the frog who is doing him the favour of taking him across a river. ‘Why did you do that ? Now of both of us will drown’ said the frog. ‘It’s what I do’ replied the scorpion. (adapted)   


It was such a close thing for Shane Lowry at the U.S  PGA tournament which ended on Sunday. He led by four shots going into the last round but was in bad luck in a number of ways and so ended up on joint second. Still it a great achievement for a player we can so easily identify with. 
The decision of Rory McIlroy to withdraw from the Rio Olympics has had a mixed reception. Golfers such as Rory who are always in the spotlight and wealthy people do not feel a real urgency to seek fame and fortune in the Olympic environment unique as it may be. It is his own personal decision and he is entitled to make it in an uncertain health environment. 

Boyle GAA 

Boyle GAA’s U 14 Feile team will be participating in Cork and district over the week-end starting on Friday evening with two games followed by a game on Saturday morning and hopefully qualifying for the finals on Sunday. As the sponsors pictures show on realboyle they have received strong and wide support from the community and business sectors. It will be a Tournament that they will long remember and we wish them and their mentors well. I hope to be there for the early stages at least. 
Congratulations to St. Joseph’s Boys School on their double win during the week. They won the ‘Top Schools’ Gaelic competition on Tuesday and followed this up with a soccer win on Wednesday. I am aware of the Gaelic competition being a difficult tournament to win and while we have won it a number of times around ’96 and a few years later it takes a good side to do so. So Boyle GAA has with this team and the Feile side a talented group of young players emerging.
Boyle seniors suffered a heavy defeat to a resurgent St. Brigid’s team in Kiltoom on Friday evening. The game was nearly decided in the opening quarter. It was a very disappointing performance but all involved will hardly need me to tell them that. Their next game is against Roscommon Gaels. Once again the match programme was the worst kind, a frustrating mix of fact and fiction.  
Galway had a good win over Mayo on Saturday evening and now it is Roscommon v Galway on July 10th in Galway in the Connacht final. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Update 17th June

The British Referendum on Staying in the EU.

Though it is outside our control this is probably the most significant economic and political event for this country since Ireland joined the EU in 1973 with the U.K. and Denmark.  It is also of huge significance for the U.K itself and for Europe. Its wider implications range across the broad spectrum of European society in all its hues, political, social and economic. Since the Irish Republic is the only EU country which will continue to have a land border with the U.K. this increases the significance of our exposure to a British exit from the EU. While we have had a troubled history with Britain it is fair to say that present relations are very good and we are intertwined in trade, travel, tourism, culture and language. If the U.K. was to leave it has the potential to marginalise Ireland in an EU dominated by Germany and France. Indeed the UK plays a hugely important role as a moderating influence in the EU and is probably Ireland’s best ally there. So while we do not live in England and do not really ‘feel’ their reasons for being anti Europe perhaps the present healthy close relationship between our two countries might be a factor/consideration in how  the Irish vote there on June the 23rd.        

One of the conundrums of such a break is that these implications are very difficult to quantify and elicit differing interpretations from varied interests. It seems as if the main concern being advanced for the pro-exit lobby is the UK’s restricted powers in controlling immigration into their country. Britain has been receiving immigrants for a very long time but particularly since the end of WW2. While the Irish have been immigrating to Britain for, one might say, centuries, promoted immigration really began post the war with the influx of migrants from the West Indies. This was followed by Commonwealth migrants from India and Pakistan. Today Britain is a multi-racial society. In a sense it seems as if it is too late for that country to retain dominance for the traditional white Anglo Saxon race if that is the submerged motive for this migration stance. It appears though that a large section of people in England feel that ‘enough is enough’ and they fear that the current migration shifts, which cannot be quantified, would overwhelm the ethnic balance and potentially destabilise it. They want to have the power to enforce their own border and migration controls. That is not in that sense unreasonable.

The anti EU lobby also see the continued evolving web of EU bureaucracy as smothering local and national autonomy. The English island has always seen its autonomy as a safe haven against all-comers and they have defended that right stoutly. The problem with the EU is that though it started out as an economic coalition its powers and aspirations have rolled on much, much, further than that. This has happened in a very short historical time frame.

On the other hand the EU has had huge benefits for many of its members and there are still countries  wishing to join. The EU has led to over seventy years of peace in the region with the possibility of a further war between traditional historical foes being inconceivable. It has led to Europe being a very prosperous and developed region. It has advanced free travel and access and today, even as we speak, there are hundreds of thousands of Europeans traversing freely across France. While EU bureaucracy may be seen as a complex web it has the attributes of a legally controlling and balancing mechanism in so many areas of law, social justice, free trade, promotion of standards and has challenged localised prejudices and illogical traditions.
The answer of course is in a reform of the EU but next week’s vote does not include that option.  

I have said here before that the UK leaving the EU would be a seismic event and where it would lead to cannot be envisaged. In a local context it would probably lead to the re-establishment of a toxic border with Northern Ireland which would be a potential nightmare. The UK would not allow Ireland to be a back door into the UK for the waves of migrants who might wish to go there.
So for many reasons I hope that the UK stays with the EU.

Perhaps, after a close vote to remain in the EU, when the major powers of influence especially Germany and France see how close it was to losing a valued member that they will try and redress some of the many grievances that presently exist.      


I happened to walk through the ‘Pleasure Grounds’ early in the week. As most people will know there is a very nice children’s playground there and I have occasionally recommended it to people. However I was very disappointed to see the litter bins overflowing and considerable litter scattered there.
I mentioned here recently about litter overflowing from a skip on the way to Assylinn and I am told of outlying forest roads which are similarly despoiled. This seems to be an eternal problem in this country.
In fairness these are very frustrating exceptions as littering in the countryside is not widespread that I am aware of but seeing glaring instances of it is more than disappointing.
P.S. I see a new battle front emerging with fears that bin charges will escalate and be unregulated. People do not seem to be getting clear information on the process. It could seriously impact on the issue I referred to in my opening lines in this paragraph.  

Trump blames Obama

US news media suggest that Donald Trump has spread the blame for the Orlando massacre to include President Obama. It seems as if Obama is high amongst the touchstones for all US issues for Trump with  Hillary Clinton, Mexicans, women, immigrants and so on. While Trump has to have lost a lot of female support how is that he has ANY female support with his prejudicial utterances in their direction. In terms of Obama and the Orlando tragedy one sees in the demeanour of the US President, after each of these recurring mass shootings, the pain and  frustration he feels with his inability to make an impact in terms of gun control.
The proposed visit of Mister Trump to Ireland poses some issues for the Irish political hierarchy. I hope that the previous airport reception for him is not repeated.
Interestingly I heard his son on Irish radio a number of weeks ago talking about Doonbeg golf complex and he came across very well and very personable and reasonable. He may not listen to his dad much or have much influence on him. What else is new?
I seem to link Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in England as a double act, a questionable ‘vista’. While Johnson is perhaps bright in a; ‘I didn’t get to where I am today’ kind of thing and he may be the life and soul of a party I can hardly envisage him in a ‘dedicated driver’ role!      

Remembering the Students who died in the Tragedy of June 16 2015 in the US.

In the early hours of June 16th 2015 a large group of Irish parents began to get the news that many parents fear when they have family members abroad. There had been an accident and your son/daughter was involved. The breadth of the tragedy could hardly have been envisaged. Six Irish students died and eight were seriously injured when an apartment balcony collapsed in Berkeley, California. I’d just like to remember them today.    
Those who died were Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller, Nick Schuster, Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke and Olivia's Irish-American cousin Ashley Donohoe. Most of them were from the Dublin area.

I read some current reports that this year Irish students in that Berkeley area are finding it difficult to find accommodation because of being Irish (!) with what happened last year, as if they were to blame for it all. It is a sad reflection on those with that mind-set.

Funeral Tribute to Muhammad Ali

There were numerous fine tributes at a memorial tribute to Muhammad Ali immediately after his funeral. Tributes were paid by family members, a community worker volunteer inspired by the Muhammad by former President Bill Clinton but the finest tribute was by his friend of over forty years ‘little brother’ (to Ali as ‘big brother’) Billy Crystal. He set the tone by opening with ‘I was clean shaven when this service started’ followed by a series of fun stories from how they first met and their friendship and towards the end stating “He was the most perfect of Athletes that ever was and those are his own words”.            

Sports Review

The Euro Soccer Championships

It is a consuming summer for those of us who are hypnotised by sport. Last week end saw the Irish rugby team beat South Africa in their home ground for the first time. This was also done under the duress of having a player sent off and another player binned for a period. Then the U 20 team beat New Zealand in the U 20 World Rugby Cup in England.
On Sunday last Tipperary footballers beat Cork for a first time in around seventy years. I’ll ‘treat of’ Roscommon  v Sligo later.
The main event of course has been the Euros which started on Friday night June 10th in Paris. It is just moving through the gears a bit at the moment but come next week, when the third and final group games are played, the real drama will emerge. There are six groups and the six group winners and second teams plus the best placed third teams qualify for the next stage of 16 teams. The four best placed teams are decided by, in order; most points; superior goal difference; most goals scored; fair play in the tournament; UEFA rankings. The key question is what is the threshold number of points that will be required for qualification.
France opened the tournament with a timid enough win over Romania but got there in the end as they did on Wednesday against Albania. Wales had a good win on Saturday over Slovakia while England failed to hold out and ended with a draw against Russia. Much of the drama of this pairs meeting was on the streets of Marseilles. Northern Ireland put up a good display against top team Poland. Ireland might have been unlucky in just drawing with Sweden on Monday. The veteran Italian side rolled back the years to overcome the fancied Belgium with 2 fine goals. In this game if the GAA’s infernal ‘black card’ was in vogue at least four Italian players would have got the line. The hope for Ireland is that Belgium will be down at heel for their meeting on Saturday in Bordeaux and if Italy defeat Sweden on Friday they will have qualified and may not use a top team in the final game against Ireland. Clutching at straws.
The results of the tournament so far has been victory of Northern Ireland over the Ukraine and the draw by Iceland with Portugal. Wales were unlucky not to get a draw with England while Germany and Poland had hints of ‘a draw will suit us both’. People with good memories may remember such a German v Austria draw decades ago.  
The big games to come start Friday in Ireland’s group with Italy v Sweden and of course on Saturday, Ireland v Belgium. While those on four points are in a pretty good position it is too early to be certain of any team being through just yet.  As Donald Rumsfeld used to say ‘There are the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns’.  

Bernard Shannon Coaching Success

Three schools under the remit of local GAA coach Bernard Shannon have won school titles recently. They include Grange, Woodbrook girls team and Ballyfarnon. So well done to these schools and to Bernard for his ongoing dedicated input for a long time in schools in this region as well as his work with Boyle ladies team currently and Boyle teams down the years. It is well to note that Grange is a Boyle parish school and perhaps some of us in Boyle GAA tend to be remiss in keeping this in mind. Could do better. It was great to see the happy Grange team and mentors pictured on realboyle home page a few days ago.    

Roscommon v Sligo

This was the classic game of two halves. Joe Brolly referred to the first half being ‘a mess’ and he may have even continued with this at the end which was somewhat o.t.t. With the half time score being, Sligo 2.8 Roscommon 0.6 so it was certainly hugely depressing for the Roscommon team and its supporters.

Despite a very good game by David Keenan the contradiction is that Roscommon still struggle at midfield in the traditional sense. The deficit generally of a real fielding midfield player necessitates the strategy of a short kick out and Roscommon struggled with this element on Sunday. The old classic symptom of ‘giving the ball away’ still persists. A number of kick outs went straight uncontested to Sligo players. In the second half Roscommon players succeeded in ‘breaking’ the high ball Sligo kick out, only to have it hoovered up by Sligo players coming from the half back line.

Thanks to Senan Kilbride’s goal immediately after half time and a strong wind to their backs the second half comeback was possible. So it turned out. It was great to see the return, to effect, of Donal and Enda Smith. Both were very impressive and Enda’s goal was a peach. Roscommon’s trump card is speed but they need to create the space where that pace can be maximised.

Still they have achieved an early year target of getting to a Connacht final and there is a feeling that a Roscommon on song could do well but the Roscommon we saw in the first half v Sligo ……

Boyle GAA

U 14 League Win

Congratulations to Boyle U 14 team for their comprehensive win over Padraig Pearse’s in the Division One League Final at Creggs last weekend. It is a real platform for the team as they look forward to going south next weekend for Feile participation in the Cork region.

Seniors Second Championship Outing after Six Week’s Early Summer Break

On Friday evening next Boyle play St. Brigid’s in the second round of the Senior Championship at Kiltoom. Boyle defeated Castlerea in Boyle in the first round on the 8th of June. This is very unsatisfactory and leaves so many good club footballers without competitive games for long tranches of time. Since it is evident that the GPA seem to have no interest or remit in the fate of ‘ordinary’ club players maybe they should start an organisation of their own. It is surprising to me that they tolerate what is in effect a class discrimination which gets ‘sympathy’ but little active redress from the powers that be, whoever they be.    


Friday, June 10, 2016

Update 10th June

End of Year Examinations

As the glorious summer weather of recent days, weeks even, beat down, thousands of young people are engaged in end of term examinations. The class tests are not too important really just a signpost on progress or the lack of it. It bookends the year. The State Examinations are the real deal. Even the sound of State Examinations has a ring tone to it that induces a certain shiver of concern. There is a reward which I will refer to a little later. It depends where this paragraph goes. In  the last week the ‘examination advice industry’ has been in overdrive in the media. Get rest, take short walks, practise breathing exercises, be on time. Do not let some hiccup in the morning paper colour your afternoon performance. It is your grand national and as a jockey responded to the question; ‘Which national fence do you fear the most? ‘Always the next one’.   Answer to the question. Do not answer to a question you wished had been asked. Turn over all the pages. There are books on the subject. 
Wednesday starts with English paper 1, the 2 hour 20 minute marathon. Still it is better than the double English, two marathons, as it used to be. At least in English there has to be something you can have a good go at and feel that, maybe I did ok there. Thursday there is English paper 2 the real marathon from 2 until 5.20, three hours and twenty minutes. A quick agitated flick through the paper, heart pacing to see if one of my ‘three poets’ appear. If that does not happen I will not be ‘waving but drowning’.  Coming out you massage your fingers to try and straighten them and get the blood flowing to the extremities again. Still by Friday there is a real indent into the whole programme. A job begun and all that. A week end to prepare for the Gaeilge, paper 1 Monday and on to the steeplechase on Tuesday.
‘Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday and all is well’.
Why have I engaged in a paragraph about those testing days, which I could/should have done better with? It is really because I forever remember an essay by A.A.Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh. It was called ‘The Best Half Hours of Life’. The writer wrote about the half hours on the day of the summer holidays from boarding school. Maybe there is a reader who remembers those lovely hours as one waited for the final bell of term in those relaxing last hours when happiness prevailed.
As the current Leaving Cert. examinations come to a close the students will gradually see the end-line and then the joyous vista of a long broad indulgent summer. The sword of September will hang no longer over the last weeks of August. Perhaps it is on later to the giddy days of ‘third level’. But that is in the future. This will be a unique summer like no other, a worthy compensation for your present endeavours. Enjoy.   

The death Muhammad Ali 
I doubt if there can ever be another sportsman who could become as well known and revered as Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali. Many of the week-end papers had ‘Supplements’ as tributes to the great man. He was a man of courage inside and outside the ring as when he resisted being drafted into the army of the United States and refusing to go to Vietnam. He was close to being imprisoned for this and was vilified by a large section of conservative society in the States. This resulted in him not boxing for a number of his potentially best years. If he had many critics in his home country he also had huge support there especially from the marginalised coloured community and internationally he became an icon.  
One of the challenges for great sportsmen or indeed not so great sportsmen is how their lives unfold after they retire from their sport. One of the interesting comments on Ali that I empathised with was that after his boxing glory days were over he became an icon of humanity as he battled the challenge of his Parkinson’s illness  with great dignity. He did not hide with it. He was not embarrassed to show that the once great athlete was mortal and vulnerable to ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ as the Bard wrote. We remember Ali in the ring ‘float like a butterfly sting like a bee’  but his appearance at two events during his illness stand out. The first was when he lit the torch at the opening of the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia the USA in 1996 and the second was his presence at the Special Olympics in Croke Park in 2003.
I remember when he first fought Sonny Liston in 1964. Liston was regarded as unbeatable but Clay, as he was then, defeated Liston in their first fight in the seventh round. My dad followed boxing and when the rematch came it was to be broadcast live on radio. I presume it was Radio Eireann. Dad and I got up for the 3am fight. We  arranged the fire, tea and trimmings, settling down to listen to the fight on the radio. However just after two minutes the fight was all over as Liston hit the canvas from what was later described as a ‘phantom’ blow to the head. If one watches that fight on film today it is hard to understand how it could have resulted in a knock-out of Liston. This led to all kinds of innuendos of cheating.  In any event it established the young Cassius Clay as the supreme heavyweight.
For my dad and I it was a very short but memorable sojourn into the birth of the legend that was Cassius Clay later Muhammad Ali.  

  Bus Link  to Roscommon–The Challenge

It is good –maybe I could have stretched to great there-to see a bus link between Boyle and Roscommon. The N 61 road between Boyle and Roscommon is the backbone of the county. Like so many people I have travelled that road innumerable times. Much formal and recreational business is carried on in the ‘county’ town as we all know.
The challenge now is in usage of the bus link service in terms of numbers using it. The route starts/ends in Lough Key Forest Park, travels via Elphin, Strokestown and Tulsk to Roscommon with a ‘hail and ride’ concession along the route, calling at Roscommon Hospital and Railway station. The service is ‘free’ to current holders of free travel passes and students and young people get reduced fares. There are three return services each day, seven days per week. McKenna Transport are the operators from Boyle. The whole system is part of TFI ‘Transport For Ireland’. 
The challenge like all service challenges is in optimising its full potential. This can only be done by a concerted education and publicity campaign as to the schedules and what it offers to potential users. Perhaps a leaflet drop with a timetable, which people can park, would be helpful.
I see that in this week’s Roscommon Herald Ciara McCaughley did her publicity bit with a two page spread on pages 26/27. There is also a full page ad. on page 19.
For full details call 071 965 0437  or visit ‘’. So I encourage people who might use the service and those for whom it would be helpful to make themselves aware of its schedules and see what it has to offer.          

Computer Sessions-Free
Boyle Men’s Shed are offering a basic computer course in The Family Life Centre on Wednesday afternoons from 2.30 to 4.30 pm. Sessions are for those who would like to learn the basics of computer usage in Internet, email, Skype and so on. The sessions are open to men and women of any age. Some laptops are provided but you can bring your own. You are asked to phone the centre on 071 9663000 to book a slot. I know that many senior people have got to grips with computers and it has provided them with a wondrous window on the world where they can connect with family and friends and broaden their horizons no end. Basic internet skill is the present not the future.  

                                                                                                                                                               Sports Review

Roscommon v Sligo
On Sunday next Roscommon take on Sligo in the second round of the Connacht Championship. Last year Roscommon were hot favourites to overcome Sligo but failed to do so in one of the big upsets of the championships. Indeed Sligo have done this a number of times to Roscommon especially when Roscommon have been favourites. While Roscommon defeated Cavan afterwards last year, a second defeat, to Fermanagh, was a real shocker for Roscommon and led to the end of John Evan’s term in charge.
This year the mantra ‘forewarned is forearmed’ should cement a more cautious approach and I would expect Roscommon to advance to a Connacht final. While I may not have been ‘out and about’ in terms of identifying much pre-match ‘hype’ it seems to be a very quiet approach this year with everybody. Sligo of course will use last year’s victory as a motivation to their side. So all will be revealed on Sunday evening next at Hyde Park with the game commencing at 4 pm. Best wishes to all involved in terms of players and management.

Friday am. Club Rossie supporters received the following update regarding Sunday:

“After training last night Joint Managers Kevin McStay and Fergal O'Donnell announced the panel to play Sligo. This is the last game to be played on the original Hyde Park pitch which is being replaced this summer after almost 45 years of service to Roscommon GAA.

The team shows one change from the team that beat Leitrim in Carrick on Shannon last month. Senán Kilbride returns to replace Diarmuid Murtagh who is unavailable due to injury. The panel in full is as follows:

1 Geoffrey Claffey, Castlerea St. Kevin’s.

2 Sean McDermott, Western Gaels.
3 Neil Collins, St. Brigid’s, Castle knock.
4 Niall McInerney, St Brigid’s.

5 John McManus, Roscommon Gaels.
6 Sean Purcell, Boyle.
7 David Murray, Padraig Pearse's.

8 Niall Daly, Padraig Pearse’s.
9 James McDermott, Roscommon Gaels.

10 Fintan Cregg, Elphin.
11 Ciaran Murtagh (C), St. Faithleach's.
12 Conor Devaney, Kilbride.

13 Senan Kilbride, St. Brigid’s.
14 Cathal Cregg, Western Gaels.
15 Donie Shine, Clann na nGael.

16 Darren O’Malley, Michael Glavey's.
17 Cathal Compton, Strokestown.
18 Cathal Shine, Clann na nGael.
19 David Keenan, St Barry’s.
20 Donie Smith, Boyle.
21 Enda Smith, Boyle.
22 Fergal Lennon, Clann na nGael.
23 Niall Carty, Padraig Pearse’s.
24 Niall Kilroy, Fuerty.
25 Sean Mullooly, Strokestown.
26 Thomas Corcoran, Strokestown.

Twelve months ago Sligo beat Roscommon in Markievicz Park and only six of last year’s starters against Sligo will start on Sunday. They include Sean Mc Dermott who plays his 151th game for Roscommon, Neil Collins, Niall Daly, Cathal Cregg, Senán Kilbride and Captain, Ciaráin Murtagh

Seven players Ronan Stack, Ciarain Cafferkey, Cian Connolly, Ian Kilbride, Ultan Harney, Diarmuid Murtagh and Cathal McHugh were not considered for selection due to injury”. 
Two of the Daly brothers are also gone to the States.

Last Sunday’s Games

It is something to see the decline of one of the great GAA counties of recent times. Down were convincingly beaten by Monaghan on Sunday last and looked a pale shadow of previous Down teams. We saw this also in the league v Roscommon in Longford! Monaghan would be one of the counties that many neutrals would love to see emerge but while impressive in Ulster they have not followed through at Croke Park. Perhaps this year will be better as they looked good last Sunday.
Another team neutrals would wish to see do well is Waterford. They also looked impressive on Sunday last in their win over a disappointing Clare side. Waterford seem to have a lot of the basic ingredients necessary in this team from great defence to some powerful forwards. They are being touted as real contenders in a year when there is no really great side like the Kilkenny of a few years ago.
A disappointing feature for the GAA of the games this sunny summer seems to be the smaller crowds which are attending. If the mood that seems to exist regarding Sligo and Roscommon is accurate this could extend to that game also.
P.S. I have received a very good submission on restructuring the championship fixtures to give a regular timetable and help the position of ordinary club players who are hobbled by the participation of the ‘county team’. I will present this anon.

Euros 2016

A festival of soccer begins on Friday night with standout games of interest for us when England play  Russia on Saturday at 8 and of course Ireland v Sweden on Monday at 5. Irish people will also be keeping up to date with other games in our group such as Belgium v Italy also on Monday at 8. Thursday is the next day of interest with England v Wales, Northern Ireland v Ukraine  and Germany v Poland providing a full day’s work ! On Friday the 17th  Italy play Sweden with Ireland’s second game on the Saturday v Belgium at 2.
Personally, from the little I know, I think this a weak Irish team with a number of competent players but no real stars. Our group opposition include one of the favourite teams in Belgium while Sweden has one of the real stars in Zlatan Ibrahimović and Italy, while not the great side of yore, are always formidable opposition. While the Irish starting eleven looks competitive the game against Belarus showed that the back-up eleven are not too hot. But then of course surprises are what makes the games magnetic and hope springs eternal. Disappointment, elation and all the emotions will surface so hopefully it will provide some great sporting moments especially for the many thousands of Irish supporters who have gone to France.  

(If anyone would like to submit a paragraph or two, on a subject of their choice, for consideration here, they are welcome to do so to;


Friday, June 3, 2016

Update 3rd June

Boyle Celtic’s Original Tour – The 1988 European Championships

(Inspired by the television advertisement where a young French boy exclaims ,’The Irish are coming’.)

For two glorious weeks in June 1988 a group of twenty two members loosely aligned to Boyle Celtic Soccer Club formed part of Jack Charlton’s original soccer army as they followed the fortunes of Ireland’s soccer team through Germany in a campaign that became legendary, especially for one particular win. Even for those at home during those balmy days (much as we are experiencing now) a holiday atmosphere developed as the country collectively celebrated its original sporting high. It was a time when the ‘Green Army’ would win the hearts of the German public and Boyle was well represented in that.

Ireland had finalised qualification for their first major international soccer championships courtesy of a Scot Gary Makay scoring against Bulgaria on a dour November night in Sofia, Bulgaria. The attraction was enhanced by the draw in January which pitted Ireland against neighbours England (one of the favourites) in the first game of the finals. This was at a time when inter-country relations were at a low ebb in those Thatcher years.

Central to the planning was Frank Feighan a much travelled man even then. Commitments were made with a few imports making up the requisite number of 22. Probably the most interesting member, in age terms was former army veteran QMS (Quarter Master Sergeant) Georgie Tiernan who could have won another medal for his valour and contribution throughout this campaign. It was at the height of one of Ireland’s regular depressions.  Most of them were young and had not been out of the country before. This was some start to their life’s travel.   

Frank Feighan managed to link in with a tour group called Top Deck which operated their tours with old London transport buses which facilitated mostly Australian and New Zealand groups then. The Boyle contingent headed for the south-east with people generally hardly aware of the competition. The group set out for the town to Rosslare on Wednesday June 8th  on their sporting odyssey having passed a fitness test in The Craoibhin the previous night. On the football special ferry-crossing the ship ran out of beer which set a standard for things to come. Derek Caldbeck had his first public outing with his guitar and he was to become an entertainer-in-residence for the trip. Their ‘Top Deck’ coach with Australian driver Dave and New Zealand ‘tour guide’ Sean met them at Le Havre and the boys got their first experience of what was to be their quarters for the coming two weeks. The top deck was bunked out to facilitate ‘sleeping’ quarters with a cooking area in which Georgie Tiernan was head chef assisted by Jim Feighan. This trip was in the pre-euro era, so, since they were to travel through four different jurisdictions there was the regular puzzle of the ‘punt’ valuation to the prevailing currency. Eventually most just ‘googled’ Chris Callan who was the currency exchange and general information guru.

The first assignment in Le Havre was a visit -a la Del Boy- to a hyper-market, purchasing three bins for iced water to act as cooler for Coca Cola, beer and sangria. Obviously someone had been to Spain. The first city was Paris with the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame et al so boxes ticked it was on to Boyle’s twin town then St. Witz  for Boyle Celtic to play their first game in Europe against their twin. This they won 2 to 1 scoring all three goals per Noel Kielty, Michael O’Donohoe with Ronan Hever scoring a spectacular o.g. on a surprised Boyle keeper, Frank Feighan.

Saturday saw the group in the lovely city of Heidelberg used as a base by Irish supporters for their the first game to avoid the English hooligan element who were rampant at that time. Perhaps they were influenced by the city’s connection with the musical ‘The Student Prince’ and its famous song ‘Drink, Drink…’ which the Irish supporters did with commendable adaptability to the German 2 and a half litre glasses and 3 litre boot and the German Schnapps’

D Day. Stuttgart v England.
Georgie Tiernan, true to his army tradition, rose early and organised breakfast. The group break camp with the army of Irish supporters and move on Stuttgart and many are in the stadium long before the game. The police presence dominates but the sound system welcomes all with Irish music. A good start and a great atmosphere prevails. In Boyle the locals head for their own beer cellar with the big screen. Jack (Charlton, Irish Manager) declared that they feared no one. Indeed it was one of Ireland’s best soccer teams. They have gone ten games without defeat. Brian Clough sees only an English win though Johan Cruyff gives Ireland a chance. Game on. Early, very early, the ball is crossed in front of the England goal and headed on where Ray Houghton loops a header over long-serving Peter Shilton in the English goal. GOOOOAALL…..Ecstasy. Charlton’s hands go to his head in disbelief. Houghton leads the celebration.

The Boyle crew are in a seventh heaven. In the second half the English team put the pressure on but Burtonport’s Packie Bonner performs miracles. Ireland win 1 nil. The trip could have ended there and be worthwhile. The post-match atmosphere is incredible as the cavalcade winds its way back to Heidelberg and a carnival style celebrations which the German natives join with gusto. They too were pleased that the Irish had beaten England! Irish songs like a new one ‘The Boys in Green’ get its introduction amid the usual repertoire.

As part of the ‘Top Deck Tour ’ it takes the Boyle section along the Rhine to a ‘wine tasting’ of all things. Now this is an occasion where the wine is just tasted and not drank as such but most of the Top Deck crew were not familiar with this etiquette which was regarded by them as a waste of good alcohol. There is a cost in headache terms later. Cuckoo clocks and stein mugs with sun covers elicits the  comment. ‘The Germans think of everything’. Ray Queenan proves to be a connoisseur while Derek Caldbeck and John (Speedy) Doyle are emerging as the life and soul of the party. On Tuesday the tour continues with a visit to Cologne and its famous cathedral. ‘Seen that, tick the box’ tomorrow its Russia…….second game! 

Hanover and Russia.
Prior to the game most of the Irish including our unit watch the Dutch masters, including Van Basten, destroy England 3 to 1. There is a kinda crisis in the minds of Irish supporters while watching this as it would be a better result if England won but it does not cause much upset that they lost either. Not right really. Mrs. Thatcher had a good deal to answer for. Ireland put on their best performance against Russia with an early spectacular goal by Ronnie Whelan setting the tone. The Celtic group kinda miss this gem of a goal being at ‘the other end’ and also engaged at the time in an Irish version of ‘the Mexican wave’. Aldridge misses, Whelan hits the crossbar, Galvin should have had a penalty but somethingov equalises. A draw, Ireland top their group, England are nearly gone. Another good night to celebrate. The party continues. The Irish are adopted by the Germans like a long lost tribe that have returned from Neverland.

Thursday/Friday R. & R.   
Like any good army unit the batteries need to be recharged so a diversion into the heart of the last group opponents territory was decided on. Amsterdam, more currency translations. The atmosphere is electric there ahead of their Saturday game in which the Dutch need a win while a draw will suffice for Ireland. The rapport between the opposing fans is exemplary. On Saturday morning the London Bus and its Boyle Celtic unit turn south along the autobahn but the old bus has the character of a tortoise. Still bedecked in green it attracts the attention of the Dutch massed support as they pass it by on the way to Gelsenkirchen for the game just over their border with Germany.

The Gods Change Sides
McGrath is back and nearly scores early ‘at the other end’. Heroic defence. Bonner is injured. The Irish support erupt in song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Tricolours scarves, hats, banners -including Boyle’s impressive effort-, all the Irish green competes with the massed orange. Morris is injured. Time ticks by. Are we going to qualify? That would mean what? We could hardly abandon the team? Will we be able to finance staying on for a semi-final? Nine minutes to go and all is solved as the ball bounces and spins in front of the Irish goal and hits the head of a Dutch player, Kieft, thus re-directing it into the Irish net. The impossible dream dissolves. The goal being off side arises too late. Both sets of fans stay long after the match is over. The manager and team salute the supporters. The three game campaign is summarised in the following way; 
Ireland had won the game they should have lost (v England).
They had drawn the game they should have won ( v Russia).
They  lost the game they should have drawn (v Holland).   

Ruud Gullit leads the Dutch to victory over West-Germany in the semi-final and Russia in the final. Ireland were just nine minutes from being in that melting pot. 

Home and Welcome.
The odyssey is nearing conclusion and the bus trundles towards Le Havre. The tour guide has long abandoned the listed itinerary.
Heads are held high leaving many acquaintances and a legacy of great goodwill. The group did not realise how the atmosphere which was majestic in Germany had also engaged much of the populace back home in Ireland. (Two years later in the aftermath of the Italia 90 World Cup and the Irish teams even better showing there someone suggested that  ‘I missed Italia 90, I was in Italy’ as opposed to being in an Ireland on the high created there.)Jack and the team came back from Germany on a plane named St. Jack for the trip! On the ferry to Rosslare Frank Feighan got a call from Barry Feely suggesting that their group would be welcomed back to Boyle in a kind of official way ! Absurd but true. Now as they travel up through the country everyone is aware of where they were.

The fans too had become celebrities! The tour group took ‘a break’ in Roscommon town and despite the disbelief of some about the Boyle ‘welcome’ another call seemed to suggest that it was a reality. One has to remember too that this was a time when the mobile brick was in the future. Anyway the small cavalcade of German campaign veterans arrived at The Four Provinces and were met by lead scout Larry Conn. So into Boyle and the official ‘welcome home’ on the Crescent as has been traditionally conferred on many achievers before. The final analysis took place in Boyle Celtic’s HQ of the time, Mick Gilmartin’s tavern ‘The Three Counties’. Indeed the memories are still very strong and cherished by that ‘Top Deck’crew from the 1988 Euros along the Rhine.     

(I’d like to thank Ronan and Adrian  Hever; Michael O’Donohoe; Frank Feighan and Johnny Greenan for their memories and pictures of the trip. Interestingly when one began talking to each of them the smiles emerged as they reflected on a special and memorable adventure twenty eight years ago.)

Picture of Group
Back: Jim Feighan/Georgie Tiernan/Ray Queenan/Sligo/ ?/ Michael O’Donohoe/ Kieran Hughes/Ronan Hever/ Noel Kielty/ Christy Grehan/Adrian Hever/ Johnny Greenan/ Stephen ?
Front: Frank Feighan/ John O’Callaghan/ Sean O’Rourke, Fenagh/ Chris Callan/ Derek Caldbeck/ Austin Tarpey/ Kevin O’Connor/ ‘Speedy’ Doyle, Dysart/ Gerry Gilmore, Manchester.     

Sports Review:

Westmeath defeat Kikenny
One of the top sporting wins of the last week was that of the Westmeath U 21 hurlers over Kilkenny by 1.11 to 0.12 in Mullingar.  

Connacht win over Leinster
Another was the historic win of Connacht over Leinster to win the Guinness Pro 12 competition. Connacht had not won anything like that since the late sixties when it is said they won the inter-provincial series.

Real Madrid Make it 11 European Cups
Real (Royal) Madrid just got home after a penalty shoot-out with the other Madrid city club Atletico Madrid in Milan on Saturday night. In an ironic way if fell to Ronaldo to score the final winning penalty after Atletico had failed with the Juanfran (Torres)fourth penalty striking the post. The penalty shoot-out went 5 to 3 for Real with Atletico’s miss meaning that their fifth penalty was redundant and so not taken when Ronaldo scored Real’s fifth. All 5 of the Real penalties went the Atletico’s goalie’s right side with the opposite for Atletico and the annoying Real keeper. Antoine Griezmann the French international had missed a penalty during the game. The Athletico keeper seemed to me to be too mild with the penalty takers while the Real keeper was much more off-putting. 

Boyle Feile Countdown
The Cooney Motors/Centra sponsored Boyle U 14 team are gearing up for their trip to Kilshannig, County Cork for the Feile competition on the week-end of June 24th -26th.  Kilshannig is south of Fermoy near a small town called Rathcormac about 3 and half hours from Boyle. They play Coralstown/Kinnegad, Co. Westmeath and Wolfe Tones (Kanturk), Co. Cork on the Friday evening and their host club (I presume)  Kilshannig on Saturday morning. Two teams qualify from the group for further games on Saturday afternoon. 
The team have a real challenge when they contest the Roscommon county league final on June 10th.