‘A Nation Holds Its Breath’
A few weeks ago I felt that I had heard this sentence much too many times as the television gurus rehashed for the umpteenth time the Italia 90 soccer story.
These last few days we can issue the phrase in a very different context. That is in relation to the upsurge of the Covid 19 virus again. Another phrase comes to mind that of… 'I haven’t gone away you know'. We were getting kinda smug with ourselves when looking at the numbers as some people do and Roscommon was doing pretty well after the debacle at the Kepak meat plant was apparently controlled. Now though we see major outbreaks again at meat plants in Kildare et al but also the disconcerting sprinkling of cases throughout the country.
I really feel that an air of complacency had set in. I believe too that the loss of Dr. Holohan has been significant. He had the tone and presence of a headmaster about him and he was highly regarded and influential. His successor Dr. Glynn seems much too polite when assertiveness is needed.
Another key element was the political changes. Varadkar and Harris were a very effective duo. Varadkar always seemed to ensure that a clear -all in block capitals- messages were expounded. Michéal Martin has dithered and not been decisive. While a coalition of three parties is certainly a very difficult team to manage, the Taoiseach has contributed to his own lack of authority with a number of mistakes from the off.
Also, the messages on certain elements have been muddled. These include a policy regarding holidaying abroad. The infamous ‘Green List’ did not help in this. One day when listening to a radio discussion on this topic (in the background) I got really cheesed off with people wondering could they go abroad or not. In all this, the Government/HSE policy was enunciated as advising people pretty strongly not to go abroad but to staycation at home. Callers found this simple yet profound message hard to take on board and a certain number travelled etc.
Now if I advised someone clearly not to do something and they asked me to clarify it again and again I might get annoyed!
THEN I read of a Glasgow Celtic player taking a night trip (it seemed like) to Spain in contravention of all the guidelines set out by his club and HSE Scotland and Prime Minister Sturgeon. I put this down to a good overpaid footballer who just lacked a good deal of brain matter for delicate off-field decisions. And then, lo and behold, as they say, this weekend, I read of the Chairman of Fáilte Ireland no less, Michael Cawley had returned from a trip to Italy. I sent a tweet apology to the Celtic player. Then in the last day or so Mister Cawley gets a vocal ally saying;
“The reputation of former Fáilte Ireland chair Michael Cawley has been “traversed” and Ireland is entering a “period of hysteria”, the chair of the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee has said. Independent TD Michael McNamara said it appeared to him that Mr. Cawley did not breach travel advice. (?)
Mr. Cawley resigned his position on Saturday after he admitted to holidaying in Italy at a time when Fáilte Ireland is strongly encouraging Irish people to stay in Ireland for their holidays.
“I read the travel advice three times yesterday and it’s very unclear to me whether he breached the travel advice or whether he didn’t,” Mr. McNamara said.
***However, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas.
Regarding the word “traversed” the deputy seems to have found a new role for it. My Google dictionary has the usual suggestion of; moving in a particular direction
My attention has also been distracted by the goings-on at a Bar called Berlin D2 where a video has gone viral, as they say. Apparently, it is not licensed as a bar perhaps a restaurant. All the relevant organisations have responded, as they say again, ‘appropriately’. Their vintner business took a hit there. It was pretty crazy and how a venue, even if for self-preservation, did not see the dangers of it is mind-boggling.
Simple lesson; alcohol and social-distancing are not compatible.
There is now a suggestion that stiffer restrictions will be introduced maybe more so on the elderly. As far as I can see the elderly seem to be playing by the rules as the stats are beginning to show. It is now down to a much younger age cohort. They will be much more difficult to keep housebound unless they are going to a ‘house party’.
It seems as if the senior people are now made pay for the sins of others. I’ll leave it at that. I could go on, and on and…
Boyle through to Quarter Finals with Sparkling Display
Boyle has had three games to date in the Senior championship. In the first game, they were both lucky and unlucky in their game against Padraig Pearse’s. There they let a 12 (?) point lead be eroded and the game ended in a draw. There were many fine performances in that game and getting a draw there was still a good result.
The less said the better of a ragged performance versus Tulsk in their second game. It prompted Ian Cooney Sports Editor of the Roscommon Herald to ask, prior to the third game; ‘Will the real Boyle stand up?’. And boy did they do that on Saturday last with a scintillating display against Michael Glavey’s. It was a beautiful evening and conditions were perfect and Boyle played champagne football for most of the game. It was the most relaxing I have been watching Boyle for some time. The last time I was that comfortable was when Boyle defeated Clann na nGael in St. Faile’s ground by a big margin last year.
On Saturday the team played with great pace, great variety in their passing. The passes were crisp and fast. The All Blacks backline couldn’t have passed better. They looked really fit and Glavey’s were mesmerised by the speed and supporting play of the Boyle team.
In terms of suggesting who played well that is difficult as no one played in any way poorly. Man of the Match for me was Donie Smith with a magical display of all the skills which was a joy to watch. The opposition could not cope with him. The backs as a unit were excellent and drove forward with determination, ball control, cohesion, and speed. Roch Hanmore turned back the clock somewhat with a fine display of top-class fielding. Sean Purcell was his usual self, hoovering up so much ball. It was great to see the spread of scorers with nice points, two from Mark O’Donohoe, -including a fisted point which I always like to see- and Tadgh Lowe. There was the starting introduction of a young player who will, I believe, be a real asset to Boyle for many years to come. Cathal Feely looked like a veteran with a fine mobile and assured contribution.
I am not certain who Boyle will now play in the quarter-finals but it looks like a team from one of; Clann na nGael, St. Croan’s, or Elphin if they defeat Ml. Glavey’s. That game I hear is listed for Boyle this weekend and it is also to be streamed. Streaming is a real positive innovation and the quality is top-notch so if you have not tuned into this you are really missing out. Set it up also for senior family members who might not be masters of modern technology. Tune into Roscommon GAA on the laptop and take it from there. I presume former Boyle players abroad like Seamie Gallagher and Ciaran Conlon in Oz, Tadgh Egan in Canada and Darren Dockery in The Gulf area are tuning in. Let me know what you think lads!
Boyle will now be touted as one of a very narrow number of favourites. While Pearse’s might improve to something like last year’s form the side that is making the real waves is Western Gaels.
Anyway for now the Boyle performance of last Saturday is one to dwell on and savour in the memory bank.
P.S. The current Covid trajectory might have a say yet though if the GAA does not play by the rules. I am told that the ‘crowds’ at some games look well in excess of the mandatory quotas. This kind of creep could be the undoing of the process. Also at games, the social-distancing rule is not getting the respect it deserves. Face masks at games….hello!
World Championship Snooker
It must be more than twenty years ago since I last really watched snooker on television. Late last week I began to watch snippets and I was hooked. There were two really edge of the seat semi-finals.
The first one was between Kyren Wilson and the Scot, Anthony McGill. Both were on level terms with 16 frames each going into a deciding frame. I’ve copied and pasted a sports account of that final frame here;
“The frame lasted 62 minutes and set a new record for the most combined points in a single frame at the Crucible, 103–83. After fluking the match-winning ball, Wilson became emotional, and apologised to McGill. He later commented, "I didn't want it to end that way, I have dreamed of this situation and I didn't want to win the match on a fluke." McGill commented, "I feel as if the match was stolen from me – not by Kyren [Wilson] but by the snooker gods". The 1991 champion John Parrott commented on the deciding frame, saying "I have never, in 44 years of playing this wonderful game, seen a frame of snooker like that. It was unbelievable”.
The second semi-final between Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby was not quite so dramatic but had a brilliant ending. Selby led by 16 frames to 14 with O’Sullivan cracking the ball around the table with his last shot of that session as if to say that he just had enough of it all. He came back and ran off the 3 great frames necessary to win with magical snooker.
So the 5 times world champion O’Sullivan (the ‘pocket rocket’) faced Wilson in the final. It started with O’Sullivan looking like he was going to win easily but Wilson came back to leave the half time just 10 to 7 for O’Sullivan. Wilson came back on Sunday afternoon taking the first frame so 10 to 8. But a re-energised O’Sullivan then ran off the following 8 frames to win convincingly by 18 to 8. He thus joined Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on 6 World Final wins with only Stephen Hendry on 7 on his own. The commentators could not enthuse more about the quality of O’ Sullivan’s win and put him out as the greatest snooker player ever.
Interestingly two Irish men were doing the commentary of the final, Dennis Taylor and Ken Doherty. Tyrone’s Taylor won his title in a memorable black ball finale, 18 v 17 match over Steve Davis in 1985. I still remember watching that in the Ceili House Bar a good deal after closing time! Ken Doherty defeated the great Stephen Hendry 18 v 12 in ’97. Hendry was going for his 7th final win and six on the trot but Ken scored a convincing victory. Hendry did get his record 7th win a few years later.
Shoulder to Shoulder with Brian O Driscoll
I watched this last night - Monday. It was a repeat showing and while I imagined that it might be a bit saccharine it dealt with a complex interesting topic which was an All-Ireland team and its survival. The team in question is the Irish rugby team. The team down the decades has been inclusive of players from the whole island of Ireland. It has included all religions and none. It has encapsulated all political persuasions from nationalists to died-in-the-wool unionists. Through the programme Brian interviewed quite a number of former internationals and household names from down the years. He particularly honed in on the dual, almost triple, nationality of many Ulster players and examined how they felt playing for Ireland. This entailed standing regularly for the Irish National Anthem in Lansdowne Road now the Aviva stadium. A number of the Ulster players were members of the R.U.C. and one an officer in the British army. The general sentiment with them was that their love for rugby trumped all else on the days of international games. Politics was hardly ever touched on. The great rugby captain Willie John McBride gave considerable time to Brian and brought him into the centre of Belfast and showed him his banking place of work. He spoke of the many bombings and of having to escape his work building as the bombs went off in the immediate vicinity.
O’Driscoll then visited the north around the 12th of July and went to the village of Loughgall. There he met many rugby supporters all dressed up in their Unionist marching attire and quizzed them on their allegiances and the seemingly contradictory support of a 32 county All-Ireland team. They were very hospitable and seemed to have no problem with putting the square peg in the round hole. They had no problem supporting trenchantly the Irish rugby even if they were playing England. They saw themselves as British/Northern Irish and also Irish on occasion. Then a test for Brian when he was invited to don a Lambeg Drum and give it a few lashes. He knew he was walking on ice with this.
Another testing incident was when a number of Ulster players on their way to Dublin for training got caught up in a bomb ‘incident’ on the way down. The bomb killed a judge (the real target) and his wife but the three rugby players were injured and just lucky to be alive.
Amongst the very positive elements to this documentary was the access to the Ulster players.
It was also helped by the understandable confusion of O’Driscoll himself to the Ulster Protestant Unionist contradictory affiliation to an All-Ireland team of any sort.
I presume you can stream it as it may not be aired again soon. It was top class, provocative and thought stimulating. One little glitch; how is it that the great Mike Gibson is never seen being interviewed. He was the gold standard for me in the sixties and early seventies when I played some rugby myself and was amongst those who founded East Connacht later the Carrick –on-Shannon rugby club.
See O’Driscoll’s documentary if you can at all.
P.S. On Tuesday night there was another good documentary on the soccer football life of John Giles who played for Manchester United and Leeds from the late sixties to the mid-seventies. The physicality of the time was something else especially with Leeds v Chelsea.
The Great John Hume.
‘Some men are born great and others have greatness thrust upon them’. I feel that John Hume incorporates both sides of this equation. After his death, there was a considerable and understandable amount of material written about Mister Hume. I don’t feel competent to add anything of value to the discourse other than to say that he was one of my heroes. It is something that if I was to note down six of my ‘heroes’ that the majority of them would come from Northern Ireland. John Hume would probably be number one with the under-rated Seamus Mallon and Seamus Heaney also present. It is something that two of those won the Nobel Prize, one for peace and one for literature with both going to the same secondary school St. Columb’s. I regret that I did not take or make the opportunity to meet John Hume. I could have gone out to Keadue in 2001 when he opened the O’Carolan festival there, but didn’t. There is a phrase that one should not meet their heroes. I disagree with that very much. When in Derry once around 2007 I called to his house but he was away in Donegal at that time.
He went to Maynooth for a time. On his return to Derry, he got involved in bringing the Credit Union to Derry which began his community involvement.
Derry was dominated politically by the minority Unionist political machine enabled by political gerrymandering of the most insidious kind. They regarded the Catholic nationalist community as not just a second class citizenry but much lower than that. Its parallels were South Africa and the southern states of the United States. If one wants to get a sense of the post-war Derry there is a Seamus Deane book called ‘Reading in the Dark’ which describes the appalling conditions large families had to live in through in those decades. This book was on the English leaving Cert. syllabus circa 2000 and I have my well-worn copy beside me as I write. I wonder does anyone remember that book? The reality is that people here in the south, whilst many were poor and there was institutional dominance, the people had no idea whatsoever as to what the nationalist people of the North of Ireland had to cope with under the apartheid regime there. The farther south from the border the fewer people knew of it.
The old nationalist party of Eddie McAteer and such had to grovel for every concession doled out. Education transformed this.
I’ve strayed from my subject John Hume but he emerged to the forefront of political activity and was a powerhouse.
Was a founding member of the SDLP in 1970.
He had written a far-seeing article for The Irish Times in 1964 about resolving the huge injustices between the two contending societies. This involved putting in place equality, justice, and all the necessary elements that are the bedrock of a just society. He never really deviated from that guiding treatise. And when the Good Friday Agreement emerged in 1998 they were still there also. Through the terrible decades of mayhem and violence, he was the towering pillar of hope that there might be another way. His way was of peace and reconciliation. In this, he was totally supported by his wife Pat. It was never easy and took a huge toll on his health. He was the man that the influential American politicians from Presidents down listened to. A tribute after his death suggested that there many people alive today that would have perished in ongoing violence.
In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble
He was voted the Greatest Irishman in an RTE poll search in 2010.
John Hume sits comfortably with O’Connell and Parnell as the great Irish political figures. As you can see they were all constitutional advocates as opposed to the advocates of violence.
1. In the last blog, I wrote of an orphan, Shane Healy, with Tulsk, Roscommon connections, who was pursuing his dream to participate as an athlete in the Olympics and also seeking his mother and his sister who abandoned him as a child. Well, he did qualify for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 with the last qualifying race in Madrid but at the time of the airing of Shane Healy’s podcast early this year, he had not made contact with his mother or sister.
2. I am currently trying to get to grips with a large and varied collection of books, magazines, and ephemera (odds and ends). I must have some of the strains of a hoarder! The following is an experiment. From time to time I will mention items here that I wish to dispose of and if anyone wishes to take them (free gratis of course) just give me a call. (A) A substantial box of QUIZ books. Some are relics and some are not.
(B) On a different level, I have about 10 volumes of a history publication called ‘Irish Historical Studies’, from some time ago. These are bi-annual publications with essays from the premier historians of the day on a wide range of topics. Tony 086 8163399.
Slán. Take care. It is a testing time.