Thursday, November 16, 2017

Update 16th November

Visiting Barcelona in Interesting Times 
We arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday morning October 24th. It was the first half of a very interesting trip to Catalonia. The second half I dealt with last time, it relating to Sitges with a large Boyle group. 
After arriving at Barcelona airport we took the bus to our mid-city destination, Placa de Catalunya. At just €8 for two it was pretty good value. Then, as a friend of mine is wont to say ‘going anywhere abroad, from Ireland, is invariably cost effective. The most expensive thing, proportionally, is if you have something to eat at …..Dublin Airport.”   

Our fairly basic hotel Lloret –at a basic cost- was on the main street of La Rambla. Having booked online to visit the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s cathedral masterpiece, we took the Metro after the usual exploration regarding route and tickets. The Metro has a reputation for pickpockets so care is needed and the basic safety strategies of the tourist are required. The primary one being is to try and not look or act like a tourist! Not easy on the first day. With a couple of days familiarisation things improve. 
At 3.30 we join our booked tour. This is an extraordinary building. I have been in many cathedrals in different countries but the Sagrada is certainly a once off in every sense of the word. Its problems around the outside are the milling crowds, however within this abated. After the insights given by the tour guide we are allowed to spend time absorbing the unique features of the building and the use of natural light to enhance the experience through the stained glass windows. On journeys later we see other examples of Gaudi’s work with other buildings.
 Later we walk along much of La Rambla which is an open theatre in itself with various artists, picture painters, restaurants, stalls, gymnasts and an audience of strolling people. We have good food and wine –a rarity for me-in a side street café.
The following day we take the Orange line tour on an open-topped bus. This is the most efficient way to see Barcelona.  We had pre-booked at €70 for two days for two people on two different circuits. There are too many sights to mention here but we got off on the hill where we visited the Olympic Stadium (free) of ’92. I had a memory of this from an Olympic iconic picture of a diver with the city underneath him.  There were stunning views over the city from this hill. The next stop I got off at was the home of Barcelona Soccer, the Nou Camp. I did a self-tour there for €25. It was very impressive and again value for the charge. It is a magnificent stadium if a bit dated now and had an incredible museum. It requires a much longer time than I allowed, perhaps a half a day. Near the end of the bus tour we see another example of Gaudi’s work a house with the fish scaled roof.
Later that evening we discovered a really impressive and bustling colourful market just off Ramble not far from our hotel. It was an occasion to eat Paella on La Rambla. Later we visited a  tourist port area at end of Rambla. Huge reconstruction work had been done there in preparation for the Olympics. 

On our third day we took the Green line tour. The early part of the tour was all along the restored waterfront which was very impressive.  We passed the Sagrada Familia and stopped off at Park Guell another Gaudi must see. We did not go into the heart of it but there was plenty to take in plus two very good sessions of Spanish music and dance. The two bus tours were very impressive and a great introduction to the city of Barcelona and great value.

While I was well aware of the political climate it was not strikingly obvious in the first days but that changed by Thursday and a student rally. We found our way to the epicentre of political activity and possibility which was the Generalitat (Government) Square where there was an independence rally with huge international media interest. There I talked for over half an hour to a local who was mildly in favour of Independence. Later that night we sought out the actual Parliament itself. It was a long trek but eventually we found it but it was screened off by Guardia Civil police. The possibility of the Catalan Parliamentary Declaration of Independence was very much in the ether all the time and so it came to pass on Friday at midday by which time we were in Sitges still Catalonia but politically inactive.
Barcelona is a very interesting city to visit. The beauty of visiting these Mediterranean cities is that the weather is invariably on your side.

Our two bookings were a real help so consider those. Try not to carry vital documents –passports- and more money than you need for the day on your person and ‘own your space’.        

Catalonia declared Independence on Friday October 27th. I scanned the Spanish papers the following day and one sidebar article described this declaration as ‘Frivolous and Irresponsible’. While a section of the Catalan people feel historically and currently at odds with greater Spain they are trying to adopt a very difficult path. A number of their local Parliamentary Independence leaders have been arrested and are in prison. Their leader-a very mild leader indeed- Carles Puigdemont is in Belgium currently and will possibly be returned to Spain. There are certain parallels with Northern Ireland in the politics of the region. It will be very interesting to see what emerges from the December elections called by the national Government. Certainly as an example of a Revolution, so far it is the mildest one that I am aware of historically. Of course the danger is that some sparks or hot heads could set things on a more dangerous course which could be volcanic. Hopefully that will not happen and that, as in many disputes, compromises will be enough to avoid a more belligerent conflict.

Week End Sport
Like so many week-ends these past few days have been festooned with major sporting events.

Ireland Collapse v Denmark
I will not say a lot about this as there is so much ‘out there’ generally on the event. The Friday night draw in Copenhagen was accepted as being reasonably good though the famous ‘away’ goal possibility was a big ache.

The build-up to Tuesday night was tinged with this element also and the difficulty of Ireland getting the two goals that most thought they would need thus accepting that Denmark would score one. When Ireland scored there was a sense of disbelief but a good sense. Then the frailty with two Danish goals and the dream of going to the World Cup evaporating. The two Irish  substitutions at half- time gave the star player Christian Erikson the space to demonstrate his world class skills with some help from Irish mistakes. By the 75th minute the Irish defence and challenge had collapsed and it was sad to see a bedraggled Irish team towards the end. It was not that they did not try as was evidenced by the efforts of James McClean but the heart had been shredded from the Irish effort and Denmark was in a different class at this stage. The only consolation was that it was all clear cut and not like the Northern Ireland exit at the hands of a very poor refereeing decision.

The pain was shown by James McClean as he tried to converse with a post-match interviewer Tony O’Donoghue. That was understandable as the team would now miss out on the biggest tournament in world sport. O’Donoghue was sympathetic to McClean as was right but tried a different approach with team Manager Martin O’Neill. I thought this unfair to an obviously shell-shocked manager so soon after a devastating defeat.

In summary; Denmark were clear and deserving winners on the night. The Ireland team had achieved a considerable amount by getting so close. Their limitations showed up at the last hurdle. A sad thing for Irish soccer is that the future does not look bright as there does not appear to be many if any young stars emerging. This is evidenced by the barometer of playing at a decent level in English football. 

And the World Rugby Cup 2023 goes to ... France
After all the hype about Ireland’s application to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup they finished third of the three applications. While Ireland might feel somewhat aggrieved South Africa can feel worse. They were ahead at the end of a technical review etc. Ireland were well behind in this which was a major failing. They had placed their bid on a number of stadia including GAA grounds Pair Ui Caoimh, Killarney, Salthill, Castlebar and Belfast. When these were put under the microscope they did not front up. I suppose a big negative for say Belfast was that Casement Park did not even have planning permission! As one advocate for the hosting suggested; “Ireland had the best of things that could not be measured” such a big following in rugby heartlands like Mayo, Galway and Cork would you believe. There was a lot of puff pastry in the submission when it came under scrutiny and in the end facilities in situ and money won out with France. We can moan about not being supported by Wales and Scotland which is historical of course! The only country who really believed all the hype was of course Ireland!

I could go on but if you are really interested in the Devil’s Advocate position you can source it from;   “In praise of losing the Rugby World Cup”....Nov. 3rd '17. Ewan MacKenna.

Boyle Celtic Slip Up and Out of FAI Junior Cup 
There must have been considerable disappointment in the Boyle Celtic community seeing their team go out of the FAI Junior Cup at a very early stage last Sunday. They were defeated by Moore Utd. 4 -2. This is the competition in which they had reached the All-Ireland Semi-Finals last spring only to go out on penalties to Evergreen of Kilkenny before a large Boyle following at Sligo Rovers grounds ‘The Showgrounds’.

 It was felt that the team had added to the overall strength of their panel this year. While they have hardly ever had a full group to choose from they seemed to have the strength in depth which would see them through the early stages of such a competition. The injury to Sean Purcell has been telling. I have been at the league game v Moore early in the season which Boyle won after a tough challenge. I still I felt that, while Moore would be a tough team to crack, the quality in the Boyle side would see them advance.

So now it is back to the Roscommon League and especially the Connacht Cup where they got to the Semi-Finals also last year.  Still we will miss last year’s journey or journeys.    

St. Brigid’s v Corofin.    
St. Brigid’s and Corofin played out a top game in the Connacht Senior club Final at Tuam on Sunday last. Corofin who had overwhelmed St. Brigid’s last year in Carrick-on Shannon were probably deserved winners in extra time. But it is obvious that St. Brigid’s are on the rise again after a blip in 2015. Their minor team won the Connacht minor competition, in its first year. Liam Clifford suggested to me that this was the best Roscommon club minor team that he has seen in decades. So with wins in minor, junior and senior (the U 20 competition is in progress at the moment) it seems as if the St. Brigid’s Organisation/Juggernaut is the future.
There were a couple of interesting results at the week-end. Perhaps the most telling was the Rathnew, Wicklow victory over hot favourites St. Vincent’s of Dublin.

I watched a poor Portlaoise v Moorfield (Kildare) game. The most notable feature of the game were the numerous outfield interventions of the Portlaoise goalkeeper. I know Shane Curran had his moments but the Portlaoise keeper must have the imprimatur of his management team to be such an outfield participant. Perhaps he has set a trend!

Ireland v Australia Compromise Rules
I hope Enda Smith is ok to participate in next Saturday’s game in Perth. The first game in Adelaide was a pretty polite affair with the Australians coming out on top and they now lead by over ten points going into Perth. The Irish stars from the first game were Ml. Murphy from Donegal and Conor Mac Manus from Monaghan. Whether they win or lose is not going to get people too energised but it is nice that players from a variety of counties get a pat on the back for their efforts.

Melbourne Cup Unique Result.
The first, second and third of Irish horses in ‘the race which stops a nation’ (Australia) has to be one of the really great international sporting achievements of recent times. There are incredible sub-stories there also. The fact that 25 year Joseph O’Brien trained to winner ‘Rekindling’ to defeat his dad Aidan’s horse  ‘Vermeer’ into second must be unique in racing history. I am not a racing person so my knowledge of it would be very sketchy. Third was a Willie Mullen’s trained Max Dynamite.

The death of Mayo GAA star of the sixties ‘Jinkin’  Joe Corcoran
Mayo has of course produced a huge number of great players. Amongst that group is one of my favourite players Joe Corcoran who played for Mayo in the sixties. He was a gifted player with great ball control and a signature swerve/dummy during his electric solo runs.  He was also a fine golfer. He was school caretaker in Ballina. Apparently he was a very private man who subsequently avoided the limelight. However when he played at his best the spotlight was very much on him with a fine Mayo team of the late 60s’.

Congratulations To
Congrats to Ronan Garvin from Ballinameen who is part of the Athlone Town U15 side who are in the Semi-Finals of the National League teams U 15 competition. Ronan must be a pretty good soccer player to be achieving at this level.

Topics I might have touched on; Homelessness, House and Rent Prices, lack of optimism with house building, Roscommon politics and so. 


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Update 2nd November

A Memorable Week-end in Sitges by the Mediterranean.

Festival d’Arts Irlandes-Catala 26-29 October 2017.

Where to begin is the question. To do it all justice is the challenge.
After a number of days in Barcelona, during historic times, we arrived in Sitges some forty minutes south of Barcelona for an arts Festival of music, song and dance intertwining both Irish and Catalan culture. It was a many-faceted festival as could be seen from the detailed programme and one needed the dexterity of bi-location with a reservoir of energy to catch a decent percentage of all that one might like to see and hear. One of the mainstays of the Festival organisation is Caroline Wynne from Croghan and during the festival events she was regularly commended on her trojan work for it.  

Two different groups had been invited out from Boyle to participate in the Festival. St. Joseph’s Church Choir was the major group. It comprised of over twenty members of the regular choir, those who were able to make the trip at this time. They had practised diligently under the watchful eye and immense energy and talent of Director Anne Kielty.  They had been really looking forward to it and now their time had come. 
A smaller group of very familiar traditional musicians from Boyle also made the trip as they have done for some years now. These were Maurice ‘Mossie’ Martin, Bernard Flaherty and Donie O’Connor with sean nós dancer Edwina Guckian from Carrick on Shannon, under the title ‘Western Roots’. They were joined on an ad hoc basis by Anne Conboy and Brendan Gaffney for the bar sessions which they anchored.  
The sun and blue sky was a comforting backdrop to the various performances. It was a Fleadh in guaranteed sunshine.
The initial challenge of finding venues was quickly overcome since most of the activity centred on one Prado and garden. ‘Western Roots’ and  ‘No Crows’ from Sligo were amongst the stage highlights on that Friday with the evening capped by an energetic session in the Tres Courts sports bar following a viewing of Connacht defeating Munster. So all was positive there.   

On Saturday after a hearty breakfast a very pleasant and helpful gentleman called Brandon gave us a guided tour of the town of Sitges referring to its artistic and historic legacy ending in his own bar for ‘refreshments’. The afternoon was benchmarked by ‘a session’ in the Café del Mon owned by a Scottish couple where different nationalities participated.

Later that evening one of the stand-out events took place which was the creation of the Human Towers or Castellers. This has been a long-standing local tradition and involved a number of different groups in their own colours. A large number of these formed a broad base and these supported a number of other levels extending to six or seven high. The pillar was capped by very small and obviously young helmeted children. During my viewing one of the towers collapsed with some slight injuries. After the initial collapse there were a number of successful towers going to six or seven people high. It was a pretty dramatic event.

The highlight of the night was a Concert in two parts featuring ‘The Best of Irish and Catalan Contemporary Songwriting’. The Catalan side was contributed by local Felip Carbonnell, now resident in Sligo I am told. Felip got a great reception and came across as a very pleasant and gifted performer accompanied towards the end by Ray Coen of No Crows.
Donie O’Connor represented the Irish half flourishing with a tapestry of songs familiar to many of us and getting vocal encouragement from the energetic Boyle travelling support.

Sunday The Choir in Church
The main event, as it were, was the Sunday performance of the choir in Sitges church for the crowded 12 o’clock mass. They had been unable to access the church for practise so it was more challenging than it might have been. So too was the interaction with the mass celebrant. This led to a post mass rendition of two pieces which had earlier been lost in translation. In any event the choir performed to the highest standard, enhanced by soloists Rhona Feely, Catherine Bolger and Josephine Moran.  After prolonged applause in appreciation all was well with the world. After the performance members relaxed at the rooftop bar of The Hotel Platajor with members of the Gallagher family, originally from Boyle but domiciled in Sitges for a good few years now.
Later in the afternoon the choir performed on the festival garden stage in more relaxed mode as ‘The Lough Key Singers’ incorporating some of their church material and two folk songs ‘The Parting Glass’ and ‘Will You Go Lassie Go’. At a restaurant later a group of choir members engaged in an impromptu rendition of some of their material which had a emotive response from the owner of the establishment.
At a wrap up group meal we encountered a ‘Green Lady’ who would have frightened even the ‘Green Lady’ who was resident caretaker in the folklore of King House years ago.  
Later that night one of the best traditional sessions of the festivals wowed the crowds in the crowded El Cable Bar.
Apart from the slight referencing of some of the events in which Boyle people participated there was also a great ‘feel good’ factor amongst the collective. One could drift seamlessly from one group within the company to the next. Usually when travelling abroad with a group drawn from all corners one would gravitate towards another couple or at best a very small number but here it was a ‘one for all and all for one’ ethos.
And so it came to the final wrap party back at the central venue. This began with a host of young musicians with the five large groups from Armagh, Beaumont in Dublin, Bray and Carlow to be followed by a traditional session anchored by ‘Western Roots’ again. This included all the strands, where driving tunes, songs, story-telling and dance prevailed into the late night with a large number of contributors. Since this was a finale the atmosphere was at a heightened level as people were reluctant to call an end to a magical and memorable week-end.

Conscious of being diplomatic if I was to nominate my Oscar winners over the week-end the main accolades would go thus:
Producer: Caroline Wynne.
Director: Anne Kielty.
Leading Lady: Maura McGann.
Leading Man: Donie O’Connor.
Cheerleader: Cathal Tivnan.   

Post Script.
What a coincidence!
We all have stories of coincidences of varying degrees. So this is mine from Sitges involving an Irish couple, long- time residents in Alberta Canada who were in Sitges as part of a long planned holiday. I had met Noel and Bernie a few times through Friday as they were staying in the same hotel as I was and we got talking. (It was a great talking week-end also!) It emerged that Noel was from Bray and still had generational relations there and remarked that the younger connections were ‘into’ Irish music et al. I told him that there was a substantial Bray group present as part of the Festival and perhaps some of them would know their connections. Later that day Noel and Bernie were walking the prom and a little distance away a group with red tops were practising their music. Then they saw a couple of the group’s youngsters wave in their direction. Since there was nobody else in the vicinity just then, they felt they were the subjects of the wave. It turned out that the youngsters were in fact their grand- nieces! They were there with the Bray band one of whose leaders was Noel’s adult nephew. They had observed Noel walking nearby and one suggested that he was the image of their own grandad (being his brother) and hence the exploratory wave.
Noel and Bernie became an ever present at Bray and Boyle events subsequently and I received an ‘Alberta Broach of Honour’ for my little part in that coincidence maturing.    

(I am very conscious that there were many, many more, highly regarded performers –local and Irish-present other than the Boyle contribution but this piece is written for our local constituency).                    


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Update 21st October

• Best wishes to Eastern Harps Senior GAA team and their manager Shane King from Corrigeenroe. Harps are in the Sligo County Final on Sunday v Tourlestrane in Markievicz Park.  
• Two YouTube series of shorts courtesy of Allied Irish Banks. One involves the Roscommon Championship Campaign and the other a very entertaining one involving David Stelling and Chris Kamara of Sky Sports Soccer Saturday on their ‘Road to Croker.’
• The search is on for tickets for Ireland v Denmark away Sat. 11th and home Tuesday 14th. Why would there be no mention of using Croke Park for a possible 83,000 crowd for the 14th?
• I have mentioned that I was looking for a good coloured copy of the 1983 Intermediate winning team from the Frenchpark final v St. Ronan’s. I still am looking for it.
• No news yet on that big medieval table ‘borrowed’ from the Abbey Park during the late summer.
• Boyle Celtic soccer club are beginning to purr and we look forward to a clash with St. Peter’s Athlone when that is sorted.
• “The saddest thing that has ever happened to what was Great Britain” Richard Branson on Brexit.     
Ophelia Storms Through
Ophelia passed over/through our area without doing too much damage. Tragically three people died nationally and more seemed intent on reckless endangerment in Salthill and elsewhere.  Most of us hunkered down on Monday fearing the worst but we were spared. Though, even from my window I could see some cars and a few high sided trucks on the main road over the Curlews.  Cork, the south and the south-east took the brunt of the storm. The three most dramatic scenes of destruction were in Cork City. The flying roof of a school in Douglas, the damaged stand of Cork City F.C. at Turner’s Cross and the felled line of trees on a city street. In fairness the Meteorological services got it right for the most part and we had time to batten down the hatches as they say at sea.

The original Ophelia is one of the great tragic heroines of literature. She is the love possibility of Hamlet Prince of Denmark, the daughter of Polonius and sister of Laertes. She observes the disturbed Hamlet during the famous soliloquy ‘To be or not to be….’  where Hamlet considers (and keeps considering) his own journey. Hamlet dismisses Ophelia with ‘Get thee to a nunnery…’. This and subsequent misunderstandings leads to her tragic end. How the single mind, that of Shakespeare, could create such characters and characterization with a body of phrasing that is a benchmark of the English language, is a miracle of genius. From time to time when I was ‘treating of’ those plays I felt that Shakespeare would have to be a mad genius if a smidgen of the interpretations that are applied to his characters were designed. (It is suggested that it was another man, Marlowe, who was the true author!).

I was disappointed that those who name storms at the Irish and U.K. Met. Services did not continue with the Shakespeare names. Then we would have had Hamlet; Juliet; Lear; Lady Macbeth and so on which would take us through a winter or two.

Speaking of the English language, which gives the Irish as a people such a starting advantage in this crazy world of ours, I came across a documentary during the week on a religious writer and theologian called William Tyndale. He was from the time of The Reformation. Despite the opposition of Henry V111 and the Roman Church he insisted on the translation of the Latin/Greek Bible into the language of the people – the vernacular -. While Tyndale did not get much credit this translation became the basis of King James’s Bible of the early 1600s’ which is one of the great works of English literature and another of the major contributors to the English language. The Bible of course is to Christianity what the Koran is to the Muslim religion. It is the benchmark of Christianity. That is why Tyndale wished that it be translated into say English so that the people – who could read of course - could interpret it for themselves if they so wished. That seems pretty reasonable by modern standards. The Roman Church had protected the Bible from dispersed interpretation by keeping it in the language of the classics. The church would tell the people what it all meant and knowledge is power of course. The presenter of the programme on Tyndale was Melvyn Bragg of The South Bank Show.

BBC 4 is a source of many fine and educational documentaries. A two part film/documentary currently showing is on The Reformation and the life of Martin Luther in German and subtitled. The advantage of modern television, apart from recording, is the facility to backtrack and fast forward etc.  ‘Did he (President Trump) really say that?

In fairness RTE is showing a major documentary series on the Vietnam War at the moment. Amongst the many telling observations in this, is one which relates that Robert Mac Namara (U.S. Secretary of Defence from President Kennedy’s time), was aware that the War was a lost cause as early as ’67. Still the U.S. continued to send thousands of troops into the conflict until 1973 with the fall of Saigon coming in ’75. Over 50,000 Americans died in that war with thousands more wounded, injured and held prisoners. This is just that side of the equation with horrific numbers of Vietnamese being victims also.  

Of course if all that is too heavy for you on Wednesday on RTE 1 there was a ‘Rachael Allen; All Things Sweet’ dish with the promo as follows; “Rachael makes chocolate and hazelnut praline ice cream, roasted plums with white chocolate sauce and raspberry and white chocolate meringue roulade” (R). They should give the Allen family a channel of their own. There are a few words there that Melvyn would have bother with.                

The Abbey (Community) Park on Saturday the 14th.
Last Saturday October 14th was another very significant day for Boyle GAA and the Abbey Park. The Club unveiled a mural in the stand representing John Joe Nerney in determined pose. This was based on a forties action picture. The mural was painted by local artist Sian Costello. The stand too was named in honour of John Joe. The Nerney family was present in force with a large attendance from Boyle with other adjacent clubs generously represented.

After the Mural unveiling the first or initial segment of the ‘Boyle GAA Historical Record in Pictures’ was presented. This has 10 frames each including up to a dozen notable pictures from the early days of the club up to the present. Amongst these was one dedicated also to John Joe and a second to the great handballer of the thirties, from Boyle, Paddy Perry. Present to witness this inaugural recognition of Paddy was his daughter Marjorie and her husband Dermott McDonnell and nephews Peter and Eamon Perry. All frames are sponsored with the sponsors name nominated on the frame. The project could expand greatly, encompassing various themes such as Ladies Football, the role of national and second level schools, major figures like Sean Young and Michael O’Callaghan and so on. To it could also, if the finance was available, could be added a pictorial record of Roscommon GAA teams. So if you would like to be involved in sponsoring a frame you may contact me. Credit for the quality of the pictures goes to photographer Tony Murphy of Visionary Studios on The Crescent. The generous wall space courtesy of designing architect Chris O’Dowd provides an ideal gallery for such an exhibition.            

The third event of the day was the popular Garda Cup Final in which a Shannon Gaels/Kilmore combination were convincing winners over Castlerea. The presentation was overseen and Garda Michael Pilkington and Sgt. Frank Egan who represented the Garda Division of Castlerea/Boyle.
Through the day there was a fund raising event for ‘Niamh’s Journey There’ which was also very well supported.

The day ended well for Boyle with victory over St. Faithleach’s in the Intermediate League Final for the O’Gara Cup. This was proudly accepted by Boyle captain Roch Hanmore as he cradled Bobby, the family’s very young baby.

It was just one crowded day, a great Boyle Community Day in the Abbey Park, one of the most used recreational facilities in the town. There were many people who deserve great credit for seeing the day through successfully led by the Club Chairperson, Kathleen Hanmore.

The Catalonia/Spain Dilemma For Beginners
Since Catalonia is so much in the news I decided to make a very cursory study of it to be able to follow what is really going on and I share it with you!

The region of Catalonia is divided into four provinces of which Barcelona is the most significant. It is bordered in the north by France and the small Pyrenees country of Andorra. To the west it is bordered by the region of Aaragon and to the south by Valencia. It official languages are Catalan and Spanish. Like so many regions its geographic/historic existence has been shaped and re-shaped by centuries of time and conflict.

In the 1640s’ Catalonia revolted against the more centralised federal state of Spain ruled by a monarchy Charles/Philip and so on. Its latest royal family being the Bourbons from the late 1800s’ to the present with the gap for the Franco period. It became a Republic under the protection of France but France grew more protective and took it over altogether until they were pushed back by an army of Greater Spain.

It was also one of the regions which saw more conflict during the French wars in the era of Napoleon (early 1800s’), Wellington and the Peninsular wars.

With the Industrial Revolution the region became more prosperous than other regions of Spain. There is a certain echo of Northern Italy v Peninsular Italy there.

One needs to bear in mind that the desire for a separate nation-state remains more or less constant if fluctuating. We would know a bit about that.

In 1914 the four provinces formed a Commonwealth. From 1931 to ’39 what is referred to as The Second Spanish Republic (the first being in the 1870s) is declared and Catalonia establishes an autonomous government. This was a desperate period in Spanish history with a bitter Civil War. The legacy of that war obtains to this day especially in Catalonia which paid a heavy price at the hands of General Franco and the Fascist regime which it had bitterly opposed. The victorious General Franco abolished many of Catalonia’s institutions and attacked its cultural inheritance including its language.
From the decade of the 50s, through the 70s’ however the region prospered with the added industry of a tourism boom. This of course led to a surge of migrants from other regions of Spain ‘diluting’ the Catalan population.
The Bourbon monarchy with King Juan Carlos returned after Franco’s death in 1975. After ’75 there was a was a period of rapid ‘Transition to Democracy’. Catalonia was able to reinstate many of the features of autonomy from their short period of sovereignty in the 1930’s. It continued to prosper and this culminated in the hosting of the Olympic games in 1992. There are wider problems with a region like Catalonia getting varied independent rights. There are other areas in Spain like the Basque region who would wish for those rights also, so a possible domino effect obtains. This would have major effects not just in Spain but in other EU countries also, like Belgium for instance.

In 2010 ‘The Constitutional Court of Spain’ restricted many of these autonomous rights to Catalonia and this led to a call for Independence.

In a 2014 Referendum (like 2017) 80% voted in favour of Independence but the vote was in the mid- 30% . This agitation continued in 2015 with a possible secession date being set for 2017. We are in that process now. In 2017 only 43% voted but 91% of those voted to break with Spain. It is still probable, however, that the actual majority even within Catalonia still wish to remain part of Spain. As can be seen this is a hugely divisive and dangerous issue.

It is said that Catalonia provides over 19% of government tax but gets just 14% in return. The Government is known as The Generalitat and its current President is Charles Puigdemont. The state has its own police force while the national police- Civil Guardia- retains personnel within the state for a range of significant functions such as security and border supervision. We saw a clash of police roles recently.

We will leave it at that for now and maybe in my next report I’ll be better informed after a field trip.  

Slán for now.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Update 13th October

Toe in the water:
Perhaps some of you will be aware of the situation where you want to get started on something slightly intimidating. I feel that way now as I dip my toe back into the pool by returning to the ‘Oblique View’ again after some time otherwise engaged. I’ve been walking around it, getting diverted, having tea, bringing ‘in’ turf, had a walk and so on but if I’m to do it I have to take the plunge. The Bard with Macbeth;  "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly".

It is not a bad time to do that as there are a number of things I wish to refer to especially with another busy week-end of sport just two days away.

Saturday next at Boyle GAA’s Abbey Park.
Boyle GAA will honour its most decorated player in dedicating the stand at the Abbey Park to John Joe Nerney at 11am on Saturday next. In the stand they will unveil a mural based on a significant picture of John Joe in action in the 1946 Final v Kerry. The picture clearly shows the determination of John Joe in his competing for the ball with opposite number Dinny Lyne of Kerry. The mural has been presented by local artist Sian Costello.
Following this in the GAA Common Room a frame with a representative number of pictures of John Joe’s football life will also be unveiled as will ten frames of Boyle GAA related photographs. These are part of a ‘Boyle GAA History in Pictures’ Permanent Exhibition which will be displayed in the spacious club rooms. These include pictures from the early 30s’ up to recent times at the moment and have been sponsored by various individuals. Of particular interest is a frame dedicated to another famous Boyle sportsman Paddy Perry and Boyle’s handball’s tradition. Paddy is best remembered as a handballer but was in fact an all-round sportsman playing Gaelic football and hurling, soccer under the name of Mickey Rooney for Sligo Rovers and badminton. He played for Dublin for a number of years. He was a member of the Garda inducted by the then Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy who enlisted many star sportsmen into the force. Paddy Perry has a unique distinguishing achievement in that he won three Dublin Senior Championship medals on the one day, they being senior hurling and football with the Garda Club and an individual senior handball medal though injured. It is for these reasons that I would regard Paddy Perry as probably Roscommon’s finest ever sportsman.

At 1 o’clock on Saturday the Garda Final takes place. Regrettably Boyle do not contest the final this year and it is between Shannon Gaels and Castlerea.
At 4 0’clock Boyle Seniors play St. Faithleach's in the Intermediate League Final i.e. O’Gara Cup. This should be an entertaining game as their previous game some time ago in the Senior Championship was a close and very fine game.
From 12.30 into the mix there is also a cake bring & buy sale in support of a most worthy local cause i.e. Niamh’s Journey. 

I must also commend Boyle GAA committee hard core on all the work that has been going on in terms of revamping the fine dressing room complex that obtains there designed by Chris O’Dowd. I’m sure it will look at its best this Saturday. Also Gerard Tivnan and his team have done great work also in preparation for the day. It reminds me of the preparation involved in ‘the house stations’ especially in rural areas down the decades. (‘House Stations’ for those not now in the know were when a mass was said in a house in a townland area with all the neighbouring houses being represented there. There was also, inevitably, a collection. After mass a bountiful breakfast or ‘high tea’ was provided where the priest and other local aristocracy were treated first in the ‘parlour’.
There is no mass in the GAA rooms on Saturday but it looks like there will be most everything else.

(I might also add that on Sunday at 11 in the said Abbey Park, Boyle play Clann na nGael in the Quarter Final of the ‘17/’18 Feile).

Fuerty v Michael Glavey’s Intermediate Final

‘The savage loves his native shore
Though rude the soil and chill the air”
James Orr (Irish Poet 1770-1816).

Thus I keep an eye on Fuerty who are in the Intermediate Final on Sunday at Hyde Park. I was there at the re -establishment of the club in the early seventies. The issue with the club is that there are four clubs pulling from the area. These are the two hurling clubs, Tremane and Athleague and the St. Ciaran’s Club which caters for under-age and includes Creggs. Fuerty were a force back decades ago at senior level and were a strong club until the mid-fifties. Emigration decimated that and it struggled for a couple of decades but has been on the up in recent times. A great shot in the arm for the club came in a huge act of generosity by a man called Brian Mulhern who had returned to the area from New York. Fuerty officers looking for a site for a field of their own went to Brian and asked him if he would agree to sell them a field they had identified as a possibility for developing into a decent grounds. He replied that he would NOT sell them the field……but that …he would GIVE them the field free gratis provided they attached his recently deceased young wife’s name to it which of course they were happy to do. Since then Mulhern Park has been developed into a very good facility and the fortunes of a club, wandering for decades from field to field, improved immeasurably. They got to the All-Ireland Junior Final at Croke Park in February 2014 and to the Intermediate final also against Ml. Glavey’s in 2015 which they lost narrowly at Strokes town. The Croke Park day was just very special. Their top player is Tremane man Niall Kilroy while Boyle connections other than myself are National School teacher Sean Melia and Abbey Community College teacher John Fitzmaurice.  
Amongst the well-known people from there are Senator Terry Leyden and his daughter Council Chairperson Orla as well as Cllr. Dominick Connolly and The Roscommon columnist Liam Devine. Talking of Fuerty, which I enjoy taking the opportunity of doing, the county’s winner in the Tidy Towns competition in Castlecoote my own place. It will continue to be a real contender for top national honours for the foreseeable future. The recent ‘big event’ there was the holding of the Roscommon County Fleadh last Easter Monday. An against the odds win on Sunday and promotion to senior ranks would be something very special to see.        

Ireland v Wales- More Drama
Ireland are still in the World Cup lifeboat and for a few I knew who were present at the game in Cardiff it was one in which they can proudly say ‘I was there’. Most of my sentiments follow the line of Roscommon Herald Editor Paul Healy in his column on page 5 of the Roscommon People. The obsession with poor Wes Holohan. I can’t understand if he is such a player that he has not played for Real Madrid or such. Then there is a game kick off time at 7.45 but the T.V. build-up starts at 7 (I think they call this…. ‘the framing of the game’ with……talk and …ads..and..more talk .). Then when the game is over the talk machines are switched on again especially if there are highlights of another  game you might like to see.
Anyway Ireland won due to some usual heroics by goalkeeper Randolph, defender Duffy and a cracking goal by James McClean…again. The ‘step-over’ by Arter was clever also. As they are wont to say -if this was done by a Barca player-there’s the difference, the class, why wouldn’t he paid a half a million a week? So now more drama early next week when we find out who Ireland play in the play-offs. When Paul Healy asked some people he was interviewing about matters in Roscommon pages 16/17 Cllr Kathleen Shanagher was sharply tuned in- assuming that they get to the finals- with; It’ll be “good for the credit unions”. The finals, by the way are down the road in…… Russia.

Postscript: One has to feel a bit for Wales who were big favourites going into the game but now miss out on their best chance. They have not qualified for the World Cup since 1958 in Sweden when they reached the quarter finals and Brazil won with a young fellow called Pele was at the start of his career. Northern Ireland were also there in ’58 and got to the semi-finals if my memory is on quiz key. Northern Ireland are also in the play-off hat next week. Who could they play in the play-offs? Italy/ Croatia/ Denmark/ Portugal or Switzerland.               

Gerry O’Malley Remembered
Maybe it is the season of memorials but last Saturday the 7th I attended the unveiling of a memorial to, arguably, Roscommon’s greatest ever footballer, Gerry O’Malley. Gerry O’Malley played for Roscommon from 1947 to ’65 and captained the county’s senior team in the All-Ireland final of ’62 which Kerry won. Gerry got injured in that game and had to ‘retire’.
Gerry was part of the great Connacht Railway Cup teams of the fifties when they had some of the greatest players ever from the province’s counties. They were Packie McGarty from Leitrim; Naas O’Dowd from Sligo; Sean Purcell and Frank Stockwell from Galway; Carney, Langan, Casey from Mayo and O’Malley from Roscommon. That was when the Railway Cup attracted around 40,000 to the finals and St. Patrick’s Day. It also gave people a chance to see the great hurlers of the day Ring, Reddan, Rackard and O’Donnell in the hurling side of the Railway Cup.
Anyway returning to last Saturday a large crowd gathered at Gerry’s home townland of Brideswell in the St. Brigid’s Club catchment area. Many of the’62 team were present and while one was sure to miss out on some I met Seamus Keane of Creggs; Tony Kenny and P.J. Shine of Clann; Peter Watson and Tom Turley of Pearses; Christy Grogan of St. Croan’s; Brian Mitchell from Four Roads and Eamon Curley also from the Pearse’s club. Eamon was much thinner man last Saturday than the virtual prop-forward of a powerful player with Roscommon in the early 60s’ .
The Chairman of the Memorial Committee, Charlie Finneran, introduced proceedings and M.C. Frankie Donnelly ran the show after that. The speakers included Gerry’s son Niall; Michael Conroy from Tulsk a long-time work colleague; Eugene Cummins C.E.O. Roscommon county Council; Brian Carroll Secretary of Roscommon County Board GAA and R.T.E. Radio Brian Carthy from Strokestown another long term friend of Gerry’s. As the old accounts of these occasions used to go ‘they all spoke appropriately’.
There were some nuggets amid the mass of ‘thank yous’ and the plaudits to Gerry’s ability as a player. Apparently when asked why he left Castlerea to take up a position in North Dublin Gerry replied; ‘I like the farmers and the people around west Roscommon but with me all they want to do is talk football with the result that it was hard to get anything done. In North Dublin it was different!’ As I listened to Brian Carroll’s short but effective relating of his friendship with Gerry it struck me, a friend of Gerry’s also, how lucky we were in being able to say that. On one occasion Brian related while visiting Gerry he was asked to take a football sock out of drawer in the bed room which turned out to hold some football medals. Gerry took one of them -a county senior medal- and gave it to Brian with the guidance; ‘Brian I’m passing that onto you now but when your time comes you can pass it on again”.
The Gerry 0’Malley legacy will live long in Roscommon and the fine memorial at Brideswell will cement that so I commend them for their efforts.

·       If anyone has a good coloured picture of the 1983 Intermediate team which won in Frenchpark v St. Ronan’s I’d appreciate same.
·       An odd take away from the Abbey Park during the late summer months was a big green bench/table. It would have taken two people with a decent trailer to remove same. It was being used at the time with the construction of clubhouse lockers. That bench originated, I am nearly certain, in the old Catholic Club later GAA Social club and I may have been party to it arriving in the Abbey Park as I seem remember putting my mark on it. So if anyone has any knowledge of its whereabouts please let us know. It has the look of a Medieval table with its X legs etc.
·       T. V. series of the moment on T.V. is ‘The Vietnam War’ RTE Mondays at 11.35 or BBC 4 Mondays at 10. There are a number of episodes transmitted at this stage.   

That’s more than enough for this week so no mention of Catalonia; Trump, Boris Johnson, Theresa Maye, Weinstein, Che, Gooch et al     

I hope this column to be a two-weekly one so the next should be showing around the end of October.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Update 13th July

How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story
I had but a grain of this story in my head until I tuned into a television programme with the above title on Monday night on RTE One.  Narrated by Liam Neeson, this documentary tells the extraordinary untold story of how an NYPD bomb disposal expert, Dennis Mulcahy from Cork, played a key role in helping defuse the decades old “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. In upstate New York Dennis Mulcahy started a project in 1975 of bringing children from Northern Ireland to New York state for six weeks to help them get a break from the horror of ‘the Northern Ireland Troubles’. They were hosted by American families. The key component of the project was that it embraced children from both sides of the conflict and this documentary focussed particularly on the experience, influence and memories of two young boys, one a Protestant and one a Catholic who were placed in a host home together as was a vital component of the project. From the initial group of 9 children in ’75 it continued for forty years and by then 23,000 children had benefitted from the process as the project expanded from its humble beginnings. Obviously it gave the children respite for a period but it also helped to disperse understanding between participants who had no chance whatsoever of meeting otherwise. It also brought their experiences into the homes of the host families and got considerable exposure in the U.S. media leading to a greater involvement of  American politicians in the dilemma of Northern Ireland. The most significant of those was President Clinton whose role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process was key. Dennis Mulcahy stayed with the project for four decades and was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize a fact I had never heard of. This powerful documentary is available on the RTE player for those who are able to access that. Perhaps it will be shown again as it deserves that and as wide an audience as possible. As Mister Mulcahy’s brother said ‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the dark’. The ‘Project Children Story’ has been a bright light for thousands of children from Northern Ireland for over forty years.                
Connacht Final Victory.
The reaction of the Roscommon support at the final whistle in Pearse Stadium, Salthill, on Sunday was vividly captured by the RTE cameras as the they invaded the field and swept in a rough line, like in the film Braveheart towards the members of the Roscommon team to congratulate them on one of the sweetest victories in the Connacht championship for some time. To the fore in the charge was Ballyfarnon man Patrick McTiernan of the St. Ronan’s Club. The supporters were gathering on the fringes of the field for the final minutes and the whistle acted like a starter’s gun in an athletic meet. It is very rare that Roscommon had nailed down the result so conclusively a good few minutes from the end of the game. It is Roscommon’s third win Connacht Final in the last twenty years after the win over Mayo in 2001 and Sligo in 2010. So ‘what is rare is wonderful ‘as the saying goes. Galway were hot favourites going into this game and I have to confess that I too subscribed to that assessment. I wasn’t on my own of course but all that meant that the result was all the sweeter. I met a great Roscommon supporter on the field and he in a surprised voice said to me ‘I know nothing about football after all the years. I couldn’t see this coming’. However the team and its management must have seen things very differently. Gone was the reticence of last year at the same venue as players went for their shots and while there were some nine wides in the first half some of the scores taken were of the highest quality. I was just in the trajectory of Donie Smith’s late point and it was superb.
Roscommon played with all the qualities that one wishes in a team. They had skill, passion, determination, pace, a scheme that worked, unity of purpose and self-belief. If one was assessing the team in terms of ratings there would be succession of 7/8s’ a couple of 9s’ Kilroy and Devaney and an Enda Smith 10. Niall Kilroy, from the Fuerty club, reminded me of an England player in the 1966 World Cup called Alan Ball with the way he got around the field.
It has to be said that the Galway side lacked so many of Roscommon’s qualities on the day and all associated with the side must be hugely disappointed and puzzled with their effort especially in the first half and last quarter. It echoed their defeat to Tipperary last year. They now face a difficult game against Donegal in Sligo. Roscommon can play, by my estimation, the winner of Mayo v Cork probably Mayo or Donegal if they defeat Galway. That game will be in Croke Park on Sunday the 30th.  Galway will find it hard to reenergise its team and support and the support will quickly transfer to the hurling team which shows such promise. 
It was an emotive Kevin McStay that faced the press at the end and more than anybody else he must have felt a great sense of personal relief and pride in his team. It is great to see Boyle club having three players involved with Cian McKeon also being on the panel and I would imagine not being too far from playing a cameo at such a young age. In 2010 it was David Casey and Sean Purcell with Fergal O’Donnell as manager. 
So it was a great day for the Roscommon team and management and for their dedicated supporters. Now the challenge is to put in place a degree of consistency with another good performance on the 30th.   

Cody’s Cats feel Waterford Class
In the other weekend games Tipp. footballers had a very good win over Cavan once the great power in Ulster football. Carlow added another scalp in the win over Leitrim. In 1944 Carlow contested an All-Ireland semi-final and lost v Kerry. Monaghan got back on track with a generous win over Wexford. Armagh beat Westmeath and Mayo defeated Clare after an even first half mainly due to the power of their Jonah Lomu equivalent Aidan O’Shea. The game of the week-end was Waterford’s extra time victory win over Kilkenny. Kilkenny were 8 points down with some 8 minutes to go but got back level in a rousing last few minutes. While they were expected to carry the momentum into the extra time it was Waterford that prevailed with their first championship win over the cats since 1959. So, is this finally the end of Kilkenny’s reign and what their Kaiser, Brian Cody, will do is the topical question of the moment? On Sunday the Cork rebels continued their upward curve with a convincing win over Clare. With Cork and Galway now in the All-Ireland semi-finals the play offs rest between Waterford and Wexford and Tipperary and Clare. 
Next Sunday it is the Leinster football final between Dublin and Kildare and the Ulster final between Tyrone and Down. Dublin should win convincingly while Tyrone will probably cope with a surprising Down.

Joe Brolly and Boyle
Joe Brolly gave an amusing and colourful account of his trip to Boyle for the local GAA club’s fundraiser on Friday June 30th in last Sunday’s Independent Sport’s Section page 7.  Dodd’s Bar certainly got plenty of reference from Joe’s pen with his mention of their quality ‘stout’ and also quality music. What was something about his article were the little details almost forensic that Joe was able to remember subsequently when he sat down to write his column. Regarding St. Joseph’s hall; “….the parish hall, which looked like the Ballroom of Romance. It still had the old projector hatch and projector….. I was introduced to a chap who was to look after my Guinness needs…I thought when he shook hands with me that I wasn’t going to get my hand back….. “. At the end of the night with friends he retired to Dodd’s; “….which was packed. A beautiful traditional music session was in mid flow when we arrived. A concertina, a box, a piano key accordion, a guitar and a flute”. That was some totally accurate detail to remember without taking a note. Perhaps his legal training and practise had something to do with it.
Another traditional visitor to Boyle was also generous in his comments on Boyle i.e. Brendan Gleeson in an interview in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper. Brendan has been coming to Boyle for decades and has a number of good friends in the traditional music scene in the town. It started when Brendan was shown hospitality in The Ceili House Bar on a very early visit.
So with Chris O’Dowd and Paul Young and now the Smiths and company the town of Boyle is very much in the news regularly which has to be a good thing.

(Due to a history commitment which has a September deadline, requiring  whatever attention I can muster, this Blog will go into ‘recess’ in the interim).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Update 6th July

‘Six Degrees of Separation’
‘Six Degrees of Separation’ is a book which suggests that people are, at most, disconnected by six steps of separation and that they are ultimately connected in some way or other.
About nine months ago I got an email from a Mister John McLoughlin living abroad who had strong generational roots in Corrigeenroe. He was enquiring about connections of his who once lived there. They were musicians called the McNiffs. I was a little aware of the McNiffs because of their traditional music background. I made enquires here and there and after a short time was put in touch with someone who knew plenty about the McNiffs. I talked to that person and was delighted with the resulting information that I was able to pass on to John. Apart from the musicians I was told that a member of the McNiff family had been in the Irish army and had died young and little was known of him other than that he may have some connection to Strokestown. There was a suggestion that he had a son who had been the U.S. army and had died in the Korean War in the fifties. I got in touch with a local history contact in Strokestown as to the possibility of the Irish army having a base in Strokestown during ‘The Emergency’ or W.W. 2 as it was . The army idea for Strokestown was not valid but he then went up the local history knowledge chain to another Strokestown person in Dublin. Very shortly I was emailed information on the date and place of death-Roscommon town- of the senior McNiff. This was followed by more information on his son who had indeed been in an army but not of the U.S. but the British army and being killed in the Middle East in the late fifties. With this there was a reference to a brother, John, whose name really aroused my curiosity. Anyway I forwarded all this information to Mister McLoughlin and referred to the young brother John of the fifties and of the remote possibility of he having some connection to myself.  Very shortly after, I had a return email from John McLouglin to say he had, via facebook, discovered John on the outskirts of London and of my connection theory having some merit. The connection being that he was fellow classmate of my brother when attending Roscommon C.B.S. secondary school in the late fifties early sixties.
Subsequently John McNiff himself contacted me and we talked of my brother and his old classmates and I mentioned a connection with myself.  A few years ago my leaving cert. class held a re-union and I had done up a slight booklet for it. I had adapted an earlier article from a previous CBS publication as it related to the school and its environment of the time very well. It was written by John McNiff. He confirmed this and then I went further to say that I actually had a sports picture connecting both of us. He felt that this was very unlikely as he was not really a sporting person. I emailed the picture to him and ‘lo and behold’, as the saying goes, there was the senior McNiff with me a very junior member of a CBS athletic team.
So what started out as a search for people I knew nothing really of ended up with clear evidence of very tangible personal connections.   

Letters and Letter Writing.
I have on a few occasions referred to the now dying tradition of letter writing here. The Sunday Independent has a challenging competition running titled ‘The Letter I Wished I’d Sent’. They say that the response has been ‘overwhelming’. I can understand that as there are sure to be many who have that regret and now in a cleansing way they are doing it by being involved in the project.   

A writer, whose name I forget, once wrote and I paraphrase him here ‘I regret three of the letters I have written in my life and three hundred of those that I have not’. That was in a time when letter writing was the established practise and often reached art form. Senior people, and I feel if I have a constituency there are a few senior people present, will remember when the hand-written letter was a regular visitor to one’s house. Many people then took great care with their penmanship which was one of the relics of national school with its lined landscape copies. These were used to cement the correct range of letter heights. My mother was a lovely writer and took pride in it. I wish I had managed to retain samples of her letters for their penmanship as well as their sentiments. A number of family members emigrated to England and the regular letters from there were a treat for those of us at home. Being abroad or in boarding school the letter from home was an even greater prize.
It is much easier with today’s technology to respond almost immediately of course and that is a plus. No real need now for the oft used opening; “ I received your letter some time ago and I am sorry for not responding sooner. But you know me!”
The letters series in the Sunday Independent has been running now for four weeks. I have them ‘cut out’ for reading but I did read last Sunday’s page with a varied and impressive cross section of nine letters.  The subject matter ranged from a mother ‘lighting a candle’ for a life-saving gesture by a person on the evening of the Dublin Bombings in 1974. The second reflected on a lost friend from his student days of over fifty years ago. Inevitably there was the expression of love from a mother for her son going to Australia and of a mother to her estranged daughter seeking reconciliation on the birth of her first grand-child by that daughter.  The last one I will refer to is by a troubled young lodger who found solace in a home where the landlady became his surrogate mother. “You always showed me kindness, which unnerved me very much at the beginning” he wrote from a now concrete position in life.

Very recently I got a family letter from John McLoughlin (referred to above) that his Corrigeenroe grandad had written to his own daughter then in the U.S. in 1941. I hope to show you that letter next week as it too is worthy of regard.

The Nightmare Phone Call
The nightmare phone call for parents is of course that which relays that their child/boy/girl/adult has been in an accident. We see the subject of this in the news from time to time. One of the most tragic examples being from June 2015 with the balcony collapse at Berkeley California in which six Irish students lost their lives and a number more were very seriously injured. I am reminded of this in reading of the death of David Gavin aged 26 who lost his life in a drowning accident in Canada over the week-end. A group of Gaelic footballers interrupted their journey near a sports camp looking to have a freshening dip in a nearby river but apparently choose to dive or jump from a nearby bridge. David from Breaffy outside Castlebar drowned as a result. How indiscriminate is the incidence of such tragic heartbreaking consequences especially for parents and loved ones.    

Sports Review

Connacht Final Sunday
So for the second successive year we travel to Salthill for a Connacht Final against Galway. The memories of last year are pretty vivid in many of our minds. I remember it not for the quality of the football or the drawn result but for the rain and the gridlock. I was attached to the Roscommon 1966 All-Ireland winning under 21 team who had defeated Kildare for a celebratory day. They were being honoured by the Connacht Council by being introduced to the crowd and later treated at a reception in The Galway Bay Hotel. However the rain, the result and most especially the traffic dampened things somewhat. Hopefully next Sunday the sun will shine. Galway is a favourite city for me going back to student days. Having connections living almost beside Pearse Stadium helps in attending big games there with parking and tea and groceries at the games conclusion allowing the swollen impatient traffic to subside.
While Galway are clear favourites on Sunday next the Roscommon supporter always carries in his soul that exaggerated hope that this year things will be positive at least up to a point. Sometimes the gods smile and this is why we ensure being there when that happens. This season there have been a number of upsets probably the most relevant being that of Down’s victory over firm favourites Monaghan.
So the advice is make sure you allow serious time to make the venue well before the 2 o’clock start time thus eliminating the frantic trot towards the sound of the crowd telling you the game is in progress and Roscommon has scored a goal. I imagine there will be parking maps and recommendations towards avoiding the worst traffic jams like diverting from the Tuam Road five miles or so out at Loughgeorge  and crossing to a parallel N84 road via Corrundulla. This should bring you out near Menlo Park Hotel. (Check that out for yourself as I am not fully tuned into it).   
Very best wishes to the Roscommon team and management and particularly the Boyle members Enda and Donie Smith and Cian McKeon.

‘Super’ Sports Weekends.
On soccer Sunday broadcasting during the English football season they regularly announce ‘Super Sunday’ but with the GAA summer season we have regular ‘Super Week Ends’ of GAA games. Last week-end we had a poor Kerry v Cork and a good win for Galway over Wexford.
This week’s fixtures are as follows as I see them. On Sunday you have the provincial finals Galway v Roscommon and Clare V Cork in hurling both on RTE at 2 and 4.
On Saturday Cavan v Tipp./ Carlow v Leitrim/ Wexford v Monaghan/ Clare v Mayo @ 5/ Meath v Donegal/ and W’meath v Armagh @7 and in hurling Tipp. v Dublin @5 and Kilkenny v Waterford @7. I am not tuned into the television arrangements for Saturday. I presume they are mostly on sky which I don’t subscribe to………yet anyway. The deal between the GAA and Sky came in for a negative reaction at the Boyle GAA Night last Friday.
So if last Sunday was a long day on the couch watching sport this coming week-end will be pretty arduous as well.

The Road to Croker last Friday night.
Congratulations to all involved, especially James O’Boyle and Tom Morley, in a very entertaining night at St. Joseph’s Hall with the ‘seminar’ with ‘GAA decision makers, change makers and trouble makers’. While the star of the show was Joe Brolly all of the panellists played their part. The contributions of Brolly and Curran meant that Collie Moran, Prenty and Carney were more restricted in their contributions. I mentioned last week that the GAA is such a broad and organic organisation that it might merit an annual ‘summer school’ of its own. There would be plenty of subject matter and personalities to populate such an event. It was evident that the audience on Friday was diverse and very interested and entertained by the event.
The energy and sparkle of Brolly was a necessary catalyst and without him it would have been a very different event. Michael O’Brien has a very good summary account of the night in this week’s Roscommon Herald on page 25 with Supervalu Sam also on page 19. Michael quotes Brolly referring to the relevance of such pre-season tournaments like the McKenna Cup with “Even the McKennas don’t go to IT anymore!”  For Joe Brolly it seems “All the world’s a stage”.  


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Update 30th June

St. Joseph’s Hall this Friday at 8.30

This is a big night for Boyle GAA with its Road to Croker promotion. I am just referring to it here by way of reminder. In fairness it has hovered up a lot of publicity and a big crowd is expected. It should be an interesting night and I look forward to it.

The Poet Francis Ledwidge Centenary of His Death
Francis Edward Ledwidge was an Irish poet from Slane, County Meath. Sometimes known as the "poet of the blackbirds", he was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I in July 1917. He is part of a group of distinguished poets who are collectively called ‘The War Poets’. Perhaps his best known poem or the one which was referenced most often in school decades ago was his lament for Thomas MacDonagh one of the leaders of the Easter Rising.  

Lament for Thomas MacDonagh
By Francis Ledwidge

HE SHALL not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds,   
Above the wailing of the rain.      
Nor shall he know when loud March blows           
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,  
Blowing to flame the golden cup 
Of many an upset daffodil.  
But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor,      
And pastures poor with greedy weeds,         
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn,      
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.

Television Programmes of Note

The National Art Gallery Reconstruction
On Tuesday night RTE showed a documentary on the reconstruction and conservation of parts of the National Art Gallery on Merrion Square in Dublin. It was a very expensive venture costing €30 million. (Boyle Church might have cost €1 so in terms of scale of expenditure you can see from that comparative). I will not go into the for and against arguments of that as I haven’t the competence to do so.
Ireland has a fine National Art Gallery and is regarded highly internationally. Admission to it is free for the most part and I recommend that if you have not visited the gallery you should consider doing so. With Boyle having its own Arts Festival with its annual Arts exhibition, local and national, the people have been ‘exposed’ to art of a varied and high standard. The National Art Gallery is in a higher league of  course and has art treasures that would be welcome in the great art galleries of the world. There is a famous Vermeer of a ‘Lady Writing a Letter’ which I have on my fridge courtesy of a magnet. Then there is the famous Caravaggio painting, ‘The Taking of Christ’  ‘found’ not many years ago in a Jesuit House in Dublin. Then there is a huge painting depicting the marriage of Aoifa and Strongbow.
The reconstruction documentary highlighted the challenges in working on the gallery while keeping it open but now it a fitting environment for the display of collections of which the country can be proud.     

GAA Nua Mondays RTE 7.30 Injuries
I mentioned this last programme last week when the programme dealt with the role of technology in the preparation of teams for the Gaelic games of hurling and football. Indeed these advances play a part in all sports.  Last Monday evening it dealt with injuries and the role of team physiotherapist and of the medical treatment of injuries. The number of serious injuries to players playing Gaelic games is staggering. Vert few and very lucky players go through a career of top flight games without having to endure  serious injury. The usual ones are injuries to hamstrings, groin, ankles, shoulder and cartilage. The daddy of them all seems to be the legendary cruciate ligament tear or rupture. I have seen this at first hand and when it occurs it is traumatic. Oddly a good number of  years ago when I asked John Joe Nerney about injuries he did not dwell on them at all. “All we ever got was ‘sore knee’ ” he would venture.
There is an ongoing debate of course with regard to why there are so many injuries in today’s games. The basic suggestion is that top level players play too many games. Whatever research is being done in that regard is not coming up with clear-cut answers.
In the third episode, next Monday night All-Ireland winning captain Dara Ó Cinnéide, brings it all back home and takes a close look at the club scene, where he examines what practical impact science and technology, if any, is having on the most basic unit of GAA. He extends this into the primary university competition The Sigerson Cup.

Dublin looked imperious against Westmeath
A little into watching Dublin playing Westmeath in the Leinster Championship Semi-Final I was going to move away but then continued watching just to see how good Dublin
As a team they were pitch perfect. I know Westmeath were no match for them whatsoever but Dublin played with such an energy, drive, self-confidence that it was just fascinating to watch. I suppose the only perfect sporting analogy I can come up with is how Tiger Woods was playing for a time as he racked up his major wins.
They seem to have all the armoury of a super team. They have fitness, mobility, football ability, physicality, belief, skill. All the components are present. I know I am repeating what is regularly being said but the strength in depth is another huge part of this juggernaut of a team. As I was thinking of my ‘man of the match’ and favouring Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion chipped away with point after point and eventually he had to be the man. Then came the bench replacements with O’Gara and McManamon scoring goals with venomous shots. In this game I tuned into the play of two relative newcomers Lowndes and O’Callaghan. No wonder Dublin fans follow their team in such numbers to see and be dazzled by their play.
The one sour note is the current dispute with regard to boycotting interviews with T.V. reporters as a consequence of their alleged comments regarding Diarmuid Connolly following interference with a linesman during the Dublin v Carlow game. Apparently they blame these comments for influencing the suspension of Connolly. Dublin football should be bigger than that pettiness which is also practised by Mickey Harte and Tyrone. The Dublin manager Jim Gavin may feel that he is standing by his man but all he is doing right now is bringing more attention to the incident. A team with the capacity of the current Dublin side should be well fit to take the Connolly suspension in its stride rather than muddy the waters with pettiness.      
Dublin play an improving Kildare in the Leinster Final.

Galway and Leinster Hurling
Next week-end sees some more attracting games as Galway take on Wexford and Kilkenny play Limerick. It is the first time that Galway have payed Wexford in the Leinster since going there. So it is a novel encounter and will attract a big crowd. Wexford really enjoyed their win against Kilkenny and having beaten them they will feel that they can take on any other team. Also there is the lift that Davy Fitzgerald seems to give to teams. He certainly creates a ‘buzz’ and expectation around a team. Galway are tipped by a number of analysts to be real contenders this year and with convincing victories over Tipperary and Dublin they will want to continue their winning habit which I think they will.
On Saturday evening Limerick visit Nolan Park for a back-door tilt at Kilkenny. The Cats are not near the force they were some years ago and have certainly come back to the pack as it were. However I feel that they will take Limerick on Saturday evening. As I have said some time ago this summer’s hurling has a lot of possibilities and should be pretty engrossing.
One of the real surprises of the football campaign so far was last week-ends victory of Down over favourites Monaghan. Down have a great tradition but have dipped very low in recent times so it was a real achievement to come from such a low base to defeat favourites Monaghan. So it is Down who play Tyrone in the Ulster final.

The Lions v New Zealand.
I have only seen snippets of last Saturdays game. I did listen to it on radio as it happened. The All-Blacks were pretty imperious and their speed of thought and skill set is mesmerising. So the commentators are  predicting an even heavier defeat this coming Saturday morning. It is something for Peter O’Mahoney to have to go from the high of being captain last week to him not being in the panel on Saturday.
It is still something to remember that Ireland defeated the All Blacks in Chicago not too long ago. It seems as if the television recorders of that game are keeping a firm grip on it as I have seen little of it.

                                                                                                                Stories of the moment

The Jobstown Verdict
The not guilty verdict for the 6 defendants in the Jobstown Trial which has lasted for nine weeks. From a distance the verdict looks like a surprise. However for people who attend courts from time to time there is rarely certainty in cases. The classic film with this theme was ’12 Angry Men’ starring Henry Fonda and a stellar cast. This Jobstown trial was mired in political angles. Still it was a surprise that the jury took just three hours to reach a unanimous not guilty verdict.   

The Housing Mess
I imagine Simon Coveney is glad to be out of the Ministry with responsibility for trying to make a dent in housing disaster in all its manifestations. In a sense it is easy, like Mister Coveney did, to offer sunshine when ones tenure is likely to be short lived. In a sense he did a runner.

Refuse Charges
Just about a year or so ago we were wrestling with what was the best option in terms of which refuse company’s charges were best value. So it is back to the start line again. The only certainty in these things is that our charges are not going to decrease under new arrangements. Refuse charges could be another mini-water charges contest.

Italy and Migration
The flood of migration from Africa via the now failed state of Libya is possibly one of the greatest challenges of the coming decade for Europe.      

Congratulations to
My Fuerty neighbour Orla Leyden on being appointed Chairperson of Roscommon County Council. Orla is a real community activist with much ability and I wish her well.