Let us begin with rugby news and results this last weekend, some good, some bad.
First of all, we had Leinster in the Aviva Stadium with a wonderful win against Scarlets. That was on Saturday last and, because I was in Ballybunion, I didn’t see it on any station, but I did see an hour of it that night on TG4 and it made, of course, wonderful viewing.
For us here in Athlone our positive note was the marvellous game played by Robbie Henshaw. Johnny Sexton spoke strongly in his praise of Henshaw’s wonderful efforts in that game.
All the rugby commentators thought it was as if he had never been away with an injury, he slipped so seamlessly into the role of top player. I was truly delighted to see, on that shortened TG4 programme, the impressive display that Robbie Henshaw put forward.
I never doubted him, but it must be difficult to come back after such a long spell off with a shoulder injury, and to slot into the team as if you had never been away.
Then, on last Sunday, we had the Munster match against Racing. The final score belied the very bad game that Munster played.
In the first 20 minutes of that match Racing scored three tries. Yes, after half time, Munster came back, but it was too late to make up the huge scores which had mounted up against them.
So, the fairytale of Leinster versus Munster in the final of the European Championship Cup will not come to pass. Instead we will have Leinster in May going off to Bilbao to meet Racing.
Let us hope that we do not build up the Leinster team too much in that they then feel they will win easily. Seeing how Racing could move up and score so easily last weekend, they will be a hard nut to crack.
I am sure Leinster will take that all into account. I understand that those who were planning to go to Bilbao will find it all very expensive and yet, I am sure, some strong rugby supporters will pay the price and go so that they can cheer on Leinster.
If everything goes according to plan there will be a successful meeting in May between the US President, Donald Trump, and the North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-un.
North and South Korea are in the final stages of preparation for a summit between Kim Jong-un and the South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, who are to meet in the border truce village of Panmunjom on Friday next. Let’s hope that goes well and, following on from that then, there will be the meeting between the Leaders of the US and North Korea.
Minister Charlie Flannagan was in Athlone last Friday to launch the first stage of the much-needed extra space at the Garda barracks.
Well over a decade ago, when Michael McDowell was Minister for Justice and I was Leader of the Seanad, he came into the Seanad one day with great news, he thought, for me.
He said he had been down in Athlone the day before and he had been shown lovely grounds which were in public ownership and which could be used for the Garda barracks. These grounds, he said, were beside the Department of Education.
I nearly freaked out, as I knew the grounds well and they were about two to three miles from the town centre. I remember saying to him “whoever was telling you that was just trying to offload that parcel of ground. The Garda Barracks, as of now, is centrally located in the middle of Athlone and that is where it should stay. How are the public to get out if they want to visit the Garda Barracks on any errand whatsoever?”
He saw the light, and that plan was dropped. In the meantime, another Government Department, Social Welfare, moved out of their space as next door neighbours to the Garda barracks, which allowed for a takeover and, hopefully now, a good construction job will give the Athlone Garda Barracks the vital space that it needs.
We had a few beautiful days last week, but this week again back to cold, windy and wet weather. And yet, spring has come. I have a clear example of this outside my own back door. Up in the eaves of the roof, outside the backdoor, an enterprising bird has built a lovely nest, with three little eggs in it. I was paying great attention, looking out the window, and watching.
The mother bird was very attentive, sitting on the eggs and, from time to time, a much bigger bird (I presume father bird ) would arrive with worms for the hatching mother to keep up her strength as she did her job.
Then, lo and behold, we could see the little small beaks as the birds unfolded and both dad and mam were coming to and fro with worms to put into their little wide open, eager beaks. It was such an example of spring and of the future as they all nestled together in the tiny, safe space they had built themselves.
Now, I notice today, that mamma bird seems to be gone and dadda bird is busy ferrying the food over and back and I see the three little eager beaks looking out for him. I’ve been told that the baby birds will, very quickly, fly their nest too, so I hope all will be well and that they will be able to do so.
For the moment, they have given me great joy and joy too to James and Scott who were in a few days ago to see me and who observed much of this from the living-room window.
Imagine! Life is wonderful, right outside your own back door.
That’s my lot for now.
Hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,