Well, what a weekend of rugby we have just had. I do not think anyone who watched it will ever forget Johnny Sexton and, in the dying minutes of the game, the wonderful drop goal he executed.
I gave the matter a lot of thought afterwards and it struck me that there are lessons to be learned from that coup which he did for Ireland. The lesson is one of sticking to a task in the face of adversity and having courage. Now, I know it was a full team effort, but nobody could have envisaged that Johnny Sexton would get that drop goal through, and he did.
In a way, it reminded me, historically, of Sergeant Custume guarding the Shannon on the bridge of Athlone, and the brave Horatius on the Tiber river guarding Rome from the enemy. What courage, what adversity. Well done Ireland, well done Johnny Sexton, and there will always now and in future be a ‘Johnny Sexton moment’, but nothing will ever compete with the real thing.
The U20 team put up a good fight, but to no avail. The women’s team were soundly beaten, but I understand there are a lot of new young women on the team and, hopefully, they are starting a new journey. We will see some of the results of it, if not this year then certainly next year.
Now, how did the GAA games go? Well, I believe there were 30 GAA Allianz League games between football and hurling over the weekend. Westmeath were against Armagh down in Mullingar and they had a good game, but Armagh carried away the spoils, whereas Roscommon won in their division. So, we will be watching all of those with great interest.
To continue with the GAA theme, my granddaughter, Sarah O’Rourke, who is just 13, was playing for St Brigid’s representing Roscommon last Sunday. They won their final against Clan na nGael and qualified for the All-Ireland Junior GAA final in May or June of this year. I was out there on Sunday evening when she returned victorious and there was huge excitement because of the win. So, well done to St Brigid’s, Roscommon and, of course, to Sarah.
In London, Brexit rumbles on, with every day presenting a new threat against Theresa May from all the Brexiteers who feel she is not putting in enough effort. Of course, there is pressure from her own cabinet as well, half of whom, led by the chancellor, want to give up on Brexit and to stay, more or less, in Europe. The other half want out of Europe, of course. I am really beginning to feel sorry for her. It is very difficult for her to exact control when she has such a divided cabinet in front of her.
The issue at the moment is whether the UK should stay in the Customs Union. Amber Rudd, the home affairs secretary, whom I saw on Andrew Marr last Sunday, supports the remain campaign. She said we could have a Customs Union partnership which, when you tease it out, does not seem much different from the Customs Union! So, the battle rages on.
The only fact that is keeping Theresa May’s opponents in check is the fear of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn coming in as the new government in the UK if there was a general election. It is keeping their tongue bridled, but for how long?
The whole debate about rural Ireland versus city life is now hotting up again. Why? The Government is debating their National Plan for the country and the capital monies which they will put with it. There was a huge meeting in the Hodson Bay Hotel, well in excess of 400 people attended, on Monday night last, where the pros of rural life were fully debated. Post offices, pubs, churches, priests, rural transport - all of the issues were, with great vigour, debated. However, in the end there was just general agreement that not enough attention is paid to rural Ireland.
Sometimes I think very strongly like that too. Then I wonder, how many of the people who are protesting go to their local post office to buy stamps, to post a parcel, or for any of their necessary dealings in everyday life? That is necessary if we are to keep them alive and functioning.
Allied to this is the whole issue of Athlone becoming a city. I talked about this some time ago in this column and about the high-powered committee which had been set up under the chairmanship of John O’Sullivan of the Hodson Bay/Galway Bay/Sheraton hotel group, and how they had made a very strong submission that Athlone, being the centre of Ireland, would provide a natural hub with its third level college, its Army HQ and its IDA HQ, and all of the other attributes which make it a thriving large town.
The Government aims to have its National Plan published in about two to three weeks. They have had a framework plan for a couple of weeks. I believe there were hundreds of submissions. These are now being absorbed. Hopefully some of them will find their way into the plan.
What about Catalonia? In previous columns, I spoke a lot about Catalonia and it seems that it is still trundling along without reaching any conclusion. Efforts are continuing to have Mr Carles Puigdamont become the new Catalan President in a symbolic role, even though he is in a self-imposed exile in Belgium and cannot return because he will immediately have to face the charges against him. The Consitutional Court has said he cannot be sworn in as a president from afar, and you can fully understand that. It seems that the Madrid government is following this through very carefully with its governing Popular Party. Hopefully it will, in the end, come to a fruitful conclusion.
Spring has sprung - or has it? A few brave snowdrops are blooming plus a few demure daffodils, but the intense cold will surely drive them underground again, if we do not see a lifting of the temperatures.
That is my lot for now.
Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,