Six Nations rugby pulsates with promise as cold weather snap looks imminent

I hope you are wrapped up well and fit for the rigours of the late January cold spell which we are having. As I write this column, it appears that this Thursday and Friday will be the crunch days when there could well be accumulated snow. All we can do is prepare ourselves, expect the worst and be glad if it doesn’t turn out as severe as has been forecast.

Last week Westmeath had another fine GAA win in the Allianz League, in which they beat Offaly, a long-time foe and not easily vanquished. There is a strong emerging feeling in Westmeath that they have the fire power this year to make inroads on the GAA scene, and let’s hope that it continues. In the meantime, well done to them. By the way, it was terrific to see the way Westmeath fought back. Ten minutes into the second half it looked like Westmeath were going to be obliterated. The score at that time was 11 to Offaly and a mere three points for Westmeath. But Westmeath really got into the game, they became dominant all over the pitch, and as I say they won in the end with a score of 13-12.

Equally, I was glad to see Monaghan beat Dublin. Yes I know we’ve been told it was only a very third rate Dublin team, but Monaghan’s win gives hope to us all for the future months.

There was a tight score between Mayo and Roscommon, 1-8 to 1-7. So much can be blamed on the truly dreadful weather which was backdrop to this match. And of course we’re not forgetting the great start Kerry made in seeing off Tyrone – two killer counties. All in all, the GAA results at the weekend were full of promise for the weeks and months ahead.

Good rugby results over last weekend, even though many of the Irish provincial teams did not have their key players as they were either resting, awaiting next weekend, or off training in Portugal. That brings me very neatly to the wonderful gilt-edged weekend to come in rugby. There are three notable matches all under the aegis of the Six Nations. We have Ireland versus England on Saturday. We have the women’s Six Nations on Friday and we have the under 20s – all pulsating with promise with wonderful games to come, and above all, all so available on TV and on practically every single radio station.

The Aviva Stadium will be heaving and there is no doubt that the enthusiasm of the crowd acts as a wonderful spur to the players.

I find the macho pirouetting of many of the participants in next weekend’s rugby rounds very amusing. For instance, Warren Gatland in Wales is full of gung-ho, throwing down the gauntlet to Ireland with a prediction that Wales will win the Six Nations this year. Equally other nations’ rugby notables are also dancing around praising themselves and their teams.

I don’t know about the readers, but for me I prefer the quiet style of Joe Schmidt who is at his job, training his guys and using the proper psychology, rather than parading himself with the others. Those ‘show-offs’ remind me of a bunch of lads in a primary schoolyard playing a game of conkers, full of brio and bravado. So let’s wait and see the real game. I for one have eased everything else out of my diary for the weekend because I want to really enjoy all that’s going to unfold before us. It’s like an advanced game of psychology and I have no doubt that the carry-on of the English and Welsh coaches does give some hope to their teams, but for me it just smacks of infantile carry-on.

My two older grandchildren, Luke in Athlone and Jennifer in Dublin, have embarked on transition year in their respective schools. I am delighted to see that each one of them seems to be following a good map, in that the courses are laid out for them and they will gain from the experience of going to firms or groups to test their ‘work skills’. Luke has started with his week in L.M. Ericsson. I understand this firm takes its duties seriously, and that the young women and men who go to Ericsson to partake of their transition year training will find a path laid out for them with good models of instruction and learning, and that they will leave at the end of their training week full of knowledge of how a big modern firm like Ericsson works and what going to work really means.

In Dublin, Jennifer, who has expressed a wish to go into politics (if you don’t mind! ) has written to her local TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor in Dun Laoghaire to request that she does a week’s transition year training with her. Mary replied very swiftly and graciously, and Jennifer is to begin her training there shortly. In numerous conversations I have explained to her that of course it’s great that she’s keenly interested in politics, but that you can’t just waltz into a career in politics – that you have to get your training for a career first and then work at a job before you perhaps decide that you will put your toe in the water in politics, at whatever level. However, they will both learn quickly I know, and I look forward to hearing their tales of the workplace.

Last weekend saw An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Davos talking about what the border in Ireland was like in the bad old days and saying that Britain had better come up to the mark and put forward a plan, otherwise it will be back to those dark days. Of course he was sprung upon by all quarters, and I couldn’t see why. Now it is not my job to justify the words of any Taoiseach – I’m long gone past that – but I did think that what he was saying was plain common sense and opening the eyes of everyone involved as to what would truly happen if the UK exits with no settlement on Brexit.

Of course, the hoo-ha of what happened the Taoiseach while he was abroad led me to think of various other times when different Taoisigh went abroad on momentous visits and in some cases lost touch with reality when they were there. There is a sense that, whether you’re in Davos or Dakota, you are not imbibing the fresh air of your own country and you somehow miss the tempo or the beat of what is going on back home. I remember so well when Charlie Haughey went to Japan, when he came back he was so full of the respect and so on that he had gained there that he immediately called a general election, which was not necessary and which ushered in our first term of a co-party government when we joined the Progressive Democrats. That whole story is for another day, but I only tell it to relate that a touch of unreality can creep into Irish leaders when they find themselves in, let’s say, an altered altitude or a more rarefied atmosphere than back home.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke

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