Reflecting and looking forward

Well, what a packed week we have had, and more to come.

Firstly, I want to tell you about a lovely event I went to last Sunday night at the Thomastown Golf Society. Thomastown is half way between Athlone and Ballinasloe on the old Galway Road, and there is a small golf society there which each year runs a golf competition for a beautiful silver cup and prizes, in memory of the late Brian Lenihan (snr ). Each year they invite me to go and present the prizes, and it is for me one of the highlights of the August holiday month.

I always think of all the places Brian went, the people he saw, the intense negotiations he had in his position as tánaiste, and of all the myriad events which crowded his life. It is so fitting that it is here in this remote south Roscommon/east Galway area that he is remembered the fondest and the longest.

We had a wonderful hour of company, fun, and enjoyment, and long may this golf society last.

Yes, the races in Kilbeggan were great. It rained constantly, but we stayed indoors in the lunch room/lounge and one of our trio went out and put the bets on each race. I met so many people I knew and had such an enjoyable time, and even though I placed a bet on five of the six races I only lost €12, which for me is a win compared to other years. Kilbeggan Races is an August event also always to be remembered and enjoyed.

Before we went to Kilbeggan, there was the friendly Italy v Ireland rugby match, of which I managed to see most before we took off for the racing. Joe Schmidt was trying out some debutants from whom he would make some of his choices for the World Cup, so in that sense for some players it was important. The whole match was a wonderful Joey Carbery event; he played brilliantly until he had his injury.

Now, we don’t know how bad the injury is; this week and next week will tell that tale. But he is such a brilliant player. I was delighted to see Jack Carty called on from the bench too, and he had a good half hour’s play, solid in all spheres.

We were lucky that at the races they had two big TVs in the lunch room, one showing the ongoing race and another huge TV showing the Mayo versus Dublin match, so we didn’t miss anything.

Mayo played with inspiration and verve in the first half, and indeed led at half-time. But of course that was just the prelude to the unleashing of Dublin in the second half. Mayo were spent with their first-half efforts and simply were no match for Dublin in full play.

So the cry goes up: “The drive for five!” I ask, for how long can this insanity go on, that all roads lead to Croke Park, and all roads will lead to defeat for any team that dares to confront Dublin?

It is for wiser heads in the GAA to work that one out, but something quite simply must be done if there is to be a continuation of the huge interest in GAA in the provinces and in the counties of Ireland – outside Dublin.

On Sunday we had the match between Kerry and Tyrone. Tyrone put up a great fight for the first half, but were completely spun out as Kerry unleashed their ferocity in the second half. So we will now see what will be the shoot-out between Kerry and Dublin.

My heart goes out to Mayo: such valour, such pluck, such resilience, such manhood, so strongly expressed, and such determination over so many years. We in Ireland owe the Mayo team a huge vote of thanks for their years of strong commitment to the GAA.

Next weekend, of course, will be the hurling final, and this week on Tuesday we had a terrific documentary on the game of hurling on RTÉ1 – a really thoroughly researched and presented piece of TV work. Well done to RTÉ.

But all these achievements pale in front of the huge event of this week, which was the issuing of the Leaving Certificate results on Tuesday.

All over Ireland, in every village, town and city, thousands of young men and women went to their local school or went online to get their Leaving Certificate results. I say to everyone, to parents and young people, yes it is an important step in their growing up period, but it is simply not the end of the world. In fact, it is just the very beginning of your emergence as an adult into a world of decision-making, a world of choice. It is all before you, and if the results this week did not measure up to what you wanted, well then there are so many avenues, so many roads you can traverse to get to where you want to go. So please remember that. Take all the advice which is available to you, and talk it all over with your parents and teachers, and good luck to each and every one of you.

Amidst all the euphoria of the events which I’ve described this week, I cannot let the column go without reflecting on the two young women who this week have overlaid us all with sorrow and reflection: the young 15-year-old girl in Malaysia, Nóra Quoirin, and the young Jessica Moore from Loughrea, on the cusp this week of getting her Leaving Cert results, both of whom have so sadly died. Oh, my heart goes out to the parents, families, and friends of both these young people, who had life ahead of them with all of its twists and turns, and now no more.

Reflection is good for all of us. It is important to remember that in the midst of the joy and exuberance of life, there are these pockets of tremendous sorrow and longing, and that life is made up of such a myriad of such experiences and filled with both joy and sorrow.

That’s my lot for this week. Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke

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