National Ploughing Championships a triumph as Ireland start World Cup in comprehensive style

I wonder who were the more satisfied people last weekend: was it the Irish rugby team after their win in Japan, or Anna May McHugh and the organisers of the National Ploughing Championships?

We’ll start with the latter. I know Anna May McHugh very well. She is a hard-working, earnest woman, who has built up the Irish Ploughing Championships into what is now Europe’s greatest autumn outdoor event.

For so many years she was beset by rain and storm and wind for the three days, and still she kept a brave face forward, wearing the nice clothes and the cheerful smile, and they worked through it. But this year they had for the first time, you would think, specially designed sunshine, morning to night, blue skies, great crowds and a wonderful Ploughing Association annual event.

I am so happy for Anna May and her small team, because I know how much they worry, plan and work towards what is, every year, a great event. I am delighted so many people enjoyed it.

We simply have to move on to the Ireland versus Scotland match last weekend. I was up, like many others I would think, ready for 7.45am on RTÉ2. Wasn’t it great to get it so well presented to us? As the match went on, it was clear it was going to be an Irish success.

Imagine the result: Ireland 27, Scotland 3. And this was all on the back of Scotland boasting all week that they were ready to take on Ireland, who had slipped down in the rankings. They had their supporters all warmed up for what they thought was going to be a triumph of rugby.

Not so: Ireland showed that they had really got their mojo back. They were in terrific form, with great communication among the players, even on the pitch, and in general a euphoric hour and a half of watching and listening to rugby early on a Sunday morning.

Really, you wouldn’t know how to pick out a winner from the Irish team, because they were all terrific. But for me, Ian Henderson was the winner; I had not particularly rated him before this, but there on the pitch he was the motivator, the mover, the worker. As they all were, and chief among them was Rory Best. I’d say he refused Joe Schmidt to leave the pitch as Joe was taking off so many of the good players to have them ready for the next match.

No, Rory Best knew he was at his best, and he stayed put on the pitch and played, and played and played. Ireland got the first score and that is important in any game, and once I saw the seven points up I was satisfied. It was a very fast game early on, and everything was played at that pace right throughout. The Irish team simply did not allow the Scots to make a score.

Joe Schmidt must be vastly relieved. For him coming to the end of his Irish career, it was a wonderful outing. I hope the team does not get too complacent and think “Wow, we have it made!” Not at all: they play Japan next Saturday, and again all over Ireland people will be up early, watching their screens and cheering Ireland on.

Well done Ireland, you really did us proud and I am sure that regained sense of confidence will carry you on through next Saturday as well.

I had a busy week of it this week. On Monday, the combined retail banks launched an anti-fraud campaign particularly for older people, and they asked me to become involved.

I was glad to do so, because so many people tell me their stories of being telephoned by somebody pretending to be important and asking for their bank details so that they will be able to send them money which is due to them. And of course, that is the fraudsters at work. There was a great crowd at the launch in Dublin, and I was glad to have my say.

Recently I was telephoned by a guy with a very authoritative accent saying he was from Revenue and they were sending me a hefty sum where I had overpaid last year. Even I, at that point, was beginning to feel great.

Then he said, “Give me your bank details and I’ll send it to you directly today.” I said, “Oh no, send it in the post, I like to see the postman coming.” And then he said, “No, I’ll send it today and you can spend it today.” The warning signs flashed up in my mind, and I just put down the phone.

So beware of fraudsters on the door, on your phone, or on your email. Give no private details of any kind to anyone – keep them to yourself to use if and when you go into the bank. It is a very important message, and I was glad to be part of driving it home in particular to vulnerable older people. Do not be fooled, do not be taken in by the fraudsters, they are after your money!

Next weekend there is to be a great event in Sligo, and I was very pleased to be asked to contribute to it. The Sligo organisation of Fianna Fáil are celebrating 50 years since Ray Mac Sharry entered Dáil Éireann. In between, as you know, he has been Minister for Finance, European Commissioner and a TD serving the Sligo constituency over all those years.

The organisation and his family are running a special event called ‘This is Your Life’.

Some readers will remember the old Eamonn Andrews show. Tommie Gorman is playing Eamonn Andrews and presenting Ray MacSharry with the Red Book of accolades from people who knew him during his working life in Ireland and in Europe. It will be a terrific event, and I am looking forward to meeting people like Rory O’Hanlon after all those years. Ray has been a marvellous public servant, and he fully deserves an accolade such as this. I am so happy for him, and I am sure everything will go off swimmingly, particularly with somebody like Tommie Gorman in charge of proceedings.

Well, Brexit day is coming closer, and I am sure many of the readers will feel as I do, that something is stirring, which I hope will lead to an equitable arrangement. I don’t know how strong it is, but definitely there appear to be some talks afoot which could lead to a proper settlement.

It would be truly wonderful if that is so, and I hope the combined brains of the Civil Service and the politicians – impetuous and all as Boris Johnson is – will lead to something proper and lasting.

Ireland needs that sense of finality and security. After all, October 31 is not far away.

Finally, and to end on a hopeful note, I am in admiration of all the young people who went out and marched, talked and shouted last weekend in support of the climate strike. Of course we must heed them; they are our future and they want to ensure that we, the adults, take the proper steps and put in place policies which will save the future for young people and for everyone on this earth.

Well done to all who marched for their spirit, stamina and courage, and the schools who encouraged them to do so. After all, education is about more than just books and learning; it is about real life, and those young people who took to the streets last week were making quite clear that they have got the message and that we adults should get the message too.

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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