I wonder can the readers remember Japan, and all the disappointment and angst everyone suffered during those matches?? It seems like a bad dream now.
Why? Because last weekend, we had a brilliant display of rugby across all the provinces. And remember, the players who shone last weekend in the provinces were the players who played for Ireland in Japan during those recent disappointing outings.
Look, it just shows you the power of sport, the power of get-up-and-go after intense disappointments, the power of another game, another try, another chance. Well, all of that was so fully exploited and manifested last weekend – I think most of all in Connacht.
They had been murdered by Leinster the weekend before, and yet here they were in their own home ground in Galway with a capacity, adoring audience shouting them on, willing them to do better. And of course they did, and they won outstandingly against Montpellier (one of the best-regarded teams ). The final score was 23-20. Such spirit, such enthusiasm.
But let’s go back to the beginning. On Saturday morning, on Virgin Media One, we had Ulster versus Bath. What a game, and what a result. Right throughout Saturday we had a clean provincial sweep, where each of the Irish provinces beat whoever they met in the Heineken Champions Cup. It was a great weekend for rugby and for lifting the spirits – not just of the followers, but of course of the players themselves.
It is easy for us, as viewers, to forget how bruised and broken the Irish team must have felt as they returned, beaten and dispirited, to Ireland after the travails of the World Cup. And yet within a week, these same guys were up and at it again, if not sweeping all before them, still holding on doggedly to record wins in each of the games. It was a marvellous weekend of rugby, and one to lift the hearts of everyone who follows it.
Caolin Blade was the star on this occasion for Connacht. Next week is their big game against Toulouse, and fingers crossed they will keep their spirit and optimism going until then.
Of course, we must also look at Monday night’s soccer international on, Ireland versus Denmark. There was such a great hype in the lead-up to it; every time you turned on the radio or the TV, someone was talking about the match. I simply don’t know how the players and the manager kept their heads intact.
Ireland had to win in order to get a passage through to the next stage in Euro 2020. In the event, Ireland played the best game of soccer they had played for a long time, the result being Denmark 1, Ireland 1. But we needed to get another goal in order to qualify.
Fair dues to the soccer team, they played their hearts out and they cannot be faulted in any aspect of the game. Apparently a lot depends now on the games coming up in the next week or so, to see if Ireland can get through on play-off.
I don’t profess to know a lot about soccer, but I was heartened by the Irish team on Monday night. Mick McCarthy is a great manager and he has certainly brought out the very best in the Irish team.
I was brought up on soccer, in that my brother Brian Lenihan Sr (RIP ) was a soccer international and played for Ireland on three separate occasions. I treasure the green velvet cap he won. Gentex soccer team, where he learned his game, and Athlone Town have always kept the voice and name of soccer alive.
And yet, rugby excites me more, because of course I have the happy memories of my lovely late Enda who for 20 years was Hon Sec of the then Athlone Rugby Club. So these memories linger and last.
I believe Joe Schmidt’s book will be out in the next week or two, in time for the Christmas market, and I am sure it will be a winner. Perhaps he will unveil a lot of the mystery surrounding the ups and downs of Irish rugby.
Feargal and Maeve were down last weekend and it’s always great to see them. We have intense conversations about children, about sport, about books, about politics, about life, and so it was last weekend.
Last Friday, the young people of Ireland had their opportunity in the Dáil to lay out their plan for climate action. It was great to see the serried rows of the young attendees as they prepared their case and as their leader in each group stood up to give the recommendation.
I was very disappointed that, while RTE2 had it from 10am to 10.30, when the young people were gathering and coming into the Dáil, it then went off coverage for hours. I would love to have seen the young people argue among themselves as they endeavoured to put their case together. That would have been the real material stuff.
However, it all reconvened again when we saw the earnest way in which they had assembled their facts and put them forward. They then presented them to Richard Bruton, who did his very best to be open and welcoming to the young people and their recommendations. This is in the face of the head young man who said “the Government have done nothing” right up into Richard Bruton’s face. To give him his due, the Minister didn’t even blink, but took it all in good form.
I was glad that the day went well for the young people. There was no sense whatsoever of patronisation or talking down to them; in fact there was a full sense that they were proper participants in a very serious discussion, gathering their information and giving it to those who should be interpreting it and putting it into action.
The Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl was in great form as he led the debate. I smiled when I saw two young people leading him into the chamber, as the two ushers do each day. It conveyed such a powerful message.
Next Sunday, I have been invited to the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon to be a guest speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation. They have had great success in Mayo with a huge voluntary effort to build their now unveiled hospice, and now they are going ahead with the same effort in Roscommon.
I am looking forward to the event and to meeting all the powerful women who give the impetus to this wonderful voluntary event in the West of Ireland, showing what exactly what can be done by the collective will of people.
As I compile this, the weather has got somewhat milder. A bit different from the minus 5 that we had over last weekend!
That’s my lot for this week. Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go fóill.