Inspiring Cambodian initiative devised by sisters as shop local spirit most prevalent

I hope some of you got to look at the wonderful games on TV over last weekend.

Now I know the Waterford versus Limerick All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday was the one that most people watched. Yes, I did look at it, but I gave much more attention to the camogie final on the Saturday between Kilkenny and Galway.

I know I have enthused in this column before about the skill and agility of the camogie players, but last Saturday’s game was really something to enjoy. I thought, how lucky I am to be able to be in my own warm home looking at such a game of Irish skill on TV. The two teams were closely matched, but Kilkenny with, I suppose, its back history of hurling in its genes, really stole the game in the end. Both teams played brilliantly and it was a wonderful display of young women playing the Irish game of camogie, a real Christmas treat.

There were many rugby games over the weekend as well, mostly the Heineken Cup, but they were not on TV, and whilst I listened to one of them on the radio, it’s not the same as when you can visually have the experience.

Munster and Leinster had two great wins. What a great pity that Connacht just came short of inflicting a terrific defeat on Racing 92. The score was Racing 26-Connacht 22. Connacht came very near to causing a massive upset in Paris.

Anyway, more to come in that field next weekend.

Next weekend we will have the All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Mayo. Oh, how I long for Mayo to inflict a defeat on Dublin and I so hope we’re not just afforded the ritual mauling by Dublin of their opponents. The real Christmas bonus for everyone would be if Mayo won it. Of course, Dublin would not be pleased, but that’s beside the point. I think it would be a marvellous Christmas upset for the GAA and for Dublin and a marvellous victory for Mayo. Dream on, you say!!

During last week, I was in conversation online with Niamh and Catherine, two of the daughters of John and Anne Cooney from Twyford, Baylin, Athlone. They have been teaching in Cambodia and have come up with a very fine idea of providing a free co-ed violence-prevention programme to 12-17 year old students in rural and urban Cambodian schools. They have set up a registered charity called SAME Cambodia with the idea that every cent raised will go straight to the initiative.

It’s a very fine idea, and talking to Catherine and Niamh and sharing online in their experiences, I can see how badly this is needed in Cambodia and how the devising of a suitable curriculum is so important to the young people in that country. I understand that this weekend in SuperValu on the Ballymahon Road, there will be collection buckets and explanations of the proposals for curriculum reform. In the midst of all the Christmas rush, I am sure that people will try to give a thought to those less-fortunate young people who would stand to gain very much if this curriculum reform could be implemented.

Here in Athlone, in the Luan Gallery, there is a marvellous exhibition of paintings, etchings and other creative works, all by local artists. Carmel Duffy, who does such a good job in running the gallery, has provided all who visit it in these pre-Christmas times with a wonderful display of the work of Athlone people and a chance to both enjoy the viewing and also to purchase if you see fit.

It’s truly a great exhibition and I would urge all who can to visit it.

The Mayor of Athlone has again put forward what I think is a fine idea, of a week of free parking for those who are busy doing their shopping locally. I am sure many will avail of it. Also in this vein, I would like to compliment the Athlone Advertiser on the big advertisement they put in every week urging people to shop in Athlone for Athlone products, showing quite clearly how much that will mean in monetary terms to the town of Athlone. What a good idea – and I am sure that many people are already doing it – but I think the message has really come home to us in this Christmas season that we can do so much by first of all shopping Irish, but most of all shopping local, in that way enabling hard-pressed businesses to keep afloat in these very difficult times.

Well done to the Athlone Advertiser for bringing this message so clearly to us each week.

I believe the crowds are out in full force in Athlone. That is good to hear. Of course, on the other hand, we have been told that if we want to keep our Christmas and New Year available and enjoyable for our families, that we should limit our contact with other people during these lead-up days. We are constantly being told that message, but it is no harm to keep repeating it again and again.

I think the advent of the vaccine for coronavirus, which we have been told about in detail now, is helping to lift the spirits of so many people. Yes, of course there will be further lockdowns, but the vista of conquering the pandemic is now open to us and the Government has laid out the pathway to the distribution of the appropriate vaccines. In the end, the distribution of the vaccine throughout the community will defeat the virus. There is no other way out of it, and I hope that all over Europe this advent of the vaccine will be felt in a beneficial way.

By the way, President Trump is still saying the election was stolen from him. There are crowds congregating every evening in Washington, protesting with the same message. It is remarkable to think that they are so gullible when the figures show that Joe Biden won, and won handsomely. I hope Trump is not carrying out irreparable damage to the American electoral system.

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

In the meantime, stay safe and look forward to a family gathering on Christmas Day.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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