Hello to all the Advertiser readers.
There have ben so many events on which we could talk over the last week, but to me there is one really big one, and I am sure many of the readers share it with me, and that is the Ireland/England rugby international last Saturday.
Oh, it was just mighty to beat England, and on home turf as well. The match was played out in the Aviva Stadium, and Ireland went into that match not with any great hopes. I was quite surprised on the Thursday’s Morning Ireland to hear Donal Lenihan, who is such an eminent rugby commentator, saying that no, he didn’t think Ireland could win and that they hadn’t great hopes.
Similarly, the sports pages of the newspapers were echoing that in the lead-up to Saturday. So when I sat down to look at the match, I wasn’t full of hope. But what a wonderful match it was. Ireland were really back in form, and as for England, they showed up so badly as a team. It was quite unbelievable to note that they were, so to speak, great champions two years ago.
As those who watched will know, Ireland had a good lead at half time. I was so fearful that they would fritter that lead away, as they had done some weeks ago when they were playing Scotland. But no, Ireland held on and played even better and got more tries. It was such a terrific game that I was filled with joy and exhilaration just looking at it.
Robbie Henshaw most deservedly got the ‘Man of the Match’ accolade. He was everywhere on the pitch, making the ground for the tries, weaving in and out, and above all raising all our hearts with his skill and dexterity. As for Johnny Sexton, he kicked every ball accurately and got himself out into the field playing as well. There was no holding back; he was there for Ireland and he played his heart out, as did all the Irish players.
When the match was over, and CJ Stander pulled himself to one side to have a little tear or two, I felt so sorry for him. He had taken the decision himself to go back to South Africa to be with his wife and children but he knew he had played his last game for Ireland, and what a game it was.
When the Irish line-up was announced, and I saw that at last there was a Connacht player on it, I was happy. It was of course Bundee Aki, who played a great game but then got himself a red card and was put off the field. That is the second occasion when he was playing at that level in rugby that he was booked for a misdemeanour. Of course I would have loved if there could have been another Connacht player, Jack Carty, but at least we have broken through to see Connacht listed among the provinces from which the players came.
Andy Farrell will be so pleased at the result and there is no doubt that it gave all of Ireland a boost.
Then of course, all last week at Cheltenham, we had the wonderful Rachael Blackmore. What a joy this young woman has brought to Irish people. Now I’m not a race-goer and I don’t follow races, but I thought I would like to have a bet on the Gold Cup where she was racing. So I telephoned a friend of mine who knows all about these things, and I put a modest bet on her. She came second, but I had put my bet for her to win. However, that didn’t matter, I just so gloried in her successes during the week.
Rachael seems such a modest, ordinary person, no puffed-up glory about herself. In fact, her mother went on Miriam O’Callaghan’s show on Sunday morning after 10am and she gave a wonderful interview too. She is a secondary school teacher and talked about teaching Paul Durcan’s poetry. So I knew that Rachael was brought up in a house with no notions but to work hard and go out and do her bit on the horses.
She was on Morning Ireland on Monday morning and gave such a good account of herself. She just wants to keep working at her profession and I noticed how natural and normal she seemed, in spite of all the glories which have been heaped upon her. She didn’t want to hear any talk of glass ceilings or any of that sort of ‘silly’ talk. She just wanted to get ahead and work hard at being a jockey.
Before all of that, it was very good to see Mairead McGuinness, the European Commissioner, being interviewed on Sunday morning on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. He always does terrific interviews. Mairead spoke so clearly and with great transparency, and there is no doubt she gave a very good account of herself and the work she is doing in Europe.
After all of that heady material, we have to come back to normality here in Ireland. Yes, there are worrying trends in the rise in the notified coronavirus numbers each day, and the ongoing attempt by the medical advisors to rein it in and to give us some relief from the constant worry.
All over Europe, there is a new wave of the pandemic, and of course the fear here is that we are about to enter into that new wave as well, in spite of everyone’s efforts, those in the medical field and the citizens of Ireland, who have really tried to limit activities and to keep Ireland safe.
We will see what this week brings, but it is becoming clear that when April 5 comes there will be very little let-up in our stringent conditions. Meanwhile, the setback with the vaccines has been cleared and Ireland is powering ahead with that activity. I am so glad that on April 1 I will be getting my second jab of the Pfizer vaccine, and I look forward to that and to the sense of freedom which I know I will have when I have come home from the doctor.
Meanwhile, I have been reading and writing and reflecting, and it is so easy to do all of that in the glorious weather we have been having. Now I know by the time the readers will be reading this column the weather will have changed, but we have been so fortunate to have had such a glorious continuous two weeks-plus in which every day was dry and most days were sunny. It has lightened the load and made everyone feel better.
So readers, for the moment, stay at home where you are safe, and look forward to the longer days. Next weekend we have the change in the clocks again, so don’t forget that task. In the meantime, keep your heart up.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.
Slán go fóill.