Sporting feats a source of national pride as students return en masse to school

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

Oh, so much has happened in the last four or five days that it is difficult to pick where to begin. So I’m going to begin again with Rachael Blackmore. Now I can hear some of the readers saying “Oh, she told us all about her last week”, but if I did, she had not triumphed at Aintree as she did last Saturday. Such excitement and what a wonderful race, which I followed so closely.

I’ll tell you why - before the race began, I had a call from my son Aengus who said “Would you be interested in putting a bet on Rachael Blackmore?” Now, as the readers know, I placed a bet last week and lost, but nothing would deter me but do it again, so I put on €5 each way on her to win on Minella Times, and then settled down to watch the race.

In the beginning, I thought she hadn’t a chance but, bit by bit, she rode that horse so magnificently that you hardly registered that she was moving up, up and up, and then of course to win. I smiled when I saw the headline on one of the Sunday papers in which she said “I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human”, when someone had persisted in asking her about the glass ceiling and some of those other quite pointless remarks. It summed up what she must be feeling. There was a lovely picture in one of the Monday morning papers of her mother and father with their dog, all smiling and just so delighted with themselves. I got my winnings from Aengus later that evening, and that will be the end of me because I’m not really a betting person, but I so enjoyed watching that race.

We had barely recovered from that when we had the women’s Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Wales, which Ireland won 45-0. What a match! And what wonderful players. I would pick out two of them - Hannah Tyrrell, who went on to get ‘Player of the match’, and Beibhinn Parsons from Ballinasloe. The whole 15 were fabulous players, but these two women really shone. The speed at which Beibhinn and Hannah can traverse the pitch and win their tries is phenomenal.

As I am compiling this piece, it is not yet clear if France will be allowed to visit Ireland next Saturday to play a further match in this Six Nations. There are extensive consultations going on between the Department of Sport and the Departments of Health and Foreign Affairs, but I do hope it works out and that we will have another thumping match next Saturday. Now, France will be the ones to beat but I think this Irish team have it in them to beat anyone.

Then we had some wonderful Irish rowing in the European Championships, which were held in Varese, Italy. Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy won the gold medal to add to the World Championship gold they won in 2019. The women’s four came from a slow start in their final to edge out Britain for the silver medal behind the gold-winning Dutch boat. It was all shown so very graphically on the BBC, and I had the great joy of hearing the almost disbelief in the British commentator as she was relaying the news of the Irish wins. It all looks well for the Tokyo Games ahead.

We mustn’t forget the most important event of recent days, in that on Monday all children went back to school in Ireland. Over a million are back learning, and by all accounts enjoying it. We all have to keep our fingers crossed and say a fervent prayer that this will continue and that there will be no outbreak to act as a deterrent to full-blown education again for Ireland’s young people.

Good luck to them all.

And back to Iarnród Enda again. I know we spoke of it last week, but on Monday night of this week there was a marvellous half hour of Enda on his bike between Westport, Mulranny, Newport and Achill, talking to people along the way and in general re-igniting in me all the wonderful memories I had of a lovely holiday when Ann, Anita and myself went to Mulranny some years ago. We were both widows, Ann and I, and Anita came with us and we stayed in the Mulranny House Hotel, that gorgeous hotel which had been built all those years ago and has now been reconstructed and reinvigorated and ready for, hopefully, Irish or indeed any visitors this year again.

Anita used to hire a bike and off she would go every day while Ann and I followed on by car, visiting Newport and Achill Island, the wonderful strands there and the scenery almost overwhelming. We were so lucky the weather was fine and we had a wonderful four or five days.

My wish is that we might go back again. Enda told a very wonderful tale, when he was off the bike, of how Arthur Balfour, Chief Secretary to Ireland from 1887 to 1891, wanted that rail line to continue and to be made stronger and better. It’s now a wonderful greenway and serving, in a new and economic way, all the people it had previously served when 1,000 men toiled to build that railway.

Enda is made for the part, all dishevelled hair and full of the joys of cycling among his native terrain.

There was a wonderful rugby match on Saturday between Leinster and Exeter in their quest for the Challenge Cup. It was on Sky Sports so I couldn’t get it, but I listened to it on the radio which was very exciting. Within ten minutes Leinster were down 14 points, but they fought back and the end result was Leinster won out over Exeter by over 9 points.

Then on Saturday also, we had the announcement of Trinity’s first female Provost, Professor Linda Doyle, who won the election. Her aim is to fully reopen Trinity. She and her family will be living in the most prestigious address in Dublin, No. 1 Grafton Street. The Provost’s House is absolutely beautiful. If you come down Grafton Street and before you approach the main gate into Trinity, on the right-hand side there’s another gate and there is the entrance to the house of the Provost. She will be installed for ten years, and I know by what she has said and her general mien that she will be a great success.

There are already two women in charge of universities: Professor Kerstin Mey in the University of Limerick, and Professor Eeva Leinonen who will be the next president – imagine – of Maynooth College. Certainly times are a-changing.

We have had the timely warning of the acting chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, when he told us all to stay cautious and not to take any unnecessary risks with the gradual opening up of society here in Ireland. We would do well to pay attention to him.

So again, I will end my column by saying: stay at home if possible, and stay safe.

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

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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