Emotion laden week to endure as surreal Leaving certificate experience awaits students

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

Well, we’ve had a few wonderful days of good weather, including the bank holiday weekend. I hope all of the readers had the same good fortune as we had here in Athlone. We have read about and seen the opening up of the lockdown and what it has meant. Now I know there were two earlier nights in the weekend when apparently a group of disturbers were determined that they would wreck the peace of the lovely weekend but thankfully the firm action of the Gardaí, and in general the determination by many others that the weekend would be enjoyable, left them as a rebel group without a cause.

I was out with my son Aengus on Sunday for a lovely barbecue in perfect weather. It was great to see them all together again, having last weekend met with Feargal and Maeve and their family in Dublin. So I feel I am up to date on all the activities, though I guess there are a lot of activities which the young people don’t tell their Grandma about!

Matches, matches, and so much to look forward to and try to get the time to absorb. On Saturday last, the women’s national hockey team lost 4-0 to the Netherlands, who are of course the champions of women’s hockey. Then on the bank holiday Monday, we had Ireland versus Scotland in the hockey, which Ireland won 1-0. It was a close, very hard-fought match, and I am glad that the Irish team won out in the end.

They have another match on Wednesday this week against Spain, so by the time the readers get to read this, that match will be over. But I hope to look at it, and I am hopeful that Ireland will do well there as well.

Then last Friday night we had Connacht in their home ground in Galway against Ospreys, in which Connacht ended the season on a high, the score being Connacht 26, Ospreys 19. It is amazing to realise that all those scores were in the first half. Now it is good that Connacht ended the season with glory, but it is of no avail to them in the working out of the Rainbow Cup in the PRO14. It was good to see Jack Carty playing again; he had a marvellous run at it on Friday night. For the last three outings he has been on the bench, I suppose nursing an injury, but he came on in the match against Ospreys in full throttle and played magnificently. Likewise, Bundee Aki – I just hope he doesn’t get an injury before they depart on the Lions tour.

Then over the weekend, we had all the Allianz matches, both hurling and football. Of course within the next week or two there will be some spectators allowed including, I understand, next Friday night at the RDS in Dublin where there will be a limited number. It will be grand to see spectators back again. The matches lack that oomph that the clapping and shouting from attendees offers, but of course it could not be allowed during the lockdown. So I hope we will have some enjoyable and rowdy times ahead at all the matches shortly.

This Thursday, June 10, (the day this newspaper comes out ) is the tenth anniversary of Brian Lenihan (Jr )’s death. Miriam O’Callaghan had a lovely programme on Sunday morning when she interviewed a great friend of Brian’s, Rory Montgomery, who had been in college with him. I had got notice that the radio programme would be on at 10am and I was riveted listening to it. Rory gave a great account of their times together both in college and in work life, and it gave me great cause for remembrance, and sadness too.

On Friday, June 11, Fianna Fáil are hosting a webinar with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Jack Chambers TD who is in Brian’s constituency of Dublin West, myself, Conor Lenihan, Cathy Herbert, who worked with Brian, the present AG who was a great personal friend of Brian’s, and also Brian Murphy who is a lecturer in TU Dublin and one of the co-authors, with the late Noel Mulcahy and myself, of the book on Brian which we got out not long after he passed away.

I’m looking forward to it, but I am overlaid with sadness with so many memories. In addition, on Thursday, the day of the anniversary, the Irish Independent is publishing a big article by Liam Collins, one of their main reporters. He came down to see me last Thursday by train from Dublin, and we had a couple of hours of good discussions together. All in all, this is an emotion-filled week for me, and particularly of course for Brian’s widow, Patricia in Dublin with their two children, Tom and Clare.

Of course, this week is full-on too for all those who are doing their Leaving Certificate, including my own two grandchildren. Some of them will be sitting some of the exams; some will be relying on the accredited grades. But all in all, it is the start of a stressful couple of weeks for all those young people. I’d like to wish all those in the area to which this paper travels the very best of good luck in the weeks ahead, particularly that they can clear their mind and concentrate on the papers, whatever ones they are sitting. I have no doubt that the weather will be beautiful for them. How tantalising it is when the sun is shining brightly for the students who are sitting inside searching their minds for the elusive set of facts and formulas needed for each exam.

Meanwhile, I understand Simon Harris is working very hard to ensure that there will be enough third-level places for the choices which the Leaving Cert students will be making. The results are not out until early September, more than two weeks later than usual. I understand the staff in the State Examinations Commission had an amount of work and reckoning to do before they gave the date, but it just means of course that the worry and the anticipation will be growing for that bit longer.

A word of warning: the pandemic is not fully over. Remember, there are large numbers reported every day fresh cases of Covid-19. So stay at home as often as you can, avoid crowds, keep your mask on and keep cleaning your hands.

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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