Hello to all the Advertiser readers.
Now I know during last week’s column I expressed some optimism that things were looking up and that we were over the worst of the health worries about the pandemic. Not so, not so. As I am compiling this, it is clear that the advice given by Dr Holohan to Government on Monday was of the dark, pessimistic type. If we as a country do not postpone the opening of indoor dining and indoor drinking, we are likely to face huge incursions of the Delta variant into everyday lives, coupled with a likely scenario of increasing numbers of deaths and severe long Covid.
If that advice wasn’t enough to sober us all up, Morning Ireland on Tuesday certainly provided a rude awakening to us all. So no more sunny optimism; only an adherence to something I have always said: be safe, take necessary health precautions, and above all avoid crowds.
Now I know that that advice from Dr Holohan has provoked huge negative feedback from the catering and hospitality sector. I don’t wonder, because of course they were set for July 5 to be the great re-opening, despite the fact that many of them have, due to the good weather, been able to have outdoor dining. We just have to settle with the bad diagnosis of Dr Holohan and do the best we can with it. Who wants an increase in illness; who wants the pandemic to get out of hand? Nobody, so we have to grin and bear it.
I wonder if the readers of this fine newspaper and this column follow Nationwide on RTÉ TV? From time to time, I would look at it, but I was never a real follower. However, by chance last week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I hit upon a wonderful series of Nationwide episodes. It involved Anne Cassin and Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh as presenters, and was all about the Grand Canal Greenway between Dublin and Clondra in County Longford. It started with Bláthnaid beginning her walk from Clondra and up in Dublin Anne beginning her walk at the Grand Canal. Along the way, they met up (by arrangement, I am sure ) with very interesting people, some of them groups, some of them historians, but all of them providing an insight into the canal, when it had been set up and then later the complete dereliction of that route. This was followed by sustained and determined voluntary input by groups all the way right down from the Grand Canal Basin to Clondra.
What an epic journey. It went from Monday to Wednesday, and then Wednesday to Friday when the two female presenters met up with one another at a chosen point midway. It was hugely interesting and highly informative. The canals, in their day, were a wonderful mode of transport, but time went on, particularly with the incoming revolution of train journeys and then later of car journeys. I hope they show it again because many people, with the fine evenings, would not have had a chance to be indoors and looking at it, as I had. I am sure you can get it on the RTÉ Player, so if you can please do. You will truly engage with the three episodes.
It was great to see the ongoing enthusiasm and sheer hard work that the voluntary groups engaged in, right along from Grand Canal in Dublin to the harbour in Clondra. Equally inspiring was the use that’s being made of this long stretch: everywhere groups out walking, cycling, canoeing and engaging in various water sports. It was good to see that what was planned and utilised all those years ago has now entered into a whole new sphere of enjoyment for so many people.
We are in the weekly frenzy now of all of the various GAA games, football, hurling and camogie. It’s terrific to see spectators back at each sport – a limited number, I know, but even to hear their shouts of encouragement and to watch the enjoyment on their faces is a huge positive as we try to claw our way out of the pandemic. I am sure the players themselves realise the effect of having spectators even in limited numbers. It gives an edge to every game. The GAA moved into place very quickly, when allowed, and were able to divide up the numbers and invite in the spectators.
Even though it’s almost out of season, we have had also some terrific rugby lately. Last Friday was another episode in the under 20 international games, when Ireland had another huge win. Then on Saturday we had the Lions versus Japan. It was available on TV on Virgin Media Two and also on Channel 4, and it was interesting to note that the commentary on Channel 4 referred constantly to the Lions, whereas the commentary on Virgin Media referred to the British and Irish Lions. After all, Ireland had seven members on that team and they showed their prowess at every turn of the game.
It was great to see Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki in such good playing form after their training sojourn in Jersey. Robbie Henshaw himself got a successful try, but he was everywhere on the pitch and involved in every manoeuvre. It is good for Robbie and Bundee to be together on the team; they are personal friends and good teammates, and they will have one another’s company for the upcoming tour.
Coming out of that Lions versus Japan game, Conor Murray, the Munster and Ireland scrum-half, is the choice as the new captain of the Lions in South Africa, after a shoulder and wrist injury ruled out the previous caption Alun Wyn Jones. He was clearly in intense pain as he was led off the pitch. Conor Murray is a great choice and follows in the footsteps of many other Irish Lions captains down the years. The Springboks squad has been put into isolation following three positive tests, and that has ruled out the planned training session in Johannesburg which has been cancelled.
The sunshine continues on. Despite the rebuff to dining and drinking indoors, which has so upset the hospitality industry, if the summer continues this way people will want to be dining outdoors. So, let’s hope the good spell continues.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, stay cheerful but cautious; that must now forever be our mantra. Observe all health rules, stay clear of crowds, and stay home as much as you can.
Slán go fóill.