Delta variant concerns evoke myriad of emotions as Henshaw hopeful of playing first Lions test

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

It’s difficult to know what to focus on in this sort of never-never land in which we’re living. One day we all feel up, according to what the figures are saying or whatever Dr Holohan is saying, and then the next day we’re down because of some bad account of the Delta variant and how it is behaving. So as I say, we’re in this in-between land and all we can do, as I have repeatedly said, is to observe the normal health rules: wash your hands, keep your distance, stay out of crowds. I know I sound boring when I keep repeating it, but really it is the only way that we can hope to obtain, eventually, some kind of normality.

There was a really good omen last week in all of the television viewing of the GAA football and hurling, and then the rugby matches we saw, particularly Ireland versus Japan. At all of these venues there were spectators. Yes, a modest number of them, but they were there, and of course they really added to the colour and the excitement, and I am sure contributed to the general feeling of sportsmanship among the players as the small attendance shouted and applauded and responded to the game in front of them. To me, this looked so authentic and would have given great enjoyment to all concerned.

Actually, where it was really so funny to see was at the Roscommon versus Galway match in the Douglas Hyde Park in Roscommon last Sunday. It rained constantly throughout the whole match, a western deluge. There were the allowable number of spectators all huddling under umbrellas, so all you saw when the scene flashed up on the TV was a little sea of umbrellas as the match was being played.

Now that we’re at that match, I was really looking forward to seeing it last Sunday at midday. The two teams were almost even at half-time, with Galway just one point ahead, and looking at it you would say ‘These teams are well matched.’ But in the second half, Galway just powered on and the end result was that Galway won by five points.

As the readers know, I am Roscommon by birth and early upbringing and I always feel an affinity with that county, who definitely gave their all in the match but just fell short of the expertise of Galway. Westmeath won handsomely over Laois, so that leaves Westmeath still in the hunt.

By far the most interesting and exciting game over the whole weekend was Ireland versus Japan last Saturday. The result was Ireland 39, Japan 31. This was a really high-scoring match, which saw the lead change hands seven times. The visitors did not back down but gave what they got, and the result was so close. Often my mind wanders when I’m watching a match, but I was actually afraid to go into the kitchen and put on the kettle for a cup of tea. The one time I did so, there were actually two tries, one by Japan and one by Ireland! This kind of match is so invigorating to watch. Either side could easily have won but as I said, in the end, Ireland prevailed. Again, the spectators played an important role and it was good to see the many Japanese supporters with their white flags with the central red circle.

It was good also to read that the manager of the British and Irish Lions, Warren Gatland, has given a positive update on Robbie Henshaw’s fitness for the start of the test series against the Springboks in three weeks’ time. It appears that Robbie had “a very, very mild hamstring strain”. That was all good to hear. Gatland continued by saying of Henshaw, “There’s no doubt he’s been one of the standout players in the Six Nations and the way he’s been playing – we’d like to get him back to full fitness without putting him under any pressure.”

I am sure many of the readers will be delighted to hear of the new venture of Westmeath Libraries in their Athlone branch. I am sure it is also in Mullingar and throughout the Westmeath library system. In Athlone right throughout the summer, young readers are engaging in a delightful mix of reading books, commenting on them and picking their choices for the rest of the summer.

I think it is so admirable that the libraries are being used for purposes like this, where young people can be imbued with the love of reading, a trait which will stand them in such good stead right throughout their lives. I often think ‘Where would I be without books?’ as I rely on them so much. Particularly throughout all the difficulties of living through the lockdowns, I always had a book to hand in which I can immerse myself and be fully engaged to escape the account of the latest tribulations. Well done to the Westmeath libraries and to all of the diligent people who work within them.

Now this brings me to a further related point, which I had been considering for some time. I aim within the next few weeks to go through a list of books which I have, up to now in July of 2021, enjoyed reading. I know from time to time I might have mentioned one or other of them in this column, but I hope this list will be a signpost for some who may want to go to the library to seek one out or contact one of the many bookshops throughout Ireland which offer a very good service. As I said, I hope to have this column within the next few weeks and I hope that you will enjoy it. It will make a change from our usual gossip together on so many other issues!

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

In the meantime, I repeat again my boring, timely but necessary mantra: take care, observe the normal health stipulations, stay at home, stay out of crowds, and above all, stay safe.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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