Olympic achievements raise spirits of our nation as Lions aim to roar back in third test

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

I expect, like myself, that many of you are eagerly listening to the regular news on RTÉ about the Olympics in Tokyo. I never thought that I would become so engrossed in it. In fact, I thought the whole Olympics would be boring – but not so. Of all of the commentators we hear, the one that is the most endearing and the most knowledgeable is our own Des Cahill. He brings to his reporting a sense of joy and expectation, and a wonderful sense of familiarity which is so good to hear.

We have had some early and great successes. Look at our rowing medallists Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Aifric Keogh and Eimear Lamb with their early Olympic bronze medals. Those four young women raised all our spirits and hearts and they were so natural about it. Equally, of course, the pair Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy with their ebullience, their high spirits, but above all their clear and obvious determination that they could and they would make gold – and they did, with a great flourish. Oh how we revelled in those young rowing people. It is interesting that in an island nation, water sports always achieve such excellence.

Let’s look at Mona McSharry from County Sligo, who trained both in Sligo and in Ballyshannon in Donegal, and the great effort she put into her final swim. Above all, her open, cheerful and determined personality was so obvious and so endearing to us all. She quite clearly said “The experience I have got today will stand me in great stead when I swim, I hope, in the next Olympics.” That kind of spirit is just so infectious.

Indeed, the Olympic successes are an inspiration to us all. Each of the participants, no matter whether they won or did not win, were infused with a sense of confidence, not an overweening sense but a clear sense of purpose that they could compete, that they would compete, and that they should get honours. Not everyone, of course, was successful but for a small country that sense of confidence is amazing and it breeds success in other fields of activity and endeavour in our small country.

There was news on Tuesday morning of Kellie Harrington, the boxer who achieved bronze by unanimous verdict in her game and is looking forward to early Thursday of this week when she will compete for silver. RTÉ did an interview with her family and neighbours in Portland Row, the place where she lives in the north inner city in Dublin, and it was so infectious with joy and delight in what their own local girl had done. It really inspired a reaction, I think, in anyone who listened to it.

Of course there were all the bouts in which we did not succeed. But they were always accompanied by a sense of joy of being part of the worldwide centre of excellence that is the Olympics. After all, to even get to be eligible to run your race or practise your feat in the higher echelons of the Olympic Games is in itself a wonderful feat. Tokyo, up to the very end, did not want the Olympics to be held because of the huge rate of Covid in the city, but the Olympic Council and the Japanese Government decided that yes, they would go ahead, and we are all the better for being participants in this worldwide endeavour.

Then we had the welcome home in Dublin Airport, muted because of Covid, and the later celebration, again muted but genuine, in Skibbereen in Cork. Next week our two main rowers are off to the Henley Regatta in the UK. No harm at all to flaunt our wins again and hopefully repeat them.

Luckily for us all, as the weather changed from the highs of 28, 29, 30 degrees to well below 20, we had the TV and radio reporting of the Games to cheer us along in what is now very unsavoury August weather. Yes, we had the great temperature highs but I have to fully admit that I did not like the weather when it soared to 28 or 29. I took to staying inside and pulling the big curtains in the living room so that I would have the rescue of shade. Isn’t it amazing how our weather changes so rapidly? I hope that for all who are still planning and going on holidays that there will be a return to decent weather in the early to mid-20s as August progresses.

Looking around the world at the various weather catastrophes of huge flooding in Germany, rapid fires in California, flooding again in China, we can’t but be grateful that so far the moderation of our weather in Ireland is so desirable. Of course that brings us to the question of climate change, and there is no doubt that these unnatural worldwide weather disasters we have had recently are a symptom of climate disorder and an indication of the rapid need for adoption of climate change measures.

How is our rugby faring? Not so good. Last Saturday the British and Irish Lions were emphatically defeated by South Africa, the score being 27-9. I didn’t see it because it was on Sky Sports which I don’t have, and neither has Aengus, but I followed what I could of it on the radio and later, though I knew the result, I looked at Channel 4 which showed some of the highlights of the game. Ireland were just not in it at all, and I hope next Saturday will see a reversal of that bad score.

Meanwhile, our Saturdays and Sundays continue to be enlivened by the ongoing GAA games, with the news that the semi-finals and finals will allow for much greater numbers of spectators.

We’ve had our Minister for Education, Norma Foley, telling us emphatically on TV that yes, schools will return end of August/early September. That’s the goal and hopefully we will all play a role in ensuring that that happens satisfactorily. Yes, we are improving in the loosening up of social and commercial activity and the almost renewal of full life in Ireland again. But, and I emphasise again but, we are still in the throes of the Delta variant of the pandemic. So whilst we take joy in our better circumstances, remember to wear your mask, keep your distance, and avoid huge crowds if possible. Better days have come but we’re not fully there yet.

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

In the meantime, stay safe.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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