Centurion Sexton deserves worthy sporting recognition as Leaving Certificate reform imminent

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

Well, where do we begin?

I expect the best place to start is with centurion Johnny Sexton, who last Saturday got his 100th cap, as well as a Japanese ceremonial Samurai sword after the match.

Ireland were playing Japan and of course we all know the huge score which was 60-5.

The first thing to say is I hope the Irish team do not get all puffed up with themselves with that very high score. After all, Japan did not put up any opposition and Ireland had free rein on the pitch. Even as I say that, we still must admire centurion Johnny Sexton.

As the readers who viewed the match will know, he came out on his own at the beginning and did a lap around the pitch, and the crowd were ecstatic. They cheered and they roared. Then, to add to all of that, he got a wonderful try over in the corner. So all in all, a good day for Ireland and a good day for Johnny Sexton of course.

I have to admit here openly that some of the time last year when I was commenting on rugby, I was harsh enough on Johnny Sexton, particularly when he would have a day of sullen demeanour and muttering out of his mouth on the pitch. I don’t know what the whole background of that could have been, but it’s all erased now.

Today, he’s a world hero. I am sure many of the viewers saw his wife and three lovely children who were in the stands to watch and applaud him.

Both in Saturday’s Irish Independent and Monday’s Irish Times, they showed the image of the boots that he wore when he won his 100th cap, with the initials of his wife Laura and children Luca, Amy and Sophie on the side of the boot. Isn’t that just a lovely detail?

At the end of the match, when he went over to his wife and children, the little one – I couldn’t see clearly if it was a little boy or girl – put out their lovely arms and hugged him, and the love between the two of them, oh it was just so endearing.

So the Japan win was refreshing and wonderful, but the All Blacks will be a real trial come Saturday.

By the way, when we were talking last week with the Henshaws, Robbie said that it makes a huge difference to the players when there is even a small amount of an audience in the stands. We all remember at the beginning they were allowed just small numbers, but with the huge crowds in the Aviva last Saturday, it really made for a very exuberant performance all round.

I like James Lowe with his top knot, and of course we all love Bundee Aki.

Anyway, the next bit of news is good as well. It concerns an Athlone company, Sidero, which is based in Monksland over SuperValu. It was set up locally some years ago between Athlone-South Roscommon people.

They now have 150 employees and yesterday they announced that they are taking on another 75. It’s a software development company, very modern, and they’ve installed a new female CEO with the responsibility of getting in all these new employees and really making the company zing and sing! So, for starters, this week was full of good news.

Now I want to talk about the new column in the Athlone Advertiser, ‘The Insider’ politics column.

First of all, let me say it is not me – I don’t write that column. It’s amazing how many people have asked me on the telephone, or people I meet on the few occasions I’m out, if that is my column ‘undercover’, so to speak.

No, it is not, but I can tell you, whoever is writing it, she or he has the inside track. Their observations are acute, meaningful and politically accurate.

I wish good luck to it; it gives a great edge to the paper now there is that Insider politics column, the history column of which I wrote last week, and of course I won’t overlook my own column! All of this is giving the paper a very rounded, full image. I’m so pleased to know that all these additions are doing well.

Now, what do we make of COP26 in Glasgow? We are on the second week of it now, and it is making for good reporting, both on radio and TV and in the print media.

I liked when Greta Thunberg made her appearance on Friday with 25,000 young activists. I smiled when she was asked what did she think of what was going on inside COP26, and she said “It’s all blah blah blah.”

Yes of course it’s a lot of ‘blah’, but that must now be converted to action. I know I spoke about it before, but it’s up to every one of us to do our own individual bit because this is for our children and grandchildren. We want to leave a world for them in which they can live properly.

There are great movements abroad in education. I note that in the next few weeks, we are going to have the reform of the Leaving Cert fully laid out.

In an odd way, the pandemic has been good for education. The chief way is that students were involved in deliberations with the officials from the Department of Education and the teachers’ unions. I thought that was proper and right. They had looked for that before, but this time they were at the table and were able to give their opinion, often in a very productive way.

It appears that one of the big innovations in the new education roll-out will be that the CAO will have apprenticeships included in it, which makes for much greater diversity of choice for Leaving Cert pupils.

Now that is only one of the innovations, but I think it is one that will get a ready audience.

There is no doubt that the prestige of university overshadows everything else when the Leaving Cert results come out. But it is so important here in Ireland, when we will be requiring young women and men of all capacities to engage in the workforce.

I am very much looking forward to these proposals, and I hope we will all be able to have our say to influence them in time.

The last good thing to talk about is the weather. Did you ever see anything as lovely as the early days of November, right up to when I am compiling this on Tuesday November 9? We’ve had wonderful sunny days, early cold nights, but each day is like a blessing.

Now I don’t know how long it will last, but hopefully for quite a while because, of course, weather like this in November really shortens the winter.

I hope you’re all minding yourselves and taking care. The numbers are still very huge, and it’s a case of each day as we go along. It seems such a pity when it appears that some of the hospitality sector is not playing the game and complying with all the regulations.

We have our chance to get it right and we all play a role in that.

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

In the meantime, take care.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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