Connacht’s spirit to the rugby fore as new CAO system to embrace additional education options

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

Well here we are, in the beginning of December, with guess what? A new variant – Omicron. As if we hadn’t already enough to try to cope with, now there’s all this happening and, as yet, very little hard information about it.

Indeed, Christmas is coming, and what it will bring we just do not know. It is very hard to keep your heart up and be determined to keep cheerful, and to ward off the depression which is likely to rise again with the latest variant news.

We’ll come back to that later. Now I want to look at some recent rugby games.

To my mind, last Friday night’s rugby game between Connacht and Ospreys will go down as one of the finest games of rugby for a long time.

Leading up to it, all the would-be knowledgeable commentators were saying ‘Oh, Ospreys will really trounce Connacht’ and were certain that was the way it was going to work out.

We know, of course, that it was quite the other way. Connacht gave a huge trouncing to Ospreys, 46-18, and fought like demons right throughout the whole match.

The weather was atrocious with high winds catching the ball all the time, intermittent rain and the Atlantic at full flow. Yet Connacht just kept playing the kind of excellent rugby that gave them the huge victory and which, from time to time, can surprise you about Connacht.

Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion were hugely impressive as well as Mack Hansen and Oran McNulty. This was a game to be truly enjoyed, and to be relished afterwards. Well done Connacht: you’re so capable a team when demanded.

Next on Saturday night was Leinster versus Ulster. Again, the commentariat was giving the game to Leinster, and yet what we saw was a completely lacklustre Leinster against a fired-up Ulster. Imagine, at half-time, Leinster’s score was nil. Can you imagine? The final score was Leinster 10-Ulster 20. Robbie Henshaw had a wonderful try, but apart from that the team was lacklustre.

From time to time, Ulster can surprise one, but this was really a great defeat for Leinster and one that they’ll have to start to rectify.

Now we don’t know where we’re going with this ongoing competition because, as we know, Munster were in South Africa. The team is hopefully home by now, but in complete quarantine. And how many of the team were infected? So for the moment, all of that is quite uncertain, as is the outlook.

Of huge issue at the moment is whole Mica redress scheme. I had commented before on it when it seemed to be up front and high profile. Then there was a lull and in the meantime the shape of the scheme has turned out to be not at all suitable, so they say, to the owners of the Mica-infected homes.

The home-owners are hugely traumatised by it all. Likewise the tax payers, as the total cost would seem to be up to €3 billion. As I am compiling this, the final result is not yet out, but it will be by the time the readers get to read this column. This is just an added bad news story to the current Covid atmosphere.

We’ve had some good news on the education front. Simon Harris has announced that there is to be a new CAO system coming out which will embrace all apprenticeships, further education and other advantages following Leaving Cert, not just the ones reliant on points and university placings. We await that with great interest because it is long-needed and will, I feel, be very worthwhile to the whole landscape of post-Leaving Certificate.

Meantime, young primary school children from the age of nine onwards will be wearing masks and children will have further curtailment of their ‘fun time’ to come over the next few days.

Again, I am compiling this before the women’s national soccer game tonight, Tuesday. In anticipation of a win, I wish them well. In the meantime, today and tomorrow will see the confirmation, or otherwise, by the FAI of Stephen Kenny and his continuing leadership of Irish soccer. Again, enough has happened in his favour over the last number of weeks, so I hope that the FAI will see his strengths and give him the go-ahead to continue in his role as manager of Irish soccer.

Of course, the literary news of these few days is Professor Gary Murphy’s biography of Charles Haughey which came out over last weekend.

There were numerous reviews, including by Colm Tóibín (the author ) in The Irish Times, Alan Shatter in the Irish Independent, Bertie Ahern in The Sunday Times, Matt Cooper in the Business Post and Shane Ross in the Sunday Independent.

I read them all over last weekend, and of course they varied in their content and in particular on their various degrees of emphasis.

All of the reviewers commended the scholarship and the research which went into the making of this huge book which features 690 pages of biographical detail.

Professor Murphy is Professor of Politics at Dublin City University, and there is no doubting his erudition and his research skills.

What you make of the reviews, and of the book itself, is up to each individual. My son in Dublin has ordered the book from Kennys in Galway, so I should be receiving it in the next day or two. There will be little heard from me for the next week or so whilst I peruse the pages, go down memory lane with all of its deviations, and then issue my own book review.

I have come to the end of my space, but I urge you again to try your best in the light of the new variant and all that we will soon find out about that, to try to keep your heart up and to keep cheerful, despite the bad outlook.

Please continue to observe the normal health rules and, do you know what, say an odd prayer or two. I have great reliance on the Memorare.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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