Storm Barra momentarily averts attention from the ever evolving Covid-19 restrictions scenario

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

As I am compiling this column, we are in the height of Storm Barra. So far, it has not been huge here in Athlone or in the Midlands, but right through last night I heard the wind and the rain beating all around us. It was amazing when I turned on Morning Ireland yesterday and today because it was one of the few times that Covid was not the number one item on the news.

For weeks now we’ve had Covid, Covid, Covid leading all the news bulletins, but now it is Storm Barra, Storm Barra. In a way, you wouldn’t know which was worse, but I think I’d prefer the weather storm any day to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Can you imagine that we as yet know nothing about Omicron, only that it is spreading throughout the world. Nobody in the medical area appears to be able to let us know how pervasive it is, how contagious it is, and where it will all lead us. For the moment, Omicron remains a mystery, but living with Storm Barra is for real and is for now.

For us in the Midlands, with no coastline, we haven’t got the huge drama of what is down south and west, and indeed into some of the eastern counties too.

I want to give full praise to the Meteorological Society. They are giving us, on the hour, the exact up-to-date news for each area and it is so comforting to hear it. Evelyn Cusack is really an Irish heroine, so dedicated to her work and thus ensuring that we stay safe.

By the time readers are reading this column, hopefully the storm will have fully abated and we will be in relatively calm waters again.

It was difficult to go back to more restrictive measures regarding Covid. I know that those whose everyday lives are affected by what has now been enacted will feel this really deeply. It is so important to take the advice given with regard to numbers and venues, etc, and I know that the readers are paying attention as there has been a stabilisation in the numbers.

However, life goes on, and let’s look at some of the games which we have had recently. Before we get to rugby, we must give a big loud cheer for the women’s soccer team. Imagine, beating Georgia 11-0! Now I know that in the soccer world, it appears that Georgia doesn’t rank high, but even to see the scoreline Ireland 11-Georgia 0 on the TV screen and in our newspapers was just amazing. I think it will give a little boost to the Irish team, and I hope it does.

The recent Leinster versus Connacht rugby match ended with a score of Leinster 47-Connacht 19. Leinster were determined to get their revenge and they piled in all the expert international and really good players they have. Now, Connacht put up a really great fight. Whatever else about the province, they know when to fight, and to fight hard. Indeed in the first half it looked as if they were more than holding their own. But as the second half advanced, Leinster got into their stride which showed itself in the final result.

I note that Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw has been named as the Zurich Men’s Players’ Player of the Year 2021 by his fellow players, at the recent Irish Rugby Players Awards ceremony.

This is a well-recognised top-class award for him to have gained, on top of being nominated for the Six Nations Player of the Tournament. It is great for Leinster and Ireland to have somebody of his calibre, not just on the playing field but recognised internationally as well.

Continuing on the sporting theme, I see that Grand National winner, jockey Rachael Blackmore, is the top favourite to win the BBC’s World Sports Star Award later this month. Isn’t that just something? Blackmore is also odds on to scoop the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year award later this month.

I was talking on the phone yesterday to Feargal and Maeve in Dublin. They are coming down for two days, not before Christmas but in the days between St Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day. I am glad that they’ve made up their minds on that, because I regard that week between the two festivals as sort of dead dog days, but now I will have Feargal and Maeve and the two children and they will surely enliven the end of 2021 and the coming in of 2022. So, allied to my Christmas Day with Aengus, Lisa and the children, I am looking forward to a happy family time.

By the way, I have received in the post from Feargal, via Kenny’s Bookstore in Galway, the newly published book Haughey. It is 669 pages.

I had thought that I would keep it for those dead days between Christmas and New Year, but it seems they will not be dead anymore so I have begun to tackle the book. I am now at page 130, but there’s a long, long way to go.

Usually I am dipping ahead into books, but on this one I have decided to follow it page by page. I am most interested and intrigued to learn about Charlie Haughey’s early life as a young boy in primary school, secondary school and later in UCD. I have got to the point in the book where he is the Minister for Agriculture, having concluded a very constructive, reformist time as Minister for Justice.

During that period, he reformed much of the out-of-date justice system in Ireland and there are many today still living with the good effects of the Succession Acts and other legislative reforms.

Anyway, the reading of that will keep me quiet for a time, and no harm, I can imagine several of you saying!!

So that’s my lot for this week. We await Omicron and what it will bring us. In the meantime, we continue to adhere to the normal health protocols. Above all, take care of yourself; don’t be going around and about and meeting with all sorts of people. Stay safe, and stay at home if you can.

Talk with you all next week.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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