Festive celebrations impacted by restrictions as families prepare to embrace Christmas spirit

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

Can you believe it’s our last column before Christmas? In the past year, so much has happened to all my readers, so much has happened to me, and so much has happened in the world that it’s hard to put it all together into a few sentences. But my thoughts are always with you, the readers.

Well, Omicron has come with a vengeance. It now accounts for 60 per cent, it appears, of the infections we are having. The only good thing is that the infections don’t seem to be serious. I don’t know what that really means, but let’s hold onto it for a time.

I thought when Micheál Martin made his address on last Friday, and later when he was on the Brendan O’Connor Show, I had never heard such sadness in his voice and in how he’s viewing the whole thing. He tried his best to be cheerful and to be abreast of it all, but there is no doubt he feels deeply for all those who have suffered and continue to suffer.

I felt that Brendan O’Connor did a very good interview with him; sensitive and got to the point of talking about Micheál’s two children he lost when they were young – imagine that for sorrow, and then trying to take on the sorrows of the world as well. I feel so much for all those who have suffered and lost.

Now we’re on to the extra three hours. Everything was to close at 5pm, and instead it’s closing at 8pm. Will it make a difference? Will it work? I think it should. People can go earlier for a meal, they can go earlier to a show and be sure to be out and finished in time. But it is a terrible state of affairs all around, isn’t it, that that’s what we’re looking at – 8pm closure. Whoever thought it would come to this?

Well there are other things going on in the world, and I suppose it would do us good to concentrate on those for a while. First of all, there is the great delight of Rachael Blackmore who not alone won the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year, but also won the BBC World Sport Star of the Year, which is unprecedented. I am so pleased for her, and she is so shy. I feel when she is speaking that she is saying to herself ‘I wish they would all go away, I’m tired of all of this.’ But anyway, well done to Rachael Blackmore for keeping Ireland’s side up and for the wonders that she brought to horse racing in the year 2021. She is truly an inspiring woman.

Despite all the health issues which are going on, there was great rugby over the weekend. I was deeply sorry for Connacht. They were playing Leicester Tigers and the final result was Leicester Tigers 29-Connacht 23. They led the match at the break 17-12. As you know, I cannot watch it because I don’t have Sky but I was trying to listen to it on the radio in between the commentator also giving news of other matches, particularly from the UK.

It appears that when they came back after the break, Leicester Tigers had two crucial tries in a seven-minute spell. It was enough to see off a valiant Connacht effort that saw Jack Carty produce another sterling performance. Imagine, he made 18 of Connacht’s 23 points. Isn’t that some fight? It appears Bundee Aki made a very valiant fight as well.

In the end, quite against the odds, Carty provided a bonus point with a well-worked drop goal. It ensured that Connacht left the match with six points from a possible ten and very much in contention.

It appears that Munster had to fight very hard to hold off Castres, but they won anyway, the final score being Munster 19-Castres 13.

Leinster is to appeal the decision which was made to cancel their Heineken Championship Cup match against Montpellier due to take place last Friday, which gave the French club a bonus point 28-0 victory.

Leinster will make a formal request for the game to be re-fixed on the basis that Leinster had complied with all of the requests in the build-up to ensure that the game could go ahead. Let’s hope that the appeal works.

What on earth can we make of the complaint by the Irish women rugby players, past and present, that the IRFU is not taking women’s rugby seriously? I don’t know enough about it to know if the claim is legitimate or not. However, it appears the IRFU are in the middle of conducting a report into their dealings with women’s rugby, so I hope the outcome will prove in favour of women’s rugby and that they will get their due accord.

They made a very serious case and it is something that most certainly should be looked into thoroughly. I would approve of it happening in an independent way, not just dependent on the officials in the IRFU. That’s not good enough at all.

What’s to happen the schools? It appears many parents decided to take their children out of school last Friday, despite three days of the term left. Schools are due to re-open on January 6, and the big question now is will that happen?

There is a lot of determination among the public at large and the Government that the schools should re-open at the time appointed, because when they are open and working it appears that life is going on in as normal a fashion as possible. We will just have to wait and see what the outcome is.

So what do I say to you all as we come to the end of 2021? Firstly, it has been a delight to write this column for the Athlone Advertiser, and I pass on my compliments and appreciation to them for allowing me such open access to so many people.

In a funny way, I feel I know a lot of you. Over the past 12 months, many of you have had sorrows in your life and joyful moments as well. Many of you have had good times with your family, and I hope that that continues.

To me, it has been a delight to sit down every Tuesday and to think of what has happened in all our lives, what is likely to happen, and to think fondly of all those who read my column, and I hope that some people enjoy reading it as well.

Can I wish all you a happy and peaceful time with your loved ones. Above all, Christmas is all about a child born in a stable, and I hope we can always remember that with love and fondness.

Take good care of yourself, mind the easy health protocols like washing your hands, keeping your distance, opening the windows, having ventilation – all the ordinary things we have been doing. Continue to do them, and may God’s blessings and peace descend on every one of us this Christmas holiday.

God bless you all.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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