Respect for giants of the pitch, the screen, and the page

Well! There’s no doubt where I’m going to begin this column this week, and it is about last Sunday in Croke Park. Now I know this column extends to both Roscommon and Mayo so I hope the Mayo readers will excuse me when I go on a little bit about Roscommon.

It is true, there were very few people left in Athlone west of the Shannon or Roscommon last Sunday and I can fully understand that. I know there were other very good matches but the Roscommon v Mayo match was the one in which, in the areas around here anyway, all the interest was centred.

We were fully rewarded for our interest and attention. From the very start, the match was exciting and tense. And can you imagine Roscommon getting two goals in the first 12 minutes? Both teams exhibited courage and strength and determination. Yes, Mayo had had the experience, they’d been there before, they had been in Croke Park on many occasions. Save one member, the Roscommon team had never set foot in Croke Park before. But, what they lacked in field experience, they made up for in raw courage and strength. Imagine going out on the field and within 12 minutes scoring two goals against a side who, in their hearts, they must have feared.

When they lined up you could see the disparity in size. Mayo were big in stature. Roscommon, in many cases, looked what they were, very young men in their early to mid-twenties. But, whatever inbuilt discipline they had got from their manager, they were determined not to be over-awed.

It was a good game, a pulsating game and, in my opinion, the draw result was the one that best suited the game on the day. I have no doubt that at their training sessions this week and at the talks they will have with Kevin McStay, Roscommon will be imbued again with that self-belief.

As in all areas of life, self-belief is an ingredient which stands a person in great stead and Roscommon have self-belief in tonnes. Will it be enough to sustain them this Bank Holiday Monday? I am of the opinion that they will need every ounce of it because Mayo will see this joust as their very last chance to be in the top league of GAA football again.

One way or another, the whole exhibition was an example of what the GAA can do to communities and the polarisation which ensues is good – good for the parish, good for young people, good for spectators, good for players and essentially, good for your county and your country.

People planning to go away for the August weekend in counties Roscommon and Mayo are hastily altering their plans; they will go away again, but they will not be far from Dublin. On the Roscommon Road out of Athlone all the houses are bedecked with the colours and with exhortations for the day ahead.

Giants on the pitch leads me on to talk about giants in the media. We lost two such giants over the last week. Vincent Browne, whom I spoke about earlier and Cathal Mac Coille, the man who led Morning Ireland for at least the last 20 years. He will be missed too, even though going out to Morning Ireland, as I did, on so many occasions in those last 20 years, I would be hoping I would not have Cathal Mac Coille doing the questioning. He brooked no delay, he hastened you on to the main questions and to what he hoped would be the main answers.

RTÉ will miss him as indeed TV3 will miss Vincent and I have no idea who the replacement will be for either of them.

Good to know that Leo is not gone on holidays – not yet anyway. He keeps popping up and saying things to rattle the cages, as he did when he spoke of Brexit and the North recently. He keeps repeating that he hopes Brexit will not happen at all which, as you know, finds an echo with me, and then he went on to say “After all, the British have been told to go back and get clarity on their thoughts on the North. We (the Irish ) did not create the Northern problem, the British did. So, it’s up to them to find a solution.” The honeyed words that Michel Barnier and Theresa May kept repeating in the months gone by do not seem to be bearing much fruit.

Meanwhile, Theresa May, for her summer holidays, is gone walking in the Alps with her husband so she will have plenty of time for thinking and reflecting on times to come.

There seems to be a continuing acceptance of a period of transition once March 2019 is reached and I hope that continues.

I notice when Leo gave his speech on the North and Brexit, it echoed one which Enda Kenny, as Taoiseach, gave some months ago. So, it seems, the same diligent Civil Service is still beavering away preparing these fine thoughts for one Taoiseach after another.

I heard on the radio last week that Hillary Clinton is just concluding her next book. It is, I understand, to be called “What Happened?” What happened indeed!! So, I had a mental image of Donald Trump in the White House fulminating still about her, while she sat somewhere tranquil penning her latest book. It will be interesting to read I’m sure.

We had Ray D’Arcy in town last Friday and he gathered a great crowd together in the Radisson Blu Hotel. He is entirely friendly and yet very professional with his presentation. He does not usually have politicians, I feel, on his panel but, I guess he thinks I’m past all that now, so I was delighted to be part of what was a lively conversation.

I would reckon he is a good presenter – friendly and adaptable if any slight frisson occurs.

Spare a thought this week for the poet/soldier Francis Ledwidge who died on 31 July a hundred years ago at the Battle of Ypres. He’s a fascinating poet which I discovered when I visited his home cottage, now converted into a small museum outside of Slane. We know him best, I think, for the wonderful poem he penned on hearing of the death of his friend Thomas MacDonagh:

“He shall not hear the bittern cry

In the wild sky, where he is lain,

Nor voices of the sweeter birds,

Above the wailing of the rain.”

His poetry is beautiful and evocative and, of course, one hundred years on, very poignant too.

That’s all for now. Talk with you all next week. In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill

Mary O’Rourke



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