Beginning with games, it is great to see the Allianz Leagues back in full force over last weekend.
We in Athlone here had two good wins. Westmeath won in Division 3 when they travelled to meet Derry and to beat them 2-17 to 2-14 in what appears to have been a very close and tight game. Likewise, Roscommon in Division 2 drew with Meath, 2-12 to 2-12, and it appears from reading and looking at a bit of it on TG4 that it was really an exciting game.
Let us look now at the hurling in the Allianz Hurling League, Division 2: Westmeath 0-19 Carlow 0-15. So, good news all around the sporting fraternity in Westmeath and Roscommon.
But, of course, we are all waiting for next weekend when the Six Nations kicks off in Paris with Ireland versus France. That will be the beginning of what, we hope, will be good times ahead for Ireland in rugby circles.
There will be three separate international matches during next weekend, and they are being relayed through TV3, so we will have a great weekend of viewing. Of course, RTE Radio will have two long sessions on Saturday and Sunday, so there will be no excuse not to be listening to or viewing all these sports.
Let us hope Joe Schmidt and his team do well in France. They have an easy beginning, and the wins they have had over the last number of months in the European games should stand them in good stead. But, as we all know, games are games and a lot of it is down to chance. Nevertheless I am so looking forward to seeing them on the green fields of France.
You may remember, last week, I wrote that I had been invited to Loreto in Bray, which was my old Alma Mater as a boarder all those years ago. So, that event was last Wednesday and it turned out, thank God, to be a terrific day. There are over 900 secondary school pupils now in Loreto in Bray and we were all celebrating Mary Ward Day.
Four hundred years ago, Mary Ward founded the Loreto Sisters with the aim of providing good education for women. Was she not very forward looking altogether? What I always like about her story is that she fell out with the Bishop, she fell out with the Pope, she fell out with all the priests that she met, but she was very true to God and to her order, and to the aim of her order. The proof of it is that all over the world today there are Loreto Sisters, or their schools, providing good quality education to young women. They have a wonderful school in South Sudan and the students in Loreto in Bray were telling me all about it.
The students in Loreto in Bray are aged between 12 and 18 and the principal asked me if I would speak to them about this being the 100th anniversary of women having the vote in Ireland. Of course, I was delighted to do so but I stressed to them that I was not there to talk about any political party, I was there to talk about exercising their franchise.
I asked, at one stage, how many in the room were already on the register and had votes and about 40 pupils put up their hands, and each of them said, yes, they were going to vote. I did not want to know who they were going to vote for, but that they would vote. They were determined, and one said to me: “I would never like to be a hurler on the ditch, giving out about everyone and yet not exercising my own franchise, when you think about what the women 100 years ago did.”
So, all in all, it was a very, very satisfactory gathering and I was so pleased to meet with so many of them and to listen to their stories. I told them all that Mary Ward would indeed be proud of them, if she could have been in the room with us all. And, perhaps she was, in spirit.
Now, with all of that good news, I have a sad tale to tell. Not perhaps sad, more uncomfortable. I will try to encapsulate the whole story in a small amount of space.
Seventeen years ago I broke my left ankle and, following an operation in Dublin, there was a plate put into it with five screws.
Lately I have been having a lot of pain in that left ankle and, when we had an x-ray done, we could see that one of the screws had come loose. It was, in fact, a rogue screw, as the doctor called it, and it was pressing into my ankle flesh. You can imagine that that was pretty painful and it got worse as time went on.
However, last Thursday, the day after my Loreto Bray outing, I went to Dublin to hospital and had an operation to remove the wayward screw. The operation was a success and the doctor reported that the rest of the plate seemed fine. It was pretty sore when I came home on Friday and for the last few days I have had my foot up. I am beginning to see, already, that the bad pain I had in the ankle has disappeared.
Now that isn’t a sad story, it is just a disagreeable story. It’s never nice to go to hospital and it’s never nice to be in pain. Hopefully, and fingers crossed, and a little prayer from some of my readers please, that will be the end of the matter.
I am glad to see that the ankle did not cut across my voice. And so, whatever failing I have had in one part of my body is not replicated when I speak or write – Thank God for that!
I wonder are many of the readers of this column watching the Sunday night show Dancing With The Stars? I am a great follower of it and I love Sunday nights now when I can view it. Of course, it’s very difficult when a pair are removed. I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet that, to be successful you must have the votes of the jury but, far more important it is that you have the voting public – your friends and supporters who phone in to keep you in the show.
So Norah Casey went out the first week and last week we had Tomás O’Leary, the rugby player, whom I actually thought danced magnificently last Sunday night. But, there you are, perhaps not enough of votes from the public came in. Be that as it may, Marty is still in the competition and, you know, he can hardly put two feet in front of him, let alone dance. But I would say that every GAA supporter in Ireland phones in to keep him in the show. He is good fun and a good sport as indeed all of them are.
As I share my thoughts with you all on this Tuesday, January 30, it is my late husband Enda’s 17th Anniversary – he died in 2001. I had a few tears this morning and think so fondly of him as I write. He would love to see me busy writing and I am happy to do so. Enda was a good man and I know he is watching over myself and my two sons all the time. He never knew any of the grandchildren, they were all born after he passed away and, you know, he would get such fun and enjoyment out of each one of them now.
This is my lot for now. Talk with you all next week. In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill