I hope you all had a nice St Patrick’s weekend.
For me, and I am sure for many of you, the great achievement was the Grand Slam secured by Ireland in Twickenham on Saturday. It was a truly terrific day, and even the snowflakes falling on and off did not dampen the skill and the bravery of the Irish team.
When they showed Eddie Jones on TV I thought of his ugly remark calling us “the scummy Irish”. Well, he got it back full throttle last Saturday when he saw what the Irish could do. I never saw a field empty as quickly of an opposing team as when the English scampered off at Twickenham, leaving us in full control of the crowds, the cheers, the raising up of the trophy: it was all so wonderful and felt truly great to be Irish.
I thought the picture of Rory Best, the captain, was great with his two little girls. I suppose they were about six and seven, the caps pulled down over their heads, and they so proud to be with their dad. It is a day they will long remember as will every member of the team.
Robbie Henshaw was there in his jacket with the team, and I thought how poignant and how heart-breaking it was for him to have begun the tournament as an integral part of the team only to be forced out of action so early. I hope he makes a very full recovery and I have no doubt that he will be back to fully glory when we embark on our next adventure.
I could not help but reflect on Johnny Sexton’s drop goal in injury time in the opening game of the Six Nations at the Stade de France. It seems so long ago now, but in that moment, which I said was similar in bravery and courage to Sergeant Custume on the bridge of Athlone, was the heroic deed that set us on our way. All the other games paled into insignificance beside that great triumph.
Rory Best is a marvellous captain. I am sure many of you have noticed when the Irish team would line up for Amhrán na bhFiann, Rory Best was so tensed up he kept his lips pursed tight and his gaze steady. He was really and completely on edge. The rest of the world must look on in amazement that a small country at the edge of Europe, like Ireland, has a rugby team with such skill and valour, willing to take on and beat the great nations of the world. Well done Ireland! We will never forget the players and the joy they have given so many people.
Last weekend, we had the added joy of another Rory earning triumphs for Ireland: Rory McIlroy playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Tournament at Bay Hill Club and The Lodge in Orlando. During the last few days the two Rorys have done Ireland proud in their respective sports.
The weather put paid to many of the GAA encounters set for last weekend. Longford beat Westmeath and what a pity that was as Westmeath had been going well and looking set for promotion. I think the Longford loss has scuppered that.
Roscommon continued their winning streak by beating Cavan, setting themselves up for promotion further on. Roscommon are playing great GAA for the last number of weeks and they look to set fair for promotion to Division One of the Allianz League.
Last week I was in Cork. Maura and Daithí from The Afternoon Show had asked me on their programme to review the book on the presidency of Donald Trump: Fire and Fury. It was a great read and I am always glad to visit Cork. I think Maura and Daithí run a marvellous afternoon show, giving much pleasure and enjoyment to many people throughout Ireland.
Then, last Thursday, I was up at the monthly Pat Kenny Book Show. The book we reviewed was The Great Alone by Kristil Hannah. It, too, is a wonderful book. If you get a chance to get it in the library or to buy it, it is a truly great novel. It is about life in Alaska in the 1970s, when life was truly basic in every sense of the word. But it is one of those books that was a marvellous read. Once I took it up I found it difficult to put it down until I had it finished.
That same day I went out to meet my niece, Anita. She is Brian and Ann’s youngest child. She is still living in the family home in Park View in Castleknock. However, their home has now been sold and she and Conor are moving out come the end of March. It was the only home she has known because she was brought up in it, born after Brian and Ann moved from Athlone to Dublin.
It was great to have a few hours with Anita so we could chat together, aunt and niece, in such a lovely open way. I feel very close to Anita and she to me, I know that our friendship will sustain whatever emerges now in her new life.
In other news, Donald Trump continues on his merry way. I thought Leo Varadkar had a good visit with him but, of course, sections of the media fastened on what they thought was a big gaffe when he told the tale of Doonbeg and the wind-farm. I thought, looking at the TV, that Leo was nervous, and why would he not be? Remember, he is still only in his late 30’s and it was a big event going to meet Donald Trump in the White House. Of course, he thought he could tell a good story, but the story misfired. But that is to overlook the very fine result he had from his visit and the good it will do for Ireland.
What a great pity that Donald Trump sacked Rex Tillerson. I thought he was the very epitome of what a good Minister for Foreign Affairs should be: urbane, civilised and knowledgeable. For no reason that anyone could understand he got the boot. The US will be the loser in all of this, I feel.
Winter had the last laugh on us all when we woke up last Sunday to see the ground covered in snow - the last gasp of a March determined to be cruel and nasty to us all. I hope that is really the end of the sharp weather and that we can look forward to kindness and sunshine from now on. There will be plenty of rain along the way too, I am sure.
Talk with you all next week. In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,