Farewell, Moate my old friend

With memories still fresh of being hurriedly force-fed fried eggs and rashers in Harry’s of Kinnegad while fat bus drivers scoffed down complimentary meals just yards away; or of eating copious amounts of apple tart in the Village Inn in Tyrrellspass, the news this week that never again will I be stuck in Moate, is just too hard to take.

With the Minister for Thick Black Hair Noel Dempsey in the midlands last evening to open the latest bit of the N6, therefore bypassing Moate and Kilbeggan and making Athlone the last stop-off on the way to Dublin, the realisation is just sinking through that never again will the slowest traffic in Ireland be on the widest street in Ireland.

For me, Moate was much more than the hometown of Foster and Allen. It was a cultural Hades which we crossed in the morning in search of glories on a football or hurling pitch and crossed once more that evening, our hearts inevitably broken or exhilarated, especially if you have the Mongrelian Mayo-Galway affection that has accursed me.

In Moate, there was always the compulsion to stop the car, get out, raise a fist to the air, shout a yahoo, an Up ya Boyoh, sing a blast of a Conquerors or SawDoctors song, break wind loudly and then have a ‘faste’ of Supermac’s, full in the knowledge that even though you were still far from home, you were back among your own people.

Forget about this symbollicks crossing of the Shannon, the true border was in Moate. Stopping in Athlone for a Happy Meal in McDonald’s at the roundabout just does not have the same ring as being ‘a baste’ in Moate.

Now, we are faced with the boring drive to Dublin, knowing that as soon as pass Athlone, you will not be stuck behind a tractor; and the road will soar ahead just like a runway on those flight simulators.

You can imagine how the new road is being greeted in those suburbs of Dublin, especially those delightful young men who periodically travel into the west to partake in a bit of smash and grab at the homes of the vulnerable.

Imagine the conversation at the Flying Grenade hostelry in Finglas.

“I say, Anto old boy, wasn’t it very thoughtful of those NRA chappies to create a new road to allow us into the west and out again in record time.”

‘Yes, Deano, quite chipper of them, wasn’t it. And even more charming that they should build it through the heart of the countryside where all those old dears live on their own without any security whatsoever.”

‘You’re quite right, my dear friend. What, we could leave at 8pm, be down the countryside, do the job and be back here in Finglas in time for a spot of drive-by shooting, what, eh.”

Yes, it will be a changed place now that Moate and Kilbeggan are off the map. But then this new road is to be welcomed as it will hasten our journey to and from the east.

As usual, the Galway side of it will always be the last bit to be finished.

In the last few weeks, they’ve had an eventful time, what with an expensive digging machine from Spain being lost forever when it sank into the bog in Cappataggle and then it nearly brought another one with it; and a horse being shot after it bolted into a digger.

Life will never be the same. Of course, there is the option to leave the new road, to use the interchange and visit Moate, but it would be just too hard. Moate was only good when you were stuck in traffic for an hour before you entered it, the anticipation growing, the nearer you inched towards the Grand Hotel for the carvery meat and balls of mash. We’ll just have to let it go into the backyards of our minds, where all the other memories are stored.


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