Frank Brandon’s Column

An extraordinary and emotional weekend as Tipp and Cavan triumph

Our man Frank on those remarkable provincial title wins by Cavan and Tipperary; his latest ‘beak news’ report…and on dreaming (very precisely) about Galway hurlers!

It’s Sunday evening, and as I am writing this I am still totally overwhelmed at the extraordinary Gaelic football matches that have taken place this afternoon.

If anyone had told me this morning that Tipperary would be the 2020 Munster football champions and Cavan crowned champions of Ulster, I think I would have told them to go and get their head examined. And yet that is exactly what occurred on a day of unbelievable drama and excitement.

The only pity is that Covid-19 means there was no crowd at either game. The football-mad supporters of both counties missed out on two completely deserved victories, wins which were built upon total belief, commitment and skill.

For all of us who had formed the opinion that Donegal were the only team capable of taking on the Dubs, it was a chastening experience as we watched what unfolded. On this Sunday evening, with two Division Three teams (Cavan and Tipperary), one Division Two team (the recently relegated Mayo), and the all-conquering Dubs left in the race for Sam Maguire, any sceptical realist would say that we should just give the trophy to Dublin now and not bother with the rest of the championship. However, that obviously could and should never happen, as the people associated with all three teams will firstly feel they rightly deserve their appearance in an All-Ireland semi-final, and secondly, that in this most extraordinary of years – with such a series of amazing results –  there is no reason to think there could not be one more.

It is highly unlikely after the rout of Meath by the Dubs that they can be beaten, but for this evening I think the whole country has got a huge lift (apart from Cork and Donegal people) by the fantastic wins of both underdogs. While the celebrations will be very different to what they might have been, nonetheless we all feel a little better this Sunday evening.

It has been well documented that as we commemorate the centenary of Bloody Sunday, by a quirk of fate the four provincial champions are exactly the same as they were in 1920. It was heart-warming to see Dublin and Tipp wear Bloody Sunday commemorative jerseys, with Tipperary’s being an exact replica of those worn by their team in that fateful game one hundred years ago. To win the Munster Championship for the first time since 1935 was a most fitting tribute to Tipperary footballer, Michael Hogan, who was shot dead that day by British soldiers. Only the most churlish supporter would begrudge them their victory. I wish Tipperary and Cavan well in their respective semi-finals, but whatever happens next they will never forget the (2020) championship of Covid and how they were jointly the story of it.

Before I leave Tipperary, I must say that I have always had a soft spot for the folks there. Mrs B, my mother, was a native of the county, and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see them do well.

In 2016, my two sons and I went to Croke Park to see Galway play Tipperary in the football quarter-final, fully expecting to give the Munster men a pasting, but it turned out the other way round as we lost by 3-13 to 1-10. For some reason, Tipperary didn’t kick on at all after that, and instead went downhill quicker than an Olympic skier.

Of the team that hammered the Tribesmen that day, at least eight were winning Munster medals today – including two forwards, Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney, who destroyed the Galway defence that day and inflicted similar damage on the Cork rearguard today.

My last thought on sport for this week is this. On Friday night, I dreamt that Galway hurlers beat Tipp by 3-22 to 2-24, and as time went over the seventy minutes, that was exactly the score. I don’t know was I cross or glad when Joe Canning scored a last-second free, leaving my dream out by a point.


Rocky’s flying adventure

I have never been one for birds (although some might say I’m for the birds), but for the second week in a row a story about one of our feathered friends caught my eye. Following last week’s €1.6m pigeon, this time it was a Saw-whet owl, discovered in the Rockefeller Christmas tree, that made headlines all around the world.

The owl, which belongs to one of the smallest owl species in North America, was discovered in the branches of the 27-metre high tree when workers were setting up the huge Norwegian Spruce on Monday last. How it got there is uncertain, but it had been stuck in the tree without food or water for at least three days before it was discovered, and rescuers were amazed to find it was “bright-eyed and healthy, although hungry” when it was found.

After it was discovered, the little bird, which naturally enough has been named Rockefeller (Rocky for short), was taken to a wildlife centre outside the city, where he has been catching up on his much-needed fluids, feeding on loads of mice (who wouldn’t be an owl?), and making up for some lost sleep. As I write this on Monday morning, Rocky is as good as ready to be released back into the wild.

When he gets back to where he came from, he’ll have some tale to tell his friends about his unscheduled trip to New York. No matter where he goes next, I doubt he’ll ever surpass his adventures of Christmas 2020.


Trump fires over 100!

There can be little doubt that in the history of the world so far, Donald Trump holds a unique position; it is doubtful, hopefully, that we will ever have another one like him. So, when I read the headline ‘Trump fires quick-fire 147’ – and given his record of getting rid of everyone and anyone who disagrees with or criticises him – I thought for certain that this time he must have gone completely bonkers and fired almost all of those that worked for him.

Thankfully, it wasn’t about The Donald at all, but rather snooker player Judd Trump, who had had a maximum break during his successful defence at the Northern Ireland Open – a tournament that he was winning for the third time in a row. The snooker has suffered because of the pandemic as well, with all tournaments being played in Milton Keynes. So, despite it being the Northern Ireland Open, not one ball was hit up there. Strange times indeed.

However, despite several recounts of the snooker balls, alleged scorekeeper fraud, and unsubstantiated claims of Russian interference, this Trump was declared the winner and has actually been presented with the prize – very different from the situation concerning the other Trump.


And finally…

Finally for this week, one of the more uplifting recent news items was the story of Arthur Henry Saunders, a native of Athlone who now lives in Mullagh in Co. Cavan. Saunders celebrated his 100th birthday on Friday, and was surprised by a drive-by celebration from his friends and neighbours. In his own words, he was also presented with loads of presents of whiskey and cash.

However, the great thing about Arthur is that despite his years, he is still as fit as a fiddle. He mows the lawn at the family home, and is looking forward to ‘a bit of a do’ when the local pubs open up again.

For all of us who are beginning to feel our age, with all kinds of aches, pains, and minor ailments, he is an inspiration. I’m sure that, being in Cavan on Sunday night, he might well have opened one of his whiskey presents to celebrate their great Ulster final win.

Belated happy birthday, Arthur, and long may you continue to lead a full and active life!