Frank Brandon’s Column

A bizarre Christmas – and my experience of having a Covid test

Our columnist writes about his experience of self-isolating, in praise of Marcus Rashford, enjoying the festive sport…and receiving an unwelcome ‘present’

It’s a beautiful frosty Monday morning as I write, and in a couple of days’ time Christmas 2020 will be a thing of the past. The curtain will be drawn on what was a bizarre, unusual, and very surreal festive period, but one that was also, surprisingly, reasonably enjoyable.

This year, there can be no doubt that Covid-19 cast a huge shadow over the whole world, and out here in Creggs we were affected just like everyone else. On December 23rd, just as I was about to head up to Mikeen’s to close his pub for the third time, myself and Carol got the ‘great’ news that we had been close contacts with someone who had tested positive for Covid, and that we had to self-isolate for ten days and get ourselves tested. And so, instead of going to Mikeen’s to have a few pre-Christmas drinks, we were in isolation.

After a very low-key Christmas Day, we found ourselves heading off to Castlerea on St. Stephen’s morning to join loads more people, take our place in the queue, and get ourselves tested. Thankfully, a day and a half later both of us got the news that we were negative, but of course we still had to self-isolate, and only got back to the outside world yesterday (Sunday afternoon).

I have to say that the whole experience at the testing centre in the Fire Station building was more than acceptable, with everyone being friendly, professional and thoroughly organised. Having been told that I would find the whole thing quite distasteful and even distressing, I found I had no problem at all, and have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with it all.


Marcus, a great role model

One of the supposed benefits of being in isolation is the fact that you get to see more television than normal.

After a lifetime of socialising on New Year’s Eve, I was almost looking forward to seeing the RTE offering, having never been available to watch it before. But, having suffered twenty minutes of absolute rubbish, I have made up my mind to go out every New Year’s Eve from now on (Covid allowing) for as long as I am able so that I will never be at home to see the RTE annual extravaganza.

However, one programme I did see was an amazingly uplifting documentary about Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford. If ever there was a player who lived up to his status as a hero and role model to thousands of young children all around the world, it is the young Manchester-born footballer, who has never forgotten his humble beginnings and who single-handedly forced the UK Government to change its policy regarding the provision of school lunches to hundreds of thousands of deprived UK children.

The documentary followed his journey round the UK calling to disadvantaged areas, meeting with teachers, care workers, children, and their parents. His total commitment to the cause was so apparent, as was his complete lack of any type of self-importance, despite his status as one of the best footballers in the Premier League. The way he interacted with everyone was totally inspiring.

By now, you all know that I regard most Premier League footballers as overpaid, spoilt brats, and the recent total disregard of Covid rules by players from Spurs, West Ham, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace (among others), with their social media images of ill-judged gatherings and house parties, only serves to highlight their complete lack of respect for ordinary folk and confirms that a lot of them think they are superior to the rest of us.

And so it was a delight to see the example being set by Rashford; a measure of his standing in the UK is the fact that the Prime Minister himself rings him on a regular basis. But, as a long-time supporter of Man. United, I am also delighted to see that despite all this new attention he is still banging in the goals, and has contributed quite a bit to us, having a fruitful Christmas footballing period.

So well done Marcus, keep up the good work – you are a credit to your mother and your upbringing. Yet again, you’ve shown us all that no matter what you may become, you should never forget where you came from, and you should never turn your back on your roots.


Sport a great escape from pandemic blues

As restrictions get tougher and tougher, it seems that more and more people are ignoring the HSE advice. Apparently house parties and shebeens are springing up everywhere, and as a result we are seeing thousands of cases of Covid every day. As for us sports lovers, who are doing our best to follow the rules, sport on telly has been a great escape from the stress and strain of trying not to contract the virus.

Accordingly, the fantastic victory by Connacht over Leinster on Saturday in Dublin was great to see, and the commitment and effort displayed by the entire Connacht team, along with the subs used, was just wonderful. To beat Leinster in their own backyard for the first time in years was real reward for a superb performance.

The two half backs, Monivea’s Caolan Blade and Athlone’s Jack Carty, showed real class, and Carty in particular could well get back into the international reckoning. The big challenge for Connacht is to reproduce that form next Saturday when Munster comes to the Sportsground. In the meantime, let’s all savour a win that will be talked about for many years to come.


And finally…

Finally for this week, at a time of such joy and goodwill, I would like to thank the kind person who left a lovely gift hanging on my front gate this morning – a black rubbish bag full of ashes, potato peels, bottle tops and Whiskas catfood cartons, among other such delights. The bag was carefully attached to the gate spikes, and as the person didn’t leave a gift tag I would just like to express my heartfelt thanks to them for such a fabulous way to start the New Year.