Paul Healy’s Week



Of Lowry and Offaly…

I’ve always had a soft spot for Offaly. Its towns and villages are familiar to me, going back to our days in the Roscommon Champion, when we were a sister newspaper of the ‘Tribunes’ in Tullamore and Birr.

En route to meetings in Offaly, a quick snack in Hiney’s of Ferbane often broke the journey; on other days, the cosy County Arms or the delightful, character-filled ‘Thatch’ were venues for lunch with Offaly’s own eccentric newspaper mogul, the late Arnold Fanning.

Of course for many of us, it was Seamus Darby who put Offaly ‘on the map’. His iconic last-gasp goal in the 1982 All-Ireland football final sensationally won the Sam Maguire Cup for Offaly, even if the headlines were focussed as much on the fact that it denied Mick O’Dwyer’s Kerry the five-in-a-row.

That was a huge blow for the chaps who had confidently produced five-in-a-row ‘souvenirs’ in advance of the final (I suppose a certain amount of their merchandise was sold). That entrepreneurial setback always reminded me of a scene from Only Fools and Horses, when a stunned Del Boy’s reaction to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison is to lament that he had just bought a huge haul of ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ hats/t-shirts the previous week.

The Faithful County is a welcoming place, its people like ours, not least because they too are deeply embedded in the GAA. The late Eugene McGee, manager of the Offaly team that won that 1982 final, was my first boss in journalism, a mere six years on from that dramatic day in Croke Park.

These days, Offaly’s particular pride and joy is Shane Lowry. On Saturday, the Clara man produced one of the greatest rounds in the history of world golf, shooting a nine under par 62 in the PGA Championship, therefore matching the best score ever in a Major. On Sunday night, Lowry’s bid to win a second Major came up just short, though he still finished in the top ten. Lowry has star quality, a Midas touch: he might struggle for a few tournaments, but is always capable of ‘catching fire’ on a given weekend. More glory days will come for the affable Offaly Rover.




The people you meet…

After a lovely Sunday lunch in the ever-relaxing landmark Regan’s Gastro Bar at the Square in Roscommon, we emerged into the welcome sunshine to the embrace of… a host of Fine Gael politicians, aspiring candidates and party handlers.

It turned out that Taoiseach Simon Harris, who had addressed a National Famine Commemoration in Edgeworthstown earlier in the day, was due in town for a quick pre-election(s) walkabout.

The Square in Roscommon had seen its share of Taoiseach visits. I recall having to walk at high speed to keep up with Bertie Ahern and an entourage of party admirers as he whizzed around markets outside Regan’s/Gleeson’s in the early 2000s; Enda Kenny wasn’t Taoiseach – he was Taoiseach-in-waiting – when he made his by now somewhat notorious address outside Gleeson’s in 2010, assuring people that Roscommon A&E would be safe under his watch. There must be something about this part of Roscommon Town; it was in Mitchell’s Hotel on the Square (now Regan’s) that Charles Stewart Parnell spent the night prior to his last public address, delivered in Creggs, a week before his death in 1891.

Anyways, back to today. Before you could say ‘It’s not every day the Taoiseach of the day breezes into town’ the Taoiseach of the day had breezed into town. His two-car ‘cavalcade’ approached Regan’s ‘the wrong way’ – turning left past the post office, from the old jail side – but we’ll give all concerned the benefit of the doubt!).

Out bounded our new Taoiseach, and he couldn’t have been more convivial, posing for photographs and pressing the flesh. It was my first time to meet him, and I must say he was notably friendly and engaging.

Next stop was Gleeson’s, where people were dining outdoors in the good weather, followed by a walkabout ‘down town’ which included a call to Ryan’s pub in Goff Street.




Clowns to the left…

The Midlands-North-West constituency debate on Upfront with Katie Hannon on RTE tonight was so-so. Highlight was Peter Casey’s disappearing act (he returned after a while). Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan later claimed that Casey was annoyed that he (‘Ming’) was getting too much time on air (Katie Hannon had said Casey left due to problems with his mic).

When he returned, an exasperated Saoirse McHugh called Casey a clown. I suppose politics is a circus, of sorts.

Two final points: given his profile and poll rating, Ciaran Mullooly should have been included. As to who did well, I thought ‘Ming’ and Peadar Tóibín were best.




Where were you?

Today, another one of those moments in history we will never forget, its impact now imprinted forever in our minds.

You know these seismic, hard to define but simply monumental ‘life moments’ that stay with us…

The first man on the moon. Famous assassinations. Roy Keane leaving Saipan. That interval performance of Riverdance at the 1994 Eurovision. The OJ Simpson verdict. Ray Houghton putting the ball in the English net. David O’Leary’s penalty in 1990.

Those unmistakably unique ‘I’ll always remember where I was’ moments. Well today, it happened again.

At first, it seemed like an ordinary email; there was no pre-warning as to its historic significance. I read it with growing shock and alarm, somehow remaining calm, despite the enormity of the message it contained.

Even now, I am looking away as I quote directly from the press statement, for the pain is too great.

‘The Drive It with The 2 Johnnies afternoon show is set to finish at the end of the month, RTÉ 2FM has announced’.

And that was it. The 2 Johnnies, who started their RTE radio show, er way back in 2022 (not exactly the Gay Byrne Show, is it?), are hanging up their mics. Just like that. It’s over. Cherish the next few days. We may never see or hear their likes again.

As George Hamilton memorably said in the seconds prior to David O’Leary scoring that penalty in the 1990 World Cup, a nation holds its breath…