A day in the company of the country kings and queens

Once upon a time, in one of my many previous existences as the Karaoke King, Dympna as the Queen and myself, used to appear in the Airport bar in Kilkelly on St. Stephen’s Night. It was a very busy pub that was owned by the Finnegan family. We were there for a few years in a row and I can remember meeting a young Joe Finnegan, son of the proprietors, there a couple of times just before he headed off to ‘do’ a disco, in the neighbouring towns of either Knock or Kiltimagh. Joe was already an established presenter on Shannonside Radio, but you would never think then that not that many years on, he would become probably the top man in Irish country music.


  On Friday night we all saw him make an appearance on RTE’s Country Music Awards programme, as head of their association, but it was the remarkable show that he and other Shannonside members put on in the racecourse in Roscommon that showed exactly how high his standing is in the land of country music.


  Now there is no doubt that not everyone is a fan of this music, and on my way home in the evenings, I almost have to ask for permission to listen to Junior Walker on Shannonside, or later in the evening to Seamus Duke on Midwest, but, win or lose, (and I lose more often than I win), I make no secret of the fact that I love country music.


  And so, despite the soccer match being on at 2 o’clock (Ireland and France, in case you’ve been underground for a while and didn’t know), myself and my other half, Carol, headed off along with, as it turned out, thousands of other fans for what I have to say was a most enjoyable day’s entertainment.


  Everyone that’s anyone in the Irish scene was there and one after the other they put on amazing performances, but if ever I needed proof, this Roscommon event showed us that despite the young, wonderfully talented up and coming stars, when it comes to country music, Big Tom is still the king. The reception he got was spine-tingling as he sang eight songs. I couldn’t help but feel guilty that when both he and I were young, I never went anywhere to see him. That excludes one night in Nenagh, about 40 years ago, when I somehow arrived to the Ormond Hotel, where himself and the Mainliners were in action, but I was only there by accident and had no idea what band, if any, was playing on the night. So that doesn’t count, but if I could turn back the clock I would have gone to see him a bit more often. However that’s how it is, but as Tom heads into his twilight years he must be delighted, firstly at his own continuing popularity, but also at the very healthy state the whole industry is in.


  As I said, everyone was there, including the poster boy and girl, Nathan Carter and Lisa McHugh, but I have always told you that my favourite is Mike Denver, and I was delighted to see him get the Entertainer of the Year Award on Friday night. Somehow I assumed Nathan would win that as well (he won at least two others) and I’m ashamed to tell you, I jumped up and cheered when the Galway man’s name was announced. Anyway, on Sunday, as always, he put on a great set to bring down the curtain on a wonderful show and the crowd, who came from every part of Ireland, went home very happy at what they had seen and heard.


  I’m told there was a great bit of craic around the town of Roscommon later on in the evening and I’m sure the tills in all the bars were ringing merrily. As I said, well done Joe and the Shannonside gang and here’s to next year.


Before I leave Sunday’s events, we told three of our four adult children to put on the Sunday roast so that it would be ready for us when we got home. We obviously did a bad job in rearing them, as they had to go to Google to find out how to roast it. Some of them thought they should boil it, but none of them had a clue! I’ve had Google to thank for many a thing over the years, but I never thought I would have to thank it for my Sunday dinner. The good news is that it turned out so well that I’ve given them the job for the foreseeable future!

Media to blame for hyping English team



It’s Tuesday afternoon as I write and myself and the rest of the sporting world are still taking in England’s extraordinary defeat by Iceland in the last 16 match of Euro 2016 on Monday evening in Nice.


  The fact that there are no professional soccer clubs in Iceland, that a number of their players are amateurs and that one of their joint managers is a part-time dentist, as well as a part-time football manager, puts the whole thing into perspective. No matter how they look at it, it has to be the most humiliating night in English football history. And of course, being Irish, most of us took almost ridiculous delight in seeing the English fail, which to their own amazement happens in nearly every major tournament.


  Today, on several radio shows, people were trying to figure out why we want players, a lot of whom we support at club level, to do so badly in an English shirt. Everyone has their own answer, from just plain republicanism to anti-imperialism, but I think it’s all to do with humility, or maybe a lack of it. If the media, in particular, didn’t build the team up to outrageous heights and if they realised that this current team had probably the easiest qualifying group of all to get to France, then maybe we would not be so happy to see them getting stuffed by the minnows from Iceland.


  It can’t be easy to carry such unfounded expectations into these tournaments, and while the other three countries from these islands all exceeded their own expectations, with the Welsh still going strong, I really pity the English players, who will return home as scapegoats and laughing stocks.


  Our own lads did us proud and with a bit more luck we too could still be flying the flag in France. Sadly it wasn’t to be, but at least, unlike the English, we came home with our heads held high.


One of the auld stock…



Finally for this week, at the weekend we bid farewell to what I like to call one of the auld stock, when Baby McGovern died after a short illness. Baby was the wife of well-known farmer and cattle dealer, Mickey, and she was also the mother of six proud Galway girls. The last time I met her she told me in no uncertain terms to get my hair cut, as I was way too old to have it as long as it was. She was probably right, but I haven’t got to the barber yet.


  Anyway, my deepest sympathies to the McGovern family, friends and relations. She will be sadly missed. May she rest in peace.


Till next week, bye for now