A memorable night in the City of the Tribes as local stars honoured 

Our man Frank on a memorable night at the Connacht Rugby Awards; Venting his frustration (again) at what he considers to be lenient court sentences… and in praise of nature…

It’s six o’clock on Saturday evening last, and even though Carol and I are only up in Galway, we might as well be in a different world.

We are in the City of the Tribes to attend the Connacht Rugby Awards Dinner in the Galmont Hotel, and although the meal is timed for 7.30 pm, by the time we arrived the place was absolutely hopping.

We had booked a Big O taxi to pick us up at our accommodation, which thankfully was a family member’s apartment – as a night in the Galmont was a little dear. The taxi firm was extremely professional. We got a text message to tell us the taxi was on its way, in addition to the make and registration number of the car and the driver’s name.

Needless to say the taxi was on time, and delivered us into the Galmont just as the second half of the Leinster-La Rochelle match started. Many in the large crowd were watching the game, but we got sitting beside four people from Boston, who were only in Galway for a few days’ break and had no interest in the rugby. While they had very little Irish blood, if any, they were thoroughly enjoying their visit and we had a lovely chat with them while trying to keep one eye on the Heineken Cup final.

As it happened, one eye was enough to see Leinster suffer another heartbreaking defeat. As the Leinster team is pretty much the Irish team in different coloured jerseys, it is a loss that must cast some doubt on our ability to win or even reach the semi-final of the upcoming World Cup.

Anyway, before too long the bell rang for us to make our way to the ballroom, and close to 600 people sat down to dinner. In fairness, considering the size of the crowd, everything about it was good – the food and service was top class, and all told it passed off very smoothly.

All through the meal there were interviews and speeches and awards, and for all of us Creggs folks the highlight was undoubtedly when Eoghan Coyle was announced as the Junior Club player of the year in Connacht, an award that was well deserved after the outstanding season he had. Carol and I were delighted to see that the winner of the Women’s Senior player of the year was Orla Dixon, a family friend, and another player who had an outstanding season. It was great to see Eoghan and Orla honoured. Heartiest congratulations to them both!

During the meal, there were interviews with Bundee Aki, Mack Hanson and Finlay Bealham from the Irish Grand Slam-winning senior team, and also John Devine from the U-20 Grand Slam winning team. They were all great craic, but especially Finlay Bealham, who was later lucky enough to get his picture taken with me.

Creggs was well represented and I was delighted to run into (not literally) the Galway Bay FM legend that is our own Creggs man, John Mulligan.

John played rugby with us back in the day, and being a top sports broadcaster, he knew everyone that was there. But as a former hooker, he was more than happy to tell Dave Heffernan – a seven-cap Irish international – how to improve his game. I’m not sure if the Ballina man took John’s advice, but we had good fun with Dave and his Rossie girlfriend, Holly.

By then it was getting late for OAPs, and so we called on Big O taxis again. So as the night began to heat up in the Galmont, we were safely home in our city bed.

As I said, it was like being in a different world, with so many people out for a good night. Even without the 600 or so at the dance, there was still a lot of people in the bar and dining room. Overall it was a great bit of fun – and for the second year in a row (Brian Diffley won last year), Creggs had the Junior Club player of the year! How special is that?

Was this really justice for perpetrator of horrific attack?

You will know by now that I sometimes consider sentences given by our judges to be bordering on the ridiculous. Last week, Judge Orla Crowe continued the trend when she sentenced a certain Alex Bailey to three years in jail.

Now Bailey had kicked and beaten 86-year-old dementia sufferer Marie MacGowan for 42 minutes before putting her head-first into a wheelie bin and closing the lid. When the bin fell over and the terrified poor lady tried to get out, he punched her in the face and kicked her in the body. But for the actions of three students who intervened, God only knows what the final outcome would have been.

Since the attack, Ms. MacGowan has lost her independence and has had to move into a nursing home. In the words of her son, she has lost her confidence, is sad and depressed, and seems to have given up.

Bailey, who had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol, claimed he thought his victim was a predatory  male paedophile dressed as a woman, so the judge took all kinds of things into consideration before handing down a three-year sentence. To further incentivise the guilty party to try to deal with his drug addiction and alcohol problems, she suspended the last six months, so if he behaves when ‘inside’ he only faces a sentence of 30 months. With good behaviour, Bailey will get a further quarter off his sentence, so he could be out in less than two years.

Now I fully believe in second chances and all that type of stuff, but Ms. MacGowan, according to her son, is unlikely to ever leave the nursing home, and I firmly believe the thug who inflicted appalling injuries on a very old woman should pay dearly for his crime. The other thing that bothers me is the fact that everyone could plead that they were drunk at the time of committing any type of offence – is that argument sufficient to more or less excuse them of responsibility for their actions? Maybe I am wrong, but to my mind Judge Crowe sent out the wrong message with her very lenient sentence, and put a very low premium on an old woman’s welfare.

And finally…

At long last we seem to be getting a good spell of very welcome hot weather. As there is some activity on the turf and silage front, I wonder has there ever been a year like it for the whitethorn bush?

Everywhere you look, the whitethorn is in bloom, and hedge after hedge is absolutely resplendent with the beautiful white flowers. If ever we should appreciate the beauty of rural Ireland we certainly should now.

If by any chance you haven’t noticed the whitethorn as you travel (by whatever means) around, have a look into the fields and you will see what I mean!