A memorable rugby trip as Ireland and France serve up a classic

Our man Frank on a memorable outing to Dublin for the big Six Nations game with France; An important local fundraiser; In praise of the health service…and Jimmy’s chart hit!

After a trip to Merlin Park Hospital on Friday (see separate item) I was soon on my way again, with a 6.30 pm train journey from Athlone to Dublin. A few of us were carrying on our rugby tour tradition by going to the Ireland-France match the following day.

The group has become smaller (and older) since we first started touring in 1999, but despite advancing years (for some of us), we put our heart and soul into this one and had the usual great craic.

On Friday night we passed a few hours in the iconic Palace Bar in Fleet Street, where the large French crowd were in great voice, treating us to a rendition (or two) of La Marseillaise, which is undoubtedly the greatest national anthem in the world.

On Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast in Kay’s Kitchen, we walked out to the Aviva stadium. As we walked, it became obvious that the French had come over in their thousands.  They were everywhere – many in outrageous costumes – and I have to say they were very colourful and really contributed to what turned out to be an epic sporting occasion. Some people say the first half may have been one of the best halves of rugby ever played. All I can say is it was such a privilege to be there.

Afterwards, we adjourned to the Swan Bar in Aungier Street, which is owned by Sean Lynch – a man who represented his country fifteen times as a prop forward, and also played in all four tests of the Lions’ 1971 tour of New Zealand.

The game itself ensured that this will be a tour that will be talked about for years to come, and despite our ageing profile, everyone held their end up, and all acquitted themselves well. A bit like my hips, we won’t look too far ahead, but providing we make it through, God willing we will all be there in Dublin again.

As for the French, they rose the roof off the stadium at times with their singing, and were very gracious losers. It was a super win for Ireland, but the World Cup group with Scotland and South Africa is looking increasingly dangerous for us, so no one will be getting carried away with the French result.

Before I finish with the rugby: one of my big pet peeves is the continuous movement of people as they go to the bars for drinks, or go in and out of the loos. In doing so, they interfere with the viewing enjoyment of those of us who don’t drink at matches and only want to actually see the action.

Last week, the England World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward said Twickenham is now the biggest pub in the world. He was scathing in his criticism of so-called fans who really only go for the drink, and to be able to say they were at the game, but who actually have no interest in the rugby at all. He said there should at least be drink-free zones spread around the stadium.

As it happened, despite seeming to down an enormous amount of liquor, the French supporters and indeed their Irish counterparts were very well behaved on Saturday, and there was absolutely no problem with any unwelcome movement by anyone. Twickenham, however, lived up to Clive Woodward’s fears, and a poor Italian journalist had to cease work after himself and his laptop got ‘drowned’ by some yob’s pint.

As Woodward said, tickets for these international games are so expensive that the least anyone would expect is to be able to watch the game in peace. Thankfully, despite my worries, all was good on Saturday and we had a perfectly good view of a wonderful game of rugby.


Please help an initiative that saves lives…

As we all know, heart disease is one of the biggest killers in Ireland and indeed all over the world. We have all, at some stage or other, been affected by the loss of someone close to us from heart failure.

Some of these deaths could have been prevented by the availability of a defibrillator. And so, out here in the locality of Creggs, Kilbegnet, and Donamon, the Creggs Defibrillator Group are holding a fundraiser to replace the existing ones, which are now out of date and ineffective.

A defibrillator is a device that sends an electric pulse or shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. If a heart has suddenly stopped beating, it can restart it again. Each device costs €1,000, and as there are six of them around our area, the committee obviously needs help to get new ones. The importance of the defibrillators cannot be overstated and there is no doubt they save lives. To borrow a phrase from the National Lottery, “it could be you”.

You can contribute online by going to idonate.ie/crowdfinder/Sheila Beirne, or by supporting sponsorship cards that are in local shops and pubs. Also, every Wednesday evening at 7 pm, a wellbeing evening takes place at Creggs Rugby Club to highlight the facts about heart disease and make people aware of the local fundraising efforts.

All I can say is do your best to give what you can. In doing so, you might just save the life of a friend, a neighbour, or even a family member – how good would that make you feel?


Hips don’t lie…in praise of ‘Merlin’ staff

It’s early Friday morning (at least it’s early for me) as Carol and myself hit the road for a visit to Merlin Park Hospital. Due there at 8.30 am, we decided that by leaving at 7 am we should easily make it on time. Little did we know that with traffic into Galway being so busy, we would arrive at our destination with barely a minute to spare!

Way back in 2006 and 2007, I was a patient in Merlin when I got my two hips replaced, and have always had a soft spot for the hospital and its staff. On Friday, I found out that in all those years, nothing had changed.

The medical personnel were just so nice and considerate, and everyone was so helpful that before we knew it we were on our way home. Hopefully, we won’t be back for a while again.

Funnily enough, as I revisited Merlin, I remembered that the consultant told me at the time that my new hips would have a maximum lifespan of ten years! As I said, they have now been in place for 16 and 17 years respectively, and are still going strong (I’m just back from a 4km walk), so hopefully there’s another bit left in them yet. A betting man would probably reckon they might yet see me out!


And finally…

A little while ago I met Jimmy Kearney, the well-known ‘oil man’ and musician. He has been one half of the very popular musical group ‘The Lancers’ for a good while now. When I met Jimmy, he was very enthusiastic about a new song he had written called, ‘The good old times of ‘69’, which he hoped to record fairly soon.

Well, he must have got it out there in the end, because a week or two ago it was number 9 on Strabane Radio Airplay, ahead of both the well-known Derek Ryan and Scottish superstar, Brandon McPhee!

I’m sure the song will get extensive airtime on our local radio stations (memo to Joe Finnegan and Paul Claffey) and Jimmy will have a big hit on his hands – it couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow!

Wouldn’t it be great to see him on Top of the Pops!