A trip to the Clogher Valley

Our man Frank on seeing ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’; Chatting to the man with the golden trumpet; Duff and the waterfall visit that didn’t happen…and the Harvest Festival

It’s Saturday morning, and as the rain lashes against the windows, I finally make my mind up to join my brother ‘Duff’ and my son Mark on the journey north to Fivemiletown, where our rugby lads are due to play local team Clogher Valley in the All-Ireland Junior Cup.

Fivemiletown is about fifteen miles north of Enniskillen. While there are several ways to get there, we hit for Sligo, then on to Manorhamilton, through Blacklion and Belcoo and into Enniskillen and out the Belfast road to the Clogher Valley rugby grounds.

Now you would think that trip and all that travelling would be enough for most men, but not for Duff, who announced he had always wanted to see the famous Glencar Waterfall. And so we went on a little detour.

Eventually we arrived at a lovely car park, with perfectly presented toilets, busy tea rooms, lots of visitors around, but sadly, no sign of any waterfall. It seems the waterfall is a good walk from the car park, and we didn’t have the time to go there, so Duff’s wait goes on; he still hasn’t seen the famous Leitrim attraction.

Anyway, on we went. Having stopped for a bite to eat in Enniskillen (we decided to give Neven Maguire’s in Blacklion a miss), we arrived at our destination with about a half hour to spare.

I have to say that the welcome we got from the locals was very warm, and in a way it was a bit like old times when clubs used to play friendlies all over the country. Nowadays there is so much internal provincial competition that we hardly ever get to play outside of Connacht.

Of course this was not a friendly game, as our opponents were the defending All-Ireland champions. With that in mind, it was always going to be a difficult day for us, but despite being short a few players, we had a right good go at it. Even though we lost, the locals freely admitted that they had to work hard for their victory.

In a lot of ways, the northern club reminded me of Creggs in our early years. The pitch was out in the country, they had dressing rooms but no bar, their unofficial clubhouse was a pub in Fivemiletown, and above all, the pride in their little club was evident for all to see. They are undoubtedly the top junior club in the North, having won every trophy there is to win in the province. As I left their very welcoming club, I was very glad that I had made the belated decision to travel.

Fortunately, the huge disappointment of not seeing Glencar Waterfall didn’t upset me too much, and I hope Duff gets to visit it some day. Though I imagine his disappointment was tempered quite a bit, when, later on that night he was awarded the Personality of the Parish for 2022, an honour that everyone agreed was richly deserved.

I wonder though if the committee had known of his earlier failure to find the famous waterfall, would it have affected the result? I’m only joking Duff – for if ever a man deserved to be acknowledged for all the work he does for our parish, it’s you. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

 

Trumpet king Johnny is still going strong!

It’s hard to believe it now, but it’s been about 40 years since I pitched my tent in Castlerea, back when I used to arrive there to work (in inverted commas) in the Bank of Ireland in the square.

Times were very different then. The bank official was expected to meet and socialise with their customers, and it was every bit as important to be a good mixer as it was to be a good clerk. It’s safe to say I was much better outside the bank counter than inside it.

Anyway, I loved my time in Castlerea. To this day it is by far the most beloved of all the places I’ve worked in – and there were many.

Castlerea has produced more than its share of high achievers in lots of different fields – footballing legends like Mickey Freyne, Harry Keegan, Adrian O’Sullivan and many more, the world’s best-known and best-loved postman Danny Burke, the present-day boxing superstars that are the O’Rourke sisters, in addition to the many players that have graced the rugby fields for Creggs RFC, and many others who have made their names in business, politics, and other different spheres.

One of those spheres is music. Undoubtedly one of Ireland’s most revered musicians is the ‘Man with the golden trumpet’, Castlerea-born Johnny Carroll. After many decades in the business, he is still very much at the top of his profession.

When I spoke to Johnny the other day, we reminisced about back when The Premier Aces were among the big draws at Creggs Carnival. Johnny told me he still has happy memories of his many visits with the band to the marquee in Creggs. He praised the committee of the time for always providing the band members with tea and sandwiches after their performance – much-needed sustenance after playing for nearly four hours.

Johnny also told me of a huge night of music that he is hosting in Galway Cathedral on Thursday, November 10th, with all proceeds going to Galway Hospice. Johnny will be headlining the concert, which also features the wonderful Conquerors, Marc Roberts of Galway Bay and Eurovision fame, the renowned local Roscommon Solstice Choir, and the Galway tenors (Frank Naughton, and Sean Costello). The MC on the night is Tom Gilmore, doors open at 7.30 pm, and admission is €25.

The night will also feature the launch of a new CD, ‘Whispering Hope’, which features Johnny and the Roscommon Solstice Choir.

Johnny hopes people from all over (especially Roscommon) turn up, support a great cause, listen to some fantastic music, and have a great night! All I can do is ask you to go to the Cathedral and help the ‘man with the golden trumpet’ in his quest to do something big for Galway Hospice.

The day I spoke to him, he was celebrating his 79th birthday, so well done and congratulations Johnny – you truly are one of Castlerea’s and Roscommon’s greatest ambassadors.

 

I loved ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

It’s Thursday evening and Carol and myself decide to head to the Omniplex Cinema in Roscommon to have a look at the film that is making all the news at the moment – ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’.

Now I am the first to admit that I knew nothing at all about the film or its story/plot, but I did know it had a host of Irish stars in it, including Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but what I will say is that I loved it. The acting performances in particular were absolutely outstanding.

The great development since my last pre-Covid visit to the cinema was that there was no preamble to the main feature. There were no ads, trailers or any of the other stuff that used to delay the start of the show by nearly half an hour; much to my surprise, the film began at exactly the scheduled start time.

Many years ago, I went to see Michael Collins (the film) in a cinema that is now no longer in use, and we were almost frozen with the cold. Only for bringing a couple of extra coats with us, we probably would have frozen solid. But on Thursday evening it was a different story; the cinema was beautifully heated, the seats were lovely and comfortable, and we thoroughly enjoyed out unusual night out.

However, it seems that not everyone has been as enthusiastic about the movie as I was. All I can say is you’re free to go and make up your own mind about it – hopefully you come down on my side.

 

And finally…

It’s now a wet Bank Holiday Monday as I write, and I am very glad to report that despite some pretty wet weather over the weekend, the local Harvest Festival has been a roaring success, with huge crowds attending events.

Of course the festival is not yet over at the time of writing. In fact, when I finish writing this piece, I am off to get ready to go and hear Decie Walsh in Mikeen’s this evening at 5.30 pm.

Decie always puts on a good show, so I’m looking forward to a bit of craic!