After beating England in their own back yard, could Ireland take the title? 

Our man Frank on beating England at Twickenham, the development of local footpaths, a super Saturday for Cristiano, and celebrating the first post-pandemic St. Patrick’s Day…

Saturday saw the biggest rugby match of the year (as it is every year) with Ireland taking on England. And if ever a match was hard to sum up, this one certainly was.

  A bonus-point win, a record defeat for England against Ireland on their home ground in Twickenham, and yet everyone knows that Ireland had a huge amount of problems and were hardly deserving of such an emphatic victory. At the same time, it was just as sweet as any win.

  It reminded me of 2004, also in Twickenham, when the Irish spoiled the World Cup winners’ homecoming party. On the way out to the stadium on a very packed train, it was very obvious to the few of us wearing green jerseys that the Irish team were only there as cannon fodder for the World champions, and the very bullish English supporters were nearly apologising for the terrible defeat we were about to suffer. 

  As it happened, Ireland won 19-13, and hard as they tried, the party atmosphere just didn’t happen. The balloon was well and truly burst, and I can still remember the massive sense of deflation around the ground – especially on the train journey back to the city, when, miraculously, there now seemed to be more Irish jerseys than English ones!

  Irish victories in Twickenham are as rare as hens’ teeth, so despite the circumstances, I am sure all the Irish that were lucky enough to be there enjoyed it just as much as we did eighteen years ago.

  As a young lad reluctantly taking up rugby many years ago, one of the biggest lessons we learned was to tackle low (not claiming that I ever did it). In the meantime, things have changed, and a lot of tackles are aimed at the upper body. However, with the increased awareness of head injuries, players have to be more careful.

  The English supporters were incensed at the red card dished out to Charlie Ewels in the first minute, but having delivered a dangerous flying headbutt to James Ryan’s head, he had to go. If he didn’t, it would’ve made nonsense of the claim that players’ welfare has become a huge issue.

  While England lost him so early, it also has to be remembered that we lost James Ryan, and as of today, no one yet knows how long he will be out for. Bearing in mind that Ewels weighs in at 17 stone of pure muscle and bone, it’s fair to say that a headbutt from him delivered at speed is a pretty frightening proposition. While he almost certainly didn’t mean to harm Ryan, players must be more careful with the way they tackle.

  Anyway, no matter how much the English claim they were hard done by and how much they dish out all the stuff about how they restored pride in the jersey, the hard fact is they lost by 17 points in front of their home crowd. 

  However, I also accept that they are very good rugby players. I for one think they are well capable of travelling to Paris next week and spoiling the Grand Slam party for the cock-a-hoop French. If they do, and we can find a win against the unpredictable Scots, we could well end up as Six Nations champions! Wouldn’t that be nice?

 

On the wrong path with local development? 

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning – very much better than the weather forecast would have us believe – and I am heading to lovely Athleague, the reigning Pride of Place champion village.

  However, this time I am not going to admire the scenery. Believe it or not, I am going to have a look at a footpath!

  For a week or so now, a regular reader of this column has expressed his bewilderment at the development that is taking place on the Creggs Road, all the way from the village, over the bridge, and out past the hurling pitch. 

  In fairness to him, he has a point, because the finished article will certainly have a big impact on the width of the public road – a road that is very busy due to the proximity of Aurivo/Homeland, Kepak, and the hurling pitch, and a stretch that has a huge number of lorries, tractors and trailers, and jeeps and trailers.

  He also made the point that the new footpath – up to twelve feet in width – will take away a lot of the parking area on the roadside opposite the pitch, where lots of supporters park their cars in relative peace on big match days. The other thing he says is that he has never seen that many pedestrians walking out that way, and even if there were, there is a perfectly operable path on the other side of the road. In a nutshell, his question really is – why was this work undertaken at all?

  There can be no doubt that this is a very expensive operation, and from my observations on Saturday morning, I would have to agree. Though I admit I’m no engineer, my reader would seem to have a valid point.

  For whatever reason, there seems to be a policy out there nowadays to take away as much parking space on town and village streets as possible. Everywhere we go, streets seem to be getting narrower as footpaths encroach on the spaces that were there. I for one (actually two) think it’s not a great development.

  Anyway, that was my trip to Athleague. All my reader wants is know is “Why?”

 

A super Saturday of sport! 

  I happened to witness one of the best fights I have ever seen last Saturday when Belfast boxer Michael Conlon and Nottingham native Leigh Wood took part in an amazing world title bout. 

  Having been in charge all the way, Conlon was caught with a knock-out punch in the very last round, a punch that drove him clean out of the ring, landing in a heap in the front row of the crowd. After huge concern for his wellbeing, the good news came that he seems to be fine. In fact, in typical Conlan form, he is looking for a rematch!

  Like him or hate him (because he does split opinion), Conlan is box office, and took part in a fight that Carl Frampton says was the best he’d ever seen. 

  Of course earlier in the evening of what was a great sports day for all of us Manchester United supporters, the greatest goalscorer of all time, Ronaldo, hit an amazing hat-trick to give us a vital win over Spurs. So, as I headed for bed on Saturday night, I could hardly have been in better form!

 

Finally for this week…

As we look forward to a normal Paddy’s Day, one of the things that brightened my mood this week was the reappearance of ads in last week’s Roscommon People for musical entertainment in some of our local pubs.

  Like our editor Paul, I too have yet to make my comeback on the pub scene. However, I expect to rectify that situation fairly soon. In the meantime, I would encourage anyone who feels it’s okay to do so to get out the dancing shoes (if you can still find them), get yourself out for a night of music and dancing, and support both the music pubs and the musicians, who have not had a payday for almost two years. Enjoy Paddy’s Day – but not too much!