Back in the swing of things!

Fresh from the joys of a return to the golf course, our columnist is now dreaming of the “almost forgotten pleasure” of a nice creamy pint of Guinness…

It’s Monday morning, June 8th, and there can be no doubt that things feel different today. After almost three long months, shops are reopening this morning, people can travel 20 km from their homes – and more if they are within their county boundaries – and even though the pubs can’t open for another few weeks, I can actually imagine myself sampling the almost forgotten pleasure of a nice creamy pint of Guinness before the end of the month.

However, for me, now that my working life has come to an end, it is the fact that I can take out my golf clubs (if I can find them) and head to the beautiful newly-extended course that is Castlerea, where I am booked in to play a round, that has excited me the most. The truth is that I have never before looked forward as much to playing a round of golf.

The great thing is that despite the long lay-off, I am certain that my game will be completely unaffected, and am confident that I will be just as bad as I was before the pandemic set in. However, the thought of being allowed to walk around the splendid parkland course, take in the lovely scenery and just breathe the fresh air, fills me with joy. I really can’t wait. I will tell you how I get on towards the end of this piece.

The sad thing is that, due to the new regulations, you can’t pick up any lost balls, which will definitely mean I will need a good few more than usual, but even that won’t put me off. Golf, along with tennis, is about the only sport out there that ordinary folk are currently allowed to play, so watch out Castlerea. I am coming back. (To see how Frank got on, see ‘And finally’ below).


Missing club games

I have to admit that the pandemic has given me a new awareness as to what means the most to me, and I am surprised to find that I haven’t missed the inter-county hurling and football championships that much. However, I really miss having no club games to go to.

There is nothing to compare with the excitement of heading off to some local pitch, having a go at the referee, exchanging pleasantries and abuse with supporters of the opposition – most of whom you know and would often have a pint with – and just feeling that sense of pride and belonging in your local club. Of course you can also have a go at your own players and management!

In my opinion, the fact that club championship games could (possibly) be back on the 31st of July is wonderful news. I can’t wait until we in Creggs can line out against our neighbouring clubs again.

As of now there is no indication as to whether there will be a resumption of leagues, or how the championships will be run, but for everyone – players, management and supporters alike – all that matters is that games resume in some shape or form, and that we have somewhere to go. Let’s hope spectators will be allowed! If not, at least in Creggs we could look through the hedge that surrounds the pitch.

Now I’m not sure that if and when the inter-county games come back, the old Roscommon/Galway rivalry will automatically reappear, but for now let’s just look forward to the return of the club game and the renewal of long-standing hostilities. Up Creggs!


Derry Girls or Killinascully?

While all the disruption to our lives has been going on, there is no doubt that I have watched more telly these last few months than I normally would. The other night, having listened for ages to the news about the great success of Derry Girls, I decided to take a look.

I am wondering this morning if I am lacking in something as I have to admit that I had turned it off by the time it came to the first break. Now I fully accept that the problem most likely lies with me, but I just couldn’t get the humour and – sad to say – give me Killinascully any time. The return over the last few weeks of the Pat Shortt masterpiece has really been very enjoyable, and, (sadly) appeals to my warped sense of humour.

The good news however is that I have a hardcore of crime shows like Blue Bloods, FBI, The Rookie, and action shows like Station 19 and 9-1-1 to keep me entertained. All in all, telly life in lockdown has been very bearable.

However, now that golf, pubs, and club football are on the horizon, I won’t need the TV programmes as much – I can’t wait!


My sympathy for Sil

On to more serious matters, and I have to admit that I have never actually seen the comedian Sil Fox live. Sil is a regular on one of my favourite radio programmes, Joe Duffy’s ‘Funny Friday’ section on Liveline. For years now I have listened to him as he told his stories and his gags, and in fairness I have found him to be very funny.

However, in July 2019, at the age of 86, Mr. Fox found himself facing a charge of sexual assault after it was alleged that he assaulted a woman who asked to have her photograph taken with him at a Christmas party the previous year.

Now, the plaintiff is entitled to make the allegations, but when the case eventually went to court last week, the Judge ‘threw it out’ because there were inconsistencies between the complainant’s evidence and the CCTV footage. One would have to ask why the case went to court at all. Surely it must have been obvious all along that the CCTV evidence did not support the alleged assault?

It is a fault of our justice system that someone can accuse someone else of such serious misconduct, thereby putting the accused, as in the case of Sil Fox, through months of hell, and presumably walk away scot-free at the end of it all – even though the incident (as alleged) never actually took place. At the age he is, surely Mr. Fox was entitled to live out his life with his good name intact.

I just feel it was an abomination that he had to go through what his accuser put him through, for no apparent reason. He said he has had no bookings since the news of the charges broke, so I just hope some of his former supporters come back on board, and when things go back to some sort of normal, that Sil Fox will once again top the bill. I promise to go to see him if that does happen.


An epic night at Loftus Road

I am up to number six of my best sporting memories, and it’s on to boxing this time, and wee Barry McGuigan’s world title win over the previously unbeaten Eusebio Pedroza in Loftus Road football stadium on the 8th of June 1985.

Back in those days (not that much has changed, at least for me) Mikeen’s bar used to be the place to watch boxing in. You would nearly need to book your seat in advance to be guaranteed a look at the fight. The crowds would be six or seven deep at the counter, and every vantage point – including perching on people’s shoulders and standing on tables – would be taken up, and the atmosphere was always just incredible (not much health and safety back then, thank God).

When Pedroza was dropped in round seven – and didn’t get up – all hell broke loose.

Several hundred thousand supporters turned out to welcome McGuigan and his wife, Sandra, home to Belfast. He was to retain his title twice before making the nearly fatal decision to go to Las Vegas and fight Steve Cruz, a Texan, under a blazing sun. McGuigan suffered so badly from dehydration that he needed hospital treatment after the fight, although he only narrowly lost the bout.

That experience triggered McGuigan’s first retirement and a major falling out with his mentor, Belfast bookie, Barney Eastwood. However, regardless of anything else, his world title win in 1985 was something special, and is well worth its place in my top ten.


And finally…

Finally for this week, I am back from my visit to Castlerea Golf Club (see separate item, above) and everything I predicted earlier came true.

The course (slightly changed) was spectacular, and the weather was just perfect (neither too hot or too cold). Health regulations were enforced, but we are nearly used to that stuff now, so it was in no way intrusive.

Best of all, my golf was just as bad as ever. My son, Paul, who never really plays golf (at least not until now) beat me pretty comfortably. Despite that blow to my pride, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and it was great to be back. I am definitely going to keep it up this summer, and maybe some day I might even improve a bit.