Bekan and Balamory…my first experience of two success stories!

Our man Frank on his first visit to the Connacht GAA flagship venue, the Air Dome…discovering the delights of ‘Balamory’…rugby musings…and the plight of junior doctors

It’s a fine Easter Saturday evening, and the footballers and supporters of St Michael’s (Cootehall) and my own Creggs are heading off into the unknown.

  At 5 pm, they are due to play their Tansey Cup match in the new flagship venue of Connacht GAA – the remarkable Air Dome, situated in the townland of Bekan, more or less halfway between the Mayo towns of Ballyhaunis and Knock. It was my very first visit to the Dome, and to say that it is a spectacular and amazing spectacle is a huge understatement. When you walk in, it’s almost as if you are inside a massive space ship; the size, height, and scale of the development is literally mind-boggling, with a beautiful all-weather playing pitch that seems an absolute pleasure to play on.

  For us older folk, there were plenty of seats from which we could watch the action in comfort. To be fair, the two teams served up an excellent contest with some top quality fare, highlighted by some really good point-scoring.

  Our lads took the spoils, but I have to say that as an experience, it was certainly very worthwhile. I don’t deny that when first I heard about the Dome – its location, and the enormous amount of money that it was costing – I had my doubts about it, but having experienced it first-hand on Saturday, I must admit that I was very impressed. I imagine it will have a huge part to play in the development of Connacht football.

  There was also an impressive amount of parking around the Dome, so overall it was a pleasant and welcome surprise. I didn’t really get to investigate the other playing pitches outside of the Dome, but there are at least two others, and they too were in use on a very busy Saturday evening in Mayo.

  Whose idea it was to bring Creggs and St Michael’s to Bekan for the Tansey Cup league game I don’t know, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of the players, so well done for coming up with the idea. The players certainly enjoyed it. I would prefer to be out in the fresh air, but other than that, no complaints. It was an experience not to be missed!

In belated praise of…Balamory!

Saturday was a busy day on the road, because earlier in the day I found myself coming down from Dublin and was very surprised by the high volume of traffic heading west along the motorway.

  Now, I know it was the Easter weekend, but I thought most people would’ve either travelled on Thursday evening or Friday. Maybe a lot of them did, but it was very busy on Saturday.

  At least the weather was nice – there’s no doubt that it’s much easier to travel when the day is nice and dry as opposed to when it’s wet, wild and windy.

  Our daughter Lisa and granddaughter Riley were down for the weekend, and with our youngest now being 30 years of age, it’s fair to say that we were a bit rusty when it came to figuring out the mind and mindset of a one-year-old toddler! But one thing I learnt is that for Riley, an old children’s programme called Balamory is worth more than its weight in gold.

  Way back in the dim and dusky past, the Blues Brothers was the ‘go to’ programme (I know, it was a film) to buy us a bit of peace from the trials and tribulations of child rearing. Thankfully Balamory seems to do the same for Riley. The fact that I’d never heard of it and that it has been off the air since 2004 made no difference whatsoever.

  So on this Bank Holiday Monday morning, my advice to any parents of one-year-old toddlers is to look up Balamory on your television. You will thank me for helping you have an easier life!

Now that Connacht are out, it’s over to Munster!

As you know by now, I am a rugby supporter. Over the weekend, the fare served up in the Champions Cup was pretty fantastic – although for poor old Connacht, the trip on Friday last to the Aviva Stadium to take on the Irish international side (in the guise of Leinster) was a pretty chastening experience.

  Leinster, who featured twelve of the best Irish team available (with a number more amongst the subs), were simply too powerful, strong, and skilled. They outclassed the Connacht side, and it showed how good of a performance the western lads had given a week earlier in The Sportsground (between the same sides).

  However, two-legged games usually take away any chance of an overall surprise result, and there was no way that Leinster were going to allow Connacht to ruffle their feathers again last Friday.

  The following day, Munster made it through to the quarter-finals with a wonderful, hard-fought victory over 2019 champions Exeter. Their reward is a home game against the reigning champions, Toulouse…and therein lies the rub.

  Thomond Park, the spiritual home of Munster rugby, is booked for an Ed Sheeran concert, of all things. As a result, the Munster lads will have to forfeit the huge advantage that playing in Thomond gives them, instead playing the French and European champions in the Aviva Stadium. Whoever made the decision to hire out the ground for a concert must have had no eye on possible rugby fixtures…maybe that is indicative of the state of rugby in the southern province.

  It is no secret that the province seems to have lost its rugby soul over the last few years, with huge numbers of sub-standard imported players being brought in. The famed Munster support has definitely receded since the great days of their two Heineken Cup wins. In truth, I couldn’t get over the lack of atmosphere at their game against Exeter on Saturday. I often heard more noise at a match at home in The Green in Creggs.

  Maybe the manner of the win, and the appointment of former Leicester player Graham Rowntree as their new head coach, will revive their fortunes. I really hope so, as when Munster are on song and their grassroot supporters are with them, they can be a powerful force. Maybe they could put one over the amazing Leinster machine.

  I have to admit that both teams face big challenges in the quarter-finals, but if both were to win, what a game we would have in the semi! Now that Connacht are gone, come on Munster!

And finally…

Finally for this week, as truckers protest against the rising cost of diesel, the possibility of junior doctors going on strike seems to have almost passed under the radar.

  The fact is that everyone has known for a long time now that the conditions that hospital doctors work in (and not just junior doctors ) are completely abnormal and almost inhuman. They themselves say they are routinely required to work single shifts of 24 hours or more, and more than 48 hours a week. They say they do not get paid for all the hours they put in, and often find themselves unable to take their full proper annual leave.

  Rising mental health issues and increasing emigration are major concerns among junior doctors – and of course there is the added worry of patient care. Expecting any doctor to operate at full capacity while sleep-deprived is completely unrealistic, and there is no doubt that the safety of their patients is being compromised – not through the fault of any individual, but through the fault of a totally inadequate health system.

  For years now this problem has been highlighted by doctors. In 2013, they went on strike over similar  issues (to the above). Someday the penny will drop that many of our best medical people are leaving our shores and going to places where they get paid better, work less hours, and have infinitely better conditions.

  Until then, the ones that are left behind will continue to do their best in horrific circumstances and be thrown to the wolves when something goes wrong with a patient. Meanwhile, government after government will say they haven’t got the resources to sort the massive problem out.

  Maybe this time if the doctors actually do go on strike, something might be done. I, for one, won’t hold my breath.