Boyle, Syria and…Leeds United




A half an hour in Boyle: I was enjoying Ray D’Arcy’s radio show as I approached the town of Boyle on Monday afternoon. But I had to leave Ray behind. Our car had an appointment at the (Cooney’s) Nissan garage. When rounding  the bend into Boyle, the weather was fairly pleasant. Five minutes later, having dropped the keys off and been told I had an hour or so to kill, the Heavens opened. Luckily there was an umbrella in the back.

  In what was now rapidly deteriorating weather, we set off, the umbrella and I, for a walk around Boyle. At least that was the plan. First, across the bridge that hovers above the roadway that leads to the picturesque railway station. Then, as the rain got heavier and the wind picked up, the sturdy umbrella actually did that annoying ‘inside out’ thing they are prone to doing. It unapologetically flapped and fluttered, like a strutting peacock. Suddenly I was like Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the rain’ – well, without the actual singing (or the gracefulness).

  Having won my battle with the flailing brolly, I continued into the great historic town, reaching the old Royal Hotel, sold now to the Council, mystery still surrounding its destiny. But I met and briefly chatted with a local who predicted that the entire town faces a bright future; that Boyle is going to experience positive development, with the old Royal building at the centre of it all. I was pleased to hear it.

  Crossing the bridge beside ‘The Royal’, I saw a young man who seemed to be half-heartedly suppressing a smile as he merrily crossed on the other side. He had a fishing rod attached to his back and a pack of cans of lager attached to his hands. Was there a happier man in Boyle just then? It’s doubtful. All that was missing was the soundtrack from the old Hamlet cigar tv ads when, whatever the initial adversity, the hero always ends up happy and contented.

  As the man with the rod and refreshments disappeared down towards the riverbank, I received an earlier than expected call from the garage. My walk had been cut short, which was fine. Turning, I faced back into rising wind and rain. I saw new offices of the Roscommon Herald, but chose not to ‘seek asylum’ there – sure where would I start to explain myself? Instead, I battled on against nature, brolly and I both defiant. 

  An oldish man with a longish beard and a shortish step emerged from a pub and looked me up and down.

  “Dirty ould day” he said, observing the weather with some surprise. I agreed with his assessment. Then he eyed my Club Rossie umbrella.

  “A grand umbrella” he said.

  It is, I thought, and it’s mine.

  I’m all for giving up seats to the elderly on buses or trains, but I needed that umbrella, even if it was in a constant battle with the swirling wind.

  I matched his shortish step with my own longish step, said good luck, moved on and kept a firm grip on the brolly.

  Next, across the road, an Alsation dog walking towards SuperValu. Rightly or wrongly, I keep well away from Alsations if they’re not muzzled/on a lead. This one had neither. But sure it must be a harmless dog, I thought…or else it wouldn’t be out without a muzzle or a lead (and owner).

  Back now at the bridge near Cooney’s, I crossed the road to avoid being splashed by passing cars. Two young women were to-ing and fro-ing, apparently not sure which way to turn. Strangers just off the train, I assumed. They approached me.

  “You didn’t happen to see a dog, did you?” one asked.  

  “An Alsation, was it? Yeah, it’s gone up that street, on the left, towards SuperValu”.

  Then I saw the lead in the hands of one of the women and it dawned on me: that Alsation may not have been that harmless at all! Or perhaps it was. No doubt the ladies were reunited with it a few minutes later. Hopefully.

  Back in Cooney’s, where the staff were excellent, I was reunited with my car. I put the brolly back in the boot; I am now prepared to testify in court as to the durability of Club Rossie umbrellas.

  Back on the radio, Ray D’Arcy was gone. I hadn’t really missed him; I’d enjoyed my Monday afternoon walk on the wild side in our quaint character-filled town of Boyle.

Monday week

My Fool of the Week: So there I was, driving out the Athlone Road on Monday week last, when I saw the motorcyclist looming in my rearview mirror.

  I knew it was one of those impatient types who just can’t wait to overtake, even if there’s oncoming traffic. 

  And there was oncoming traffic, as there almost always is on the Athlone Road. There was a vehicle in front of me too.

  This did not deter ‘our hero’. In one speedy swerve he passed me. Then he got even more reckless.

  As the motorcyclist prepared to pass the car in front of me – with oncoming vehicles now beeping their horns – I got a brief but clear sight of the man’s attire.

  He was wearing a yellow jacket – with a big red ‘L’ (for learner) on it! Unbelievable!

  He’s my fool of the week; I’m not looking for anyone else in connection with this award. It was reckless, stupid and highly dangerous.

  When I turned the next bend, needless to say there was no sign of our ‘flying friend’, the man with the big L and the big ego. He was gone, speeding into the web of vehicles between Roscommon and Athlone, speeding into his future, which I hope is a safe one for him and for the road-users he meets/passes. He is of course only one of many road risk-takers. I hope, in his haste, that he somehow finds the time to mature.


Air strikes in Syria, and a chance for Theresa May to reveal her inner Thatcher. French President Emmanuel Macron continues to impress, coming across as a cool, (quite) charismatic and confident leader.

  Probably with teeth gritted and eyes rolling when safe to do so, Ms. May has aligned herself closely with Mr. Trump on this one; the US President, the UK Prime Minister and the French President a Coalition of the Not Willing to accept Chemical attacks.

  Many will oppose the intervention, others may despairingly wonder why murder and mass displacement of people in Syria didn’t warrant a similar response over the past seven years or so.

  It can be hard to know what to believe in these days of spin and so-called fake news. What the media on this side of the world is claiming is that the strikes have put the Syrian Government’s chemical weapons capacity back several years.

  It’s all rather complex, but if that latter claim is true, then a lot of people will feel that the response of the US, Britain and France is a proper and proportionate one.


Reports of Leeds United’s (possible) resurrection earlier in the season proved, on inspection of the evidence, to be greatly exaggerated. The great club is languishing in the bottom half of The Championship, wandering around aimlessly, unable to locate the entrance back to where the elite hang out. Of course it will happen; Leeds fans like myself will just have to wait for another season (at least).  

  Meanwhile, in the Premier League, Manchester United bizarrely managed to lose at home to bottom club West Brom, though full credit to ‘the Albion’ for their heroics. That result meant that Manchester City, convincing winners over Spurs on Saturday, were crowned champions. An awkward sort of night in Manchester followed, no doubt.

  Liverpool, meanwhile, are on a nice roll domestically, but simply awesome in the Champions League. Their manager, Jurgen Klopp, is a very interesting character. His antics on the touchline have been driving me mad over the past year or two, but a reassessment is probably warranted. Firstly, his animated conduct may not be partly ‘put on’ as some opposition fans have long suspected – it may be his true personality after all! Secondly, his passionate conduct is almost certainly inspirational for his players; contrast it to the tiresome Mourinho at Old Trafford. Klopp’s gesticulating fits well with his team’s all-action style; between them, they have an irresistible momentum built up. And of course it’s fairly obvious that Klopp is also achieving his goals behind the scenes!

  In any event, he has an absolute superstar on the pitch. Earlier in the season, City’s Kevin De Bruyne may have looked set to walk away with the Player of the Year award, but not now: now that accolade simply has to go to Mo Salah.

  He’s a joy to watch, and he keeps producing the goods, including when the pressure’s on and in the really big games. He’s the player of the year, an absolute gift to the Premier League, with his talent, his charisma and the joy he exudes. Now there’s a role model for children.