Days of Olympian innocence are gone!

Last Wednesday night week ago for the first time since the start of the Rio Olympics, I actually watched something from the games when I stayed up to see Moate boxer, Joe Ward, as he made an unsuccessful effort to get on the road to a prized gold medal. Sadly in a most disappointing encounter with Ecuadorian boxer, Carlos Mina, who was a very awkward customer, despite giving all he had, the Irishman just failed to get the verdict and lost out on a split decision to the more flamboyant South American fighter.

            Ward understandably was very upset at losing the fight, putting paid for at least another four years to his Olympic dream and after working so hard for the last four years to get there it makes it all the more remarkable that another Irish boxing hopeful, Michael O’Reilly, who failed a drugs test just before flying out to Rio, would accidentally or not take any substance that might cause him to miss out on his chance of Olympic glory.

            Every athlete, from our county footballers and hurlers to top professional athletes are aware of what substances they can take and there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever to take something that is on the banned list. O’Reilly will say it was an accident, but accident or not he will forever be tarnished as the Irish boxer who failed a drugs test and by inference, be always regarded as a drugs cheat.

  I can honestly say that I have never been as immersed in the Olympics as others, including my brother Billy who used to know everything about every games and probably still does and yet when we were young I can still remember staging our own Olympics in Pat Cunningham’s hayfield across the road from our home house on a few beautiful sunny days, (what are they?) when we were meant to be saving Mr. Cunningham’s hay. As far as I can remember there were only three competitors in our Milford Olympics, Jack the Higher, The Rasher and myself, but I can tell you the quest for glory was every bit as competitive as the real thing and any of the events was hard won. Some Mauritian athlete was the star of the particular games that we were inspired by probably the ‘64 ones and I adopted his identity for the entire summer.

            Looking back now it seems that things were a lot simpler and the Olympics movement was as yet untainted with the many scandals that have sullied it’s reputation in the intervening years.

  The almost universal use of drugs, by not only Russian athletes but also those from many other nations, means that we are inclined to view every outstanding performance in whatever event with suspicion and I think the whole package has been very badly effected and yet despite all the doubts it was amazing to see the American swimmer, Michael Phelps, at the age of 31, win his 23rd gold medal of an incredible career becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time.

            By the time you read this a lot more of these games will have taken place and all I can hope is that whoever wins anything will do so fairly and squarely, without the aid of any performance enhancing drugs. As for the Milford Olympics, I was (as far as I can remember) the undisputed overall champion and my victory was untainted by the use of any forbidden substances except maybe Tommy Healy’s Black Jack sweets, which were strong enough to cause a fair amount of internal combustion, which was very useful in both the long and high jump events. I hope neither Jack the Higher or the Rasher read this, as I don’t want to be stripped of my titles after all this time. I can always say I only took them by accident and was unaware of their special powers!

Bolt of lightning in the middle of the night

Writing this on Monday morning I can tell you that I got up in the middle of last night, for a change not to go to the loo but to watch a man who must have special powers, Usain Bolt, make Olympic history by winning the 100 metres final in three consecutive games; Beijing 2008, London 2012 and now Rio 2016. It was a strange final with the crowd booing runner-up American Justin Gatlin, who has twice been banned for drug abuse on his introduction and when the US runner led half-way through for a fleeting moment it looked as if a sporting disaster might be looming. Bolt, however, hit the turbo over the last half of the race, and from then on there was only one winner.

  However it’s not only his talent that makes the Jamaican so special, it’s more his unique personality that endears him to millions of fans (me included), and the selfie he took, with the three lady heptathlon medal winners, in the middle of his victory lap of honour, was so typical of the man, and, as I headed back to my bed sometime after 3 am I felt privileged to have seen such a remarkable, historic moment. I hope he keeps to his retirement plans in the next year or so as it would be sad to see him try to keep going until the next games in Japan – his legacy is already written in stone, and I don’t think he should risk a defeat that might, in any way, tarnish his outrageously successful career.

  Before I leave the Olympics, there is nothing I can say about our silver medal winners, the O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen, that hasn’t already been said, but they are our Usain Bolt, except we have two of them. They are funny, natural fellows, who love what they do, enjoy life, say whatever comes into their heads without worrying how it comes out and they have brightened up this miserable summer for all of us with their exploits. I would think there will be the mother of all parties in the west Cork town when they finally make it home – well done lads, congrats, and here’s to Japanese gold in four years time.

Kilbegnet Mass restores faith

Yesterday evening, following Galway’s heartbreaking defeat to Tipperary in the senior hurling semi-final, I found myself at the Parish open air mass in Kilbegnet graveyard, and in trying times for the Catholic religion, it was both amazing and heartwarming to see the hundreds of people who turned up. I saw many people who had travelled long distances to pray at the graves of their loved ones, and, among the crowd were several people, who have long since left our parish, to live in different areas all over the country and who we only see on these type of rare occasions.  

  Thankfully, the rain kept away, although I can’t say the same about the midges; all round me I could see people scratching and trying to beat away the little mites but, midges or not, as I went home I felt a little bit uplifted by my hour or so in Kilbegnet graveyard.

Fundraising dance in Dowd’s!

Finally, for this week, the year has fairly flown by, and believe it or not, it’s almost time for our annual fundraising dance in aid of Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid fund.

  This year, once again, we are in Dowd’s of Glinsk on Saturday night the 1st of October with music by the wonderful ‘Lancers’ and we will, on this the 10th year of the dance, be relying on you all for your unfailing support. We hope to have our tickets available very soon, so, the bad news for ye all is that in the very near future, some of us will be knocking at your door and we look forward to seeing you.

Till next week, bye for now