‘Early bird’ an appetiser for a busy Saturday!

All-Ireland ticket-hunting Frank on enjoying Ireland’s win over the All Blacks, a house party from hell in Florida…and the £1000 house that sold for €620k!

It’s 7.30 am on Saturday morning when the alarm on my phone wakes me from my very fitful slumber. For the fifth time in a few weeks, I am preparing to watch another early morning kick-off for the Irish rugby team, with this being the last game of their New Zealand tour.

There was history in the making for the Irish lads if they could beat the All Blacks, because, having already made history by winning the second test the previous Saturday and recording the first ever Irish win on New Zealand soil, now they could go even better and win the actual series. However, the task was enormous.

The previous evening, when I had dropped into Ned’s Bar in Knockcroghery to say hello to the very popular proprietor – Carol’s niece, Anouska – I said I intended to get up early on Saturday morning to see an Irish win, and a lad at the bar looked at me as if I had two heads, saying that they simply had no chance. He told me that the story would be the same as every other time; the All Blacks would come out with all guns blazing and we would be sent home yet again with our tails between our legs.

I must admit that he put a dent in my confidence, but as we all know now the Irish team played probably the best first half of rugby we have ever seen from the boys in Green, then withstood a ferocious second-half backlash from the All Blacks. In my opinion, they recorded what was probably (one thinks of the Carlsberg TV ads) the best win ever by any Irish sportsperson or team in our entire history. Seeing the emotion of the great warrior that is Peter O’Mahony at the final whistle summed it all up, as it showed exactly what it meant to him and all the travelling party.

As a footnote, the reason I had such a fitful night’s sleep was that in the absence of air conditioning and with the abnormal heat that we are having, we had to leave the bedroom window open. However, there must be a family of birds living just outside the window, because from 5 am on – as daybreak dawned – we were subjected to an incessant dawn chorus. There is no doubt that we all love the sound of birds singing, but maybe not at five in the morning – and literally on the window sill!

Anyway, as soon as the game was over, young Mark Dowd and I headed off to sell tickets for the fabulous Creggs GAA Draw, which has two All-Ireland football tickets and a Saturday night stay in the lovely four-star Gibson Hotel (plus €200 spending money) up for grabs among its prizes. We headed to Dunmore as we were told there was a Saturday morning market going on and were assured the place would be very busy. So, in anticipation of a great day’s sales, we brought enough cards to wallpaper a good-sized room.

Sadly however, when we got there the only sign of a market was a chap offering fruit and vegetables, and a forlorn-looking Tuam lad who was selling Galway flags and other football stuff. An hour and a half later, we had sold one line for €10, so like all good generals  Mark and I agreed we needed a Plan B.

I walked to a local supermarket and asked a very nice lady if we could relocate to the front of her premises. Understandably, she was slightly reluctant, as they sort of only allow local organisations to do that type of promotion, but when I explained what had brought us to Dunmore and how there really was no market at all, she kindly let us go ahead. We undertook not to overly hassle any of the many customers that came and went, and we actually had great craic.

We met loads of interesting people and were reasonably successful with our sales. Among those we met were two O’Dowd sisters who now live in Dublin but who originated in Creggs way, way back (not them, but their ancestors), as well as a man who shared the same name as Ray Charles but didn’t sing or play the piano. We also met the Donelons from Lisheenaheltia.

As we left the little village – and despite the sweltering heat – we were happy enough with our visit. The truth is that, even allowing for the unexpectedly small market, it was very worthwhile.


The rise and rise of house prices

It’s Monday morning, the warmest day of the year, and I find myself back at my old stomping ground, Lynn Antiques in Athlone, standing in for Paul while he’s on his holidays.

Earlier this morning I had a quick glance at the daily paper before I opened the doors, and one of the things that got my attention was an article about the ridiculous prices of houses in Dublin. However, the most interesting thing was that all of the properties featured were the subject of massive overbids.

For example, a house with an asking price of €450,000 now has an actual bid of €710,000 on it. The property in question is a mid-terrace, three-bedroomed house in Inchicore, which didn’t appear to be anything special. The author of the piece had described the overbidding on the house as “madness”, and several more properties were also subject to massive overbidding. Of course all of this means that the ordinary working family will never be able to buy a house in Dublin.

I would not have thought about it again only for the fact that a fellow came into the shop later on, and in the course of our chat told me he had just sold a house in the city for €620,000. The house in question was also a mid-terrace, three-bedroomed one that his father bought in the 1960s for £1,000, and while it had been modernised at some stage, he freely admitted it would need a good bit to bring it fully up to today’s standards.

Of course he was happy with his sale and the big lump of money he had in his back pocket, but as the economy faces such a huge challenge with everything getting dearer and dearer, it must be getting more and more difficult for our children to ever see themselves with their own houses.


When parties go wrong…

One of the big developments over the last number of years is the new tradition of stag and hen parties hitting off for places like Kilkenny, Carrick-on-Shannon, and Westport, with others even going to more exotic foreign lands.

Back in my day, we headed to the local pub for the stag, and it was plenty good enough for us. But at the same time, the business those parties generate for the ‘party towns’ is vital to their economic survival, so they are definitely here to stay.

Over in Florida a few of weeks ago, a couple who owned an $8 million house left home for a little break on the Wednesday, planning to return on the Sunday. However, on Saturday night, more than 200 teenagers broke into the house and had what was described as a raucous party. Typically, they posted loads of pictures on social media showing them blasting out loud music, having a boxing match in the front hall, and trying on some of the owners’ jewellery.

Sadly for them, the householders are following as many of the partygoers as they can, and when caught, they will be charged with burglary. Why anyone would put such stuff up on social media – particularly when you have broken into a house you shouldn’t be in – beats me, but they did, and will hopefully pay the price for it. I also find it hard to understand how an $8 million house would not have a security system that could deter the law-breakers.

My lad Mark had his stag party over the weekend in Westport, but I’m sure there would have been a ban on social media. Thank God there was no such thing around in the 1980s. Not that we got up to much in our local pubs, but all those things are better unseen.


And finally…

Out here in Creggs (at least on the Galway side of the border), we are looking forward to the football final next Sunday.

However, despite loads of tickets apparently being available for last weekend’s hurling final, there seems to be a huge scarcity of football ones. As usual, I have my spake in in a few places, but if you have any spare ones, give me a shout!