Family getaways… Jimmy’s winning matches, but Donegal has won us over!

Our columnist Frank Brandon on the value of a family getaway, receiving some ‘Ireland’s Own’ highlights from a reader… and musings on a busy sporting weekend with plenty of ups and downs…

Way back in 1992, in a speech to mark her then-forty years on the throne, the late queen of England, Queen Elizabeth, told the assembled audience of chosen dignitaries that she and her family had had an “annus horribilis”. As a very bad student of Latin in my secondary school days, even I was able to figure out that she meant they had had a horrible year.

And while that description might be a little too strong to describe 2024 for my immediate family, there is little doubt that it has been a difficult year for us too – right from the very start, up to the present moment. And so, a few weeks ago, we decided we could all do with a little break and therefore booked two lovely houses (side by side) in the Portbeg Holiday Homes in the Donegal seaside resort of Bundoran.

Last Monday week, complete with our four grandchildren, we headed off on our mini-holidays, thereby fulfilling a promise we had made five years earlier. In April 2019, Carol, myself, and our four children (adults by now) had spent a few lovely days in Bundoran and decided we would do something similar every year. Then our ‘great friend’ Covid appeared, and all plans for travel, breaks, and holidays were put on hold.

Anyway, on the Monday afternoon we all arrived safely into the Donegal town, and spent a couple of delightful days enjoying the beautiful scenery and (remarkably) the fabulous weather. Sadly for the children, a lot of the attractions weren’t open, most especially the amusements and Waterworld, both of which were to reopen this weekend.

However, the good people of the Great Northern Hotel were happy to make their superb facilities available to us, and we all made use of the pool, while some of the older folk (that’s me) had a delightful time in the jacuzzi. I was never in the Great Northern before, but it is a really imposing and impressive hotel, and we all partook of lovely food there after our exertions in the pool.

In 2019, on the occasion of our last visit, we had no grandchildren, and so there was a more social side to our nights. We visited the Chasin’ Bull pub, where the music of the Banging Yokes proved more enticing for our younger tourists than for Carol and myself, before ending up in the quieter O’Connell’s pub across the road.

This time, only a few of us got out for the quiet pint, but we found a pure gem of a traditional pub, the Railway Bar, right on the Main Street. Myself and Paul were looking for a good place to spend an hour or two, and the minute we walked in we knew we had found it – everyone was more than friendly, and before we knew it we felt totally at home.

After a while we were joined by a few more of our crew, and as we got to talk to more people, we found out that the owners were the Gilligans – Felicity and Raissa – and in the course of a long conversation with both of them, mostly about horses, we found out that they are good friends with the newly-elected local councillor Larry Brennan, of the renowned Down The Hatch pub in Roscommon!

Anyway, all good things come to an end, and closing time eventually came and we headed back to our holiday homes. But if you ever find yourself in Bundoran and want a real Irish pub with a warm welcome and a superb pint of Guinness, call into the Railway Bar and tell them you know Larry Brennan – that should be worth a free pint at least! Don’t mention me or you might be thrown out!

For young children, while the bigger attractions were not open, there are still a couple of really nice playgrounds, where our four grandchildren (aged from just gone three all the way down to seven months) thoroughly enjoyed themselves on the swings and slides and seesaws. Along with their visits to the kiddie pool in the Great Northern, as well as lovely walks along the seaside, they had a great time on their holidays!

Sadly, even though we had booked the houses until Thursday morning, our Junior B footballers had a refixed game against Oran on the Wednesday evening, and as the very important one-third manager of the Junior Bs, and since our two sons Mark and Paul (who drank Lucozade in the Railway Bar the night before) were meant to play, we had to cut our visit short by a day. It was all worth it however, as we won a tough game by a couple of points.

And so the truth is that we really enjoyed our time together – it’s very seldom that every member of a family can get away together. There were no rows or dramas, and the location was superb! The houses were clean, comfortable, and convenient. The town itself is nice, the seaside and beach and the various walks are spectacular, and the Railway Bar is top class. Before we left, we had a toastie and stuff in Roasted and Toasted, which is also well worth a visit. As I said, a lot of the pubs weren’t opening until this week, but that did not affect our enjoyment – Jimmy’s winning matches, but Donegal has won us over!

This time, please God, there will be no Covid and we will be back again before too long!

Reader’s own ‘Ireland’s Own’ cut-outs…

On November 26th 1902, the first edition of Ireland’s Own hit the shelves, and while I have never been an avid reader, I have to admit that it’s some achievement to be still going strong after all these years.

Our own local bard, the late Vinny Keaveny, was a regular contributor to the magazine down through the years, and he had many brilliant poems published during his lifetime.

Obviously, one of my readers (maybe the only one) is a present-day fan of Ireland’s Own, because in the post today, along with the usual supply of bills and statements, I got a number of cut-outs from a recent edition of the magazine.

There was a full-page feature on Martin Logan, a man who was born on Mount Mary outside Creggs, whom I have talked about many times over the years and who has his own hugely successful ‘Irish in the UK’ programme on Sky TV – a show which, in his own words, keeps the Irish in the UK and those back home in Ireland connected. Recently, Martin was presented with a major award for his TV show, at a huge Pairc Irish Festival in Birmingham – an event headlined by Van Morrison, Nathan Carter, and the Tumbling Paddies.

Another gem from the cut-outs was the story of the political party Clann na Talmhan, founded by Michael Donnellan, who had played Gaelic football for Galway and won an All-Ireland with them in 1925. Donnellan stated that at a meeting in Creggs in June 1943, he was called a “Hitler” because he intended to “drive the professional politicians out of Ireland, just as Hitler drove the Jews out of his country”. I always knew about Parnell’s visit to our village, but as Donnellan was well known for his anti-Semitic views, maybe that’s why I never heard of his visit until now.

There was loads of other stuff, including a few pages on Fr Jack O’Brien, who was born in Donamon in 1918. He was Army Chaplain to the soldiers of the Allied Forces during the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, and six years later, he was murdered by the North Korean Army after being captured during the three-year-long Korean War. Fr Jack, who is honoured by a monument in Seoul, is one of 81 modern-day martyrs who have been put forward by the Korean Catholic Church for beatification.

Sporting favourites ‘drop the ball’

It’s Monday morning as I write, and after a tremendous weekend of sport I have seldom been as depressed. Every team or sportsperson I supported failed to get the desired results, with Munster and Leinster going down in rugby, Galway footballers throwing away a strong winning position against Armagh to draw a game they had to win (and should have won), Mayo failing to beat the Dubs in a similar fashion, and finally, Rory McIlroy blowing the best chance he may ever have to win another major – having three bogeys in the last four holes to hand the title to American Bryson DeChambeau.

At least for all you Rossies out there, there was a great win over Cavan in the scorefest in Longford on Saturday.

And to improve things for me, Creggs won their Junior B game against St Croan’s on Friday evening, and on Sunday in Glenamaddy, our daughter Tara won in the Connacht Showjumping Grand Prix Show.

And finally…

If Creggs Junior Bs can play two games in two days, I find it hard to understand why there is so much talk about some county teams having to play three games in three weeks.

From what I saw over the weekend (excluding the Rossies, whom I didn’t see), most of the time teams are walking or strolling around with the ball, and only occasionally is there any fast, direct running.

So, as athletes training as hard as they are, they shouldn’t be that tired and should have no problem with the extra game.