Frank Brandon’s Column

I never saw Love Island, but now I’m a fan of Maura’s!

Our columnist is not so sure about the honours system in Cambodia, but is happy to join the Maura Higgins fan club…

The first thing I have to tell you this Monday morning is that I’ve never even looked at one episode of Love Island – and if God spares me I never will – but one would have to live in a hole in the ground to be unaware of the massive impact a young lady from Ballymahon – Maura Higgins – had on the show, and the equally massive impact the show had on her in return.

As a result, she has now become a media star, with appearances on any amount of daytime television programmes. She is also a model who is in very high demand, has probably made more money than she could ever have imagined, and is sure to have a very successful career on the back of her Love Island appearance.

Last Saturday night, as I wondered how there could be so little to look at on so many television stations – changing and changing the channel much to the annoyance of my good wife – I stumbled upon a documentary. Called ‘You’re Joking Me’, the documentary followed Maura’s efforts to get fit for the Spartan Race – a five-kilometre, extreme obstacle course around Twickenham rugby ground.

I can honestly tell you that I have never laughed as much at anything, as the Longford girl didn’t hide the fact that she was unbelievably unfit and hated absolutely everything to do with her participation in the Spartan challenge. She was assigned a personal fitness trainer – a poor Dublin native called Paul Olima – and I doubt if he ever had as big a challenge in his career.

Her aversion to any physical exercise was total – an 85-year-old dance teacher who took Maura for a class was immeasurably fitter than her. The thing that impressed me most about her was how natural she was. She seemed totally indifferent towards for the camera, and behaved as if she was completely on her own, effing and blinding all over the place and coming out with stuff you wouldn’t expect to hear on prime-time telly.

All I can say is it was unusually real and uncontrived for a celebrity documentary. You could tell that she couldn’t care less about her new-found fame and resulting status, and her Longford accent was as strong as ever. So if you get a chance to see ‘You’re Joking Me’, do not miss it as it is pure TV gold.

Good on you, Maura. I am definitely a fan, and long may the sun shine on your career. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I am not going to tell you whether or not she completed the course – you simply have to watch it yourself.

A hero with a difference

Back in 1968, by some miracle I managed to get an honour in Geography in the Leaving Cert. However, it is safe to say that Cambodia mustn’t have come up on that year’s paper. I’m not even sure if it existed back then, but there is no doubt that I knew nothing about it. All these years later and I still wouldn’t know a lot about it, except that for years it was ravaged by civil war with three decades of hostilities which has left as many as 40,000 amputees in the country, as well as up to 10 million unexploded landmines just lying around the country.

That is where Magawa, a giant Tanzanian-born rat comes in. He has been trained to sniff out the hidden explosives. Over the course of four years he has cleared an area the size of twenty soccer pitches of landmines, finding 39 landmines and 28 different explosive products in the process. He is only one of many rats that have been trained to do this work, because in half an hour they can do what it would take a human four days to do.

Magawa is however the best of them – having saved countless lives – and accordingly, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) have awarded him their Gold Medal for bravery. This was the first time in their 77- year history that the award has gone to a rat. The award is the animal equivalent of the George’s Cross, which is given to civilians to recognise acts of bravery and heroism. In the presentation ceremony, he was praised for his dedication, skill and bravery, which deserved the highest possible recognition.

However, despite his great work, and all he has done, I still can’t stand the sight of rats, even though his handler says he is friendly and hard-working. Magawa, I congratulate you on your award, but in the immortal words of Jimmy Cagney, you’re still a dirty, yellow-bellied rat, and nothing you can do will ever change that. At the same time, it shows that everything, if properly trained, can be of some use – Manchester United players being the exception.


Enjoying local rugby again (at least for now)

Back to Sunday afternoon, and for the second week in a row I was able to go and watch Creggs rugby team play a Cawley Cup match… last week in Tuam against the home side, and on their own home patch on Sunday against Buccaneers.

It is so amazing how something which we always took for granted has now become such a treasured event. Both games resulted in victories for our lads, and the most heartening thing so far has been the huge amount of young blood being incorporated in the first team. Six players made their debuts for the club against Tuam, and our statisticians had it figured out that the average age of the starting fifteen against the Tuam team was under twenty-one years of age.

For a Creggs team this is a startling but very welcome development, and it shows that the good work being done in secondary schools around the area is really paying off. Thank God there are a few golden oldies like Tom Fleming (who is playing better than ever), and my own lad Mark to bring the average age up a bit.

However, just being able to go to see the games is a huge bonus – let us all hope and pray that Galway doesn’t go into lockdown or our rugby season could come to a sudden, unwelcome halt. Fingers crossed!

And finally…Kathleen’s big day

Finally for this week, on Friday evening we had a drive-by birthday party for Kathleen McKeague. At least 80 to 100 cars, all decked out in colourful balloons, drove by her house blowing horns to acknowledge the birthday of a very popular local woman.

Kathleen, who is involved in everything good that takes place in the parish, has been battling illness for some time, and the response by the local population to the drive-by birthday shows how highly she is thought of by everyone. Happy birthday Kathleen and keep your spirits up; you are in all our thoughts.