Frank Brandon’s Column

Lockdown exercise highlights the need for insurance scheme for cyclists!

Our man Frank on the growth in the number of people enjoying all sorts of exercise locally during Covid-19 as well as the dangers posed both to and by cyclists on our country’s roads…

One of the biggest benefits of the pandemic (apart from the huge increase in the number of home bakers) is the increased interest and participation in every kind of exercise. All over the country, people are walking, jogging, and cycling. Not a day goes by that you don’t see any amount of people passing by, trying to stay fit – physically and mentally – by taking part in one of these popular pastimes.

Cycling in particular has really exploded in popularity in recent times. When bicycle shops were open, the owners freely admitted that they simply couldn’t cope with the demand – a bicycle was almost as hard to come by as the winning ticket in the National Lottery!

Last week, however, two incidents involving cyclists made the national news, and each of them showed (in totally different ways) the troubles and traumas of being a cyclist or a walker in these peculiar times.

In the first incident, a male cyclist was out for a trip in the Sally Gap area of the Wicklow Mountains, on the beautiful day that was last Sunday week, when he noticed a car coming up behind him. He thought nothing of it, pulled into the side as best he could, leaving plenty of room for the car to pass so he could carry on with his Sunday afternoon ride. However, as the car overtook him, one of the three male occupants leaned out through an open window and pushed the cyclist, sending him tumbling into the ditch, where (as he himself said) he could’ve suffered serious, maybe even catastrophic, injuries.

The car passengers carried on with their journey, leaving the poor cyclist to pick himself up from the side of the road. But remarkably, they were filming the whole episode, and footage of their dastardly deed later appeared on social media. It appears that this type of thing is regarded as a prank by some misguided thugs, and occurs regularly all over the country, but according to some reports, the footage may actually be good enough to identify the culprits. So, they may yet be brought to court and hopefully punished severely for their disgustingly dangerous prank.

Then, just a day later, we had another incident involving a cyclist. On this occasion though, it was the cyclist who was the culprit. A lady was out for a walk in Dublin, opposite the famous Fagan’s pub in Drumcondra (local to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern), and she was waiting at the traffic lights to cross the road. When her light turned green, she started to cross, only to be hit at speed by a cyclist who allegedly ignored the red light against her and cycled straight through, crashing into the lady walker. The cyclist apologised, said the bell on her bike hadn’t worked, waited for a few minutes until a Good Samaritan picked the poor woman up off the road, and then cycled off into the distance.

The lady who was hit had suffered serious injuries, including a broken arm. Her whole body was “black and blue”, and because she lived alone and was so badly injured, she had to move out of her own house and move in with her sister, who lived many miles away.

Both of those events brought into focus something that needs to be looked at very quickly, and that is the importance of cyclists having some type of insurance before they hit the road. Another sister of the lady who was injured wondered if she has any comeback against the cyclist who hit her and just cycled away afterwards. As she said, if it had been a car, motorcycle, or any other type of transport, she could claim against the driver’s insurance. In this case, despite the serious nature of her injuries and the fact that she was totally blameless in the accident, there is nowhere for her to go, and she has no recourse to any compensation. Surely that is wrong, and even though they have a lot on their plate, our legislators must look at sorting out what is a very disturbing situation as quickly as possible.

On the other side of the coin, the cyclist at the Sally Gap should also have recourse to some type of compensation for the effects of the horrific assault he suffered. I know things are expensive enough as it is, but if there were a national insurance scheme for cyclists, where all cyclists could get covered against such accidents for even a nominal premium, surely it would be a good thing.

For all of us who play golf, there is an insurance policy that protects us if we strike another golfer with a stray shot (it also protects the golfer we may hit), or in the event of other unlikely damage. So, on the assumption that more cyclists will be involved in accidents than golfers, why not introduce some type of insurance for them?

The cynic will say that these things rarely happen, but tell that to the poor Dublin woman who is facing many months of hospital visits, at her own expense, to repair her badly broken arm.


Harry’s still a winner in Creggs!

As a young lad growing up in Creggs in the early fifties, before television, mobile phones or any of the gadgets that have taken over our modern lives, Gaelic football was the biggest thing in rural Ireland – and we were lucky enough to have some excellent footballers in the parish to look up to and admire.

In 1956 I was five-years-old, and can barely remember Creggs winning the Junior Championship. Over the following four or five years, I can still picture some of the great players who represented the club with pride and skill, men who are still talked about with great affection and admiration to this day. Mick Roarke, Bags and Bunty Keegan, Seamus Keane, Noel Hanley, Micky Hurley, and John James Ward among others were local legends of the time and still are, but for me, the player I most wanted to be like was the wonderfully gifted Harry Connolly.

Harry, a Castlerea man, was working in Creggs at the time, and from 1955 to 1960, he was a huge part of the local team, an All-Ireland medal winner with the 1951 Roscommon team, and one of the most stylish footballers I have ever seen. As a young lad, I used to watch training sessions just to see him in action.

In 1956, he picked up a serious leg injury in the early rounds of the championship. However, during the final against St. Michael’s of Cootehall, in the words of one Roscommon Herald reporter, “Hopping round on one leg, still nursing an injury sustained a few months ago, inter-county midfielder, Harry Connolly, won for Creggs the Junior Championship”.  He scored all but one point of the winning score, helping himself to a whopping three goals and three points, all, as they say, on one leg.

Later on, Harry was to be part of the United Stars team (Creggs and Oran combined) that won the Senior Championship in 1960, scoring two goals and ten points in three games, including 1-3 in the semi-final. However, work then took him away from Creggs, and he returned to live in his native Castlerea. He never lost touch with the border village though, and to this day, he returns for all kinds of local events, and remains a hugely popular and welcome visitor to the area.

The local connection continued when his son Gerry had a very successful playing career with Creggs, this time with the oval ball. Gerry’s achievements include being part of the team that had what was probably the biggest ever victory in their history: when Creggs beat Warren Gatland’s unbeaten Galwegians team in the Connacht Senior Cup on April Fool’s Day in 1990.

And so, in the recent Creggs GAA draw, when Harry Connolly’s name came out of the hat for the top prize, it’s safe to say that there couldn’t have been a more popular winner. His contribution to Creggs football will never be forgotten, and he will always be an honorary Creggs man. Congratulations Harry, and well done!


And finally…

The beautiful book, ‘Memories of Haiti and other stories’, by Michael Nolan of Ballygar, had an international Zoom launch recently, with people from all over the world, including El Salvador, South Africa, the US, England, and Haiti itself participating. Senator Rónán Mullen performed the launch, with Mary Dolan from Four Roads the eloquent hostess of the event.

I have told you before about the horrendous effect that the 2010 earthquake (which caused the death of 250,000 people) had on the economic and social climate in Haiti. The country is still suffering as a result, with extreme poverty, crime, and illness rampant. Despite lots of effort, it has not recovered from the disaster. Michael has visited the poverty stricken country on a number of occasions, helping out as a volunteer in Our Little Brothers and Sisters Orphanage, and all the proceeds from the sale of his book are going towards that very worthy cause.

We each have problems of our own, but compared to the trials the people of Haiti face, most pale into insignificance. So, if you come across Michael’s book anywhere – in bookshops or online – please buy a copy, enjoy a very pleasant read, and do your bit to help the people of Haiti.


‘Till next week, bye for now.