Frank Brandon’s Column

The West is Awake following Mayo’s heroics

 Our man Frank on Mayo’s comeback, a wonderful U-20 All-Ireland final, the importance of safe celebrations, animal welfare at the Olympics, and a touching tribute to Conor Connelly…

It’s another Monday morning, and even though I try not to write too much about sport (I swear!), after the amazing weekend of Gaelic football we’ve seen, it’s impossible not to give it a mention.

On Saturday evening, our neighbours in Mayo brought an end to the Dubs’ dream of seven Sam Maguires in a row. Theirs was one of the most amazing and courageous comebacks of all time, coming from being six points down at half-time to claiming a memorable victory after extra-time.

Then on Sunday, the young footballers of both Roscommon and Offaly served up a feast of football in the Under-20 All-Ireland final. For the Rossies, the result brought devastation and heartbreak, but for all of us who had previously despaired at the cynicism and negativity in modern football, this game served to remind us that if properly played, football can be a wonderful spectacle. I know there will be loads of coverage of the final in the sports section, but all I can say is that the young Rossies were a credit to themselves and their county, and everyone should be so proud of them.

For Creggs, it was special to have two lads on the team with very strong local connections. We had our own club player Tomas Crean, and St. Dominic’s’ Jack Lohan, who also has strong Creggs connections. Several members of both families all wore our maroon and white jerseys for many years.

Sometimes being on the border can lead to divided allegiances, but on Sunday everyone was shouting for and supporting Roscommon. While it just didn’t go their way, they played a huge part in a wonderfully entertaining game.


Countdown is on for Micky Mac’s next haircut!

Last week, I met one of our local characters, Micky Mac. His wife Bridie told me that Micky gets his hair cut three times a year, and having visited his hairdresser recently, he is booked in for his next appointment in November. My mind drifted back many years ago to the days when I used to get my own hair cut.

I haven’t sat in a barber’s chair for many a long year, but in those days, a visit to Paddy Joe’s on Church Street in Roscommon was an event in itself. Every topic under the sun – but especially football – would be on the agenda.

As the whole world knows, Paddy Joe is the Rossies’ best supporter, and absolutely loves everything about the county. I can only imagine the chat, craic, and excitement in his barbershop, as he and his customers looked forward to last Sunday’s big game.

I don’t know if Micky Mac goes to Paddy Joe, but I made up my mind that if I ever go back to trying to look a bit nicer and tidier (I doubt it) and get another haircut, Paddy Joe’s is the place for me.

Anyway, roll on November and Micky Mac’s next haircut…


I might be a grouch…but safety is important!

As I get older, sometimes I wonder if I am turning into an old grouch. There can be no doubt that certain things get under my skin, and one of those things is the new, modern way of celebrating underage success in sport (by underage I mean from twelve or fourteen down).

Last week, on two different occasions, I met cavalcades of cars with lights flashing and horns blowing as they came home from winning some type of trophy. There was great delight and excitement as they made their way along the public roads…and that was where my concern kicked in.

In both instances, even though the cars were travelling at a fair old speed, there were kids hanging out of every window in every car. The thought crossed my mind, unlikely as it might be, of the disaster it would it be if one of those young kids lost their grip and fell. I have never been noted for my strictness as a parent, but I don’t think I’d ever be happy to drive with children hanging out the windows – even at thirty or forty miles an hour.

As I say, maybe I am showing my age, and I realise that winning teams like to travel in a cavalcade through their hometowns and villages, but would it not be enough to blow the horns and flash the lights while the children sat safely inside in the car?


The U-20s are a credit to their counties

Talking of underage sports: as I watched the two teams playing in the U-20 final on Sunday, I thought of all the unsung heroes who gave up their time to coach, train, and mentor these young lads – right from the time these players were only four or five-years-old.

I said to myself that I hoped they all felt a sense of pride for playing their part in turning those kids into the fine young men they are today. Volunteers are the lifeblood of every sports club, and without the coaches, without the lads that put out the flags, line the pitches, and do the unglamorous ‘donkey work’, there wouldn’t be any clubs at all.

So, let all those people take a bow and realise that, even if unsung and sometimes maybe even unappreciated, without you, there would be nothing.


Animal welfare more important than medals

The Olympics have come and gone, and soon we will have the Paralympics, also over in Tokyo. As the dust settles on the wonderful feast of athletics and sporting that we have just seen, I recall one of this year’s Games’ more controversial incidents.

The incident in question involved the punching of a horse by German pentathlete competitor Annika Schleu. Schleu, who was well in the lead for the gold medal, was unlucky to get a horse that was totally unsuited for the competition (Saint Boy). The horse refused point blank to make any attempt to jump. In frustration, Schleu, who saw her Olympic Gold disappear without a trace, then punched the horse a few times, as her coach also yelled at her to hit it.

In a way, one could understand the frustration of the rider, but it was telling that the coach was thrown out of the Olympics, and the rider was severely criticised by the German Animal Welfare Association. Animal welfare must always take priority, and cruelty in any shape or form cannot be tolerated.

However, it would appear that such incidents are thankfully pretty rare. As a rule, all animals, but particularly horses, are very well looked after. The good thing about such an incident – if there was anything good about it – is that it focuses attention on animal cruelty. Hopefully the publicity will ensure that such a thing will not happen again.

We must not forget that in the same event, Natalya Coyle, our very strong candidate for a medal, also had her hopes scuppered by a rogue horse. Maybe it’s time the rules were changed and competitors were allowed to use their own horses. As it is, they get just twenty minutes to try to get used to a completely strange horse, and obviously both Coyle and Schleu were extremely unlucky in the animals they drew.

However, Coyle did not abuse her horse (who refused to jump as well), so despite her disappointment, there was no excuse for the German to do what she did. Most horsey people would be appalled at her action, and it has been rightly condemned, by everyone all over the world.


Finally for this week…

It was nice to see the beautiful tribute that was paid to the late Conor Connelly at the big match in Croke Park last Sunday, as he was honoured with a minute’s silence cum applause before throw in. Conor made a huge contribution to football in both Roscommon and Offaly, and it was lovely to see it being acknowledged by everyone in the large attendance. I’m sure it was a sad, poignant, and emotional moment for his family, but it was a nice touch, and very well deserved.


Till next week, Bye for now!