From New Zealand to Croker (via the Hyde), it was a great sporting weekend

Frank reflects on a weekend of sporting highs; Relaxing on the bog…and savouring the peace and serenity of Knock

The weekend gone by was one of the busiest sporting weekends we’ve had for a while. For a lot of us, it could scarcely have gone any better.

First we had the amazing All-Ireland minor football victory for Galway at Hyde Park on Friday evening. Having already lost twice to Mayo in earlier rounds, they turned over the Connacht champions, making it third time lucky and becoming All-Ireland champions for the first time since 2007.

How you can play the same opponents three times in the one championship beats me, but as the great (soon to be former) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said so memorably when he forfeited his position recently, “Them’s the breaks”.

Saturday morning saw thousands of us installed in our sitting rooms at the unearthly hour of 7.30 or so. Luckily we were handsomely rewarded when Ireland beat the All Blacks in the second test of a three-match series, the first time we’ve ever beaten them on New Zealand soil. The win levelled up the series, setting up a winner-takes-all battle this Saturday in Wellington.

Then, for all of us Galway folk, Saturday evening brought even bigger joy, when our senior footballers beat Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final, qualifying for the final for the first time since 2001.

While the first half of the encounter was described by a Galway Bay FM commentator as “pure muck”, Galway thankfully put in a really good second half. With Damien Comer in unstoppable form, they proved way too powerful for the Ulster champions.

After that, out here in Creggs we were really looking forward to Saturday evening’s Tansey Cup final. The game was to have taken place on our newly-reopened football pitch and would have been the first ever adult county final to take place in Creggs. But sadly, our Strokestown opponents felt they couldn’t fulfil the fixture, and so we were awarded the cup.

Everyone in Creggs was terribly disappointed with the cancellation, as it would have been a great occasion. But in my opinion we were very worthy winners of the competition, having drawn one and won eight of our nine games. We duly celebrated the win in our two local pubs, despite the fact that everyone would have preferred to have actually played the final.

On Sunday morning, the presentation of the trophy took place at our new pitch. The large crowd that turned up really appreciated the efforts the players and management put in all year. Thoughts now turn to the upcoming championship, and what will be a very competitive O’Gara Cup next year.

 

Sitting in the bog…watching the world go by!

It’s Wednesday evening as I write, and I find myself back in the bog turning my turf (though I suppose technically I’m not in the bog at all as our turf is spread out on a field). In any case, as I go about my business, I realise that sometimes we go through life without really appreciating all the beauty and serenity that’s around us.

For nearly all my working life I have been ‘tied’ to the clock, always having to be somewhere at a certain time and always rushing and racing to get there. So, as I slowly worked my way through my reasonably dry turf, I began to take note of my surroundings and to finally be thankful that my working days are well and truly over.

I always bring a chair to the bog, and as I finished each hopper, I sat myself down, admired my work, and listened to and watched the traffic as it passed by on a nearby road. Trucks, buses, tractors, vans and cars were all flying by, and as I sat and watched them, listening to the sound of the birds singing and the frogs croaking – and there are loads of them – I thanked God that unlike all those stressed out motorists, I didn’t have anywhere to go or be. If it took me a day, a week, or even a month to finish my turf, it would make no difference, as for probably the first time in my life there was no shop to open and no boss waiting for me. I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling.

As it happened, I got it all turned in three half-days (at my age, I pull the plug on my work at dinner time). The next time you find yourself with a sore back and tired limbs after a day on the bog, be grateful that you got to spend some time with nature. The crowning glory would be if you were lucky enough to hear the beautiful sound of a lark singing – I’m told the lark is nearly extinct and so far I have certainly not heard her lovely distinctive voice.

 

Enjoying the peace and quiet at Knock

In recent years, Carol and myself have increased the number of visits we make to Knock. Last Thursday, we found ourselves back again at the Marian Shrine. This time however, we noticed there was a marked increase in the number of visitors to the little Mayo village.

A few weeks ago when we were there it was a  surprise to find that we could more or less park anywhere along the Main Street. But when we arrived on Thursday you wouldn’t fit a fly on the same street. What’s more, the big car park near the Basilica was more than three-quarters full.

Funnily enough, as we did our usual walk around the four beautiful churches, we remarked on how few people that were to be seen. But a few minutes later, when the mass in the Basilica ended, we realised that was where everyone was. All of a sudden, the place was full of people coming out from the afternoon service.

As I’ve said before, I don’t claim to be the most religious person in the world, but there is something special about the peace and quiet of Knock – at least until the month of August when the crowds really throng to the international shrine. As we walked around, Carol took a huge interest in the amazingly beautiful gardens and flowers, and we met visitors from all over the world, some of whom were staying in Knock for a number of days.

Lourdes, Fatima, and Medjugorje are all shrines of huge international fame, but we have Knock on our own doorstep. So, if you haven’t been there recently, take a few hours out of your busy schedule and pay it a visit. Even if you don’t believe in anything, you will enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the place, and be all the better for your visit.

 

Annette’s latest CD is recommended

A friend of mine gave me a present recently – a beautiful CD titled ‘Annette Griffin’s Most Requested Songs’.

As I have written here before, Annette is from down the road in Ballymoe and is head of entertainment in the world renowned Ashford Castle. She is an absolutely fabulous entertainer. The CD features fourteen beautiful songs, and I am thoroughly enjoying listening to it.

One of my friends said this evening that we always tend to praise and admire others while ignoring our own, and in this case, there is no doubt that we have one of the very best talents on our own doorstep. So if you get a chance, listen out for Annette’s music – you will see (or hear) what I mean.

And finally…

As we all pull every stroke we can to get tickets for the All-Ireland out here in Creggs, the GAA club is selling tickets for a fabulous All-Ireland final weekend package.

There’s two stand tickets, a Saturday night stay in the Gibson Hotel, and €200 spending money up for grabs for the lucky winner. You can get one line for €10, three lines for €20, and eight lines for €50.

The draw takes place at 10 pm on Thursday, July 21st, and you can buy your tickets online at creggsgaa.ie, from any committee member (of whom I am one), or in O’Rourke’s shop.

For a number of years now I have been putting up my Galway flags outside the house, only to take them down again in double-quick time after we went out of the championships. This year, for some reason, I never put one out at all, and – remarkably – here we are in the All-Ireland football final.

Today I bought a spanking brand new one in Georgie Bannon’s, and as I get ready to fly it, I hope I am not putting a jinx on our lads. I pray they will put the Kingdom to the sword and bring home Sam Maguire.  Maybe I’ll pay one more visit to Knock?