It’s a couple of weeks ago…and as Creggs Rugby Club have a big match in Ballinrobe on Sunday, 21st of January – which was, of course, last Sunday – I figure to myself that it would be nice to go to the game, and, instead of coming home, carry on to Westport, to spend a night in what is definitely one of the best social towns in the region.
So I managed to get a booking in a nice central hotel at a reasonable rate, and relaxed, looking forward to a good rugby match and an enjoyable trip to Mayo. I didn’t know that we were going to have such heavy rainfall that a lot of games, in all codes, would fall foul of flooded and unplayable pitches, including our game in Ballinrobe.
And so on Sunday morning we (me and Carol, my wife) faced the major dilemma of deciding whether or not to go, but after a bit (but not much) of soul-searching, we said we would travel, and so we hit off, via a lot of flooded roads, to see what the craic would be like in Westport.
The last time I stayed there was just fifty years ago, when I played rugby with the local rugby club, and we held our training sessions in the function room of a local hotel, sessions that consisted of togging out, putting on tennis shoes (trainers nowadays), doing a few sit-ups and push-ups, having a couple of unopposed lineouts and scrums, looking at a few totally unintelligible drawings on a blackboard, and drinking copious amounts of pints afterwards, before collapsing into some sort of a bed, kindly laid on by the proprietor of the hotel.
By the grace of God, the hotel owner was also the President of the rugby club, so he was only too happy to arrange accommodation for myself and my brother (The Rasher). I used to travel from Ballinrobe, and he would come from Castlebar. At the time, both of us were employed by (I wouldn’t exactly say working for) the Bank of Ireland.
Anyway, fast-forward to last Sunday, and we got into town just about four o’clock, and for me, the priority was to try and see the delayed Munster game against Castres. As luck would have it, our hotel was showing the soccer match between Spurs and Southampton, and so we headed off to try and find a pub that was showing the rugby. A nice place called Walshe’s looked after that particular need, and even though it was only 4 pm, there was a big crowd in there…with racing, soccer, snooker and rugby all being shown on different tellies. The barman was a lovely young fellow, and, although we only had a coffee – and a couple of nice pints for me – it was an enjoyable pitstop.
On then to Sunday night, and all my life I have heard about Matt Molloy’s pub, but until now I had never been in it. After Sunday night, I will certainly be back. We got there before the crowd, as they say, and so we were fortunate enough to get stools at the counter, and I have to say the atmosphere was wonderful and the craic was even better.
One of the two friendly barmen told us that there is music there every night of the year, and, sure enough, musicians started to arrive with guitars, fiddles, accordions and tin whistles, and before we knew it the place was hopping with the best of Irish and traditional music.
Everyone was very friendly, and we met people from all over Ireland and from all corners of the world, and when we left we vowed that it won’t be fifty years before we’re back again; if it is, it’ll be some miracle, because I will be 116 by then. Sometimes a person can be disappointed when he or she finally gets to visit a place that has been on the bucket list – for me Matt Molloy’s lived up to all expectations, and we had a great night’s fun. If you ever find yourself down that way, call in and you will enjoy it.
We had a pint with a lad who is a barman in Paddy Murphy’s pub in Rotterdam, and, me being me, before we left we were definitely going to call to see him sometime soon. As I’ve said before, if I have a few pints I’ll go the moon, but when I wake up the following morning I go nowhere.
Today, before we headed off, we had a look around the town, and it is easy to see why it’s so popular with so many tourists, both foreign, and Irish – there are loads of interesting looking pubs and shops, and the place is spotlessly clean, there’s no shortage of accommodation (albeit it was a Sunday night in January, maybe it’s different in the summer), and it just has a special feel to it.
Give Grobler a break
Changing subjects, but sticking – sort of – with the unique story that is Munster rugby, and I have to say that the media frenzy over their signing of convicted drug user and abuser Gerbrandt Grobler has me slightly bemused, and I think it has commanded way more attention than it deserved.
Certainly what the then 20-year-old did was wrong, when he took a performance-enhancing banned drug. However, having been caught, he admitted his mistake and has served his two-year punishment. Maybe the system is wrong, but rules are rules, and so he should be allowed to carry on with his career and hopefully be a useful addition to the Reds for the remaining five months of the season.
It is my belief that drugs play a huge part in a lot of professional sports, with athletics and cycling almost tainted beyond repair, and while rugby has kept a pretty clean reputation so far, surely it is also possible that some players are using borderline substances to gain an edge on their opponents.
It also says something about the Irish mindset, that in a week in which a student –with four previous assault convictions – who broke a girl’s jaw in an unprovoked assault, walked out of court with a suspended sentence, and a drunk driver five times over the limit, who killed one person and seriously injured another, was similarly handed down a suspended sentence, there is more newspaper coverage of the rugby player who hurt no one, except himself (and his family) than there is of the other two outrageous legal decisions.
Sometimes, it seems to me, there are obviously media-driven agendas, for whatever obscure reasons, and this attention to Grobler seems to belong to one of them. Personally, I feel it’s time to move on, hope he has learned his lesson, and if he keeps his nose clean, let him carry on with his career. Should he fail another test, then he should be thrown out of the game and banned for all time.
Alan Quinlan, a true Munster great, feels that Grobler should talk to young players, explain to them about the massive impact his major misdemeanour had on him, his life and his career, and in that way, by influencing them away from drugs, turn a negative into a positive.
It seems a good idea to me. Hopefully the next newspaper coverage of Grobler will reflect on his actual rugby performances.