How my Roscommon GAA career went up in smoke



It’s a wild, wet, windy Sunday afternoon, and while most of the country are at the first round matches at the start of the new GAA National League campaigns, myself and a few other hardy souls find ourselves on the side of a remarkably good Dunmore rugby pitch watching a rough, tough, Connacht League rugby match.

  For Creggs rugby players, it’s now – in the famous words of Sir Alex Ferguson – “squeaky bum time”, as they lead the league with only three games to play. Judging by the great efforts put in by the Dunmore players on Sunday, if we are to go on to win the league, we will certainly have to do it the hard way.

  This was a real old-style rugby game, with no quarter asked or given, and the good news for Creggs is that we came home with a vitally important victory, and after a long, long break, we are very hopeful that we will have rugby silverware back in the village this coming year.

  Fast-forward to Sunday night, and I am watching the highlights on telly of an amazingly competitive football game between Kerry and Donegal, and my mind drifts back to 1974 when I wore the Roscommon jersey for the last time, at the age of 23, also in a league match against Kerry. To my eternal shame I think back to my preparation, or lack of it, for that particular encounter.

  Now I have to say that the players on that Roscommon team were totally dedicated to the team and the jersey, and, for the short time they put up with me, I was most certainly in a minority of one. 

  Anyway, without going into the full details, my preparation that weekend left a lot to be desired, and when I found myself in direct opposition to one Jimmy Deenihan, there was only going to be one winner. Shortly after half-time I was taken off, and it was my action as I was going off that most sums up the difference between me and the intercounty players of the present day.

  Before I had even got off the pitch I had lit a cigarette, and as one of my friends said to me afterwards, my intercounty career literally went up in a puff of smoke. Nowadays, players don’t do alcohol – I’m sure most don’t smoke – but things were very different back (particularly) in the 1950s and ‘60s – and an incident at another recent match I was at summed it all up very well.

  One of the players needed a sugar fix, which as a diabetic I am familiar with, and one of our more mature supporters went to the shop to get a Lucozade or something to solve the problem. But, as he came back, his mind drifted back to the days in the 1950s when he was a young lad following the fortunes of the Creggs football team.

  Anyway, he told us that young lads were very proud to be asked to hold packets of cigarettes for the players so they could have an energy-reviving pull at half-time, but the plum job was to be invited to hold a large bottle of porter, which one of our key players would drink during every interval break.

  As I watched the terrifically competitive match in Killarney on Sunday, I couldn’t but think that any porter consumed at half-time would surely have made a reappearance in the second half, but it goes without saying that whatever else players take, they certainly are not drinking bottles of porter. 

  Sometimes, you would wonder which is the better approach, but on Sunday night’s evidence, we are in for a few very interesting weeks as the hurling and football leagues take shape.

  Now if any team is looking for a ‘porter runner’, I know where you can get an experienced, enthusiastic, mature man, who knows exactly what is required.

Cheers! And good health to you all!

In a week dominated by debate about the Eighth Amendment and the use of smartphones by children, the removal of the drinking ban on Good Friday seemed to slip through without much fuss, and I have to say I am slightly surprised that it got such an easy ride.

  I would have expected quite a lot of resistance from various religious and anti-drinking groups. A year ago I wrote a piece bemoaning the fact that tourists coming to Ireland for the Easter weekend were unable to visit our internationally celebrated pubs on Good Friday, so I suppose I would be marginally in favour of the new legislation. Equally, I can say that only once in my lifetime did I ever have a drink in a pub on a Good Friday. In fact, technically I never had any drink in a pub on that forbidden day, because the one time I broke the rule was in a golf club, many miles away from here.

  Overall, I think it will be good for the licensed trade, and of course the publican can still choose to stay closed if he or she so wishes –and the punter can still choose to stay out of the pub.

  Staying with the subject of alcohol, and I must say that the recent appearance of Shane McGowan on Ray D’Arcy’s television show was something that made me cringe. The toll that a lifetime of drink and drugs has taken on him is pretty shocking. He is almost totally incoherent, and despite his extraordinary musical career I would think it would be more charitable to keep him off our television screens.

  Even though he’s only five years older than Tom Cruise, he looks a million times older than the American superstar, and watching Cruise doing his own stunts, including great footage of him smashing his ankle during recent filming on Mission Impossible 6, it would make you realise that it might occasionally be a good idea to mind our bodies.

  It’s probably too late for Shane, but with Operation Transformation sweeping the country, there will be ample opportunity for you all out there to get involved and do something about your health and fitness levels. As for me, I’m in the McGowan camp, and am gone past redemption: you can still do something to keep yourself alive and healthy.

And finally…

Finally for this week, on Saturday night last I found myself celebrating John Keegan’s 21st birthday party in Mikeen’s. It was great craic, with music by Simply Me (that’s a local band), who had the large crowd jiving the night away.

  Indeed I took the floor for a jive with the birthday boy, which, if we were on Dancing with the Stars, would have had us right up at the top of the leaderboard.

  Young John is one of the good guys, and it was fitting that a big crowd turned up on the night, and it was great to see his grandfather, local legend (and great Galway supporter) Michael McGovern in attendance, along with his six daughters and a number of his grandchildren.

Congrats, Johnny K, but the bad news is that it’s all downhill from now on!

Till next week, Bye for now!