Our man Frank on a day to forget for Manchester United supporters, fluctuating prizemoney in the National Lottery, worrying Covid-19 numbers, and a magnificent win for Connacht Rugby…
It’s Sunday evening, and after suffering one of the most embarrassing afternoons of my sporting life (watching an appalling Manchester United being humiliated by arch-rivals Liverpool), I find myself thinking back to yesterday’s All-Ireland Junior Cup rugby match. The match was played in Creggs and saw two village teams, Creggs and Kilfeacle, composed of unpaid amateur players, put everything on the line in an effort to get victory for their respective sides.
Played in atrocious weather conditions before a large, enthusiastic crowd (including quite a number from the west Tipperary village of Kilfeacle), both sides contrived to put on a game that was full of skill, effort, and wholehearted commitment. While the All-Ireland champions from Kilfeacle managed to come out on top by a single point (9-8), even their most partisan supporters would have to admit that they were extremely lucky to have escaped with a win.
Our lads were undoubtedly the better team, but sometimes luck doesn’t go your way. In the end, while the result was unkind to their superb effort, all of us who were lucky enough to see a marvellously competitive contest were very proud of the lads. They wore their club jerseys with such pride and commitment – as did their Kilfeacle opponents.
On then to Sunday, when the vastly overpaid footballers who represent Manchester United turned in a performance that was exactly the opposite of that put in by both Kilfeacle and Creggs the previous day. There was no pride whatsoever in any aspect of their play, as they let their supposed fiercest rivals run rings around them. Not only should they have their very handsome wage packets withheld this week, they should also be fined substantially for shaming such a world-famous football club.
Not one of them even tried to run hard enough to put pressure on the admittedly very good Liverpool footballers, or to put in a hard but fair tackle. All we saw was spoiled petulance and several mean, late, and dirty tackles, culminating in Paul Pogba’s cowardly two-footed challenge, which saw Naby Keita carried off and the pouting Frenchman being sent off. Overall, it was a pathetic, shambolic display.
As I said, our rugby team consists of amateur players who have to go to work the day after their game, but if any of them showed such a spineless side to them as the United superstars, I would never again go and support them. If the millions of fans around the world were to similarly show their feelings about this United team and this performance and withdraw their support, maybe the message might get through to them that no matter how talented you are, if you don’t back it up with hard work and effort, you are no use to any team. It won’t happen of course, but days like this shouldn’t happen either.
Feeling hard done by after Lotto win!
One of the great success stories of modern life in Ireland has been the National Lottery. Since 1988, nearly €5 billion has been raised for good causes in sport, recreation, health, welfare, arts, heritage, the Irish language and other areas, and it has also made millionaires of several Irish people.
Initially, there was just the Saturday night draw, but two years after the first launch, the Wednesday night draw was introduced. While there have been some tweaks in the time since, that’s more or less the way it still is today. As we all know, at the moment the big prize has not been claimed for months, and the top prize of more than €19 million has remained frozen for some time.
The one thing that still confuses me, however, is how they work out the amount of money that people who match five numbers get. A couple of years ago, I matched five, but even though other match-five winners in other draws around the same date won between €1,500 and €2,500, I only got €800. And so, I have always followed the fortunes of match-five winners.
In recent weeks, while the lotto prize has remained at €19 million, the match-five sums have fluctuated wildly. In the last eight draws, the figure has gone from €35,234 to €1,122. Other big winners got €29,273, but all the rest got around the €1,500 mark. I’m sure there is a good reason for such differences, but I won’t deny that I felt hard done by when my five numbers only netted €800. As it happens, last Saturday night’s match-fivers only got €1,122, while the previous Wednesday’s winners got €29,000. Plus, €900,000 was paid out on the Wednesday, while only €68,000 went to last Saturday’s winners.
I’m sure there is a logical explanation, but it will be of little consolation to all of those (myself included) who missed out on a bigger payday. However, to make sure I don’t get disappointed again, I have decided to simply win the big one. If you never hear from me again, you will know I’ve done it!
Let’s hope we don’t pay for our return to ‘normal’
It’s now the evening of Bank Holiday Monday, and after being cancelled last year due to Covid-19, the Creggs Harvest Festival has made a welcome return. For a variety of reasons I have not been able to make an appearance at any of the social events, although I’m told that there were great crowds at all the dances and discos held over the weekend. The general feeling was that it was great to have live entertainment back.
I did manage to make it to Creggs for the Fair Day, and it was great to see the stalls, the livestock, and in particular, the people, as life began to return to normal. Yet, I have to admit that it is with mixed feelings I reflect on the weekend when everything reopened after almost eighteen months of lockdown.
The scenes that unfolded outside nightclubs recently, with hundreds of unmasked clubbers queuing for entry to Coppers and other late-night venues, causes concern, particularly as Covid numbers seem to be on a continual permanent rise. I do not understand how numbers are so high when so much of the population is vaccinated, or why there are so many in hospital with the virus. However, a year and a half into the pandemic, it seems to me that things are actually getting worse – maybe we have simply stopped caring about it?
We are not taking as much care as we did when the virus first hit us. Whatever the reason, we do not appear to be making as much headway as we should be.
The social side of me is delighted to see our local pubs full to the gills, live music and dancing back, happy faces all around, and people actually having the craic. All I hope is that we don’t pay a big price for our return to normality.
Finally for this week…
After last weekend’s unfortunate loss to Munster (whose winning try should never have been allowed), I want to say hats off to the Connacht rugby team who absolutely hammered Ulster in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Ulster had won all four of their previous matches with bonus-point victories, but they were well beaten by an inspired western outfit.
Giving up home advantage in the hope of attracting a good crowd to the Aviva, Connacht rewarded the almost 10,000-strong crowd with a brilliant, exhilarating display that yielded five excellent tries and a bonus-point win. It really showed that just as in the Pat Lam era when Connacht got it all together, there is no more exciting team in European rugby.
I told you before about my experience of attending a Connacht v Leinster match in Donnybrook back in the seventies. Two Creggs men, my brother (The Rasher) and Jack ‘The Higher’ Cunningham, were on the team, and the game was watched by about 100 hardy souls, most of whom were relatives or friends of the players. Compare that to now, and it shows how far the game has come on in the intervening years. Professionalism has changed the rugby landscape so much over the last couple of decades, but the same qualities of skill, pride, courage, and commitment remain – and this Connacht side has it in abundance.
‘Till next week, Bye for now!