Paul Healy’s Week – 13th May

Paul Healy on a great first Roscommon Races of the season…and nothing else

We’re attending Roscommon Races for the first time in quite a while, accompanied by relatives from London. The predicted heatwave hasn’t quite arrived, but it’s still a lovely evening.

Regular readers will recall that I advised several weeks ago – hey, let’s go with ‘about seventy days ago’ – that the weather would improve once a new Government was formed. You will now note that I was right. New Government almost always heralds in great weather (for a while).

So, thank you Enda and Shane and co. Danny Healy-Rae’s intervention may also have helped. We make it in just as the second race is about to begin. My English cousin had been talking about the racing press moments earlier. I glance at the racecard and there’s a horse called ‘Full Court Press’ running. A quick browse suggests it might be a contender. We back it on a whim and it wins at seven to one.

The war with the bookies has begun with a deadly strike! What a jewel in the Roscommon crown Lenabane is. The racecourse is continuously being enhanced, year on year. It is now a top class facility and remains a wonderful asset to the town. There are a lot of craggy faced men around. Racing diehards. There’s a touch of glamour too of course, though not provided by the craggy faced men.

There are glamorous young couples, sharply dressed middle-aged men, stylishly attired ladies of all ages, but the craggy faced slightly older men are a substantial grouping. These craggy faced men are veterans of thousands of race meetings. For some, this is an obsession, almost an addiction.

For more of them, it’s a joyous routine – attending race meetings – the satisfaction as much about seeing familiar faces as it is about eyeing up horses and analysing their form. You get a real appreciation of how incredibly important the horseracing industry is in this country; it is remarkable to see such crowds flocking to Roscommon a Monday evening. Some of the bookies seem to be getting younger.

Others have been doing it for over half a century. They are all very friendly. One of them congratulates one of our party on taking money off him. We have a few more winners, leading to modest profits. Politicians abound. Newly-appointed Minister Denis Naughten, flanked by Cllr. Domnick Connolly, is chatting to punters. Mayor of Roscommon Paddy Kilduff is all smiles. Deputy Willie Penrose, Senator Terry Leyden and Cllrs. Ivan Connaughton, Michael Creaton and Kathleen Shanagher are amongst many more politicians present.

Also in Roscommon is Philip Reynolds, son of the late former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. Philip’s horse, Go Darsi Go, wins the last race. Roscommon Races is a good news story spelt out over several acres of sod in a venue of never-ending promise. There are smiles all around.

Bookies bellowing in a bid to attract the final bets moments before the off. Guinness in plastic glasses. The aroma of fast food. The band setting up. Receipts that failed us fluttering in the breeze. Magnificent horses parade as they prepare for battle. Jeeps and horseboxes.

A winding, weaving queue at the tote. Familiar faces. The usual brief verbal exchanges. ‘Well, any winners?’ ‘Are you making money?’ ‘I had two winners.’ ‘Not so bad!’ ‘I’m breaking even.’ ‘The one I backed is still running.’ ‘Have you any tips?’ ‘I was talking to a fellow who said…’ ‘Sure it’s an evening out, isn’t it? ‘I hadn’t a bet at all yet!’

Later, there was a great crowd in McCrann’s famous traditional bar, where our English visitors were suitably charmed. An American gentleman at the bar revealed that he is a regular visitor to Ireland.

He too was greatly enjoying the craic, and no, not very keen on the prospect of a Donald Trump win. We briefly visited one or two other bars, but gave Declan Nerney a miss. There had been enough excitement for one night.

Rest of week…

The continuity announcers on television sometimes say that viewing of a scheduled programme has been deferred because the previous programme over-ran (e.g. with extra-time and penalties in a match, World Snooker, election coverage, etc. – Graham Norton: “We’ve no time for the red chair this week”).

Well, I have to inform readers (many of whom will probably be relieved) that the rest of this week’s column has been deferred, due to time constraints. Most of the days of the week will hopefully return next week.

All aboard! Locomotive to visit Roscommon

Well-known local businessman, Sean Browne, has informed the Roscommon People that there will be an unusual sight in Roscommon this weekend.

A steam locomotive train will be travelling through the county en route to a Croagh Patrick tour. The train is pictured at Roscommon Railway Station in 1986 and will be visiting Knockcroghery, Roscommmon Railway Station and Castlerea this Saturday (May 14th) 30 years on as it prepares for a tour of Croagh Patrick on Sunday (May 15th).

This is a wonderful opportunity to see an old world mode of transport on what promises to be a wonderful day of nostalgia. The train will arrive in Knockcroghery at approximately 1.20 pm on Saturday and from there will make its way to Roscommon for just after 1.30 pm. It’s due to arrive in Castlerea shortly thereafter and will also depart Castlerea on Sunday en route to Westport.