Paul Healy on successful summer shows; Believing in Mayo; Not (fully) believing in the Olympics; Kind of not watching the Rose of Tralee…and Dundalk’s heroics…
The Olympics trailed off. It was impossible to keep up with everything. I saw very little of them, but most nights I flicked over after midnight for a while.
I believed in the Olympics when I saw the British participant Lutalo Muhammad cry uncontrollably after an agonising last-second defeat in the taekwondo final. He was 6-4 ahead with ONE second to go, but his opponent struck with a kick that was worth three points.
I wanted to keep believing when I saw Usain Bolt win his ninth gold medal and, to be fair to the megastar, there is no suggestion that he is anything other than clean. So I guess I believe in Usain.
You see, we watch these Games, as we watch the Tour de France, with the spectre of doping never far away. I watched Mo Farah win double gold again, but I wondered and I wondered again. This is what the cheats have done to us; they’ve messed with the magic.
The men’s soccer final was quite thrilling, and it was brilliant to see Brazil prevail over Germany, some measure of revenge for the latter’s 7-1 win over the stunned host country in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.
Fittingly, Neymar slotted home the decisive penalty. It was wonderful too that Annalise Murphy won a silver medal after her heartbreak in London four years ago.
I missed hundreds of hours of Olympics action, but I still saw several hours and, despite the doubts, I enjoyed what I saw.
When it was all over, I realised that I had missed the most elusive and presumably wonderful sight of all; I never saw Jerry Kiernan smiling.
Rain may stop play in the tennis – but the show must go on. At times this morning you worried for the fate of the annual Roscommon Agricultural Show, such was the dourness of the weather.
In fact it stayed good for most of the show, and in any event, a drop of rain was never going to dampen the enthusiasm of the organisers or the competitors.
The show was a roaring success, and congratulations to all concerned. We have some photographic coverage throughout this week’s issue (mainly on pages 16-17) and we’ll also publish some results and presentation photographs in forthcoming issues.
Meanwhile, speaking of shows, I should mention that preparations are at an advanced stage for the annual Elphin Show, which will be held in the mart grounds on Saturday, September 3rd (see our feature on pages 18-19 this week).
Later in the month, the 150th annual Strokestown Show will take place. I was chatting to committee chairperson John O’Beirne during the week, and it’s clear that a great two-day event is once again on the way.
Mayo overcome a gallant Tipperary, and while we may not have seen the best team in Ireland today, we may well have seen the All-Ireland champions of 2016.
Mayo are sitting pretty now, in the final, lots of scope for improvement, underdogs’ status secured, and all the pressure set to fall on the winners of this week’s semi-final between Dublin and Kerry. The destination of ‘Sam’ this year will surely be decided in a frenetic last fifteen minutes or so in the forthcoming final. It’s possible that either Dublin or Kerry could be well ahead of Mayo entering that final stretch, but it’s unlikely. It’s much more probable that the two sets of warriors will be toe to toe, all still to play for. Neither Dublin or Kerry will relish it. Mayo do have issues to address, and on all current evidence they are not the best team in Ireland at present. But they only need to be the best team in Ireland in those frenetic closing stages of the final. And I think they can do it. God knows, it’s time Mayo’s epic wait came to an end. They will surely have Roscommon and every other neutral county cheering them on!
I have a confession to make – I used to watch all of the Rose of Tralee. I can’t watch it now, not any more. I can bear bits of it, but I couldn’t possibly sit through it all.
Mind you, it’s a great event to attend. We went to it a few years ago and had a great time. It’s several days of madness. It was a pity really that the socialising had to be interrupted by having to spend several hours in the Dome, where the heat was ferocious.
Every time there was a break in the televised proceedings people couldn’t wait to get outside for a breather. I found it quite competitive too – amongst the supporters.
This was the Ray D’Arcy era, and every time the host began interviewing a new Rose, her supporters would stand and wave those silly placards, roaring and cheering at every utterance from their heroine.
The crowds were incredible, and the local pubs, hotels and restaurants did a phenomenal trade. When Fiona and I got back to our own hotel, in the early hours, we decided to put our heads into the bar. There were about thirty people there, most of them smoking, utterly oblivious to the ban. We were welcomed by the Kerry folk as if we were long-lost friends. The rest of the night/morning is lost forever in a cloud of smoke and craic – but it was great.
Of course I had to make an exception on Monday night – to see how the Roscommon Rose ‘performed.’ And Aisling McNeill was excellent. She did great to qualify for the televised part of the festival, and did her county proud during her interview with the host, the irrepressible Daithí.
Aisling’s grandmother, Mrs. McNeill, is a familiar face behind the counter in McNeill’s shop here in Abbey Street. I haven’t spotted her there the last couple of times I was in, so it was great to see her featuring prominently on the television!
Anyways, it was a proud week for the McNeill family and indeed for Yvonne Donohue and the Roscommon Rose Committee – and, as I say, Aisling was a great ambassador. As for Daithí, he was born for this gig.
It wasn’t ‘Zac’ Hackett’s fault that I didn’t maintain a direct interest in League of Ireland football.
Well over thirty years ago, he was the local hero; the Longfordian Roy of the Rovers. Longford Town played at Abbeycartron in those days, and I often went along, with the versatile, all-action ‘Zac’ – his actual name was Pat – the man supporters looked to for inspiration.
Despite Zac’s pulling power, I can’t claim to have been an ever-present. Instead, like most of my peers, the alluring world of English football was enjoyed at the expense of the oft-maligned League of Ireland.
Still, I always keep an eye on how Athlone Town, Sligo Rovers and Longford Town are doing. And like anyone with any affection at all for the League of Ireland, I am greatly impressed at the tremendous exploits of Dundalk in Europe this season.
Tonight, they were superb in their away fixture to Legia Warsaw, drawing 1-1, having led for most of the game.
Dundalk went out 3-1 on aggregate, but they have done the old League of Ireland very proud, indeed set new standards and given inspiration to everyone in the game in Ireland.