Paul Healy’s Week – 2nd September

Paul Healy on meeting nerveless John ahead of his big climb; A visit to Strokestown ahead of the 150th annual show; The return of the X Factor; How locals are helping poor children in Haiti; One of the greatest gaelic football games ever…and being driven around the bend…

The countdown is continuing to John Tobin’s big climb of Croagh Patrick. Today, John is showing no nerves and is all smiles when he calls into the Roscommon People office with Gerry Jago.

John, from Williamstown, is receiving great support throughout Roscommon and East Galway as he prepares to climb the famous mountain in his wheelchair, along with family and friends (and Roscommon Civil Defence).

We have good banter with John – who is very excited about the big goal he has set himself – and with Gerry. Gerry reveals that everywhere he goes John is being approached with messages of goodwill and support.

John’s big challenge takes place on Saturday, September 10th. Here at the Roscommon People we’re backing him all the way and we’ll have more on the epic climb in upcoming issues.


Chatting to locals in Strokestown this evening about the forthcoming 150th annual show, I can’t help but think back to when my family lived in the town. We moved from Rooskey to Strokestown in 1985.

The Strokestown Arms Hotel, our new home, was a quaint, old premises. On our second night there, the country came to a standstill as Barry McGuigan defeated the great Eusebio Pedroza to win the world title.

The atmosphere at Loftus Road was incredible. The atmosphere in the bar in the Strokestown Arms was pretty special too, as locals cheered ‘Wee Barry’ on, viewing the fight on one small television above the fireplace.

Ireland was a different country then, Strokestown a different town. There were over 25 pubs in Strokestown in the mid-1980s; incredibly, that’s now down to five. Of course this trend is reflected throughout Ireland. Still, it’s great to witness a good buzz in the Percy French Hotel this evening. The hotel is a vital asset in the town.

Meanwhile, it is obvious that local volunteers, including Strokestown Community Development Group, have been actively working to promote the town; visually, it is looking great, with features in the centre of Strokestown, on the Longford Road and elsewhere, all enhancing the town. I have a great chat about Strokestown’s past with John Fallon and Seamus Shiel.

Later, I bump into former councillor, Sean Beirne. We chat about the past too, and I ask the wily Sean about his hopes for Strokestown’s future. He is optimistic. He recognises that towns and villages are struggling, but points out that things go in cycles, and that the spirit of the people can prevail.

Key to Strokestown’s future, he says, will be the very thing that has helped sustain Strokestown Show for 150 years – the strong bond that exists between townspeople and the farming community (and others) in outlying areas. Sean also makes the very good point that places like Strokestown can benefit once the Center Parcs development in Ballymahon proceeds.

I agree, and I believe that all towns and villages within twenty or thirty kilometres of that Ballymahon location should be positioning themselves to benefit from this very exciting project.

I left Strokestown on Friday evening feeling all my long-standing affection for the great town, with its wide streets, its character and its unique history.


The X Factor is back.

I’ve been half-expecting Simon to put it out to pasture some time soon. After all, the show has been losing credibility, and ratings have plummeted. And obviously Simon has enough dosh to allow him live the rest of his life on a luxury yacht or in some similar chilled environment. But, instead of being binned, the X Factor is back, and in fact reinvigorated, with the return of just about all of the big-hitters.

Louis is back. Sharon is back. Nicole is back. And Dermot is back. I wonder if Cheryl is smarting? Although the show has deterioriated so much in recent years, there are signs this weekend that Cowell may have worked his magic again.

The choice of judges and the decision to restore Dermot O’Leary is inspired. This judging panel may just have enough chemistry and capacity for craic to recharge the X Factor batteries.

The X Factor is manipulative, even exploitative, but there’s no denying that it has been a family favourite in millions of homes for over a decade now. It has also done wonders for the ‘pizza industry’!

Later on Saturday

The earthquake that struck Haiti in January of 2010 was devastating. The death toll estimates vary from 200,000 to 316,000. About one and a half million people were displaced and the damage to buildings, indeed entire towns and villages, was immense.

The recovery process is ongoing. Child of Haiti, an Irish charity which was founded in 2011, is doing great work in helping to plan a future for children of desperately poor families living in Haiti.

This coming November, a group of Irish volunteers will again travel to Haiti as part of the ‘Child of Haiti’ Orphanage project. While there, they will be rolling up their sleeves and building a badly-needed training centre. The benefit to locals of this voluntary work by the Irish grouping is huge.

The 10-strong group will include a number of locals from the Roscommon/East Galway region. At tonight’s charity auction in Eddie’s Bar in Ballymoe, energetic auctioneer Seamie Connolly keeps everyone well entertained.

Amongst the items auctioned to help volunteer Sandra Gunning with her campaign are a restored ‘High Nelly’ bicycle, signed rugby jerseys, bags of turf, a camcorder, a new television…and free-range eggs! The event is a success and it’s an enjoyable night.

Meanwhile, local volunteers tell me there’s a fully restored vintage Ferguson tractor up for raffle soon – tickets available shortly! Your support for upcoming Child of Haiti fundraisers locally will be greatly appreciated.


That had to be one of the greatest football games of all time. Dublin v Kerry was just magnificent.

Dublin were looking fairly comfortable when they led by five. Then Stephen Cluxton miskicked and Kerry responded like an animal in the jungle that has heard some unfortunate prey make an unexpected sound. Soon, Kerry were five clear and Dublin were dazed. Predictably, Dublin played their way back into the game.

And what a game this was. Fantastic intensity. Tremendous commitment from the players. Great skill and passion. Some marvellous score-taking.

Kerry emptied everything they had on to the pitch, but a few of their top stars began to show signs of battle fatigue. They were heroic, but, before a spellbound nation, old soldiers were taken out by younger warriors.

Dublin were in deep trouble – three points down past the hour – but they never panicked, seeming, above all else, to trust themselves. McManamon’s point to put the Dubs ahead on 70 minutes was the product of great skill, but, as Joe Brolly pointed out, Diarmuid Connolly’s score in injury-time symbolised all that is special about this Dublin team.

With his team just a point ahead, Connolly, quite remarkably, dispatched the ball over the bar while on the run. So many other players would have retained possession and not taken the risk of possibly gifting possession to the opposition.

I admire Donegal and Tyrone, but honestly, guys in their camps would never have done what Connolly did in that moment. Kerry should feel good about their courageous effort to beat what is a team for the ages. Dublin? Just magnificent.

Can Mayo beat them? Yes, it could happen. Mayo have a very good chance. We will return to that subject in the next week or two…!


This morning, it takes me the best part of ten minutes to get from the area around Hannon’s Hotel to what we all call Casey’s roundabout.

Why is this? Because of some unexpected, unusual traffic jam, or the dreaded (but necessary) roadworks? No, it’s because ‘Frustrating Motorist’ is in front of me.

I’m all for showing patience to other road users, but this particular ‘Frustrating Motorist’ – and there are many of the species – is testing me. The motorist is driving extremely slowly.

Worse, the motorist occasionally brakes suddenly. Braking suddenly is perhaps the most frustrating thing a driver can do.

Next, from Hyde Park onwards, the driver begins to sway left and right, which I initially cannot understand.

Then I realise – because I have lots of time to work it out – that the driver is avoiding potholes. But the potholes on this road have been filled in. So this extra-cautious driver is avoiding filled-in potholes!

I decide to be sensitive to this driver, but now he/she indicates to turn left (first exit) at Casey’s roundabout. No doubt the driver is thinking ‘all very safe and solid driving.’

But the indicator stays on, and it’s anyone’s guess whether or not the driver will go left in the direction of the Golf Club, or continue on towards McNeill’s roundabout.

On he/she goes, towards the latter roundabout, the left indicator still on, the driving ‘speed’ still so slow that a tortoise could safely cross in front – on one leg.

The driver takes the second exit at McNeill’s roundabout – indicator still on – but I’m not saying this mystery ‘Frustrating Motorist’ is necessarily from that part of town. And he/she didn’t really get on my nerves that much.

But I do wish that drivers wouldn’t brake suddenly and that they would turn their indicators off when the time is right.

As for me, maybe, like Bob Geldof, I just don’t like Mondays…