Killarney is buzzing with staycationers and sunworshippers alike. The apartment in the grounds of the massive Gleneagle Hotel/INEC arena is lovely, very family-friendly.
In record-breaking sunshine, the attractive main thoroughfare of the tourist capital of Ireland is heaving with people. Normally, there would be thousands of foreign holiday-makers milling around, but this year it’s almost entirely staycationers. The absence of American accents is particularly noticeable. The outdoor dining/drinking is a massive success in this glorious weather. An available outdoor table is the new gold dust.
The drive to Valentia Island is a delight, the spectacular scenery world class, sizzling sunshine showcasing The Kingdom’s majestic beauty.
But one of the consequences of Covid is that people are interacting much less than in the past. All is not yet normal again. The weekend was notable for the lack of those informal chats with locals which are always such an enjoyable aspect of a visit to Kerry. Spontaneity is a Covid victim. The locals are extremely nice, it’s just that the lingering restrictions mitigate against the traditional ‘Where are you from?’-type banter.
We enjoy the hotel facilities (including a game of pitch & putt in extreme heat), more sightseeing, and generally savour the atmosphere in the town.
There’s a great buzz in the High Street, an intoxicating holiday atmosphere…glimpses of the life we knew. A grizzled busker who’s in his 60s belts out ‘Alleluia’, but where’s the violin backing coming from? It’s another (younger) busker perched outside a café on the opposite side of the street. This unique approach – two buskers playing ‘together’, at locations which are many metres apart – intrigues the growing audience. A novelty, it still doesn’t overshadow the actual performance(s). People linger, applause rings out. It’s lovely to see buskers freed.
A very tall, strong and firm-jawed Garda – straight from ‘Traditional Kerry Garda Central Casting’ if I can so generalise – has the street/town in the palm of his hands. He has a word for everyone. He compliments the young lady running an ice cream store on the fact that she has watered the hanging baskets. The Garda places his Garda cap on the head of a boy passing with his parents. This Garda would quite possibly successfully wrestle an alligator, but his charm, streetwise approach, engaging personality and sheer friendliness suggest no such showdown would be necessary. He is John Wayne without the surliness; Garda gold.
On Saturday evening, with the temperature touching 30 degrees, we went for an outdoor drink at the Gleneagle. As I queued to order, a group of Cork people cheered as their hurlers began to master Clare on the giant screen. Five points up, time ticking. Meanwhile, the ‘pint’ was served in one of those ‘not quite a full pint’ plastic containers. It cost a slightly startling six euro. Still, it went down well. By the time I was served, Clare had rattled in a penalty, and were bearing down on goal in the last minute of injury-time. The Cork party in front of me froze, but their ‘keeper saved them.
Killarney is preparing to host the Munster Football Final. 2,500 supporters will be in attendance. A chirpy sports guy on the radio says it’s 26 years since Kerry lost in the championship in Killarney. Suddenly it dawns on me that I was there that day…at the 1995 Munster Final (writing a book for Mercier Press ‘The Search for Sam’).
The weather was beautiful that summer (1995) too, as Fiona and I scrambled around looking for accommodation on the Saturday night before the big game. There were no rooms in any inn, until we finally met a landlady who cheerily invoked the ‘Irish B&B solution to being full on a manic weekend’. After ‘phoning Mary on the hill to see if she had any vacancy, our no-nonsense landlady offered us the family sitting room. We gratefully accepted. Later, after a great night with Kerry and Cork fans in town, we retired to that sitting room, surrounded by framed family photos, Community Games medals and slightly underwhelming pictures of mountains and wildlife.
Today, 26 years on, we’re leaving Killarney just as the fans are gathering. Although it will make our journey back to Roscommon longer, we take the road to Dingle. Stopping for coffee in Farranfore, we chat to an old lady who has her ‘And where are you from?’ radar on. She’s a local, of course. “Oh, Roscommon’s a long way” she muses. “I’ve a son in Kildare and I used to love going there. But IT was a long way. So then I began to fly there instead of driving!” (Farranfore has its own airport).
“Enjoy the match” I said to her as we left. “I will,” she replied, “back in my house with a fag”.
It’s a struggle for us to get to see any of the football. We missed Mayo’s impressive win against Galway, but saw the first half of Kerry v Cork in a beer garden. As for Dingle, with its pretty necklace of quaint shops and cafes, it was buzzing. There was a great atmosphere, people glad to be back out and about, the weather still sensational.
*We had arrived in Killarney just as our columnist Frank Brandon was heading out of town; see Frank’s review on page 12.
Coming soon: Prince Harry’s new book on privacy, media intrusion and keeping a low profile. This fascinating publication will…eh…see Prince Harry write about his private life, from growing up as a member of the Royal family to his marriage to Meghan and their subsequent break for the border. It will also deal with media intrusion (details of book launches/promotional tour/exclusive interviews/lucrative serialisation to follow).
All enquiries/‘royalties’ to be marked Harry & Meghan’s ‘We just want a quiet life’ project, c/o California.
In the car park at Sligo Hospital, The Man Who Only Stares Ahead was defiant. Probably in his late 30s, he was double-parked, but the bizarre thing was, there were vacant parking spaces behind his very plush vehicle. In front of and behind him, frustrated drivers patiently waited for our hero to move, to do something. I tried to catch his eye, but it was becoming evident that The Man Who Only Stares Ahead is stubborn in the extreme. No eye contact, no acknowledgement, no empathy with hospital attendees.
Patient but puzzled (and annoyed), I began a loud beeping campaign, supported by fellow motorists. A security man approached and asked him to drive on, but The Man Who Only Stares Ahead refused. The driver next to me wound down his window and asked ‘What’s wrong with that fella? As if there isn’t enough pressure here already…’
I wondered about tapping his window and giving him an earful, but I also thought ‘Don’t get involved with a jerk’. While I was deliberating, he finally took the parking space he was obsessed with (as a car pulled out). Cue several head-shakes from bemused viewers.
If Bad Manners was an Olympic sport, The Man Who Only Stares Ahead might just take gold.
All eyes on Aoife (O’Rourke) at the Olympics this morning…and the pride of Castlerea was superb. Aoife was unfortunate to draw such a quality opponent; with a bit more luck, she would have been amongst the medals. We have report and exclusive photos on pages 1 & 3. Well done Aoife, and here’s to Paris 2024!
Later on Wednesday
‘Zappone approached Coveney and offered herself for top job’ – (various media): Encouraged by this new (or newly revealed?) way of doing things, I’m exploring freelance career options with immediate effect. I’ve spent all day ringing Government Ministers to inform them that I’m recommending myself for a variety of leading roles. I have advised the ministers that it will not be necessary to advertise any of the said roles, and that no interview process will be required. Naturally I expect a positive response (particularly from Minister Coveney’s office). As a courtesy, I have informed the Taoiseach’s office that I will be joining the team.