Paul Healy’s Week


Game of two halves

Timing is everything…

This evening, I thought about popping into a shop in town to get a few of the proverbial ‘essentials’ – as much to pass time as anything else. Then, a scroll of the TV channels revealed a potential treat for footie fans: Live Thursday night football (Manchester United v Aston Villa).

I watched a dull first half, which ended 0-0, the type of scoreline that sometimes has ‘Traditional GAA man’ tut-tutting. Unable to face the ads-heavy Sky Sports’ half-time break, I popped into town. The shops are quiet at 8.30 on a Thursday evening, only an odd shopper browsing the shelves. The rain was miserable.

After a few standard purchases, I returned home, but forgot about Sky Sports’ Thursday night football, only to discover later that the other ‘United’ (not Leeds) had won 4-2. Oh well. I missed six second-half goals, but at least we’re fine for milk in the morning…


Heineken hike

Are we near the day of the €6 pint in rural Ireland? And the €8/9 pint in Dublin? Of course we are! Yesterday, it was revealed that Heineken is imposing a substantial price rise (effective from December 1st) on publicans.

The already-struggling pub industry will inevitably pass this increase on to customers. Indeed there is some speculation that a pint of Heineken products could rise by up to 30 cent.

I’ve written here before about the old characters I used to serve when my family ran a pub in the centre of Rooskey village in the early 1980s.

Every Friday afternoon, after collecting their pension, they’d gather for a couple of hours at the bar counter. These men, if they were around now, would be bewildered by much of the societal change in Ireland. As a teenage barman, I loved their Friday chats. Everything was up for discussion: local gossip, national politics, sport, the price of cattle, and mostly, the good old days. They were great characters.

One day, there was speculation about an upcoming increase in the price of the pint (95 pence at the time). One of the men, cap on head and cigarette tucked between his wizened fingers, looked gravely at his fellow pensioners. “If the pint ever goes to a pound” he announced, “I’m never drinking again!” – a declaration which received solemn nods of support.

And here we are now, heading towards the €6 pint in rural Ireland, and the €8/9 pint in Dublin.

Before Covid, rural pubs were in serious decline. The pandemic has deepened the crisis. Anecdotally, it would appear that patronage of pubs hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Now we have a cost of living crisis which impacts on publicans, as on all SMEs. Heineken’s pre-Christmas blow adds to a particularly unpleasant cocktail for all involved in the trade.

More pubs will close. Others will further curtail their opening hours. Some may cease stocking Heineken products, but then how long will it be before other drinks’ companies impose rises?

Meanwhile, time eventually caught up with the old characters at the bar in Rooskey. If they lived to see the £1 pint, they drank it. I don’t recall serving them minerals, and certainly not bottled water!


Begrudgery update

David Clifford, probably the greatest Gaelic footballer of all time, scored 2-12 for Fossa in their Kerry County Junior Football final victory today.

While he received lots of praise, it was also an opportunity for some keyboard warriors (who scoffed at the fact that it was ‘merely junior football’) to provide more evidence that Irish begrudgery is alive and well (it’s just partly gravitated to Twitter).



Stating the obvious…

“We have to build far more homes of different types” Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath told the Sunday Independent.

In other news, a poll of turkeys reveals 98% of them consider Christmas to be their least favourite time of the year…



Martin hits target(s)

Martin O’Neill was an accomplished footballer, and had a good career in club management. As Republic of Ireland manager (with Roy Keane as his deputy) there was relative success…some good days, some bad.

What was a mark of the O’Neill tenure was the man’s testiness! His post-match interviews with RTE’s Tony O’Donoghue often saw O’Neill being rude, grouchy and thin-skinned.

O’Neill is a decent and respected individual, but I find him hard to warm to. Having recently written his autobiography, he is currently all over the media.

Early reviews of the book, and interviews he’s given in recent days on his PR tour (including with Pat Kenny on Newstalk today), give every indication that Martin’s famed prickliness is as healthy as ever. Apparently there’s quite a lot of ‘defensive’ tactics and some score-settling in the autobiography (which is to be expected, I suppose). Maybe some media outlet should ask Tony O’Donoghue to review the book.

*To be fair, I’ve read one or two glowing reviews of O’Neill’s book online today. Readers can make their own judgements. ‘On Days Like These’ is in the proverbial ‘all good bookshops’ now.



 A war film classic?

We’ve been watching ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (a 2022 film based on the 1929 novel) on Netflix. It follows the experience of four young school friends who, driven into a frenzy by nationalist rhetoric back home, enlist with the German Army during the First World War.

After arriving on the Western Front excited and hopelessly naïve about joining the war and ‘marching on’ Paris, they are quickly facing the nightmare of the horrors of life – and death – in the trenches.

The main feeling this movie evokes is a sense of how futile, heartbreaking and depraved war is. Watching this mesmerising and achingly sad portrayal of the horrors of World War I, it was impossible not to think of how, over a century on, Russia is sending teenagers to war in Ukraine.

This is a remarkable film, featuring stunning cinematography, the battlefield sequences shocking and poignant. While it’s very long (two hours and 23 minutes), and intensely dark, it’s a brilliant film which I strongly recommend to readers.