Paul Healy’s Week

THURSDAY

Memories in Murray’s

A quiet pint tonight in the famous Murray’s Bar in Knockcroghery (my first call there in a good while) brings all the memories back: my first visit, back in 1988; the feeling of wonder then, at the sense of history that embraces you in this most quaint of public houses; most of all, the thrill, then, of meeting – and subsequently getting to know – the legend that was Jimmy Murray.

Tonight, we chat to John, reminiscing a little about how life was in the 1970s and ‘80s. I was only there for 45 minutes or so, but in that time a few of us touched on memories of Meath and Roscommon GAA greats, social change in Ireland, political characters, St Dominic’s entering the senior grade, the fire that struck Murray’s in 1990 too.

The framed photos from the 1940s – when Jimmy Murray captained Roscommon to back-to-back All-Ireland titles – entranced me in 1988, and did so again tonight. It’s always a pleasure to call to this landmark pub, with its understated reminders of our proud and cherished past.

 

FRIDAY

Superior pedestrians!

A minority of people are still doing it! I refer to that small group of pedestrians who can be relied upon to ungratefully fail to acknowledge the courtesy of thoughtful drivers who slow down and ‘give them the nod’ to cross the street. These ‘superior pedestrians’ simply plough on, oblivious to the kindness of the motorist who has slowed and gestured for them to cross. Oh well, Happy Christmas to them too.

 

SATURDAY

Guess who’s back…

Bugged by a cough (like so many people currently are) I took the unusual decision to have a brief lie-down this afternoon. I couldn’t resist flicking the TV on. The fact that I fell asleep while the names of all the TDs in Dáil Éireann were being called out is probably no reflection on the occupants of the so-called lower house.

Awake again half an hour later, I observed Leo Varadkar being confirmed as our new Taoiseach. I gather there had been some negative commentary on Varadkar earlier from some opposition TDs, but the mood was now dignified, reflecting the sense of history (however predictable the accession may have been). Outgoing Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his successor sat side by side, smiling away, almost reminiscent of the Ian Paisley/Martin McGuinness ‘Chuckle Brothers’ dynamic of yesteryear. Almost, not quite.

I’ve interviewed Martin a few times, and while I’m under no illusions that he’s a formidable and tough operator who can be ruthless if required, I buy into the popular categorisation of him as a particularly decent man. Is it okay to say – while not turning a blind eye to the housing crisis – that he has been an effective Taoiseach? Like Enda Kenny and John Bruton, he has approached coalition sensibly; ego more or less left outside the cabinet meeting room. But I digress…

Back to the Dáil today: when the result was announced, Leo made a good speech, and then the majority of TDs – of all persuasions – lined up to wish the new Taoiseach well, and also to shake hands with Martin. Before that, they gave Leo a standing ovation. Well, Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd Barrett didn’t stand, which frankly reflects poorly on that miserable duo (don’t book them for your Christmas night out). Memo to Paul and Richard, those po-faced prophets of gloom: Courtesy doesn’t come with a price.

 

SUNDAY

Messi’s day

I fell in love with ‘the beautiful game’ when I was about ten years of age. I’ve always been drawn to the flair players, while still having total respect for Norman Hunter, Billy Bremner, Roy Keane, Graeme Souness and others of their ilk.

But the flair players make us gasp, thrill us. What a cast there has been…Tony Currie, Frank Worthington, René Higuita, Paul Gascoigne, Ronaldinho, Eddie Gray, Stan Bowles, Rodney Marsh, the amazing George Best, and many more. Some of them achieved a lot, others preferred to use their gifts to entertain than to knuckle down and graft in the pursuit of something as mundane as victories and trophies. Of course there’s a difference between flamboyant entertainers with a casual attitude to training/systems, and fellow gifted players who can combine the wizardry with work ethic.

I’ve always loved Lionel Messi, ranking him well above the fabulous Cristiano Ronaldo in a ‘Greatest footballer in the world’ debate that I never wasted time on. As to whether Messi is better than Maradona or Pele, nobody can really say with certainty, but the case for the current Argentinian number 10 being deemed to be the greatest player of all time is certainly a powerful one now.

Today, we riskily played the ‘Record the match and try to avoid the score’ game yet again. After a lovely lunch in Cox’s Steakhouse in Dromod, we passed through the bar without glancing at the TVs, on which the World Cup final was underway. Arriving back in Roscommon, we enjoyed our recording of the epic final, having avoided any score updates.

What a game! Messi’s glorious career crowned by a World Cup winner’s medal. At 35 years of age, Messi scored seven goals in seven games at the World Cup. Incredible.

Maradona was magic. Best is my hero. Pele must have been awesome. Messi has mesmerised us for twenty years. And check out YouTube to see Eddie Gray’s second goal against Burnley in 1970!

 

MONDAY

Conor McMouthy

Result just in: It turns out Conor McGregor (currently having a go at both football legend Paul McGrath and comedian PJ Gallagher on Twitter) is an absolute national embarrassment. Who’d have thought it? I wish him no ill will, but the guy has mortified the nation. (I hardly need to add that, as a sportsman, Conor McMouthy couldn’t even begin to lace McGrath’s boots).

 

TUESDAY

Happy Christmas

Unusually, we’re going to press on a Tuesday, it being Christmas Week. Wishing all our readers a Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!