Masters at work…
The Masters – the most glamorous of golf’s four major championships – provides glorious entertainment for TV viewers. We are transported to Augusta National, a golf course of Disney-like beauty. There, the world’s greatest players take on the unique challenges of the course, vying with their peers, pressure, and the shadows of giants who have gone before them.
This year’s tournament began today, inviting golf fans to plot marathon sessions in front of the TV. As ever, there are more sub-plots than in the most far-fetched Netflix series.
Can Tiger Woods defy time and his weary, battle-scarred body yet again? Fresh from golf’s civil war, how will the PGA Tour regulars react to the inclusion of the stars who followed the money trail and joined the breakaway LIV series? Will Scottie Scheffler or Jon Rahm or Rory McIllroy – the three jockeying for top spot in the world rankings – claim the famous green jacket? Rory. Nine years and counting since his last major. Can he end the drought?
Let the fun begin…
Big Apple bites back
Dismay for millions of TV viewers, yours truly included, with play abandoned at the US Masters this evening after the weather turned nasty.
Consolation (for bereft sports’ fans) comes via a GAA thriller in the Bronx, where Andy Moran’s Leitrim team ran into the roadblock that every Connacht county has become increasingly wary of over the past decade or so. After a seesaw battle – followed online with great enthusiasm by GAA fans here – New York won a less than textbook penalty shootout to achieve their first ever win in the Connacht Championship.
As usual, the wags had their say on Twitter. I was reminded of one of Roscommon’s trips to Ruislip to play London in the Connacht Championship. It was many years ago. As the plane circled above London, a well-known Roscommon supporter from Rooskey looked down at all the houses in the city suburbs and quipped: “God, we’re up against it… these lads have some pick of players!”
The golf? Tiger made the cut, then withdrew, injured. Phil Mickelson (LIV poster boy) finished second and couldn’t stop smiling. Rory sort of imploded (he needs to be a touch less arrogant). Jon Rahm went home wearing green.
It was a good week for Roscommon people.
After all these years, with the show teetering over a cliff and another host’s era soon to close, we finally dispatched our famous barber, Paddy Joe (Burke), to the Late Late Show studio.
He sat in the audience in the Roscommon jersey and his trademark bandana. As ever, his message to the world was clear: basically along the lines that Roscommon are on the march, and, come hail (rain in particular) or shine…the Rossies are coming…to Castlebar.
Ryan looked a touch bemused, even confused, but we knew what Paddy Joe meant. We didn’t need anything decoded. We knew how much Castlebar 2023 meant to Roscommon football, irrespective of the fact that there’s a new championship format this year.
On Sunday, there was a great buzz in Strokestown as the town with the famous wide streets and renowned hospitality hosted its annual Easter Parade. The County Fleadh continued there over the weekend too.
In Roscommon town on Monday, the rain took a timely break just prior to the start of the Easter Parade. The event was an excellent showpiece for our community, enjoyed by a massive crowd.
For many people, all roads led to Castlebar on Sunday. Paddy Joe had said something slightly cryptic about the ‘beautiful rain’ in Castlebar in 2019, when Roscommon stunned the home side, the bridesmaids in primrose and blue storming the altar. Now the beautiful rain fell again. And we dared to hope.
Early on in Sunday’s match, our warriors rode their luck, before settling into magnificent game management.
Enda Smith was a Chieftain. His calm penalty, and a great first-time finish by his brother, Donie, left Roscommon perfectly poised at half-time, 2-2 to 0-4 in front.
Roscommon were men inspired in the second half, emerging from defence time after time, epic turnovers the stunning symbol of this tour de force. When heroic defence transitioned into attack, Diarmuid Murtagh was on hand to sprinkle magic dust.
This was a great win by our men. Mayo probably aren’t that put out by their Connacht exit. They will regroup, and are just as relevant to the race for Sam Maguire now as they were before throw-in. For Roscommon, it was a superb victory, a coaching masterclass indeed, a performance that leaves Roscommon people everywhere beaming with pride.
Prince sang of Purple Rain, Paddy Joe spoke of Beautiful Rain. Meanwhile, with great exuberance the Church Street philosopher bookended the weekend with a cameo in the stand at MacHale Park, which many people will have seen on social media. On this occasion, Paddy Joe gives a rousing and joyful ‘battle cry’… ‘The Rossies! The Rossies! The Rossies! Football’s coming home!’
There’s a long season ahead. So, perspective is advised. That said, in terms of setting down a marker for where this developing team is at, Roscommon achieved a win for the ages on Sunday, in Beautiful Rain.
At a conference in Roscommon last week, the first person I got speaking to was Independent Senator Tom Clonan, a very affable Dublin native. On hearing that I’m a newspaperman based in Roscommon, Tom went straight to an anecdote about the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) and the late Dermot Earley (Roscommon GAA legend and Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces).
The very next person I spoke to was Cllr. Pat Fitzpatrick, Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council. I introduced him as the afternoon’s first speaker. Keen to establish some Roscommon link with the audience, Pat began by recalling happy memories of watching Dermot Earley grace the GAA fields of Ireland.
Thirteen years after his untimely death, the great man remains the ‘go to’ person for so many people when they think of Roscommon. What a tribute to him.