Westport never disappoints. How could it?
(It turns out that the same cannot be said of the Mayo county final, but we’ll come back to that).
We arrived in wonderful Westport this evening, our destination for a welcome weekend break being the Westport Plaza Hotel.
Fiona and I are veterans of Westport hotel breaks by now, stretching back over 20 years to when we joined the ‘couples with very small children’ circuit. Happy memories (restaurant tantrums included), when venues like the Westport Woods, Castlecourt Hotel, the Harbour Mill apartments (and adjoining Westport Coast Hotel) were favourite locations.
After some very nice bar food, we embarked on the familiar stroll across the bridge, expectantly proceeding ‘down town’ to Westport’s bustling strip.
Of course we popped into Matt Molloy’s. As ever, traditional music emanated from the bottom end of the main bar, and as ever, it wasn’t easy to locate seats.
As I browsed the fascinating display of mostly black and white framed photos on the walls – featuring famous visitors to Matt Molloy’s – a man with a long ponytail led guests in a stirring version of the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song, ‘Freebird’. The atmosphere is always great in this unique pub.
World Cup final
Tonight’s Rugby World Cup final started slowly, and in terms of attractive, attacking play, it was never a classic. But it was utterly gripping, a tense and fascinating battle, yellow cards (and one red) permeating the action at intervals as if to purposely add suspense and an air of unpredictability.
I picked South Africa as likely tournament winners a few weeks ago, probably because of the Jim McGuinness factor. Like Donegal (for a period under Jim) they know how to win matches, and tend to mercilessly grind their opposition into submission. It’s not pretty, but let’s give credit to this South African team. In the past fortnight they beat each of France, England and New Zealand by a point. That’s some marriage of resilience and brilliance. This is a truly great team.
A special Friend
Returning to our hotel tonight, I was shocked and saddened to read online of the death of actor Matthew Perry, best known for playing Chandler Bing in the phenomenally successful US sitcom, Friends.
Friends ran from 1994 to 2004, and while it was massively popular then, the show has acquired millions of further fans worldwide in the years since.
Indeed it was an eye-opener in our house a few years back to witness our daughters discover a show which ended almost 20 years ago. As in so many other households, our children quickly fell in love with Friends.
An interesting point about this iconic sitcom – focussed on the everyday lives of six young friends who live in Manhattan and spend most of their time together – is that a case can be made for each character being the most popular! Unlike in Fawlty Towers (Basil), and most sitcoms, there arguably isn’t a lead character – each of the six have a massive following. This is a tribute to great writing, inspired casting and the brilliant performances of the six (Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer).
And yet, while the stars were generally given a fair share of the top storylines and razor-sharp one-liners, I have often observed that Chandler was the favourite of so many fans. Indeed Perry’s character was chosen for that accolade in a recent poll.
Matthew Perry’s ‘personal demons’ have been well documented. His death at just 54 years of age is a huge loss. Perry worked tirelessly to help others who, like him, were battling addiction.
He was an electrifying presence in a sitcom that has a special place in the hearts and minds of millions of fans, from 1994 to the present day. Chandler’s smile, wit, brilliant comic timing and sheer likeability will always be remembered. Perry was a great actor. His courageous work on addiction also points to a great man. (See Alannah Ita Healy column on page 15).
Me (at 10 am): Enjoying a second successive ‘Full Irish’ in the Westport Plaza Hotel, my mind wanders, and I guiltily wonder if I should ‘use’ the imminent start of November to inspire some sort of personal fitness regime.
Me (at 11 am): Back in our room, I check my Twitter feed and read that someone has already run (and won) the Dublin City Marathon, this morning. Run and won the 26.2 mile marathon by before 11 am in the morning. Interesting.
Few laughs in Jester
Around 40 customers (mostly Manchester United diehards) are gathered in The Jester Bar for today’s big derby. On the big screens, the assembled at Old Trafford pay an emotional farewell to the peerless Bobby Charlton, in front of the stand named after him.
On a smaller screen behind the counter, the Mayo County Final is on. A few locals keep an eye on it, but most of the focus is on Manchester.
United start reasonably well, but City’s familiar slick passing game soon sets the tone. I can feel the dubious optimism around me begin to wilt. A Haaland penalty casts gloom around The Jester. United try to rally, but City go on to win 3-0. Behind us, a United supporter is spitting fire… about the manager’s tactics and team selection, and the (alleged) frailties of selected players. Give the barstool expert the job!
In front of me, a weary looking man is doubled over and looking the worse for wear, but it turns out not to be a demoralised United supporter; it’s just a Halloween ‘dummy’.
The Manchester United supporters were more sad than angry. The TVs switched to the second half of the Mayo county final, which really was dire. I felt sorry for Aidan O’Shea, empty-handed in another final. But Breaffy didn’t deserve to win. Neutrals watching this very poor game (Ballina won by 0-6 to 0-4) might suggest that nobody deserved to win it.
The staff at the Westport Plaza (and adjoining Castlecourt Hotel) were fantastic. These are two excellent venues.
Before heading home to Roscommon today, we took a drive through the breathtakingly beautiful ‘Doolough Valley’ (part of the Wild Atlantic Way, between Louisburgh and Leenaun). Highly recommended.