Paul Healy’s Week


Game on…

The message that pinged into my phone from my cousin in London earlier this year was unexpected.

About a decade ago, his team of soccer-playing ‘veterans’ had travelled over to Roscommon to play the 5-a-side team I toiled with. Now he was suggesting a rematch… ten years on.

Sure, I thought, agreeing without hesitation. But when I put the phone down, it dawned on me: I don’t have a team. We all retired… around ten years ago.

How could I have agreed? My cousin’s team still play twice a week, every week. ‘My’ team retired all those years ago, albeit rashly.

If this rematch went ahead, it would be the Invisible Men versus the Very Visible (and active) Men.

When I discovered that the London 2024 group would consist of about 20 players, it was time to take the challenge seriously. Either that, or change my number.

First, I convinced a few of our long-retired greats to tog out one more time, then I borrowed several members of the Roscommon Masters team, who are still playing.

And so, 36 years after Ray Houghton put the ball into the England net, another Ireland-England game took place recently, on the weekend of the recent elections, as it happens.

The venue was the excellent grounds at Lisnamult. In the end, we played two games… London veterans versus Roscommon Masters in an 11-a-side, and remaining London veterans versus a small number of freshly-out-of-retirement Rossies on the astroturf.

The main game was a very competitive encounter, London edging it 2-1. It was watched by a handful of people, including a man and his dog. Our team actually won the B game, which didn’t even attract a curious dog.

The London lads – four or five nationalities involved, and every one of them a gentleman – were captivated by the GAA club matches they attended over the weekend (St Joseph’s v Boyle in football, Oran v St Dominic’s in hurling).

The visitors sampled great Roscommon hospitality in Paddy Finn’s in Kilteevan, and in some establishments in town, including Gleeson’s, Regan’s and Down the Hatch. They absolutely loved the trip. A special thank you to Johnny Horan, and to the many other people here in Roscommon who helped out in any way.


Local MEPs…

Ciaran Mullooly’s election to the European Parliament, confirmed in the early hours, is a very significant personal achievement for a man who is well known in these parts. The former RTE Midlands Correspondent was elected as an MEP in Midlands-North-West, representing the new alliance of Independents, Independent Ireland. Earlier, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan had taken the first seat, after another very impressive electoral outing. See also ‘Monday’ in this column and full coverage on pages 16-17.


Rossies win

Attending the Roscommon-Cavan game in Pearse Park in Longford today reminded me of my days covering the occasional game there when I was Editor of the Longford News. That was back in the early 1990s.

While still a small and relatively modest ground, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park has undergone a fair amount of development over the years, and is a cosy, intimate venue.

Roscommon were the better team, but they struggled to dispense with a Cavan side that scored some beautiful points.

After one or two moments of concern – most notably when Cavan got to within a point of Roscommon in the second half – Diarmuid Murtagh and Enda Smith led Davy Burke’s team to victory.


Dubs’ invasion!

Roscommon Town was buzzing today from mid-morning. A blue wave descended on the town, with some green and red sprinkled in.

Dublin brought a huge crowd of supporters to today’s All-Ireland SFC group game against Mayo, the latter county no strangers to the Hyde, and always very well supported too.

But it was primarily a Dubs’ fest, at least in the hours before throw-in. There was a great atmosphere. On my way to the game, I was taken aback by how far out the Athlone Road vehicles were parked, the odd Dublin-registered taxi included.

The game itself was a mighty contest. Full credit to both sets of gladiators. This was a tremendous, honest, thrilling spectacle. It looked like Mayo had just secured a dramatic win, only for Ciaran Kilkenny’s epic ‘leap of faith’ – a wonderful piece of fielding – to inspire a last-gasp equaliser for the Dubs.

The atmosphere in the Hyde was brilliant. The new-look stadium was in great shape, and Roscommon GAA are to be complimented on running this event with such smoothness. It was a great occasion.


Ming’s Aras hint

Having written a personal-type piece on Ciaran Mullooly (page 17), I must add my congratulations to Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who secured a third term as an MEP with a second poll-topping performance.

Poll-topper first time out in 2014, ‘Ming’ finished second on the first count in 2019, perhaps unsurprisingly surpassed on that occasion by the redoubtable Mairead McGuinness. Last week, ‘Ming’ was back in poll-topping mode (78,214), and was first MEP across the line.

In media interviews at the count centre in Castlebar, MEP Flanagan made it quite clear that having now served as a councillor, TD and MEP, he is not ruling out running for President of Ireland in the (near) future.

I am reminded of an amusing exchange between my later father (Rutledge Healy) and the late Roscommon TD Sean Doherty.

At some point in the 1980s, the then Deputy Doherty called into our family pub in Rooskey. The uncrowned king of Cootehall and my father were quite friendly. Over a few drinks, the ever-charismatic Sean told my father that he might run for President of Ireland some day, adding “And if you’re ever up in Dublin, Rutledge, you’ll always have a place to stay!”


Plot twist…

Social media provides evidence that Jessie Wallace (who plays Kat Slater in EastEnders) has been enjoying a break in Salthill Caravan Park this week.

My fervent hope is that she popped into a bar/hotel/business/passed a caravan with a TV… and attracted startled stares just as the iconic closing theme music of EastEnders was playing…