Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

The sense of shock, grief and anger – shame too – is enormous.

  The country is reeling in the aftermath of the murder of Ashling Murphy. To some degree we have become a bit desensitised to ‘bad news’, but the shockwaves created by this vicious, despicable crime have spread into every townland and house in Ireland.   

  This is horror. A young woman exercising in broad daylight, on a popular route, near a relatively busy bridge, in a friendly midlands’ town (of course women should be safe in any environment, at any time). Her life is cruelly taken, her future ruthlessly closed down. It’s sickening, cruel, evil. People are heartbroken, sad, despairing, but there is massive anger too. We can only hope that the murder of Ashling Murphy will indeed be a watershed of some kind, a turning point in relation to violence against women. Sadly, it is by no means certain that this will be the case.

  In the meantime, there is shock, grief, anger, shame, and any other number of emotions. In a united show of solidarity, the people of Ireland have rallied behind Ashling’s family. Through words and actions, we have displayed our grief and anger. Ashling’s life – and the great impact she made – is being celebrated too.

  And yet, a family’s future has been moulded by an evil act. A life – with all its promise – has been stolen. In these bleakest of days, a dark cloud hangs over our country. May Ashling Murphy rest in peace.

Friday

A vigil in memory of Ashling Murphy in Roscommon Town this evening was poignant and touching. In the new-look Square, candles flickered, people stood in silence, a photo of Ashling rested by a memorial card drawn by a child. For an hour or so, people gathered in silent memory of the young woman. Similar candlelit vigils were held in various locations throughout County Roscommon – as nationwide – over the course of the weekend.

Saturday

All week, hopes were high that St Faithleach’s could follow in the footsteps of Padraig Pearses and achieve a famous win for themselves, and a sensational New Year double for Roscommon football. On the face of it, taking on Galway opposition at a Galway venue seemed daunting (it was too). We have faith in Faithleach’s – a great club – but winning today’s Connacht Club Intermediate Football title was going to be very, very difficult.

  Once I linked up with Willie’s commentary (Willie needs no introduction, hence I’ve ceased using his surname) I was absolutely gripped. Not being an expert on the Connacht IFC scene, I will leave the detailed analysis to others. Suffice to say that after an initial purple patch by the Ballyleague men, this was quite a rollercoaster. With the teams level at full-time, and Shannonside briefly switching to Longford v Dublin, I popped into Timothy’s Londis for a few groceries. One or two chats later and I was back in the car for the frantically nerve-racking extra-time period.

  It was incredibly tense. St Faithleach’s could have won it with a late effort, but, after apparently flirting with the crossbar, the ball fell just short. Then Naomh Anna looked certain to have swooped the great prize, edging in front with a point that knifed through Ballyleague hearts.

  “30 seconds to go” Willie said, midst various references to that night’s €19m lotto jackpot. Some prizes money can’t buy. It seemed too much to hope for, that St Faithleach’s might somehow snatch a draw and take the game to the silliness of Verdict By Penalties. Few enough dramas get written in 30 seconds. Then, an unexpected fairytale dramatically revealed its punchline. A last-gasp goal turned the game on its head. The referee (aptly, his surname is Judge) consulted his umpires, but the goal stood. The pendulum had stopped in Ballyleague, via Pearse Stadium.

  It was very tough on the Galway men, but that can be the nature of sport. Heartbreak and glory are uneasy but permanent bedfellows. It was magical for St Faithleach’s.

Saturday night

Tommy Tiernan (to Gabriel Byrne): “Do you think you’re a strange man?”

Gabriel Byrne (turns tables): “I do think I’m a strange man, yeah. Do you think I’m a strange man?’”

  Tommy Tiernan (briefly in trouble): “Yeah…but I’d be attracted to you though!”

  Next, Byrne spins the interview around, asking Tiernan if HE’S a strange man. There follows a deep, thoughtful response from the host – complete with a quote from a Bob Dylan song – before Tommy (kind of) quips: “So I am a strange person…I would be difficult to live with…but I’d be ultimately harmless”.

You’d be watching ‘Tubs’ a long time to get that exchange…

Sunday

A number of years ago, when the present-day People HQ was Roscommon Champion HQ (long story), the great RTE reporter Jim Fahy arrived to interview me about some West of Ireland issue of the day.

  After filming on Abbey Street, genial Jim said he’d like to get the opinions of one or two members of the public, i.e. (literally) the man or woman on the street. We could have popped down to The Square, but instead Jim collared the first man he saw passing, who happened to be a middle-aged cyclist (complete with bike!).

  The man agreed to be ‘vox popped’, and duly gave his opinion to camera, one foot on the bike, one on the road. But Jim wanted a retake. “A bit more passion!” he good-humouredly asked of the slightly embarrassed ‘victim’. “Give it a bit more!”

  With that, Jim almost literally shook the man into a new level of enthusiasm, to the point where the interviewee was suddenly and miraculously worked up about the subject.

  “Now let’s do it again!” Jim laughed, gesturing to the cameraman. The man with the bike went for it again, this time expressing his opinion much more forcefully than before.

  A minute or two later he was off on his bike, perhaps wondering if it was safe to ever come up Abbey Street again. Jim Fahy, meanwhile, was all smiles, a little trick of the trade having given his report a bit more life and colour!

  Jim, who sadly passed away on Saturday (aged 75), was an outstanding and charismatic reporter who truly was the ‘voice of the west’ for many years. An absolute gentleman too, Jim made a great contribution to Irish life during a wonderful career. May he rest in peace.

  

Monday

In the early hours of Monday morning, I watched Waterford golfer Seamus Power continue his rich vein of form on the PGA tour, as he strutted close to the top of the leaderboard in the Sony Open in Hawaii. All of a sudden, Power is in the world’s top 50 (49th) – truly a new star is born.

  It rounded off a nice sporting weekend, following the heroics of St. Faithleach’s. Meanwhile, connoisseurs of ‘the beautiful game’ will have noted that Leeds United rediscovered much of the flair and form of last season, defeating West Ham 3-2 in a thrilling match. Relief all round for Roscommon’s many Leeds fans!

Tuesday

On today’s Liveline, there was a lovely 40 minutes or so spent on memories of ‘The Riordans’, the trip into the past prompted by a call about RTE’s marking of the station’s 60th anniversary. Some relations of members of the cast of the famous old drama, which ran from 1965 to 1979, rang in to share their memories.

  Joe Duffy made the point that the stars of The Riordans were the celebrities of the day in Ireland. I was reminded of our own brush with Riordans’ stardom in Rooskey, when word went around that the actor Joe Pilkington (who played Eamon Maher) was the owner of a most unusual boat/raft which was moored for several months near the harbour.

  As a young lad, I remember seeing the quirky boat (but not its alleged owner), nestling in the embrace of reeds and rushes, waiting for the return of summer – and its relatively famous owner.

*Click here to read my tribute to the late Monsignor Charles Travers