Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

This morning’s session at the Suck Valley Way Conference in the Abbey Hotel featured a number of expert speakers discussing the potential of this area.

  I enjoyed acting as Master of Ceremonies during what was a very interesting series of talks (and interactions with delegates). The Suck Valley Way Committee – headed up by Cllr. Anthony Waldron, whose brainchild this conference was – are to be commended for their excellent work in gathering such an impressive line-up of speakers.

  Over Wednesday and Thursday, experts across areas of tourism, sport, industry, manufacturing and recreation outlined how they believe our beautiful region’s potential can be realised.

  Over lunch, I met a nice businessman from Co. Cork who had some reservations about how well or otherwise remote working will work…and even greater reservations about the short-term future of his county’s hurlers!

Later on Thursday

It was lovely to be back in Strokestown for the launch of Eoghan Egan’s latest crime thriller, which I had the honour of performing in the always welcoming Percy French Hotel. Strokestown native Eoghan is two books into his Ganestown Trilogy, a crime fiction series set in the Irish Midlands. The book being launched tonight is called ‘The Other Side of Fear’. Eoghan deserves all the success that comes his way.

  Tonight’s launch was organised by Senator Eugene Murphy. We have a report and photographs on page 20 of today’s issue.

Recently…

I see where brilliant aging rocker Roger Daltrey has briefly turned political commentator. The (online) Daily Express breathlessly reports: ‘Roger Daltrey has slammed the European Union for “punishing” the UK for Brexit, claiming not enough progress has been made since the referendum result’.

  When told the aging rocker was on the warpath, I can only assume that fatigued EU chiefs responded ‘THE WHO?’

Saturday

After two years of Covid chaos for live sport, it was great to hear that epic GAA cry in the flesh once again: “Put down those umbrellas”.

  Rejecting the warmth of the press box, I sauntered towards the terraces with two family members, one umbrella, and sufficient giddiness to acknowledge the beginning of the championship.

  In Markievicz Park, just over 6,000 of us laid to rest the callous demons who denied us access to sport for most of these past two years.

  When the national anthem ended, the guttural roar we’d missed so much reverberated around the small stadium. It was good to be back.

  A slightly older than middle-aged man had a big ‘How are ye?’ for another slightly older than middle-aged man when the latter saw the former weaving in through the drizzle. After a touch of slagging, both men smiled broadly. You knew how much it meant to them, to all of us.

  Within three seconds of the ball being thrown in, a possible world record was broken, i.e. the quickest ever demand that people “put down those umbrellas”. Meanwhile, on the pitch, a slow start from Roscommon, Sligo eager, sharp, probing. A mighty Conor Cox point to put Roscommon 0-4 to 0-2 in front was the first indication of the favourites being loyal to the pre-match script.

I didn’t see the red card incident, but the red-faced man in front of me was in no doubt. The middle-aged man, who looked like he might know a thing or two about the art of Slowing Down A Corner-Forward, turned to anyone who would listen, formed a striking pose with his hand, and proclaimed: “Striking! Sure he has to go!”

  It was a wretched evening, becoming colder by the minute, but so be it. Roscommon found their stride, but Sligo rallied to close the gap to four by half-time.

  Inspired by Enda Smith, Roscommon took complete control after the break. It would have been encouraging if we’d created a few goal chances, but the endless barrage of quality points was more than enough. Maybe the mindset was: Goals not required (Ciarain Murtagh had one chance saved, before swivelling sharply and scooping the rebound over the bar). Roscommon won easily, with confident build-up play yielding several excellent scores.

  As the second half wore on, with the weather awful and the result not in doubt, you could almost envy the residents of the housing estate visible below the terrace, tucked up in their Saturday evening world of pizza and Britain’s Got Talent. But no, it was better to be exposed to the elements, to be part of this greatest of communal gatherings, watching tidy tapestries reveal themselves across the pitch, to the approval of supporters who have been released from lockdown gloom.

  Our lads are in great shape, whatever twists and turns await. Almost all umbrellas were lowered, save for one defiant man who preferred to stand his ground and wait for the demands to peter out and dissolve into the night air.

  When it was over, we were happy. Into the maze of murmur we stepped, clutching the match programme and the quiet joy of being back. Outside Markievicz Park, the cars didn’t move for ages, pedestrians passing us out. Brilliant! Meanwhile, three or four men had sandwiches and tea from the boot of a car. It could catch on.

  

Sunday

I know the Sunday Independent…they don’t go for puns, so I reckon their lead page headline may well have ‘slipped through’ without its aptness being noticed (maybe I’m wrong). ‘Fine Gael under fire as turf war escalates’. Talk about a blaze of publicity…

Monday

Even in latter years, when I rarely see much of the earlier rounds, I always like to watch the closing session of the World Snooker Final. Tonight’s finale in ‘The Crucible’ did not disappoint, the one and only Ronnie O’Sullivan withstanding a Judd Trump comeback to win his seventh world title (matching Stephen Hendry). There were great scenes at the end. There’s something special about the final night of the World Snooker Championship. As for O’Sullivan, his status as the greatest player of all time is hardly in question.

Tuesday

As advised, I drove our car to the garage, located over half an hour from Roscommon town. In order to make the car get there, I had put fuel into it (which costs quite a lot these days).

  The staff were perfectly pleasant. They said they’d have a look at my car to see if they could replace/fix the problematic part.

  While waiting around, I popped into a nearby shop and ordered a coffee and snack, neither of which I wanted. I scrolled on my phone to facilitate getting stressed about the afternoon’s as yet unresponded to emails. Outside, a woman with a child and a pet dog chatted to a man in his front garden, and briefly I envied the apparent unhurriedness of their day.

  Back in the garage, they told me they couldn’t replace/fix the problematic part. They charged me €40, this transfer from my wallet intended as compensation  for the time it took for them to determine that they could not help me.

  On the way home, I was afraid to turn on the car radio in case Bob Geldof or Paschal Donohoe jumped out of it and demanded money from me.