Revival of travel industry is a welcome sign of return to normality

Our man Frank wonders if we’re finally putting Covid-19 behind us; The Pope honours Danny Burke… and musings on Creggs RFC’s cup final date

As I write these words early in the week, I am asking myself this question: have we finally put Covid to bed? Of course I am well aware that it is still rampant around the place (I was surprised to hear that a couple of friends of mine who contracted the virus recently were extremely sick). Mentally however, we seem to have put the pandemic to one side, and in a lot of ways normality seems to have returned.

As we all know, we here in Ireland went through the wringer with regards to restrictions, and it now seems that our regulators may have overreacted. Judging by the recent comments by Professor Martin Cormican, in which he says we “relied on fear” to make people fall into line, it may be that we were a little too stringent with our rules and restrictive impositions.

Professor Cormican – who himself was a member of NPHET – a professor of bacteriology at the University of Galway, and a former national head of infection control, says (among other things) that we kept schools closed for too long and that compulsory mask wearing was not justified.

Whether or not he is right will, I’m sure, be determined by the inquiry that the Government is going to set up to investigate the overall handling of the pandemic, but whatever comes out it won’t be able to turn back the clock.

However, one huge, undeniable casualty of Covid was the travel industry. For a couple of years there was literally no air traffic. Sailings were also affected. Overseas travel and holidays almost came to a full stop and we wondered would we ever go anywhere again. And so the reason I say that we have mentally come to terms with Covid is that on last weekend’s Sunday Independent, there was a 16-page supplement advertising Click and Go’s Summer Holidays and Cruises; summer sun in Europe and American city breaks in Orlando and Disneyland were all featured, and I have to say that while I won’t be going on any of them, it was great to simply see that the holiday business is back up and running.

Of course Covid is not gone, and actually seems here to stay, and we still need to be very careful, but at least people can look forward to breaks away again – that’s if they have any money left after all the rises in the cost of living.

*Another sign that things are returning to normality is the fact that there are little (and large) gatherings taking place all around us. Maria Fitzmaurice again reminds me that the Home Baking by the Fireside event continues this Friday, March 10th, in Dowd’s of Glinsk at 7.30 pm. She tells me that you will learn how to make Guinness Bread (I’d like a loaf of that), homemade soup, St. Patrick’s Day cheesecake, and their famous chocolate biscuit cake (think I’d like some of that as well), and that complimentary cuppa and nice treats will also be served.

There is no charge, all are welcome (even me), and there is a raffle to win the baker’s basket each week. Don’t forget to go this Friday night, and drop me in a slice of the Guinness bread!

Creggs into cup final

It’s Sunday evening as I write, and earlier today our Creggs rugby firsts qualified for the cup final, a game that will take place in three weeks’ time. For some reason I am not as excited as I should be.

Way back in 1977, we qualified for our first ever cup final by beating Loughrea in the semi-final, and the truth is we partied like there was no tomorrow. For a lot of us at that time, at least when it came to work, there was no tomorrow.

And so, as we have not won the cup since 1993 – 30 years ago – I feel that I should be out celebrating. And yet here I am at 7 o’clock on Sunday evening, writing this piece at the kitchen table while keeping one eye on Dancing with the Stars.

As I listen to the judges give their verdicts on the various contestants, I come to the conclusion that my slightly underwhelming reaction to our victory today is – firstly – because we didn’t play that awfully well, and were probably lucky to edge past a very committed and powerful Ballinrobe 15. And the other reason is that in a fairly attritional battle, we came out with quite a number of injuries, the most serious of which may keep our vitally important centre, Eoghan Coyle, from taking any part in the final on March 26th.

However, we’ve been around long enough to know that the only thing you need to do in a semi-final is win it – whether you play well or badly doesn’t really matter. And so we have three weeks to make sure we are ready for the massive challenge that Westport will surely bring.

As I mentioned, the team that won today is our first team, but the good news is that our second team (I think I should now call it our development side, but old habits die hard and to me, it has always been the seconds) are playing their own league final this Sunday in Tuam against a very strong Oughterard side.

As of now that game has a 2 pm kick-off, and hopefully we will have another large crowd of supporters to see another league trophy head for the village! We could get used to this level of success after a lot of barren years.

And finally…A story that warms my heart!

For many years now, I have been lucky enough to know the legend that is Danny Burke. I have lost count of the number of times that I have seen him outside the old post office in Castlerea, selling tickets for whatever worthy cause had asked him for help. His involvement with every charity is well known, but his work for the local church and for the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes has been way above and beyond the call of duty.

And so I was delighted to hear that last Sunday, his contribution was duly recognised during a ceremony at 12 o’clock Mass in Castlerea when Bishop Kevin Doran presented Danny with the Benemerenti medal.

The Benemerenti medal is awarded by the Pope to members of either the clergy or the laity for service to the church, and no man ever deserved it more than Danny Burke. Danny has received many an award over the years, but he said last Sunday’s topped the lot.

Afterwards, the large crowd adjourned to Tully’s Hotel for light refreshments and where there were representatives from every Lourdes Deanery around the province.

As I said, no man deserves it more, so well done Danny. Heartiest congratulations!