Say it ain’t so, Joe! It’s time to call up Denis!

Forty years ago, after a funeral in Glinsk, a few lads met for a pint (or two) in Dowd’s pub and as I’ve told you before, the seeds were sown for what was to become Creggs Rugby Club.

  That time, friendly games were the lifeblood of all rugby clubs, as there were very few official competitive fixtures, and when myself, Jim Roarke and Vincent Canny went to our first ever fixtures meeting, it’s true to say that the established clubs (with a few exceptions) weren’t going out of their way to give us any games.

  At the time we were quite annoyed, and couldn’t understand why no one wanted to play us. Now I can see that friendly games were so important back then to the lifeblood of the club and in particular to the finances of every club through the bar takings after every game, and they were simply afraid to commit a fixture to a new outfit that might or might not last the season at all.

  It is hard to blame them, as we ourselves felt five years would be the absolute maximum lifespan of the fledgling rugby club.

  However history will tell you that Creggs became one of the best small clubs in the West and a good few years down the line I can remember wondering what an achievement it would be if someone who had played for us went on to win an Irish cap. Then, about ten years ago (it’s a guess), Michael Diffley got picked for the U-20s and on a baltic Friday night in Falkirk in Scotland, a big number of Creggs people watched with enormous pride as the young prop forward became the first and so far only Creggs clubman to wear the green jersey of Ireland.

            Despite the cold, having spent two or three hours warming up in the pub beside the beautiful Falkirk stadium, we were well fortified against the elements. I will never forget the wonderful feeling of seeing one of our own represent our country on the international stage.

  Fast-forward to today and every right-thinking rugby person in the country is trying to figure out how or why does Joe Schmidt continue to pick Irish panels without including one of the most outstanding prop forwards in the country, Roscommon native, Denis Buckley. A very irate, prominent Creggs man asked me to suggest that Schmidt should be sacked and replaced by Pat Lamb, the coach who has Connacht playing a level of rugby that far surpasses anything we’ve seen recently from the full Irish team, but I am not going that far. However the exclusion of Buckley from the latest panel of 44 players is just extraordinary and, to my mind, needs to be explained.

  I recently met a man from Tullow Rugby Club, which of course bred and brought on, (that sounds like a horse), the great Sean O’Brien, and he told me that having a full senior international in a small club is the greatest thing since the sliced pan and has done enormous good to develop the game in the area. Fair play is all I’m looking for, but if the day comes that Denis gets a full Irish cap, it will be a massive vindication for the many, many people who have kept rugby going in the tiny Galway village, often against overwhelming odds, and will be no more than the player himself deserves.

  Schmidt can’t continue to ignore his claims much longer and I only hope I’m still around and have a ticket when we see a local lad finally get a full Irish cap.

Local heroes

On the subject of rugby, at local level on the last two Sundays I’ve really enjoyed watching the Creggs second team carve out two most unlikely victories in the Ard Na Cregg Cup.

  It’s no secret to say that for long periods in both games we were outplayed and looked to be heading for defeat, but from somewhere the players found the courage, resolve and determination to see off the challenges from UCG and Carrick-on-Shannon respectively. They are now in a cup semi-final, still to be fixed, and I would plead with everyone to come and support the lads and see can we drive them to a most unexpected final appearance.

All about the birds… and me

A good few weeks ago, after years of ignoring them for some strange reason, (probably the male menopause), I decided to buy some bird seed and feed some of the many feathered creatures that seem to live at the back of the house.

  Now I am the world’s worst when it comes to putting things together and it took me a couple of efforts to set up the feeder that I bought in Ardcarne Garden Centre, but eventually I figured it out – and for the last while I am successfully feeding the birds. I now proudly reckon that I have the fattest sparrows, finches, robins and blackbirds in the entire area.

  I have to try to keep the crows away as best I can, as they’d eat the lot in the blink of an eye, but I’m amazed at how much fun I get out of looking out the window at the feeding frenzy, as the birds lay into the obviously tasty nuts and seeds.

  If anyone had ever said to me that I’d end up feeding the birds, I’d have said they were mad, however that’s how it is and I suppose it’s another side-effect of advancing years.

And finally …

Finally for this week, two months ago, (how time flies), I visited Bar na d’Taoisigh in Ballygar, just before the General Election, and we were trying to figure out how it would all turn out.

  Last night (Sunday) I made it back again and this time there wasn’t a mention of politics at all from the large crowd that was there. I suppose we’re all fed up with it and normal things like sport – soccer and rugby, in particular – was being discussed and, as before, the atmosphere and craic was mighty!

  Before I left, Sean Kilgarriff told me that Pake Lohan, a brother of my own Godmother, Bea O’Brien, is going to be a hundred years of age on May Day, and he tells me he’s hale and hearty and like a young fellow. Happy birthday, Pake! I’m a bit early – but when Sean tells me to do something, I’d better do it!

Till next week, bye for now