Our man Frank on that turf saga…Katie’s heroics…when Henry met Brian…and local sporting success
It’s the Monday of the Bank Holiday weekend and I am in my usual Monday position: sitting at the kitchen table wondering what in God’s name will I write about this week. Normally my mind is a total blank and I can’t think of anything to write about (as I’m sure you’ve realised by now), but this time it is completely different – so much has happened over the weekend that I simply don’t know where to start!
As a person who has lived almost all of my life in rural Ireland, I must start with the ongoing turf-cutting saga and the efforts by Eamon Ryan to reduce the amount of turf that we burn, thereby reducing the amount of pollution that (we are told) invades our lovely fresh air.
When I was a young lad – many years ago now – my late father Bill (although not a farmer) always cut his own turf. I can remember trying to save it on one of the wettest banks in the country. When it was finally ready to make its way home, our good friends Gerry and Agnes Kiernan would yoke up the ass and cart and oblige.
Ever since then I have been a turf burner. Some years I saved it myself, other years I bought it in. Last year, after a break of at least thirty years, I went back to the bog and saved my own turf again.
The truth is that saving our own turf was beneficial in every way. It was always said that there is nothing quite like the peace and tranquillity that a day on the bog can give you, with only the sound of the birds singing to disturb the beautiful stillness. Of course, then we had the added benefit of a warm house and a lovely open fire to relax in front of on cold, long winter nights.
However, there is also no doubt that the air would be a good deal cleaner if there was less smoke going up into the atmosphere, and we would all be better off health-wise. So maybe there is some merit in trying to reduce the amount of turf that we burn.
It is an absolute certainty that country people will continue to cut and burn their turf, and equally, people who don’t own any bogs will continue to want to buy turf. A friend of mine made the point that, in his opinion, the time has come for the Government to subsidise the purchase of solid fuel burning stoves. I don’t have any stove in the house so I don’t have any personal experience of them, but my friend assures me that they use substantially less fuel than open fires (maybe as much as 50% less), and if people were to install them, there would automatically be a huge reduction in harmful smoke emissions.
I have to admit that there seems to be a fair bit of merit in his suggestion, as it would, without any further rancour and bad feeling, solve the stand-off between the Greens and the turf-cutters, allow the tradition that has been part of our heritage for years to continue, and at the same time get rid of half the problem.
I don’t usually bother with political stuff, and I am completely non-party. Although locally, I personally think that we have two very able representatives in Michael Fitzmaurice on a national scale, and Orla Leyden on a more local level. I am sure they, along with all sane political people, will try to sort out this unholy mess.
In the meantime, it’s getting late now, so I’m heading to the sitting room, lighting my lovely open fire, putting the feet up for the rest of the evening, and dreaming of the day I have a gleaming nice new stove – compliments of a decent grant from the Government of Ireland.
Katie is our greatest ever sportsperson!
You know by now how much I admire the amazing Irish sportswomen who are changing the world of sport as we know it…which brings me to Saturday night’s boxing bout.
On Saturday night, in the world’s most famous boxing arena – New York’s Madison Square Garden – Katie Taylor produced her bravest ever performance, beating Puerto Rica’s Amanda Serrano in a top-of-the-bill championship bout in front of a sold out crowd of nearly 20,000 fans.
Sadly, streaming the fight (whatever that means) proved beyond my technical capabilities. And so it wasn’t until Sunday morning that I learned that the woman from Bray had to launch the greatest comeback of her career before getting a victory that copperfastens her status as, in my opinion, the greatest sportsperson to ever come out of this little country.
As I watched it later in the day, I was glad I already knew the result, as for two entire rounds (the fifth and sixth), she seemed to be out on her feet. For a moment, it looked as if there could be only one winner – and it certainly wasn’t going to be Katie. However, she dug so deep she must nearly have been in Australia – and turned the fight around in four momentous rounds!
The final 60 seconds of the 10th and last round was like something straight out of the Rocky films. Both boxers slugged it out in the middle of the ring, with no thoughts of science or tactics; it was simply all-out war, the likes of which I don’t ever remember seeing before.
Anyways, Katie has long been a legend in Ireland, but last Saturday made her status even more legendary – if that was even possible. We should be so grateful that we were alive to see her. A rematch in Croke Park in the autumn seems to be a possibility, and if it happens, Garth Brooks, Ed Sheeran and Westlife (amongst others) will not be the only ones to sell out the 80,000-seater stadium! I might even be tempted to go to see her myself.
But if I were her, I would retire now undefeated, as she will always be remembered as a true champion as well as the woman who really opened up the world of women’s boxing. All of those boxers who spent years fighting for small purses, including Serrano, can now see their way to earning proper money, and they can all thank the Irish superstar, Katie Taylor. What a remarkable woman!
As sport gave us the coldest handshake since Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane in 2002 – when Henry Shefflin shook hands with his old mentor Brian Cody at the end of Galway’s victory over his native Kilkenny – it was here in Creggs that I was reminded what sport really is all about.
The weekend saw three finals take place in our little village. A very good Carrick-on-Shannon side beat Monivea in the U-15 Plate final on Sunday morning, while later in the day, Claremorris won their first ever adult trophy when they beat a strong Galwegians team in the final of the Ard na Cregg cup.
Both of those clubs are relatively new to competition and it was great to see what the victories meant to both sets of players, mentors and supporters. Seeing the unbridled celebrations by everyone involved brought back great memories of our own young days, when we too got our hands on our first silverware. I’d be willing to bet the celebrations stretched well into the night – especially in Claremorris.
To top it all off for us in Creggs, in a super game of rugby on Monday afternoon, our U-18.5 team beat local rivals Buccaneers in the Plate final. Having seen two other clubs celebrate here the day before, it really was great to see our own lads enjoy what was a really good win.
At the end of the day, we all like to see small clubs do well, and this weekend, three small clubs managed to get their hands on a trophy. That is what sport really is all about. No matter what level you are at, trophies are hard to win, so you’re best to enjoy them when you do – and I’m sure they all did.