Silver(ware) lining: Why these are heady days for Creggs rugby

Our man Frank on exciting times at Creggs RFC; A 66-year-old jockey is first past the post… and celebrating the first anniversary of our Ukrainian friends arriving in Donamon…

It’s a very wet Monday morning, and I am writing this piece while waiting on my wife Carol, who has an appointment in the old Regional Hospital in Galway.

I am not a genius when it comes to using modern technology, and so I have no laptop! Instead, every week I write these musings on my mobile phone. This means I can do it anywhere (as long as I have credit).

As I wait, I am thinking about the heady days (and nights) that we are having out here in Creggs Rugby Club. A couple of weeks ago, our first team won the final of the Connacht Junior League and brought a cup back to the village for the first time in almost 30 years.

And just like the buses that arrive in twos, after an interminable wait, two of them come together, with our second team doing exactly the same thing by bringing their league cup back to Creggs last Sunday. They too had waited close to 30 years for silverware and, similar to two weeks ago, we celebrated in fitting style.

Captain Brian Cody has been playing (from underage up) for fifteen years by now, and it was a huge delight to see him lift the cup. Funnily enough, there were two Fahy brothers from Tulsk, Regan and Callum, on the team as well; back in 1987, their grand-uncle, the great Tulsk and Roscommon midfielder Gerry Beirne, won a Junior League medal with Creggs.

In my very short intercounty football career (about four months), I had got to know Gerry fairly well. He was a great friend of our own Marky Fitzmaurice, and it was Marky’s influence that persuaded him to line out in the maroon and white of Creggs. The fact that Tulsk and Creggs both favour the maroon and white may have been a deciding factor as well!

Both Gerry and Marky passed away at relatively young ages, but both had a big impact on Creggs, Marky as a fantastic footballer, and Gerry as a top quality rugby player. And so it was a great thrill for me on Sunday evening to meet Gerry’s sister Eileen, and she was delighted to have her two grandsons keeping up the tradition of having a Tulsk representation on a winning Creggs rugby team.

There is another uplifting story from the seconds’ win.  Almost exactly a year ago, a member of the panel was facing into a term of chemotherapy. On Sunday, the same lad collected a winner’s medal. If anything is a triumph over adversity, his story is.

But the almost impossible rags-to-riches revival for Creggs Rugby Club may not be over yet, because in two weeks’ time Brian Diffley will lead the first team into the Junior Cup final against Westport. Should they manage to win that one, it would mean an unprecedented treble for the club.

This trophy was last in Creggs in 1993, so it is exactly a 30-year gap. Fingers and toes and everything crossed! What a story that would be.

Jockey Liam (66) back in winner’s enclosure!

Of all the jobs in sport, one of the most demanding has to be that of a jump jockey. The training regime and diet requirements are undoubtedly very strict. Obviously everyone is different, but regular exercise and paying great attention to your daily food intake plays a huge part in keeping a jockey at the proper weight.

In the old days, jockeys used to spend hours on end in saunas in an effort to keep surplus weight off, but nowadays there is much more emphasis on regular dieting and exercise to keep a jockey fit and well. It is reckoned that a jockey’s heart rate can go to more than 190 beats a minute during a race – compared to a normal resting rate of 60 to 100 beats.

And so you might make the assumption that all jockeys must be young, fit men or women – but that’s where you would be wrong. The name Liam Burke might not mean much to you today, but on Sunday last, at the pension age of 66, he ended a 35-year wait for a winner when he rode Teuchters Glory to victory in the Bumper in Limerick.

He only took out an amateur licence again two years ago, and after having two new knee replacements, he became the oldest winning rider in Ireland for 100 years. The previous record was set by 71-year-old Harry Beasley, and while you would think it might be safe enough, Liam Burke says he has no intention of retiring. Who knows? He might well ride another winner in six years’ time.

For the moment, as you moan and groan about your aches and pains, and complain about your advancing age, think of the Cork man who didn’t let age or knee problems stop him and got back in the saddle again. As he says himself, “They all thought I was nuts, but you have to be to do this job”.

Well done Liam, you are an example and an inspiration to all pensioners! I wonder would my fifteen stone-plus self be a little bit be too heavy to get a ride in the National? I might give Willie Mullins a ring!

‘Better Together’ event in Donamon this Saturday

My good friend Mary Kelly has asked me to tell you about a big ‘Better Together’ community commemoration that’s taking place this Saturday, 18th of March in Donamon Castle between 1 pm and 4 pm to commemorate the anniversary of the arrival of the Ukrainians to Donamon.

Mary tells me there is a list of activities as long as your arms taking place on the day, including face-painting, Ukrainian music, ice cream van, arts and crafts, and loads more, so everyone is invited to visit Donamon on Saturday afternoon to show our solidarity with our Ukrainian visitors and welcome them to our area. Enjoy the day if you can make it.

And finally…

For many years, bingo was one of the great social activities, particularly in rural Ireland.

I can still remember hearing about my Aunt Bridie and loads of other ladies hopping on buses a few nights a week and heading off to the bingo. Apparently it was a great night out, and they thoroughly enjoyed the banter, the craic, and the excitement of an odd win or two.

Then, three years ago, the pandemic hit, and everything, including most of the bingo nights, ground to a halt. The good news is that it is back bigger and better than ever, and out here in Creggs it’s proving more and more popular.

Olivia Harris tells me that at 8 pm on Friday, the 24th of March there is another great Bingo Night taking place in the National School Hall, with loads of prizes up for grabs including a jackpot of €500 (which was won the last night) and a raffle, also with loads of prizes. A double book is €15, a single one is €10 and (this bit was missing) flyers are, I think, €2.

Proceeds are going to the Creggs school, but Mike Grogan’s Arctic Dog Sled Challenge for Autism Assistance Dogs will also benefit from your support. So don’t forget to come along to the school in Creggs on March 24th – even if you don’t win, you can have a chat with your neighbours, drink a hot cuppa, and enjoy a nice relaxing night out. That’s if you don’t have to try to fill a double book!