Slán-te – time to say bye to old drinking habits?

Our columnist Frank Brandon weighs in with his thoughts on binge drinking classification, the lack of sparrows about as the summer nears (maybe they’re waiting for the good weather to arrive first!), what the busy weekend in sport indicates for teams’ future, and the exciting couple of days ahead for Creggs!

I have to admit that I’ve always enjoyed a pint or two – in fact there were times in my younger years when I may have enjoyed one a bit too much. However, in latter years, I’ve definitely got much better at rationing the number of pints I drink, and in my own mind, I have become a very disciplined and controlled social drinker.

All to say that binge drinking and its dangers are something I have always been wary of, and mostly I would associate it with the younger set. The Saturday night disco crew would be the biggest ‘culprits’, and any time I’d see reports on the binge drinking culture in Ireland, I would jump to the conclusion that they were mainly responsible for the very worrying figures.

And so when I saw a report this week that shows there is a large number of binge drinkers in the older age groups, it knocked a bit of a hop out of me.

I wondered where all these older folks were going in order to go on these binges. Were they all going to the big country music dances that take place all over the country at the weekends and lashing it down round the sumptuous hotel bars? Maybe they were chartering special ‘drinking buses’ to bring them to all sorts of events round the country, or were ‘bingo buses’ being secretly used by OAPs as ‘booze cruises’?

I have to say that my interest was totally fuelled by the revelations, and it was only when I dug deeper that I realised that I too am part of the problem. So too are most of the sensible older folk that you chat with, and maybe have a pint with, on Saturday nights in little country pubs all over Ireland. Because statistics tell us that anyone who drinks three pints in a session is a binge drinker.

Now I am not going to challenge any medical reports, and I fully agree with the assertion that alcohol is a highly dangerous drug that can cause untold harm to individuals and their families, and totally accept the facts about drink-driving (and support every effort to stamp it out completely). However, if only for my own peace of mind, and to keep myself happy to go for a few quiet ones, I find it hard to accept that three pints makes a person a binge drinker.

No one of my vintage that I know of would be even the slightest bit inebriated after three pints, and in my opinion all it does is inflate the numbers and make the overall picture look worse than it actually is. I reiterate that I am fully aware of the dangers of alcohol abuse, and fully support any attempts to deal with the problems, but I do not accept that my few pints on a Saturday night make me a 73-year-old binge drinker!

Flight delayed? Sparse sparrow sightings as summer approaches

One of the very welcome visitors to Ireland every year is the swallow, and one of the great mysteries of nature is how they manage to fly more than 6000 miles from southern Africa to arrive back here every year some time around mid-April.

Around the middle of September, they hit back again, spending the winter months in Africa before landing back in Ireland the next year. Amazingly, up to half of them actually come back to where they nested the year before, and for the entire summer they are constantly darting here and there at enormous speed, eating loads of midges and flies and other insects they may come across in flight.

The farmer traditionally loves to see them arrive, as they associate the summer with their reappearance. And so, writing this on the last week of April, I wonder where are they?

A few weeks ago we were visiting our daughter in Castlebar, and on our way to Mayo we heard a lad from Bonniconlon tell Paul Claffey (on Midwest Radio) that the swallows were back in that little village. Now Gerry Glennon was a bit sceptical at the time as to whether or not they were actually back, but as a result of the call, I have kept an eye out every day since and have yet to see one! On Thursday evening I thought I saw three of them, but as there has been nothing since, I now think they must have been sparrows.

So my search goes on, but if you see a returning swallow, please let me know!

Talking of Bonniconlon, we have gone a couple of times to the massive show that takes place there every summer, and we have a good long-time friend and former fellow bank worker, Geri Boland, living down there. Wonder has she seen the swallows?

Can anyone stop Limerick juggernaut?

It’s now Sunday evening as I write and I have just spent a few hours watching sport on the telly – and after it all, I can only imagine that every inter-county hurling manager in Ireland will find it difficult to get to sleep tonight! That is of course except for Limerick’s manager, John Kiely!

I started off the day by helping Carol plant a few shrubs and flowers in the garden, before watching Galway and Kilkenny play out a thrilling draw in the Leinster Championship – and if I didn’t happen to see the Limerick masterclass later against Tipperary, I might even have thought that one of those two earlier teams would have a decent rattle at the McCarthy Cup. However, the four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions are simply a class above every other county, and as good as the other counties in the Munster Championship (especially Clare) are, it seems to me there is absolutely no chance of anyone winning it other than the unstoppable Limerick juggernaut.

In the football, Jim McGuinness continues to work his magic, and he has already brought Donegal to an Ulster final. Meanwhile the joke that is the Leinster Championship still continues with the Dubs handing out another drubbing to the unfortunate Offaly team. And for Louth, the hugely doubtful privilege of making it to a second Leinster final in a row has to be tainted by the fact that they too will certainly suffer another humiliation at the hands of the Dubs, who will then have won 19 of the last 20 provincial championships.

I don’t know what the powers-that-be in Leinster can do to revive their competition, but surely it can’t continue in the present format?

I also managed to see a bit of the Premiership games over the weekend, and, as a long-time Manchester Utd supporter, I simply cannot get over how poor a team they have become. If Ten Haag doesn’t think they are an embarrassment to the jersey, I certainly do.

Anyway, along with a visit to Kilbride on Friday evening, where we got a very welcome win in the O’Gara Cup, that was most of my sporting weekend. I freely admit that I don’t know what I’d do if sport didn’t exist!

 And finally…

Excitement is building out here in Creggs as the local rugby club looks forward to one of the biggest weekends in its 50-year history!

At 2.30 pm on Saturday next, May 4th, we will be hosting the junior interprovincial between Connacht and Leinster, with the western province hoping to bounce back after a losing trip to Ulster last weekend. A big crowd is expected, so get to Creggs in good time and give great support to a Connacht side that (hopefully) will include a number of our own club players!

Five Creggs players – Shane and Mark Purcell, Eoghan Coyle, Brian Diffley and Eoghan Cahill – featured last weekend, so let’s all come out and support them this Saturday against a Leinster team that drew with Munster in Kilkenny last weekend. We might even have a sixth lad involved if Mark Dowd recovers from injury in time.

As soon as the dust settles on the Interpro, the following evening (Sunday, May 5th), the club is having its end-of-season awards and dinner dance, kicking off at 7.30 pm in the Abbey Hotel, with a sumptuous three-course meal and live music in store.

The winning junior 1C and junior 1A teams will receive their respective Connacht medals, and it will be a great opportunity to look back on a very successful season on the rugby fields, with great strides being made in both underage and girls’ rugby too.

Then, to cap it all off, Monday will see the draw for a massive first prize of €20,000 take place in the clubhouse. In case you haven’t got your tickets yet, you can get them online at, or from any club member that you come across!

There are other prizes too, with international rugby tickets to be won, and of course €20,000 is a hugely significant amount of money, so if you want to be in with a chance make sure you have your tickets got! Tickets are €20 for one, €50 for three, and €100 for seven.

Best of luck to you all, and if you win it, enjoy spending it!