Sporting crowds show great solidarity with brave Ukrainians

Our man Frank on national anthems and national pride…not quite shedding light on the weekend’s rugby fare…loving Johnny Logan…and ‘Lovely jubbly’ for an opportunist UK company!

It’s Sunday afternoon, and as I flit from channel to channel on the telly, it makes me glad to see the big shows of solidarity for the people of Ukraine at the rugby international in the Aviva Stadium, and also at the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
All over the papers and other media outlets, there are many stories of unbelievable acts of heroism by all sections of the Ukrainian people. Their defiance in the face of overwhelming odds against the forces of the Russian army is just so inspiring and uplifting.
Now I am no political analyst, but I can’t help but wonder – with all the condemnation of Putin’s actions from the western world – why are the Ukrainians left to do battle pretty much on their own? Surely Putin should have been met with not only financial sanctions, but also with a massive military presence?
However, all is not lost, and the bravery and sheer commitment to their country by these people while under siege may well prove more than the invading Russians were expecting.
As I saw and heard about the heroic actions of so many, it made me think back to our own history, and the heroic actions of the men and women in the 1916 Easter Rising. And as I thought about the Pearses and the Clarkes and the McDonaghs, the national anthems were ringing out over the Aviva Stadium. Not for the first time, I began thinking of the appalling decision by the IRFU to agree to do away with our national anthem at all our away games.
I have nothing against Phil Coulter and his music – in fact his Ireland’s Call is a decent enough song. However, it is not our national anthem and is a very poor substitute for the real thing. As someone who has been lucky enough to be at games against all our opponents in the Six Nations, I can tell you that when our opponents belt out their own anthems with pride and emotion, the hair literally stands on your head. As I say, I have nothing against Ireland’s Call, but it simply shouldn’t be representing us as our national anthem.

I’m in the dark about lack of light at rugby final

More than 40 years ago, a newly-formed Creggs Rugby team travelled to Castlebar for our first ever cup match against the host club. The game took place opposite the old airport on a pitch that could charitably be called ‘a bit rough’. Low-flying planes coming into land were in danger of being hit by high-flying rugby balls, and the ESB wires crossing the middle of the field were also capable of diverting any kicks that were unfortunate enough to hit them.
In the meantime, Castlebar have moved a few miles out of town to a new site on the Ballinrobe road, and it was here that the hierarchy of the Connacht branch decided our postponed league final against Connemara should be played. A huge crowd descended on the local club, and to be fair, considering the rain we’ve had for the last number of weeks, the pitch was in good order. The stewards too did their best to get people parked in fairly good order.
However, for years now everyone has known that the lights on the pitch are sub-standard, and all the supporters I spoke to from both clubs were in agreement that the most important junior rugby match of the season should never have been played there. There were numerous dark areas on the field, and in truth it was almost impossible to follow any of the action once play was on the far side of the field.
I am aware that the lights were the same for both sets of players – who incidentally served up a wonderful game of rugby – and it is not an excuse for us losing a very close contest. However, surely players’ safety must come first, and also, there should be some consideration for paying spectators.
This is not in any way a criticism of Castlebar RFC, who are a strong and progressive club. It is however a criticism of the powers that be who allowed the big game to go ahead under very mediocre lights. It’s possible that the lights meet whatever standards the IRFU lay down, but if they do, then it’s time to upgrade the minimum requirements.

Bin that rule!

Talking of the rugby hierarchy, the World Rugby bosses who came up with the ludicrous ruling that ruined the Ireland match against Italy should all be forced to resign (maybe they could take over in Connacht), and that asinine rule must immediately be dispensed with. The Italians ended up with thirteen players for most of the game, even though only one player got sent off (too complex to explain).
As you know by now, I like rugby – although I am not very fond of the bigwigs who seem to have very little regard for or appreciation of the grassroots. So, I follow the Irish lads as much as I can. However, I have to say that I found their celebrations after scoring against the unfortunate Italians a little bit embarrassing.
We would have expected to beat a 15-man Italian team by 30 or 40 points, so why we needed high-fives and air punches when we scored against thirteen men (and eventually twelve) beats me. In fairness to the old head Peter O’Mahony, when he scored try number four he was almost embarrassed by the fuss and kept his own reaction to a minimum.
In two weeks’ time, if we score any try against the old enemy (England), by all means do the high-fives, fist pumping and anything else ye want. But it was hardly necessary against the brave – but totally outclassed – Italians.

Johnny: Still big in Turkey, not so in Ireland…

On the road this morning I heard a beautiful old Irish song – ‘Long lie the Rivers’ – sung by Johnny Logan. As I listened to his wonderful voice, I wondered (not for the first time) why he has never really been accepted by the Irish people.
Having two Eurovision winners to his name (the classic songs ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘What’s Another Year’), as well as writing another winner for Linda Martin (‘Why Me’), it should’ve ensured that he would never be out of work in Ireland. Yet I can hardly ever remember seeing an ad anywhere locally for a Johnny Logan appearance.
So many of the old-timers like Johnny McEvoy, Roly Daniels, Red Hurley, and Foster & Allen are all still making waves on the Irish entertainment scene, or at least they will again now that the pandemic is fading away. However, you never see Johnny Logan appearing in The Well in Moate, the Shearwater, the McWilliam Park, or at any such entertainment venues.
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that as I listened to Long Lie the Rivers, I realised that he had, and probably still has, one of the purist voices to come out of Ireland in my time. Why he’s never worked that much at home beats me, but I do know he has had enormous success in Europe, and over in Turkey. It’s a mystery to me!

And finally…

Finally for this week, across the water the Queen is getting ready to celebrate her platinum jubilee. Celebrations will take place in the UK with a four-day Bank Holiday from Thursday, June 2nd, until Sunday, June 5th. In the royal world, seventy years of service to the UK people is unprecedented and it will surely be a great weekend.
The Brits are great for celebrating royal events by producing souvenir mugs and things like that. And so recently, an order for tea cups, mugs, and plates was placed with a Chinese factory by an English wholesaler to commemorate the jubilee. Almost 11,000 pieces had been produced when a major spelling mistake was discovered – the lovely dishware pieces were to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubbly!
As followers of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ will know, “Lovely jubbly” was one of Del Boy’s favourite expressions. A company called Wholesale Clearance snapped the whole lot up for £32,400 and expects to make a fortune out of the unwitting typing error. It’s safe to say that they will eventually become collectors’ items.
If Del Boy was still going strong, I’m sure he’d be rubbing his hands and saying “Lovely jubbly” as he raked in the cash from the sales of the misspelt souvenir items!