It’s another beautiful November Monday morning, maybe a little chilly, but it continues an extraordinary run of fine dry weather that we seem to have had for ages.
I am reflecting on an amazing weekend, which saw me visiting the town of Ennis for my future son-in-law Ray’s stag party. In sport we saw Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time ever and also saw our local lads, Creggs, qualify for the Connacht Club Final by beating the Sligo champions St. Michael’s in a nail-biting encounter in Sligo’s Markievicz Park on Sunday afternoon.
But firstly and back to Friday, I hit off for the County Clare town early enough. I was safely installed in Queen’s Hotel, where my son Paul and Ray’s brother, Joe, as chief organisers of the stag, had negotiated an amazing weekend deal. It wasn’t long until darkness fell and was all set for a bit of good fun and craic in a town that for the time of year was absolutely crazy.
Friday night came and went and we did what lads on stag parties do, some more so than others. On Saturday afternoon a large gang of us headed out to a place called Tullhassa Shooting Range, where we were going to partake in a spot of clay pigeon shooting. According to all the information that we had, this shooting range was only a 15-minute drive from Ennis, but I would safely say it took me 35-40 minutes to find it.
We travelled on country roads that had grass growing in the middle of them and prayed we wouldn’t meet anything else on them. We were on the motorway at one stage and in truth we hadn’t a clue where we were going, but eventually we found ourselves at the shooting range in the middle of nowhere.
Now at least 45 years ago, I fired the only shot I have ever fired when the Gunner, Jim Roarke, let me have a go with a shotgun – and my shoulder is still sore. So, despite much encouragement from all the lads, I was the only one to give it a miss, but the rest of the crew had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed it.
It proved that you could make money if you know how, anywhere – no matter how remote. To reinforce how remote it is, the rest of the lads travelled by taxi but the taxi driver had no idea how to get to it, even though he was based in Ennis.
Joe Fallon was the worthy winner of the shooting competition but for me the real winner was the wonderful fresh mountain air. After two or more hours standing in the cold looking at the boys, the cobwebs from Friday night were well and truly gone by the time we followed the taxi driver back into Ennis.
He had done his homework in the meantime and the return journey, although still on very narrow country roads, only took about the 15 minutes we had expected. Just as we got back to the Queen’s, two busloads of hen party ladies were arriving and the single lads in our group perked up notably. How it all worked out later on is for another day.
We had a meal together on Saturday evening, but for me my focus was now on matters in Chicago, where the big rugby match was to take place at 8 pm, our time. And so I was parked on a high stool in Nora Culligan’s Bar well in advance of kick off and privately afraid we were going to get a hammering.
When I went in, there was hardly anyone on the premises, but by the time the game started the place was hopping and the atmosphere was great. Many years ago when I played rugby for Ennis, we used to socialise in the very same bar, except that time it was owned by Peter Considine, a good friend of my brother, the Rasher. In fairness, the pub hasn’t changed a lot since I was last there and it was great to be there for a historical night for Irish rugby.
Game over and a few pints of good Guinness later, I headed for the bed, but if I thought I was going to sleep, I was sadly mistaken.
As I said, Ennis was crazy and the sounds of the nightlife, loud blaring music, shouting, laughter, at least one fight (not our lads) and all the rest of the goings-on kept me awake well into the early hours.
Sunday morning came very quickly and after a very generous breakfast, I was on the road at nine o’clock. I was heading via Galway, where I picked up my son Mark and onto Creggs, where Carol joined us and we headed to Sligo for the Creggs game.
As usual with the Sligo venue, parking was a major problem, but eventually I got a spot outside a house. I had thought that I had left the car barely blocking a foot or two of the gate, but leaving ample room for the ancient Volkswagen van to get out. However, sadly (for Carol) I was wrong, because with ten minutes left in the game and Creggs losing by a point, the dreaded announcement came over the sound system: ‘Will the owner of car registration 08 XX XXX, please move the car immediately as it is causing an obstruction’. Maybe it was a good omen as by the time she got back, we had moved into a match-winning two-point lead and held on for a famous victory.
I have to say these are great times to be from Creggs and especially so after waiting so long for championship success in what is such a small area. We had great support at the match on Sunday, including quite a number from our neighbouring parishes.
It was great to see so many people there and one of the first I met was Johnny Kennedy, one of our greatest-ever full-backs, who is now living in Manorhamilton. He was delighted to be there to support the maroon and white. It shows how strong the pull of a local club can be, when you consider that Johnny is long since gone from the village.
I also met David Callaghan from Castlerea, who is living in Sligo, who really only came for a look, but he told me he really enjoyed the match and that it was a top class game of football. We have another day out in a couple of weeks and while we will be the underdogs, who knows where this journey will end?
Lisa should have gone solo…
As I wound down last night (Sunday) after the weekend, I happened to tune into the Nathan Carter Show, and in fairness to him he has adapted to television like a duck to water and is very comfortable and confident in front of the cameras.
The show itself was reasonably entertaining, although as a Lisa McHugh, right, fan, I thought it was a pity she didn’t get to do a solo song. And if I had a fault with Nathan, good and all a singer as he is, it’s his tendency to do duets with all his guests.
The only one who got to sing on his own was Phil Coulter, and even though he’s not much of a singer, I suppose at this stage of his life he deserved to do so. I still wish Lisa did as well!
Finally for this week, by the time you read this we will have handed over the proceeds of our recent dance in Dowd’s, Glinsk, to representatives of both charities – Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund.
We broke all our previous records, with just over €5,400 raised. Once again a huge thank you to everyone who supported us in any way!
Till next week, bye for now