The Mother of all Sundays


It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, Mother’s Day for all the mammies, and I’m awake early. However, while the day that’s in it is a very important and well deserved recognition for all the mothers of the world, I have to admit that when I made my way out of the scratcher, my mind was also focused on the wonderful world of rugby.

  A good few hours earlier, the entire country, or most of it at least, had watched as our Irish heroes saw off the Scots in a doughty battle in the Aviva Stadium, and then our great Gallic friends, the French, did us a big favour by beating the English in another game that was not for the faint-hearted.

  And so, almost by default, there we were, Six Nations champions for the third time in five years, and all set to go to Twickenham and win the Grand Slam for only the third time in our history. And it was as I thought about the significance of this weekend’s match that I began to wonder if the French win was such a great thing after all. Sure there is nothing more enjoyable than watching the English being beaten (!) – even though it probably shouldn’t be so, that’s the way it is. We all get a great kick out of seeing them lose, but in a perverse way, it will also give them a massive incentive to stop us from getting the ‘Slam’. Last year the situation was the exact same, except in reverse, and history will show that we absolutely stuffed the English and their Grand Slam bid. I guarantee you nothing would give them greater pleasure than to get a very sweet revenge. I have to admit that I think it’s a 50-50 game, and I won’t be terribly surprised if there is very little in it, hopefully in our favour. 

  However, after all of that, the rugby game that was on my mind was not the Irish one at all, but rather the afternoon’s Connacht Junior Cup semi-final when our local lads were due to take on Sligo on their home patch in what we were well aware was going to be a difficult, if not downright impossible, task.

  So, after the traditional Sunday morning fry, we headed off to the capital of the North-West and made it to Strandhill – where the rugby club is located – all in time to grab a lovely cup of coffee and a sandwich, and in my case a couple of lovely currant-y buns – all kindly supplied with the compliments of the home club.

  On then to the match itself, and after handing over a fiver entrance fee (despite my pleas of being an old-age pensioner), I thanked God for giving us such a nice day, because if ever any place needs good weather it’s the lovely Sligo venue, which pretty much overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

  Many years ago, in the course of our match with them, our No. 8, Jack the Higher, suffered from hypothermia, and had to be wrapped in tinfoil in an effort to get some life back into his frozen limbs. Thankfully he survived, and yesterday his son, Pat, was the coach of our team, which while losing by a two-point margin, more than did us proud, and were a credit to their club and coach.

  It was also great to see so many sons of past players involved forty years after the club took its first faltering steps. I won’t name all the second-generation players, as I would surely leave someone out, but a large number were out there representing us.

  At the final whistle, despite a wonderful performance, we still suffered the huge disappointment of losing a cup semi-final, a pain that everyone says is worse than actually losing a final itself.

  Anyway, I headed home fairly sharply after the game was over, and when we reached the town of Castlerea, we decided to head into Hester’s Golden Eagle restaurant for a bit of Mother’s Day grub. Now I have to admit that we were fully prepared to be turned away as we had no booking, but even though the place was absolutely thronged, they managed to fit us in, and I can only say the fare was simply fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and met loads of old friends and acquaintances. There was a great atmosphere, good craic and banter, and all I can say is if you are ever hungry going through Castlerea, call in and you will not be disappointed.

  It’s funny how sport can sometimes echo life, with its ups and downs, and Saturday was a perfect example, because as we struggled to come to terms with the heartbreaking nature of our very unlucky loss to Sligo, we got the word that we had been crowned league champions by virtue of Tuam beating a Castlebar team that were the only ones left who could have pipped us to the title.

  And so, for the first time in nearly thirty years, Creggs are league champions! Back to the fathers and sons thing, and Liam Callaghan, a good Castlerea man, was and is one of the great stalwarts of Creggs RFC, and how fitting it is that his son (Tom) is the current captain of the club, while another son (Andrew) was lining out in my old position of scrum-half. On the other side of the coin, one of our all-time great players, James Gavin, now living in Sligo, had a son (Enda) playing against us, and when I rang Jimmy late last night after a few celebratory pints (for me, not Jimmy), he freely admitted he had found it to be a highly emotional experience. He was obviously delighted for his son, but sad for the Creggs club that he represented so well and so long. My own son Mark, Tom Fleming, and Kevin Brandon are three lads who have been involved with Creggs for a long time now, and it was great to see them finally get some tangible award for many years of service.

  Anyway, it was a great Mother’s Day, and I hope all you mothers out there were treated well and given the type of day you deserve. As for me, although I am not a mother, I will never forget Mother’s Day 2018.

Fleadh fun: Big launch on Friday night

I am advised by the one and only Terry Leyden, who once again came to my assistance in a little (not so little) matter this week, that the launch of Fleadh Cheoil Roscomain is taking place in Castlecoote Lodge Bar & Lounge this Friday night, 16th of March at 8 pm.

  The renowned Labhrás Ó Murchú is doing the launch, there will be young musicians performing from 7 o’clock, and a trad session will follow the big event. Terry tells me that all, even me, are welcome.