The scourge of drug abuse: Is decriminalisation the answer? 

Our man Frank on ex-footballer Philly McMahon’s call for drugs to be decriminalised; Parish pride and the all-conquering Cliffords… and on making his (Frank’s) podcast debut!

For all the years that the Dubs dominated the inter-county football scene (during which they won eight All-Irelands between 2011 and 2020, inclusive), one of their most dependable defenders was corner-back Philly McMahon.

  During his playing career, McMahon won eight All-Ireland medals, as well as twelve Leinster titles, five National League medals, and two All-Star awards. Well known as a sort of enforcer who always played on the edge, and while adored by the Dubs’ supporters, he was definitely a love/hate figure for the rest of the country’s GAA supporters!

  Off the field however, McMahon has been a prominent anti-drugs activist, something that was brought about by the death of his brother John in 2012 from a drug overdose. Philly set up a charity called Half Time Talk, which aims to help young adults with social problems. He is also involved with Focus Ireland’s Shine a Light charity, which helps the homeless. And so, when he speaks on drug-related issues, we should definitely listen.

  This week, he has said something we have suspected for a long time; that young people are using cocaine as much as alcohol. He also warned that heroin use in rural communities is very much on the rise. He believes that criminalising drug addiction has created a class divide, as the wealthier sector can afford to get treatment to help them break the habit. McMahon says that most of the users who end up in prisons around the country are from the so-called lower classes.

  A new Fianna Fáil podcast, ‘Drugs and Ireland – Citizens’ Assembly’ – which examines issues relating to drugs and drugs policy – has been set up, and another contributor, Senator Lynn Ruane, says there is no sector in this society that doesn’t encounter some drug usage. I don’t know the answer to our huge drugs problem, but Philly McMahon firmly believes that we should decriminalise the personal usage of drugs, thereby taking the criminality away from addiction and allowing it to be treated as a health problem.

  Whatever the answer, everyone knows that drug usage is rampant everywhere, and there is no place in Ireland that is free from the scourge of an instantly-available drug supply, so let’s hope this new initiative will at least help focus attention on this major problem.

How the Cliffords remind us of our pride in being Irish 

It’s a nice, bright, cold Monday morning as I write, and after the horrible wind and heavy rain that we have experienced over the last week or so, it’s almost a relief to wake up to the sight of frosted windows and frozen water.

  All my life I have thought that we were unique when it came to our weather and that wind and rain were almost exclusively Irish. But anyone who watched the La Rochelle versus Ulster rugby match on Saturday evening last would have found out that you can get ‘Irish weather’ in France as well.

  Howling winds and driving rain were the order of the day over there, resulting in a very low-scoring game. Friends of mine who had to cancel plans to go there at the last minute must have been almost relieved that they couldn’t travel. 

  Anyway, on this Monday morning, I had to go to talk to one of my regular readers about something that was annoying him. As I drove about twenty miles on slippery roads to see him, I thought about David Clifford and his brother Paudie, and how they won an All-Ireland junior football club medal on Sunday  with their club Fossa.

  I have spoken before of my admiration for both players, but especially David (inter-county football player of the year), for putting so much time and effort into playing for their small local junior football club. Today however, I see that their father Dermot happens to be the club chairperson, and in a way that partly explains the reasons why they put so much into it.

  According to the national papers, there was an amazing buzz around Croke Park, more like that of an All-Ireland senior county final than a junior club football final, and that was of course down to the Clifford factor – or Cliffordmania as the papers are now calling it. Needless to say, the superstar didn’t disappoint, scoring eleven points (eight from play) as Fossa won by a three-point margin.

  As I thought about Clifford and how it meant so much to him to see his brother Paudie lift the cup, I wondered about another superstar, Ronaldo, and his £173 million-a-year salary from Al Nassr soccer club in Saudi Arabia. Maybe nothing sums it up better than the fact that at his recent unveiling, Ronaldo didn’t even remember what country he was in, and said how delighted he was to be going to play his football in South Africa!

  I have always admired Ronaldo for what he has achieved as a footballer, particularly with Manchester United, but I doubt if he would ever have played at junior level for Shiven Rovers. Maybe it’s not our weather at all that puts us apart – maybe it’s just being Irish and being proud to be part of our local community.

  The Clifford brothers and their father obviously feel that pride, and all I can say is:  well done lads. Ye really are a credit to your club, but also to your family and yourselves –despite both of you getting sent off in the last minute of what turned out to be a highly charged finale!

 

I’ve made my podcast debut (apparently!) 

Speaking of podcasts elsewhere in this column this week, the truth is I still have no idea what they are or how they can be accessed, but I actually took part in one during the week gone by!

  Breifni Earley, a good Leitrim man, has a very successful podcast, ‘Final Whistle’, which covers a variety of sports, including Gaelic football, rugby, and soccer, and on Thursday last he asked me to join him on the commentary for a Connacht Schools senior rugby game between Garbally and Colaiste Iognaid in the wonderful surrounds of Creggs RFC.

  As it happened, there were three schools matches played on the 4G pitch that day, because there were no other pitches playable – proving once again how invaluable an asset the pitch is to Connacht Rugby.

  Anyway, we saw a really competitive game, which The Jes (Colaiste Iognaid) won by a single point. While I have no idea how to get the podcast, I can now say that I took part in one!

  I’m told that I must be one of the few people who don’t know how to tune into podcasts, as I’ve heard that Final Whistle has a large audience. I hope my appearance didn’t scupper the audience figures for last week!

And finally…

It’s now Monday night as I write, and I have just happened across the Mid-west country music programme, which seems to be one of the very few that survived the recent cull on Sky TV. I don’t know what happened, but while there used to be loads of such shows on every night, now there seems to be only three – the Mayo boys (although Paul Claffey is a Rossie), Michael Commins, and Hugh O’Brien’s Hot Country.

  Anyway, as I watched the show, who appeared but the one and only Bridie Gallagher! It reminded me of the night she brought a crowd of about 1,500 to Brennan’s Ballroom (now Connelly’s garage) in Creggs, way back in the late 1950s. I might be a little off when it comes to exactly which year it was as I was certainly too young to be able to remember it, but to this day locals talk about the huge crowd that attended – it may have been the biggest attendance ever at a social event in our little village.

  Since those days we’ve had many top artists appear at Creggs Carnival, including Joe Dolan, Tommy and Jimmy Swarbrigg, Geraldine Brannigan, and Houston Wells, but none of them ever brought the excitement that the original girl from Donegal did! Oh how I would love to see those days again!