They say change is good…but that’s not always the case!

Our man Frank on how change often happens without us realising it; on not watching the Eurovision…and some GAA musings…

One of the most amazing things about life is the manner in which change takes place – but remarkably, sometimes we don’t even see the changes as they happen. This was brought home to me last night when, of all things, I had a close-up of a new tractor.

Way back in my young days, my uncle Mikey had the top tractor of its day, a handy little Ferguson 35. It was a nice ‘runaround’ of a tractor that had no cab, and was uncomplicated enough that a young ten or eleven-year-old lad (that was me) was able to drive it. The remarkable thing is that in the sixty-odd years since then (in which I have managed to avoid ever driving another tractor, despite seeing them all over the place), I barely noticed the unbelievable changes that have occurred in the tractor world.

Yesterday evening however, all that came to an end when I was introduced to a new, top-of-the-range Kubota tractor. There can be no doubt that I was flabbergasted – I have no idea how many horsepower this extraordinary machine has, but to me it looked every bit as complicated to drive as any Boeing 747! The lights on the dash were like a carousel, and when the headlights and rear lights were switched on I could see as far as my battered old glasses would allow.

To think how far we have come in my time from the day of the Ferguson 35, which was preceded by the even more iconic Ferguson 20, is mind-boggling. I can’t even begin to imagine what type of tractor they will be driving another sixty years down the line.

Anyway, that was the first big change that I came across recently, but today, as I sat in the waiting room of a public body, I saw another (not so welcome) change.

A toddler – a boy who was about two to three-years-old – was playing around in the waiting room, and, being an obviously friendly young lad, he came over to me and was quite happily having the chat. The fact that I couldn’t understand anything he said and simply kept saying ‘yes’ and nodding my head made no difference, and we were totally enjoying each other’s vastly different company.

However, in keeping with the modern way of seeing the worst in everyone and trusting no one, within a matter of minutes the child’s mother told him to stop interacting with me and to go back and sit with her. Now I fully understood where she was coming from and that she was only looking out for the welfare of the child, but part of me was sad that society has come to this.

With my longish hair and grey beard, as well as being an awful lot older than the young boy, maybe the mother saw me as a threat, but it was an example of how things have changed – and this time not for the better. When we were young, we literally were free to go and play anywhere. I knew all the old people in and around the village, and (maybe in our innocence) nobody worried about our welfare.

In the meantime, that innocence has long since evaporated, with horrendous crimes being inflicted on our children. So while I was sorry to see the mistrust the child’s mother had in me, I could also – sadly –  understand it. Change they say is good, but maybe not all the time.

GAA mismatches must be addressed

Here in Ireland, there is no doubt that the GAA is the biggest sporting organisation of them all. All three of their field games – football, hurling and camogie – are going from strength to strength, and on the face of it all seems well in the GAA world.

That said, we have the situation in Leinster where Dublin have won the championship every year since 2005 (bar Meath’s victory in 2010), so as we look forward to this year’s provincial final, it would be a brave person to bet against another win for the city side. How other counties keep putting in the effort year after year, knowing well they have no chance of success, beats me.

I have said it before that the provincial system is totally unsuited for the present footballing set-up, and only for financial considerations it would be scrapped. For the life of me I cannot see how anyone can benefit by sending Leitrim up to Pearse Stadium in Galway to get trounced by the home side to the tune of a 23-point hammering.

The arrival of Andy Moran as Leitrim manager was a huge boost to the county, and in fairness he was upbeat enough after the Galway beating, but surely the time has come to call a halt to all these mismatches and save the weaker teams from these soul-destroying defeats.

To date this year, we have Wexford going down to the Dubs by 23 points, Carlow losing by 5 goals to Louth, Antrim by 13 points against Cavan, Sligo by 12 points to Roscommon, Cork by 12 points to Kerry, and Leitrim by 23 points to Galway, among other one-sided results. Then last weekend Dublin had 13 points to spare over Meath.

The National Leagues work very well, and produce loads of competitive, close games. Maybe it’s time to make the league the number one competition?


Calling Dana?

As a young lad, the Eurovision Song Contest was almost as big as the soccer World Cup, or even the All-Ireland finals. In fact, way back in 1965, Butch Moore achieved celebrity status when he became our first ever contestant in the competition, finishing in a highly respectable sixth place.

Since then, we as a nation have had a rollercoaster of a ride with the Eurovision, winning it a number of times, but in more recent years hardly ever getting through the semi-finals. For me at least, what was once an absolute must-see event is now nearly an absolute must-miss event.

And so I didn’t tune in for any of the three nights of last week’s contest, but I am aware that Ukraine were very popular winners. In the midst of the terrible war with Russia, I hope the win might have given the country a small, but welcome boost.

We seem to have dropped out of the Eurovision picture, but maybe there is hope for us yet. As a country which sent such great artists as Dustin and Jedward (the latter lads twice!), maybe the time is right for a return to the top? I wonder if Dana is willing to have another go? Her time may have come again.


And finally…

Hurling has a well-earned reputation for being one of the best, if not the best, field games in the world. Popular opinion has it that at the highest level, the game is pretty much confined to eight or nine counties, and everyone outside that elite number is never going to win a senior All-Ireland. To tell the truth, that is a fair enough assessment. As a result, hurling in the lower ranked counties is almost ignored.

And so it was great to hear that the Joe McDonagh Cup semi-final between one-time regular All-Ireland challengers Offaly and top football county Kerry was rated as one of the best games played in a long, long time. This was welcome news for everyone who supports the game, especially in the so-called lesser counties. (Speaking of which, well done to Roscommon on reaching this weekend’s Rackard Cup Final).

Sadly I didn’t get to see the Offaly-Kerry game, but a reliable informant told me all about it and assures me it was a wonderful contest, ending with Offaly winning by a single point.

There is no doubt that the Limericks, Kilkennys and Clares etc. of the hurling world serve up fantastic games time after time, but it is good to know that there is real hurling life outside the elite, and that occasionally the less feted teams can serve up a real hurling feast!