There has always been something about the city of Derry that has made it a special place, even for those of us who live down here in the south, and even though we may have never ventured across the border to see and visit its hallowed, famed and historic walls. Maybe it was the beautiful Rosemary Browne, who as a schoolgirl under the stage name of Dana, sung her way into the hearts of the nation when she won the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest with the lovely ‘All kinds of everything’ that set me on my lifelong love of the northern city, but one way or another, it has always been a place in which I have had a special interest.
I suppose because I am from the generation that remembers what they call ‘The Troubles’, people like the great John Hume, also a Derryman, made big impressions on me as a young lad, and boxer Charlie Nash, and of course singer-songwriter Phil Coulter are other great sons of Derry who made huge names for themselves in their respective fields all over the world. Then in the early 1980s, down here in Creggs, we welcomed the one and only Adrian Leddy to our little rugby club. Adrian was a stalwart of the City of Derry Rugby Club and before too long he had annual trips going both ways as we went northwards to Derry for the weekend, and the Derry lads came to us for visits. When the final history of our rugby club is written, they will feature in our all-time great club folklore.
The love affair that developed between Derry RFC and Maureen Pigott’s bar, and indeed Maureen herself, is legendary, and the fun they had there will live long in my memory.
And so to this week, a week that saw Derry back in the headlines of the world, this time for the death of former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness, and also for the untimely passing of the City of Derry soccer captain Ryan McBride, at the tender age of 27 years.
Now it is not for me to comment on how history will judge Martin McGuinness, but judging by the thousands who turned out for his funeral from all over the country, it is obvious how his fellow countrymen viewed him and his part in achieving peace in Northern Ireland can never be forgotten.
I won’t pretend that I knew Ryan McBride, but from what I have read about him he represented all the values that appear to have disappeared from the modern game of soccer. He was tough, uncompromising, committed, and brave, and in these days of diving, feigning injury, and overpaid primadonnas, he was a throwback to the days when soccer was still played by men who classed themselves the same as their working class supporters. I always remember the story about Bill Foulkes, who was a similar tough centre-half as McBride with Manchester United in the 1960s, and he lived in a row of terraced houses near the ground and would join the fans and walk with them to Old Trafford with his boots hanging over his shoulders. To get near today’s players you’d have to get past bouncers and security officers and probably policemen, and then they wouldn’t talk to you anyway.
However, back to Derry, and you could feel the raw grief felt by the entire city as they buried the two iconic figures last week and I have to say it was a grief felt by a lot of people around the country, and I can only hope they will rest in peace.
As for Adrian Leddy, he is still a huge part of Creggs Rugby Club and I am reliably informed that by next Saturday, 1st of April, he will be entitled to the free travel – so make use of it Adrian, and Happy Birthday.
Aidan deserved to win Dancing with Stars
I seem to be the only man who admits to having watched Dancing with the Stars, and while Kerry footballing legend Aidan O’Mahony, left, would probably be the first to admit that he was the third best dancer in the final, in a strange way he was a most deserving winner of the trophy.
His two opponents, Denise McCormack, and Aoibhinn Garrihy, are both well-known actresses, who would be well used to acting schools and in the case of the Red Rock actress (McCormack), dancing classes, while O’Mahony obviously hadn’t a clue at the start, and so for him to get to the stage that he got three 10s for his final dance was a monumental achievement and made him a worthy winner.
I suppose you have to be a dogged competitor to win five All-Ireland medals and he certainly proved that he was prepared to give his all to come out on top and be crowned King of the dancers. Well done Aidan and I, as a male fan, really enjoyed the series.
My drama date
Tonight, Tuesday (as I write), I am going to the Glenamaddy Drama Festival to have a look at the famed Martin McDonagh play ‘The cripple of Inishmaan’, which is being performed by the Corofin Players from Co. Clare.
My brother Billy went to see it a few weeks ago in Roscommon and he said he nearly burst himself laughing, and he told me not to miss it if it was around the place again. So I’m off to it later on, and next week I’ll tell you if Billy got it right – I have a feeling it will be worth it, so here’s hoping.
Finally for this week, Bina Harris asks me to remind ye all to bring back your sponsorship cards for the Barrie Harris Walk as she wants to sort it all out and distribute the funds to all the needy and worthy charities. So get out the cards, and especially the money, and get them back as soon as possible.
Also all you quizzers out there, don’t forget the Tidy Towns table quiz in Mikeen’s on Friday, 7th of April – ye’d all come if it was the following Friday, Good Friday, but it’s not! So, no excuses for the 7th. I’m retained as quizmaster, so see ye all there.