Tweet trouble a harsh lesson for Spar star Kellie

Our man Frank has sympathy for Kellie Harrington; remains frustrated by hospital delays; wasn’t impressed by the refereeing in the league final… and can’t give a total stamp of approval to An Post’s country music honours’ move!

It’s Monday morning as I write, and I am on a train, stopped in Clara railway station, en route to Dublin for my monthly pacemaker check-up in St James’ Hospital. However, I am not thinking of my check-up, but rather of the future of hospital worker and Olympic boxer Kellie Harrington.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about a weekend himself and his wife had, courtesy of the Spar group, in the Europe Hotel in Killarney. Among the guests, or Spar Ambassadors as they are called, were Kellie Harrington and rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll. RTÉ sports presenter Joanne Cantwell was the interviewer. My friend told me that Harrington was by far the best guest on the night (there was a third guest, whose name escapes me).

My friend said Kellie was bright, funny and very interesting. In his words, she had the crowd completely and utterly captivated. At that time, Kellie was flying high as a Spar Ambassador, a gig that is reportedly financially lucrative for her.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and while she is still hot property, her now infamous tweet on immigration last October has definitely taken some of the shine off the golden girl, and it might take a while for Kellie to recover. Funnily enough, having been such a wonderful interviewee in Killarney, it is her refusal to answer questions about her tweet that is now causing so much controversy – when asked by reporter Shane Hannon of Off the Ball about her tweet, she missed the opportunity to set the record straight.

As it happens, her position with Spar is safe, and indeed it probably should be, but if the whole thing shows anything it is that everyone needs to be aware of the dangers of social media.

Unscripted and unscheduled statements on anything need to be avoided like the plague, and extreme care should be taken – especially by those in the public eye and by anyone with money to lose by use of careless words. However, Kellie seems to have enormous support and goodwill built up, and I’m sure she will survive this hiccup, but it could be a lesson that will serve her well in the future.

As I learned many years ago, it’s very hard to take something back if it’s either spoken or written.


The HSE saga: More staff is the only answer

I am sitting in one of the very many waiting rooms in St James’s and thinking of the very much maligned health service.

On Wednesday of last week, we took a trip to the A&E Department in UHG, and as usual found it full to the brim. The medical staff were completely overrun and overwhelmed. You would just be totally distraught at the thought of spending hours on end waiting to be seen.

We were eventually attended to and discharged, but not before spending almost nine hours sitting on highly uncomfortable chairs. As always however, the staff did their very best, and were as helpful and as efficient as anyone could be under very difficult circumstances.

Parking, of course, was a nightmare. It took me ages to find a spot. Today I hopped on the train in Athlone, got off at Heuston, took two stops on the Luas straight to James’s (no parking problems), got all my stuff done and am now on the 2.45 pm train heading home.

So the amazing truth is that it is way easier for me to go to Dublin for my hospital visits than it is to go to Galway, despite the latter being a lot closer. I have said it before…that sheer numbers are overwhelming the HSE, and no matter how much point-scoring the various political parties do, until enough staff are recruited the health service will be a mess.


Is it time for two referees in a Gaelic football game?

As I was waiting in A&E the other day, my mind drifted to Galway’s defeat by Mayo in Sunday’s National Football League final. While nobody mentioned it (that I saw), I thought that yet again the referee was very poor, and the soft frees Mayo got had a huge bearing on the result.

Of course the loss won’t upset Galway too much, and indeed it won’t make Mayo’s task against the Rossies this weekend any easier, but at a time when players and managers put in so much effort for their respective county teams, I shudder to think how many games will be decided by poor refereeing decisions.

I know you would need to be mad to take up refereeing – as it’s a thankless job – but in my opinion it’s high time there were two referees in big matches. You could have a ref in both halves, which would reduce the amount of running each one would have to do, keep the official closer to the play, and, like in soccer, have an assistant ref, not just a linesman, keeping an eye on everything from the sidelines.

I know people will say I am biased, but a highly dubious decision in the final minutes of last year’s All-Ireland final may well have cost Galway the game, so I would love to see better and more efficient refereeing come to the fore during this year’s championship.

However, before I leave the subject, I have to say that I admire and applaud anyone who goes out to referee any game at any level. All I want is to figure out a way to make life a bit easier for them. Maybe it can’t be done, but here’s hoping!

Why I’m withholding my stamp of approval…

You will know by now that I like country music. Last Friday night’s Late Late Show was another important step in bringing the music and songs of our Irish country stars to more and more people around the country.

Even though a lot of the big names like Mike Denver, Jimmy Buckley, Robert Mizzell and Patrick Feeney were absent, there were still a host of other stars in attendance, and it was great to see wee Daniel present his sister Margo with her Irish Country Music Hall of fame award.

Margo is one of the true greats of Irish country music, and her openness about her life struggles is terrifically brave and inspiring. She is an example for us all.

Then, at the end of a very enjoyable show, we got the news that An Post were bringing out postage stamps acknowledging the contributions of five of our top country stars. Despite liking both of them, I don’t think either Nathan Carter or Cliona Hagan should be honoured in such a way just yet.

The other three – Daniel O’Donnell, Philomena Begley, and Big Tom (posthumously) – are certainly worthy of the honour, but in my opinion longevity on the scene should be a prerequisite to being on a stamp, and several of our ‘elder lemons’ like Brendan Shine, Foster & Allen (that, I suppose, would be two stamps), Margo herself and Brendan Quinn (among others)  would all have the necessary years clocked up.

Now I have no doubt that several of our new younger stars will feature on stamps in future years, and Nathan and Cliona would have got their time in the sun anyway. For now, I would have left them out of the ‘big five’. However, the very fact that An Post have put them on their stamps acknowledges the huge growth in country music all over the country and is a big boost for all involved. If they were to put some of the younger ones on, why didn’t they choose Lisa McHugh? I could have put up with that!

And finally…

On a local level, I was sad to see that Orla Leyden is calling time on her immediate career as a county councillor. Being from such a strong political family, I imagine anything is still possible for her on the national stage.

I have to say, whatever her future holds, that Orla  has always been a straight, honest and hard-working representative for her local area who will be greatly missed by her constituents. When she steps down next year, Orla will leave a proud legacy. I wish her well in the future.