Unexpected mystery tour means I will be taking Sat Nav lessons!

Our man Frank on how he managed to get lost on a local journey last weekend; Reflecting on the ongoing decline of rural Ireland… and musing about the ‘local hero’ status of ‘The Monk’…

It’s Friday evening as I write, and, for the umpteenth time in my life, I sit in my car and head for the excellent pitches and facilities that the good folk up in Padraig Pearses have. Our local team (Creggs) are due to take on the home side in an O’Gara Cup match.

Now, on all other previous occasions, I have gone through Ballinasloe and out the Athlone road and turned in to the left at Hogarty’s DIY and paint store, and I have always arrived at the pitch without the slightest problem. However, on Friday evening, after a discussion with my sons – who were involved in the game – I decided to go what they told me was the direct way – through Athleague, Four Roads, and up through Dysart and straight on to Pearses.

So I headed off at 7 o’clock, and without the benefit of Sat Nav or Google Maps (I probably have them but don’t know how to use them), I made it all the way to the village of Taughmaconnell. Seeing floodlights in the distance, I happily headed for where the floodlights were. Sadly, I was at the grounds of Skyvalley Rovers! When I asked a lady who was out walking her dog where the football pitch was, she shook her head and said, “You’re a good bit away yet”.

The lady told me it was a 10 to 15 minute drive to our destination – and she was right. I managed to get lost one more time – and it was only thanks to Eamon Kelly that I made it to Woodmount in time to see our lads score a free to level the game at one point apiece.

As it happened, that was a prophetic score, because the game ended level, and both teams were probably glad to get a point each. (Both teams produced some excellent scores). During half-time, I mentioned to a couple of Creggs supporters about the exciting and long journey I had to get to Woodmount, and we agreed that there is a huge difference in size between the land masses of different Gaelic clubs.

Clubs like Pearses, St Brigid’s and Clann na nGael in South Roscommon, and many others, all cover areas that would dwarf the area that our club Creggs draws from. I sometimes wonder how we are meant to compete at all. However, it is what it is (as they say), and it’s unlikely that the County Board will give us any bit of Oran or Fuerty to balance the books, so I suppose we will just have to keep battling on as best we can.

The good thing is that despite our size, we still keep on producing good footballers, and now have a pitch to compare with any in the county. So, even if geographically we are the smallest club in the county, in other ways we punch way above our weight.

Anyway, I have decided to get lessons in Sat Nav operations, so that wherever I go again I will not get lost – I can’t expect Eamon Kelly to save me every time!

‘Old route’ to Dublin offers sobering sights

Fresh from my trip to Woodmount, on Saturday afternoon Carol and I headed to Dublin to visit our daughter Lisa and her family.

We decided to go by bus, and accordingly headed off from Athlone on Citylink. There was a time the ad used to tell us to ‘Let CIE do the driving’, but sadly they (now known as Bus Éireann) have no service to Dublin at all. The other service provider, Aircoach, do not acknowledge or accept the free travel pass, and there was no way I was going to pay their €40 fee. I don’t know why they won’t take it, but for all of us who spent so long trying to get to pension age, it’s one of the few benefits that comes with getting old, so I for one hate having to give it up.

And so off we went with Citylink. It was great to go on the old roads rather than the motorway, and we stopped in every town and village on the way. It’s been a long time since I travelled on those roads, and it was interesting to see how unkind time has been to many of the small towns.

We all talk about the destruction of rural Ireland, but in every village and town we passed through, it was all too plain to see. Businesses – big and small – were closed all over the place, derelict buildings were plain to be seen, and I have to say it was a sobering experience to travel along the route after all the years.

And yet it was a trip that I really enjoyed, because the truth is that travelling by motorway can be relatively boring, but going through all the villages and towns kept offering up more and more different sights. As I said, not all were inspiring, but they were certainly interesting.


The curious case of the popularity of ‘The Monk’

The criminal world has always held a certain fascination for people like me. Since the terrible murder of Veronica Guerin in June 1996, allegedly on the orders of gangland crime boss John Gilligan, we have all become familiar with major Irish crime figures like the Kinahans and the Monk, i.e. Gerry Hutch.

The recent acquittal of the Monk on a charge of the murder of Kinahan gang member David Byrne in the infamous Regency Hotel shooting incident brought new attention on the Kinahan-Hutch feud, and an RTÉ documentary shone a light on the huge amount of planning that went into the failed hit on Daniel Kinahan’s life. Now I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of the whole affair – as you would need a book to go through all of that – but, as a sort of an amateur crime follower, two things have stood out for me.

The first was the fact that the prosecution’s case relied almost exclusively on the testimony of a proven liar, Jonathan Dowdall, and I have to say that, right from the start, I felt there was no way the state would ever get a successful result. You would have to wonder why their highly-paid legal team didn’t see that when the likes of me could!

The other thing that came out of Hutch’s acquittal was confirmation that despite their crimes, some criminals achieve an almost saint-like status in their communities. According to crime writer Nicola Tallant, the scenes when the Monk made his way out of court after his acquittal had to be seen to believed. Car horns were being honked, bystanders were applauding, and you would swear you were watching something like a high profile wedding – rather than a criminal’s acquittal on a very serious murder charge.

However, as Nicola Tallant said, the Monk has always managed to be seen as a sort of Robin Hood type of figure, and his constant denial of having anything to do with drugs has endeared him to the public. He has also always been actively involved in his own community, especially in the local boxing club.

Anyway, it seems he has a huge portfolio of property in Spain, so everyone reckons he’ll be heading over there fairly soon. It’s safe to say that he’ll spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, so it would make you wonder if a life of crime, even a seemingly successful one, is ever worth it.

And finally…

Mikeen Roarke has asked me to ask anyone who still has cards and money for the Creggs charities’ walk to drop them in to him as soon as possible as the committee want to get everything wrapped up as quickly as they can.