Seamus Duke Media Roscommon

Author: seamus (Page 1 of 6)

50 years of Dr Hyde Park

On the 20th of June 1971 a further chapter began in Roscommon GAA when a new county ground was opened in Roscommon Town. It was called Dr Hyde Park. The first Connacht SFC game played at the new venue was between Roscommon and Sligo and it was a game that didn’t live long in the memory as a Mickey Kearins-led Sligo beat Roscommon by 0-10 to 1-5.

In fact the first ever competitive game played in Dr Hyde Park 50 years ago was the curtain-raiser that day which was an U-14 county final between Roscommon Gaels and St Michael’s. The player to have the honour of being the first to score at the new venue was Roscommon Gaels player Greg McCrann who scored a point early in that final. In fact Greg went on to win an All Ireland U-21 medal with Roscommon when they beat Kerry also at Dr Hyde Park in some years later 1978.

The land where Dr Hyde Park now stands was known as ‘Raftery’s Field’. It was owned by a man called Brodie Raftery from Glenamaddy. The field had seen some GAA action in the past and the 1943 county final was played there between St Patrick’s and Strokestown.

The Roscommon county GAA grounds had been located at St Coman’s Park in Roscommon town. However that pitch flooded during the winter time and after it was determined that it could not be drained, a group of local GAA people got together to buy land in the town area to develop it as a county ground. Raftery’s Field was purchased in 1969 for a sum in the region of 3,000 pounds. A local committee had been set up to raise the funding required for the purchase of the field and to develop a county ground.

I can vividly recall that as school children attending Roscommon CBS, Brother Dwyer and Brother Coffey both of whom were heavily involved in the GAA, brought us all out to Dr Hyde Park on a regular basis to pick stones from the new pitch. I remember Dick Hughes and Ned Casey driving the tractors as the pitch was prepared to become a major county GAA ground.

The surrounds consisted of three grass banks and a bank of concrete seats- which are still there. The dressing rooms were situated in the Hyde Community Centre and the players had to walk a couple of hundred yards through the crowds to get to the pitch on the day of a big game. The present dressing rooms were only built in the early 1990’s

Many people who were around at the time will find it hard to believe that Dr Hyde Park is in existence for 50 years. There has been plenty of drama and excitement there over the years both at club and county level.

In terms of the county scene my own personal highlights were the 1977 SFC final win against Galway which was Roscommon’s first senior Connacht win at the venue.
Winning the 1978 All Ireland U-21 title at Dr Hyde Park was a day that no one who was present will ever forget as Roscommon overturned a highly fancied Kerry team in front of a huge crowd.
The Connacht SFC wins in 1990 and 1991 (replay) were very special days too. In 1990 (v Galway) it was Roscommon’s first senior title in 10 years while the following year, to beat Mayo in Hyde Park in a replay was especially sweet.

The replayed Connacht final against Galway in 1998 was also a very special day. The atmosphere that Saturday evening was something I shall never forget as both teams went hammer and tongs in a very high quality game. A goal from Michael Donnellan in extra time settled the issue, but it was some occasion.

However, the win for Roscommon against Mayo in the 2001 final was probably the most dramatic and exciting day that I recall at Dr Hyde Park. A beautiful day, a massive crowd, and a last minute goal from Gerry Lohan to win by a single point. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s hard to believe but that’s the last Connacht senior title that Roscommon have won in ‘The Hyde’.

The facilities at Dr Hyde Park have been upgraded over the years but most people would agree that a further major overhaul is well past time at the moment. Terracing on three sides was added in the 1990’s while in the early 00’s a 3,500 seater stand was built. In addition a new pitch was laid in 2017 and after years of problems with the surface it is now recognized as one of the best in the country.

But with strict ‘Health and Safety’ guidelines in place the capacity of Dr Hyde Park has been reduced from 30,000 to 18,500 in the past five years hence the urgent need to upgrade the facilities at the stadium. The ease of access and it’s ideal central location makes it a fantastic venue for big games all year around.

The responsibility for the upkeep and the running of Dr Hyde Park now rests with Roscommon county board following an agreement drawn up with the Roscommon Gaels club. I spent over 20 years on the Hyde Park Committee at one stage and I know about the huge efforts that have been made over the years by many people to keep the stadium running.

There have been so many memorable moments at Dr Hyde Park over the years,at club level it would take many articles to cover even some of them.

Dr Hyde Park has been part and parcel of the fabric of Roscommon life for 50 years now and with the Connacht semi-final coming up between Roscommon and Galway on July the 4th that legacy is set to continue for many decades more. It is the earnest hope of everyone that the crowds will soon be back at ‘The Hyde’.

We have seen the greatest players in gaelic football over the past 50 years play at Dr Hyde Park and some great hurlers too. The park has brought great excitement and drama to Roscommon Town in that time not to mention badly needed business on the weekends of big games. Sadly the pandemic has put a temporary stop to all that but hopefully things will be back to normal on that score very soon.

The people involved in the Hyde Park Committee from 1969 to 1972 and who were responsible for the purchase and development of Dr Hyde Park were: Barry Molloy, Dr Donal Keenan, John Joe Fahey, Frank Lannon, Michael Mulry, Michael Cassidy, Paddy O’Connor, Paddy O’Donovan, T.S. O Dolain, Seamus Hunt, Willie Gilmartin, Seamus Duke, Jimmy Costello, Brother Coffey, Brother Dwyer, Gabriel Keating, Mick Hoare, Michael Stephens, Tony Robinson, Jackie Brennan, PJ Oates, Paddy Walshe, Bernie Hoare.

(from The Roscommon People)

FRANKIE DOLAN – A GREAT PLAYER FOR CLUB AND COUNTY

OUTSIDE OF THE RIGHT- FRANKIE DOLAN TELLS HIS STORY

In any conversation about the best Roscommon footballers over the past 25 years Frankie Dolan would have to be near the top or indeed at the top of those rankings. The St Brigid’s and Roscommon forward was a brilliant player for club and county and he had a wonderful playing career.
But it is only when reading his autobiography ‘Outside of the Right’ (written with the assistance of our own Dan Dooner) that one remembers just how colourful a career it has been both on and off the field. But in the end it was his talent as a footballer that shone through and there are many great stories from Frankie about some of the biggest days in Roscommon and St Brigid’s football history over the past quarter of a century and some off the field incidents too which makes it a very memorable memoir.
Even Frankie himself will admit that over the years he fell foul of officialdom both on and off the field. Yes, there were some people whom he felt let him down over his career but his passion for the game always shines through.
Having played mostly Soccer for various clubs, including Athlone Town and Bohemians until he was 17 he settled for Gaelic Football with St Brigid’s and Roscommon.

The breakthrough for St Brigid’s to win the senior championship in 1997 evokes fond memories for Frankie in his first year playing senior. “We won the minor in 1996 and myself and John Tiernan and a couple of others were brought into the senior squad.”
“ The club got in John O’Mahony as manager and it was a great appointment. He trained us very hard and we ended up winning the championship. We beat Clann na nGael in the final by a point. We were lucky enough in the end. Paul McManus was inured for Clann and it was probably fitness that got us through that day. But it was a huge win for the club.” It was a first senior title for Brigid’s in 28 years.

Another very interesting assertion in Frankie’s book is his admiration for Gay Sheerin who he says was the best and most passionate Roscommon senior team manager he played for during his career. “I was so sorry for Gay the way his tenure finished up (defeat to Leitrim in the Connacht Championship in Dr Hyde Park in 2000). We should have been 12 to 15 points up at half-time that day and we collapsed in the second half. That loss was certainly not Gay Sheerin’s fault. It was down to us players on the field. We let him down. He took the blame for that defeat and it was very unfair.”
“All Gay Sheerin wanted was the best for Roscommon football and that was unlike some of the other people that managed Roscommon over the years, who probably wanted the best for themselves. I know that you always have a soft spot for the manager who brings you in to the county set up, but Gay was a great Roscommon man. I have great time for him “he said.

One of Roscommon’s most memorable wins in the past 25 years was the dramatic last minute victory against Mayo in the Connacht final in Dr Hyde Park in 2001 and while the details of that match are well known, one thing that I was just made aware of in the book was that the Roscommon players actually walked out to Dr Hyde Park that day from the Abbey Hotel. “It was great craic to be honest. We walked out the Golf Links Road. There was great banter from the supporters and I think it made the players more relaxed. I think it was a great idea but you wouldn’t see it happening today.”

Even though Frankie had so much success on the field for club and county the book would not be complete without a reference to the infamous ‘naked pool’ incident in Derry which made national news at the time and which led to the disbandment of the senior football panel. Frankie says that the whole saga was handled very badly by the county board. “The county board and the team management could have tried to sort something out at the time. Look, it is something that should not have happened, but having said that I have seen things a hundred times worse over the years. What we did was probably stupid but it was harmless. But the full blame was heaped on just two players (Frankie and Nigel Dineen) and we didn’t get any support at all.”
“I didn’t go to the meeting when they disbanded the team but I knew what was coming. It was an easy way out for the county board to blame the players. That whole thing really annoyed me.”
“I was injured then after that and had an operation (shoulder) and was really down in the dumps. I was unemployed and I went off to Australia for six months in 2002 and it was the best thing I ever did. I cleared my head, I did a bit of training and I was ready for action when I came back for 2003 and I had the hunger back.”
That year was Frankie’s best in a Roscommon county jersey. Roscommon under Tommy Carr went on a run in the qualifiers and Frankie weighed in with some sensational performances scoring 12 points against Offaly in Mullingar and he followed that up with an even better performance scoring 0-13 against Kildare the following week. Many people saw Frankie as a shoo-in for an All Star but it didn’t happen. Frankie was disappointed but is philosophical about it. “We had a good year as a team and I played well but it was just one of those things.”

On winning the club All Ireland in 2013 Frankie says that the team were building every year in terms of experience and the All Ireland semi-final win against Crossmaglen in Mullingar that year was one of the most intense championship games he was ever involved in. “That was the day when we really won that All Ireland. They (Cross) were such a great team. That was some game. There was everything in it. There was great play, rows, hard hits, great scores, a huge crowd and incredible intensity. It was brilliant stuff and probably the best big game that I ever played in. To beat Crossmaglen and then beat the Dublin champions in the final to win an All Ireland was some achievement and one that I am very proud of.”

Frankie says that mental health is a huge issue for players and he maintains that thankfully there is help for players out there now but that was not the case when he was involved and especially when there was any controversy. “In 2002 there was absolutely no help out there at all (after the pool incident). If that happened now it would be a totally different situation and there would be plenty of people there to help. But at that time myself and Nigel really suffered and it was very unfair. There was no one there to give us advice or to chat to us about it at all. We were totally hung out to dry. I mean I left the country as a result of what happened because I couldn’t put up with the hassle. I never realised what I was going through until I spoke to someone about it. I went to a counsellor and it really helped me I have to say and I was able to move on afterwards. People’s mental health is a very important issue.”

Needless to say that Frankie is not content to slip into the backround over the next few years. He is involved in the development of a revolutionary new sports aid called the ‘Ball Hive Pro Rebounder’ which can be used as a training aid by teams playing any kinds of ball sports. He has teamed up with Fergal Kelly for this new venture. “There has been huge interest in the rebounder and we have had interest from a couple of Premier League clubs in the UK and we are hoping to develop the product for use in the UK and USA as well as in Ireland. The covid situation has held us up but we are hoping to get back on track soon.”
Frankie has enlisted the help of well known Ballyforan man Padraig Kelly help distribute his book. “Padraig is a great guy, an Aidan’s man who is now living in Kiltoom and he has loads of connections and contacts throughout the country and he will be a great asset to me to get the book out there. “

Frankie continues to ply his trade as a very popular postman and lives in Roscommon Town with his wife Caroline and sons Ryen and Jack. He says he decided to write the book to give people an insight into what the real Frankie Dolan is like. “It’s not something that I was ever interested in but several people were asking me to do it and when the lockdown came I thought it might be a good way of passing the time. A lot of people have a perception of what kind of a person Frankie Dolan is but people that know me know what I’m like and that this tries to set the record straight.” He concluded.

What’s included in this interview barely skims the surface of what is a cracking good read. If you have been a follower of Roscommon club and county football and want a different perspective told with striking honesty and clarity then I recommend this highly and I wish him the best of luck with it.
‘Outside of the Right’ the Frankie Dolan Biography by Frankie Dolan and Dan Dooner is on sale now at all good book shops and online and is priced at 17.99 Euro.

(From The Roscommon People)

DARKNESS INTO LIGHT FUNDRAISER

The focus on mental health was never as important.

This weekend the annual ‘Darkness Into Light’ fund-raiser will take place. Every year it assists Pieta House in the vital work they do to assist people who are in suicidal distress and who engage in self-harm. But after what society has experienced with the pandemic over the past 14 months the whole area of mental health has now assumed a much higher level of importance.
Speaking to many people over the past few months like postmen and women, GP’s, sports team managers, priests, public representatives and other community leaders, we now have a massive problem on our hands that will only be revealed fully as our society returns to normal.
The amount of isolation and loneliness was a problem in our society before covid but now it’s on a whole new level.
There are hundreds of thousands of people, many of them elderly, who are living on their own and many of them have had little or no inter action with any other human beings for over 12 months. Even if these people were willing to return to some kind of social inter-action in the next few months they will find it very difficult to do so.
In addition have the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs and their businesses. Some of those jobs and businesses will probably be gone forever. People have mortgages, bills to pay and children to educate. Despite the good news about the vaccination roll-out the future is very bleak for many people.
A job gives a person self-worth and status regardless of what it is. Unemployment is a scourge, and people who have too music time on their hands are prime candidates to suffer mental health problems.
Our young people have been seriously affected too. Third level students have been stuck at home with no social inter-action, no part time jobs, and no fun. Life should not be like this for them.
There are so many aspects to the triggers for mental health problems. Losing loved ones and not being able to grieve properly, no family celebrations like weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, holidays, shopping trips, sporting events, dances, night clubs, theatres and cinemas. The list goes on and on.
There are three cohorts of people in our society who have been affected in vastly different ways by what has happened over the past 14 months. One section of society has prospered, people who have kept their jobs and who have saved lots of money because they have not been able to spend it. There are businesses who have prospered too and good luck to them all.
There is another section who have not been affected one way or the other by the pandemic. Their lives are much the same as before.
But then there is a huge number of people who have been devastated by covid 19 and one of the by-products of it all will be a massive upsurge in mental health problems and that will include isolation, strange behaviour, self-harm and suicide.

The Darkness Into Light fund-raiser was never more important.

Support it if you can.

Snooker Classic

FANS RETURN MAKES CRUCIBLE FINAL A TREAT

Another week of lockdown but it has to be admitted there is certainly light beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel. On Monday night last, as the biting cold wind and torrential rain raged outside (a great night for outdoor dining and drinking!) I sat beside the fire and watched the final of the World Snooker Championship unfold at the Crucible Theatre.
It was a magnificent spectacle in so many ways.
Mark Selby was the deserved winner against Shaun Murphy who actually lives in Dublin but it was a tremendous match with Murphy refusing to lie down until the very end.
The players were interviewed after the final frame was played and both men came across as really nice people, humble and down to earth which was a welcome change from listening to some of the sporting superstars who are as far from the real world as it is possible to be.
It was the first sporting event played before a capacity crowd anywhere in these islands for 14 months and it made for a magnificent occasion as the supporters of each player roared their favourites on.
It proves that sport at any level thrives on the enthusiasm and passion of those who follow that sport. The quicker we can have the crowds back at GAA, Soccer and Rugby matches the better not just for those sporting organisations but for the players themselves.
It was said more than once on the BBC last night-‘Sport is nothing without the fans’

Observations A Current Affairs Blog

Starting in May 2021 I will be writing a number of observations- News, Current Affairs and Sport.

Feel free to comment any time or contact me

3rd May 2021

CEHERNOBYL- A MUST SEE TV SERIES

Prior to March 2020 I would not have watched much TV apart from News and Sports programmes. When you are working it’s a totally different scenario. However on the 13th March 2020 the rug was pulled in terms of employment and time on my hands became far more plentiful.
In addition to watching sports and news programmes and doing all the other things that I tried to do to keep sane in the covid chaos I started to watch more TV. Indeed a lot of what was on was rubbish but in the company of my wife I watched the entire series of ‘The Crown’. It may not be for everyone but it was well written and well made and we enjoyed looking at many of the historical events that have happened in our lifetime.
But last week while flicking through the channels I came across a programme simply entitled ‘Cherbobyl’. I had read in some newspaper that it was 35 years since the disaster there and I decided to watch to see what it was like.

It turns out that the programme was a five part series about the events in 1986. Each programme was about an hour and a half and it was a truly stunning production based on the actual events that happened at the nuclear power plant. It was as fine a programme as I have ever seen on TV and I was glued to it every night it was on.
The short cuts in terms of safety taken by the authorities were to blame for the accident. But the cover ups, the denials, the corruption, and the delay in dealing with the disaster was such an eye-opener. Needless to say it was the ordinary people, workers, local people, poor farmers and the elderly who suffered in the most terrible way. It is always the ordinary people who suffer when something like this happens.
At the end of the day it took the suicide of scientist Valery Legasov to highlight what actually happened. When he passed away his accounts of what happened reached the wider community. Those accounts were suppressed and hidden while he was alive.
It shows what can happen if the state has too much control of people’s lives. It could have happened in any country but in this case it happened in Russia. It was very clear that it was the state that mattered most and the welfare of it’s people was well down the priority list. The amount of suffering experienced by the ordinary people especially in the close vicinity to the power plant was truly shocking. As we know the effects of what happened in Chernobyl are being felt today 35 years later.
On reading about the programme afterwards I learned that it had received no less than 19 Emmy award nominations and it has won many awards around the World which is certainly no surprise.
I hope that maybe RTE could show the series at some point in the future. It deserves a big audience. Watch it if you get a chance.

Coronavirus- A Year On

This week twelve months ago the first positive tests for the new coronavirus disease, covid-19, that we had all heard so much about, were confirmed in Ireland. Then on March 12th speaking from Washington, acting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar explained to the nation that our lives would never be the same again. He didn’t know what was ahead. None of us did.

Twelve months ago I hadn’t a clue what anxiety was. As far as I was concerned it was something that was discussed on radio and TV shows by fuddy-duddy health professionals and as someone who would never be affected I never paid much heed to be honest.
I know what it is now.

One thing the last twelve months has thought me is that anxiety and depression are real problems and there is no doubt that the amount of people that it affects has grown out of all proportion since the advent of this pandemic.
The many who have lost their jobs and have seen their businesses devastated have been sitting at home. They have had far too much time on their hands. Time to think. Things that would never have kept you awake at night in the past now seem far more important. It’s a horrible feeling.

I have met scores of people over the past twelve months who feel abandoned and are totally distraught since the arrival of covid. Some of them went to mass every day or a few times a week and that was their social outing. Alternatively they went to bingo or to a dance or drama or night class, or they went to the pub for a couple of drinks. They went to matches on a Sunday. They had friends and family calling to them and they met people out shopping and socially. Now, they are sitting at home scared to even answer the door as they listen to the daily diet of misery and bad news that pours out of the media. It’s the hidden cost of this pandemic.

I shudder to think of what the fall out will be for the economy when this is all over. The 40 billion Euro it is costing will have to be paid back at some stage. The Government have actually done well in the circumstances in terms of supports. But there is not a bottomless pit of money there, and the big question is how many businesses will collapse altogether when the supports are withdrawn, as they will be?

For some people who have been lucky enough to hold on to their jobs and others whose businesses have stayed open, this pandemic has been nothing more than a mild inconvenience. In fact for some it has been a financial bonanza. With nowhere to go and nothing to spend their money on, savings have gone through the roof and good luck to those people too. They are the lucky ones.

Twelve months on and now we have household names that were unknown a year ago, Tony Holohan, Paul Reid, Sam McConkey, Cillian De Gascuin, Kingston Mills, Luke O’Neill and Catherine Motherway are on the national media day and night and are now celebrities. They have been entrusted in guiding the Government and the people through this health emergency. They have done a good job in tough circumstances but they are rarely asked hard questions about their strategy. As I write this piece Ireland has had the longest level five lockdown in Europe by some distance.

If someone like me questions their sytrategy we are totally dismissed because we are not medical or health experts. It’s very frustrating when you have genuine questions to ask. These people are public servants after all.
My idea of the real heroes in all the chaos are the nurses, doctors and health workers in our hospitals and particularly in our ICU units who have had to face the consequences of this horrible disease since last March. I sincerely hope that they have some respite soon.

I am not for one minute underestimating the severity of covid-19 or it’s danger. There are three members of my family working on the front line in the health sector so I understand what they are going through. The restrictions have definitely been needed, and like most people I have followed them to the letter of the law, but like many I am getting fed up.

For most ordinary people it has been a nightmare 12 months. Friends, neighbours and loved ones have passed away and we have not been able to attend the funerals and give the families the support they so badly need.

Young couples have had to postpone their weddings two or three times, there are no birthday parties, no graduation ceremonies, no night clubs, no concerts, no socialising, no dates, no holidays, no summer jobs and no sport. My heart goes out to young single people from the ages of 15 upwards have been the cohort hardest hit by this situation.

Parents who have had young children at home for most of the past twelve months have also had a very tough time. Parents and children alike need the schools to re-open.

People with family members who live abroad have had to abandon any chance of seeing them last year and probably this year too. I am in that category myself. It is very difficult.

As the situation continues a major problem is that people in authority, whether it’s NEPHET or the politicians, should be far more careful about what they say. Last week one of these eminent doctors said that we would have restrictions for 3 to 5 years. A prominent politician said that 2021 would be a ‘write off’. I wonder do these people realise that there are so many in the community who hang on every word they hear on the national airwaves about this virus. They are adding to the tsunami of mental health problems and depression by their pronouncements. They have a responsibility to temper their language. They have to give the people hope.

In recent months Government politicians seem to be in a race to be the first to get to the media with the latest news whether it be bad or good. One day we hear one story from Micheal Martin, the next it’s a totally different story from Leo Varadkar. Playing politics at a time like this is unforgivable.

The ongoing 5k limit is daft and with the weather improving the idea that 30 Leaving Certs can be in a school hall together but people cannot go out and play nine holes of Golf makes no sense at all. Surely it would be better to have children out doing a bit of sports training in the fresh air than them sitting at home on the play station. From next week children in Northern Ireland can go out and train but in this part of the country the gates remain closed. Try and figure than one out.

I read something this morning that has resonated:
“We are all NOT in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts. Some have boats. Some are drowning.”
We have all to remember that.

But I wanted to end this piece on a positive note. Personally since March 14th last year I realised that I would have plenty of time on my hands so I began walking every day. I was not taking nearly enough exercise. Since then I have missed only one day on the road and now I walk for an hour every day. As a result I lost a substantial amount of weight and that has to be a good thing. From the numbers of people I see out walking I think I am not on my own.

Sport has helped to keep me sane in the time since this pandemic started. I actually got a couple of months work while the club GAA championships were on last year and it was brilliant to be able to go to the games. Hopefully we will be able to get back to that very soon.

Working on a voluntary basis on the local community radio has also been a very positive way to use up my time and I have enjoyed that immensely.

Watching Soccer, Rugby, Horse Racing and Golf on TV with no crowds is not the same but it’s better than nothing. Hopefully the GAA scene will be back soon too. Boris Johnson says that in May there will be 10,000 people allowed at sporting events in the UK. We are a long way away from that here, but hope springs eternal.

The response to this emergency in many communities particularly in rural Ireland has been phenomenal. There is a deep tooted goodness in Irish people which always comes to the fore in times of crisis. Let’s hope that situation remains until we are out of this horrible situation. People’s patience is wearing thin but hopefully the end line is in sight.

The past twelve months have served to underline to us what is really important in life, family, our health, community, friendship, leadership and empathy. Hopefully when this is all over it will make for a better society.

Our biggest hope now is the vaccine roll out. We seem to be moving at a snails’ pace here in Ireland so far. But we can only hope and pray that things improve as the months go on. The speed of the vaccine roll out will save lives and livlehoods.
We have to all set our minds to the scenario and resolve that there are brighter days ahead.

I want to go back to work. I want to go back to a GAA match and I want to go for a pint and a chat.

We all want our lives back.

(From The Roscommon People 4th March 2021)

COVID- 25th January 2021- The Latest

It’s almost 11 months since the covid 19 virus came to dominate the world, and our lives and there is not much sign of respite. In fact since 2021 started things have got much worse.

First of all and most important of all, the people who have got very ill and remain so, and the families who have lost loved ones have paid the ultimate price in this pandemic. Our hearts go out to them.

The people in our health service who are trying to look after the ill and very ill in our hospitals and care homes are under the most incredible pressure. They are tired and burnt out from the relentless number of very sick people that they have had to deal with every day over the past couple of months. I can only imagine the strain that they are under and my prayers are with them every day.

Hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Level 5 restrictions seem to be working, if slowly, and hopefully that will result in reduced numbers and deaths.

The vaccination roll out is a worry. It would appear that there is going to be a problem with supply and I have to say my confidence in the HSE to implement a successful roll out programme is not great given the failures that they have presided over in the past two decades.

It is certainly true that the failure of people to adhere to the guidelines has cost livelehoods and lives, but it is also true to say that any failure or delay in the vaccination programme will also cost livelehoods and lives. It’s that important.

I have a certain sympathy for the politicians. Before I say anything about this I have no political affiliations at all to any party. There is no doubt that the decision to ease restrictions before Christmas was a mistake, but the politicians were in a complete no win situation. Two weeks before Christmas a national newspaper ran a poll in which 68% of those questioned said they favoured an easing of restrictions. Three weeks later the same paper did a poll which found that 68% of those questioned wanted tougher restrictions!
The advent of the more infectious strains of the disease that have come from the UK and South Africa have also led to the massive increases in cases, illness and deaths. So in many ways we have the ‘perfect storm’ with regard to this virus. It’s not all the fault of the politicians. The failure of personal responsibility has also been a huge factor.

I totally agree that we need the level five restrictions at the moment as we have to bring the numbers down. But those who comment on this situation in the national media need to realise the responsibility that they have and what they are saying.

There are many people who are hanging on every word that is said about this virus in the national media. The situation is very serious for certain but there is an onus on people not to make it worse than it is. In the past two weeks I have heard one qualified medical person say that no one should go outside their homes AT ALL. Another so called expert said over the weekend that it will be two years before the restrictions will be lifted. One of the celebrity doctors who never leaves the national airwaves, Sam McConkey, predicted at the start of this crisis that we would have between 80,000 and 120,000 deaths from the virus.

There are so many people whose mental health has been affected by the restrictions, isolation, unemployment and loss of their businesses, never mind the loss of loved ones. The last thing they need to hear are these ‘experts’ with their ‘worst case scenarios’. The news is bad enough as it it. There is no need for people to be making it worse.

I want to get back to work. I want things to return to normal but for the moment we must follow the guidelines. It is our only hope until we are vaccinated.

Stay Safe People

COVID 19 – THE LATEST- RTE TOO

WEDNESDAY 6TH JANUARY 2021

As we know since Christmas the problem with covid-19 has spiralled out of control. The numbers are now worse than anyone in NEPHET projected and we are in danger of our health service being overwhelmed altogether. Despite a lot of the rubbish that we are seeing on Twitter and other social media the blame lies squarely with the people themselves because it is clear that there are many who have totally ignored the guidelines.

Anyone who reads my posts regularly will know that I have a serious problem with the way this pandemic has been handled by the authorities and indeed the national media, but the blatant disregard that many people have shown for the rules to prevent the spread of this virus is to blame for the situation we are in at the moment. It is very frustrating for the rest of us who have been trying hard to comply with the regulations.

I am aware of scores of shebeens that have been set up in recent months which are doing a roaring trade and I know of stories of people being in packed public houses right up to Christmas Eve. Not alone that, but there have been many birthday parties, get-togethers, and piss-ups in various houses throughout the country over Christmas too. All you have to do is look at Facebook to see what has been going on.

There is no one who enjoys a few pints and the craic more than I do and some of my work, is related to the pubs being open, has been lost. But we are now paying the price for people ignoring the pleas of the authorities. It will be April at the earliest before we will get out of this chronic situation. I don’t know about the rest of the population but I want things to return to normal as soon as possible.

Blaming the politicians is also a total waste of time. They are in a complete no win situation. On one side we had NEPHET who want the entire economy closed down while on the other side every lobby group in the country were dragging out of them to leave things open. No matter what they did they were going to be wrong. By the way I do not support any political party nor hold a torch for any politician. The politicians were trusting the people to do the right thing and in a lot of cases they were let down.

Now the hospitals and the frontline staff will be under severe pressure as a result of the massive rise in cases. I just hope that we can all survive without catching the virus and even worse ending up in hospital. It’s a desperate situation at the moment.

The big hope for us all are the vaccines. However I would be very fearful about the roll-out of that programme given that it is being run by the HSE. Their record in administering national programmes is not good over the years but let’s not be too critical before this programme gets a chance to get going. So far it looks painfully slow.

Remember if the people who are not following the guidelines are costing people their health and their lives (which they are), the slow roll out of the vaccination programme will also cost people their health and their lives to it is imperative that we get it right.

People have got to stay at home for four or five weeks until we get a handle on this virus.

RTE ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

On a completely separate issue, the controversial sketch on the New Year’s Eve show on RTE (which I was watching) was probably the lowest of the low I have ever seen on any TV station in terms of bad taste.

I am certainly no ’Holy Joe’ and have been as critical of the Catholic Church and what they have done in Irish society over the decades, but this totally unfunny sketch went way too far.

Accusing God of sexually abusing Mary and being hauled away to serve a jail sentence? RTE are lucky that we are living in Ireland. If that sketch was shown in any other country (I’m thinking about France, the USA or even in the UK) and particularly in the Middle East heavens knows what the repercussions would have been for those responsible.

The bright spark that came up with that sketch should be shown the door and asked not to come back. There are also serious questions to be answered for the programme editors who thought that that it was good enough to be shown to the nation on New Year’s Eve.

2020 – The Year From Hell

For a lot of people the past year has been the year from hell. Little did we know when we were coming home in the car from the Connacht U-20 final in Tuam in March that in the space of a week everything would have changed.

The advent of the virus was not the fault of anyone here in this country but the way we have dealt with it will have the most serious of implications for a lot of people people for many years to some and it is not being talked about hardly at all.

Firstly is has to be said that the bottom line is that the advent of the virus has not affected a large cohort of the population at all. In fact there are people, particularly those in the public sector, and there are many others in the private sector too who have actually benefitted financially from the arrival of the pandemic. And by the way, I say good luck to them too.

These are people whose pay checks are guaranteed every month or who are working in industries which have not been affected at all. They have not been able to spend their salaries on things like holidays, restaurants and other non essentials and so many are far better off financially.

However there are hundreds of thousands of others (and I am in that category) who have been mostly out of work since. There are many businesses which have closed since March and they will not be opening again too.

I am not ignoring the severity of this disease or indeed the people who have lost loved ones as a result of it’s arrival. It is a horrible, infectious and dangerous virus but there are many consequences of this pandemic that are not being spoken about at all. All we are interested in is case numbers and lockdown details.

The amount of mental health problems rife in the community is a huge and growing problem and we have seen a spike in suicides in recent months and people withdrawing from society altogether.

Personally I am aware of many people who are living alone and who are in despair as this situation drags on. I am also aware of people who have businesses who are convinced that they will never open them again and they are at their wits end. As I write this we are expecting another Level 5 lockdown for at least two months. There will be a tsunami of mental health problems when this is over unfortunately.

The doctors and the people in the HSE have a very difficult job to do and in the past nine months there is a cohort of medics who are now household names because of their influential roles in the way we deal with this virus.

They have a major and very important role to play, but putting these people up on a pedestal and suggesting they should be named ‘people of the year’ is ridiculous. A lot of these same people have presided over some of the biggest medical disasters in the history of the state in the past decade, which is conveniently forgotten about by many. They are paid huge money for what they do and their decisions have profound implications for every member of society. Their input is vital but at the end of the day they are advisors only.

The real heroes are the frontline staff like the nurses and doctors, who are dealing with sick people every day of the week. They deserve the praise and not the celebrity doctors.

I am certainly no follower of any political party but I have a lot of sympathy for the position of the authorities at the moment. The Government has to have public health and safety as a priority but they have also to consider the economic implications of every decision they take. They are in a no-win situation whatever they do. Make no mistake when all this is over there will be an economic mess the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetime. It will take generations to sort it out.

The vaccines are the biggest hope for all ordinary members of society and I sincerely hope that we can get this roll-out right. Past experience of the HSE running very important public health initiatives is not very encouraging. But let’s not criticise before the campaign is up and running.

My heart goes out to young people in all this. People in the older age groups are well able to look after themselves and have had their fun over the years but the younger people’s lives have been ruined over the past 10 months. For that group alone I hope we can return to normal as soon as possible they have missed out on so much.

To all the people who lost loved ones this year, it has been a terrible ordeal that no one could say goodbye properly. There is a lot of pent-up grief among the population as a result of this.

Apart from family, sport and music have kept me sane this year. Out walking every day, to be able to listen to some great tunes instead of the daily diet of doom and gloom on the news programmes is a great relief. The sport was also a God-send. It was brilliant to have been involved in the streaming of the local club championship games here in the county and fair play to the GAA for running their inter-county championships at all grades too. It shortened the year for many.

To be able to watch the Soccer, Rugby, Golf, Horse Racing, and all the other sport was a tonic for me and for most of the country. Hopefully we can get to go to a few sporting events in 2021.

I for one will not be one bit sorry to see the back of 2020.

It was truly the year from hell.

Stay safe people.

Covid 19 – A Diary Part 16 to 20

A Diary – Part 17

Thursday 28th May

When I started doing this diary (about twice a week) if you told me that it would extend to 10 parts I would have been casting doubts on your judgement and sanity, but here we are at part 17,and it looks like the situation we are in could last into 2021 and beyond the way it is going.We will go to part 20 and review it after that!

The general situation is encouraging, and when you hear one of the health experts say on Morning Ireland this week that the disease has been ‘almost eliminated from the community’ it gives great hope. But anyone who thinks that we are out of the woods yet is mistaken. There is clearly a long way to go.

Nevertheless, the pace of the re-opening of our economy seems very slow. Not alone are we learning more and more about this deadly virus every day as a people, but so are the health professionals who have been making decisions on our behalf for the past three months.

Those health professionals have been doing a great job but it is becoming clearer with every passing day that we have to get the country back working and we have to learn to live with this virus. All shops should be open as long as they follow the guidelines for instance.

If Dunnes and Tesco and the other big shops are allowed to be open then smaller shops should be as well. It’s still a long time to wait until August the 10th when the final phase of the re-opening is scheduled. Pubs and restaurants are a different matter I will admit that much.

I read today where summer camps such as the GAA Cul camps will most likely be going ahead and I heartily welcome that, Young kids, who have very little chance of ever catching this virus deserve to be allowed out in the fresh air to enjoy some sort of life after the lock down as long as the camps are well run.

I have said it before but my heart also goes out to young people from the ages of 14 to 30. When we were that age we had school dances and hops, festivals, concerts, matches, dances, nightclubs, ceili’s and every manner of event where one could meet other young people to socialise and inter-act . All that is now gone. Will people ever dance with anyone else other than members of their own family again? It is a truly depressing thought if that turns out to be the case. It’s also a fact that the chances of any of those young people picking up summers jobs this year are almost nil.

I suspect that along with everyone else who has been severely affected by this situation that I have good days and not so good days. Sometimes it is hard to grapple with the enormity of what has happened over the past three months.

Some days it is so easy to get into the depths of despair as you realise that your whole world has been changed and disrupted. When you get used to getting up early in the day and going to work for all of your life it is very difficult to adjust to this new situation. I have had a number of those days but thankfully far more good ones than bad.

Music has always been a huge part of my life and now, save for playing a few tunes on the lap top, it looks like it will be a long time before we hear any kind of music in a pub or restaurant or hotel or anywhere else. Like the GAA championship it’s a huge hole in my life this year.

Our continuing saving grace is the beautiful weather. Today I take a walk for the 75th day in a row since this all started which is a big plus for me. It is also a blessing to be living in a place like Roscommon where there is plenty of space and places to walk and take exercise and breathe in the fresh air.

The Ros FM programme has been a life-saver for me. Although it is a voluntary effort, it has given me a focus and a purpose and gets me out of the house for a few hours every day during the week. Myself and Dan Dooner are thrilled that it has been a success because we have put a lot of work into it.

We still don’t have a Government and we need one badly. The health professionals’ advice is vital and so important but it needs to be balanced by pragmatic and practical advice on re-opening the economy and getting our lives back on track.

I spoke to a local senior medical professional this week (a doctor) who remarked to me that if the health professionals alone are left to formulate how we exit from this situation then the economy will be headed for the biggest recession since the famine. It was a remarkable but very honest statement from a medical professional who also says we will have to learn to live with the virus for the foreseeable future and he agreed that young people from the ages of 15 to 30 are being totally forgotten about.
It seemed like a lot of sense to me.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 18

Wednesday 3rd June

Under normal circumstances the Leaving and Junior Cert exams would be starting today but there are doubts whether we will ever see them again and especially in the format that we were used to. The future of third level students and how they are going to proceed from now on is another consequence of this pandemic. But that’s for another day.

There are still cases and deaths being reported around the country but there is justifiable optimism that the measures that have been taken by the people of the country have paid off. However the evidence over the past couple of weeks of beautiful weather would suggest that there is fairly widespread flouting of the rules on social distancing.

Locally I know that in places like Portrun and Ballyleague at the weekend there were hundreds of young people who were out swimming and enjoying the sunshine. I’m sure it was the same situation all over the country too. I have a lot of sympathy for the younger generation who have been largely ignored since this situation has began but we have got to be careful as a society. The last thing we need is for any restrictions to be re-imposed.

The biggest scandal of all in this country at the moment is the apparent complete lack of urgency by our elected politicians to form a Government. We went to the polls on February the 8th and there is not even the remotest sign of a resolution with the country facing it’s biggest recession in the history of the state and with many huge decisions to be taken on several fronts. It’s a shocking disgrace that four months on there is very little movement.

The Greens need 66% of their membership to agree to go into Government and from what I can gather that has no chance of happening. We could be back to square one by the end of next week. Fianna Fail and Fine Gaels in particular should hang their heads in shame at the situation.They just don’t seem to grasp the enormity of the situation we are in at the moment.

While the politicians continue to do everything except the job that they were elected to do we have a number of Ministers like Regina Doherty, Shane Ross and others who are still in office, getting paid and making decisions despite the fact that they lost their seats in the election.

The medical people and civil servants are now running the country and I am very surprised that there is not far more of a controversy about this among the general public. No one seems to care

Monday is the 8th of June and it will see another phase of the re-opening of the economy, and while Ireland seems to be doing well generally , for people like me who are out of work and who look like there will be no going back anytime soon, the situation is dragging out and it seems like things will never return to normal. I am not a supporter of the ultra cautious approach which we are taking here.

But we have to be patient I suppose. At least sport is returning. There is top quality racing at the weekend in the UK and the Premier League will be back next week which is something. But the absence of the GAA activity is very hard to get used to. It’s only when there are no games to go to that you realise just how much a part of your life that it is.

I hope that the kids are allowed to get back out in the fresh air at GAA clubs throughout the country soon. Even if there are no games it will be good for everyone’s mental well-being.

Two other things have come up in the past week. The covid-19 pandemic has meant that almost all our health services have been geared towards treating that disease, but several other very serious conditions have been ignored as a result.

People are not going to the doctor or to hospital if they have heart problems or are worried about cancer. Screening has taken a back seat and there will be huge problems ahead as very serious conditions will be missed as a result and there will be major, and even possibly fatal implications for the health service down the line
.
The other very sad thing over the past week has been the situation in the USA. It’s a country that I love. I lived and worked there for a year and have been back to visit at least a dozen times since. It’s no co-incidence that the level of hatred and division in the USA has gone up several levels since President Donald Trump has been elected. He is the most divisive President that we have seen in our lifetime and there is a real possibility that this man could actually get re-elected later this year, despite everything that is going on.

My fear would be that while the situation there now is very dangerous, it is going to get worse as the election campaign really gets going later in the year. I’m not a huge Joe Biden fan either and I wonder is he the man to defeat Trump.

It is truly amazing that Trump retains such a a big core support. Some one remarked on a news programme last week that Trump could shoot someone dead live on TV and not lose much of his core support which is probably true but very, very sad. You only have to look at how he has handled the virus outbreak to see just how unsuited and arrogant he is for high office never mind to be the President of the USA.

This great country is being torn apart and it is set to get worse over the next few months.

In the meantime I wish all the people who are going back to work in the next week the very best of luck. I wish I was among them but I live in hope.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 19

Tuesday 9th June

All the old clichés have been rolled out since the weekend and the most used one has probably been ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. There is no doubt that the last four of five days have been the most positive period that we have had since this pandemic totally changed our lives three and a half months ago.

The Irish people (well, the vast majority of them) have done brilliantly and have followed the guidelines to the point where the authorities have decided to speed up the exit from lock down. As a result there is no doubt that there is pep in the step of everyone in the past few days that that certainly includes yours truly. It means that I might even get back to some sort of work over the next couple of months, which would be brilliant. The fingers are now crossed!

It would be fantastic to see the GAA matches back and even if it was only club action it would be a great relief to us all. However behind all the euphoria that we have seen since the weekend, we will have to recognise that not all players will be happy to return to training or playing for whatever reason and we will all have to respect that choice. But that’s for another day in 6 or 8 weeks time.

It was heartwarming to drive down the town of Roscommon on Monday and see most of the shops open again. These are small shops operated by local people and who have been closed for 12 weeks. I hope that there is big local support for those shops now to help them get back on their feet. That’s so vital if we want the rural economy to survive.

It is also so positive to see the economy in general starting slowly but I hope the readers will not mind if I sound a note of caution. Up to now the medical people and the politicians have made the decisions for us. As the country comes out of lock down, the onus will revert to individuals to observe the rules and people will have to be sensible. The last thing we want is for another lock down to be imposed if there is a fresh surge of cases.

Readers of this diary will know that I have been pleading for the restrictions to be relaxed a bit quicker but I also realise the responsibility for the health of the community lies with every single person to pay attention to the advice we are being given. We cannot afford to go back to a lock down situation for so many reasons.

Live sport is returning as the weeks go on and for a sports fanatic like me that is great news. The Premier League, the Championship, The Spanish League and the American Golf will all be on our screens from this weekend on and that will signal that the world is emerging from the grip of this virus.

When things were normal I would watch only news and sports programmes on TV and very little else. However since this situation has arose I have watched several box sets including Narcos, Narcos Mexico, The Crown (which I enjoyed) .Billions, Leeds United Take Me Home (I’m serious), Sunderland Till I die (a great series) and I am currently watching The Last Dance which is as fine a series as I have ever watched and essential viewing for any sports fan. I have also watched The Bundesliga and UK Horse Racing which I would normally not watch at all. All that plus the fact that I have not missed a day walking since the 14th March! It’s been a fundamental change of lifestyle in common with hundreds of thousands of others.

We have come a long way surely and the signs are good at the moment but it would be wise not to forget that this virus has taken a massive toll on a lot of people in our country and society that we might not be aware of.

Over the last week or so I have met many, mostly from the older generation who are still terrified of getting the virus and who have been cooped up in their homes for the past three and a half months. Make no mistake, this has been very, very tough on many people. In some cases it has broken their spirit. It is one of the things we have got to bear this in mind as we emerge from the biggest public health emergency in 100 years.

We are on the way out of this but we have to be very careful. We certainly do not want to go back to where we were. It would finish a lot of people mentally. I am hoping that the next part of this diary will be my last one. It has been a good week for sure.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 20

Monday 15th June

The last diary entry highlighted the positivity of the news coming from a lot of sectors and that news has continued to roll thankfully. Today the shopping centres will re-open and for many Irish people the news that club GAA action will return at the end of July is fantastic news.

But despite our joy there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome by everyone concerned. The GAA is an amateur organisation and every single club AND every team within that club will have to appoint someone as a covid officer responsible for the application of the rules and regulations. That position will be a very onerous one carrying huge responsibilities. It will be easy enough to find such people to volunteer for the adult teams but there are big problems ahead getting people to fulfil those roles for every single team especially underage teams. The GAA will also have to pay attention to the safety of players and team officials, gate collectors, referees and umpires never mind the spectators. It will be a massive undertaking job for the association.

But it is fantastic to see live sport back on our TV screens again. There was a brilliant story in Racing at the weekend when trainer Ger Lyons and jockey Colin Keane won the Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh on Saturday. A victory for the small man which is always great to see.

The Golf returned at the weekend too and there was plenty of drama iin Texas as Daniel Berger emerged victorious after a number of twists and turns. This week the Premier League returns and the Championship is back at the weekend.
It was also fantastic to see the scenes from New Zealand at the weekend where they had a dramatic return to their Rugby season with a full-contact Super 14 match played in front of a packed stadium. It shows that normal life can resume.

It also looks as if we are going to have a Government after four months of stalling and throwing shapes. What i that government will be like for the people of rural Ireland in particular remains to be seen. But the politicians have been very slow to get their act together in the face of the biggest crisis that the country has faced since the foundation of the state. They will have many huge decisions to take to steer us out of this crisis. It’s time they got off their arses and went to work on behalf of the people who elected them.

Personally, there is still not much sign of a return to work although the fact that the GAA season is about to get underway in August gives one a glimmer of hope in that regard.

But the chances of the pub scene coming back anywhere near where it was are remote to say the least. I’m aware of people who were back in a pub situation in Canada over the weekend (they opened the pubs there last week) and the regulations were so strict that they were sorry that they didn’t stay at home because they didn’t enjoy it at all. That doesn’t bode well for what is likely to happen here.

The numbers of cases here are falling all the time and the people of the country have made huge sacrifices to get us to where we are. But we are certainly not out of the wood by a long way. The increased activity and the re-opening of the economy, welcome as it is, means that the chances of infection grow every day. The fear of a second wave remains ever-present but the country must re-open.

This day two weeks the hairdressers and barbers will be back in business (thank God!) and the hotels will re-open as well. People will be able to go to mass soon too which is also a big boost to It’s all very positive and the good weather has meant that personally I have taken more exercise since this started than I have done in the past twenty years.

But there are still a lot of people in our community who are living in fear and terrified of being infected by this deadly virus.
It has disrupted our lives in ways that we never thought possible but hopefully we can begin the long road to a return to normal life as the year continues.

I don’t know if this will be the last diary entry as the country is opening again, and even the programme that myself and Dan Dooner have been doing on Ros FM is also coming to an end on Friday week. It’s a sign that things are returning to normal.

Put it this way. If this diary does return it will be a sign that we are back in trouble again. So hopefully this is the end of it!

Thanks for reading it over the past four months.

Stay Safe People

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