Great to watch LIVE GAA again

I didnt realise how much I loved GAA until this pandemic hit. During March, April, May, June, July, I watched replays (favourites of course being last 5 All Irelands!). Replays are great when interspersed with LIVE games. On their own, month after month, even watching great games becomes tedious.

COYBIB

Having watched The Toughest Summer last night the benefits of playing this year’s inter-county football championship are such for players and spectators alike, that everyone involved should do what they have to to get it up and running.

Everyone acknowledges that it won’t be straightforward. The Covid pandemic means things are rarely simple these days and there will be hurdles to overcome.

So it was great when club championships started. Suddenly the dream of an All Ireland championship was possible.

I’d play in front of Dessie and his dog


But for spectators, there’s joy of even watching ”live” inter-county games on the TV.


For the players? Michael Darragh Macauley probably captures their mood: “Give me 200 people, it will be a novelty but if that has to be zero, just Dessie Farrell and his dog, that’s what it is.”

A Dub supporter in Aus

Resilience and Solidarity

It’ll be called GOLFGATE. Elected reps and people of supposed standing and judgement in our society golfed and partied disregarding all health precautions to restrict the spread of Covid-19.

Those of us who had endured the sacrifices of lockdown needed words of inspiration. And Dr. Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health provided them:

“I know that at times we can all feel powerless against COVID-19. But we are not.
“Each of us has a range of simple tools at our disposal – knowing the risks, washing our hands, not touching our faces, keeping physically distant, avoiding crowds, limiting visitors to our homes, and wearing a face covering.

Dr. Ronan Glynn

“But the most powerful tool of all remains our solidarity with one another – by encouraging each other to stick with the basic measures and by continuing to act and adapt together we can suppress the transmission of this virus once again.”

The passing of Jackie Charlton August 2020

I couldn’t believe I would be so saddened to hear of the passing of a football manager – But I was. Jack Charlton was such a part of our life in 32 for a decade.

He personified a golden era in Irish football-the Italia 90 campaign being one of pure joy for the O’Loughlin family as we sent our representatives to Italy for the 1990 World Cup. 

And we, at home, might as well have been there. We knew all the support songs. I even played one of them – We’re all part of Jackie’s Army – at the end of year mass in Milltown by special request of the PP. (I was the official organist there – God help us!). I was also the band conductor and on the afternoons of matches the band sat on the wall outside the school giving (strange but enthusiastic!) renditions of “Ole, Ole. Ole!” and “Jackie’s Army” with lots of flag waving and singing by non-band students.   

Ole. Ole. Ole

We had high expectations for USA World Cup 1994 and “knew” it was the heat of New York and the humidity of Florida that brought about our downfall. I still have the video of Jim’s appearance on the Nine o’clock News singing pre-match in Miami. 

Staying over in Granny’s

Magical memories.

MRS LYNCH

Mrs. Lynch was one of our neighbours. We lived in ‘The Park’; she lived in ‘The Crescent’ – St Mary’s Crescent to be precise. She did the dinners (meals for the elderly) in the Centre (Walkinstown Social Service Centre) with Mam. Now the only times I meet her are at old neighbours’ funerals and she’s still hale and hearty and loves a chat and some news

No wonder we were so excited when she started to make regular appearances on TV. It’s as if, by association, we too have some fame.

Mrs Lynch of the Crescent

Letters from Lockdown is a series of short films, each featuring a letter from one person to another, a reflection on an aspect of the situation we all find ourselves in, whether it is separation from loved ones, concerns about mental health, the breakdown of the rituals we hold so dear…

Margaret Lynch was born 100 years ago in April 1920. While she was busy cocooning, her great grandson, Daniel, was born, 100 years and one day after she was. She has yet to get to hold him but has taken the opportunity to write him a letter, about her life, her feelings about lockdown, and about him, the newest arrival to her large clan. 

Growing up in Inchicore, she was born at a tumultuous time in Irish history, the War of Independence. Although she was too young to recall that,  she well remembers the Second World War and the effects it had on Ireland. She married just after World War 2 ended at the age of 25 to Michael and went on to have 6 children, the youngest of whom  is going to be an OAP on his next birthday! She has 19 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren. Now, at the age of 100 she is living through another troubling time in history, with the Covid 19 crisis of 2020. 

100 years and a day between birthdays

During this period of lockdown, Margaret has been taking cocooning seriously but this means she hasn’t been able to do the things she wants. The oldest volunteer in Ireland, Margaret has had to stop visiting her local day centre where she normally volunteers twice a week.  She can’t get out for her walks, go shopping or get her hair done. Her large family is her saviour at this time. 

A Link to a Covid Poem

I had never heard of Tomos Roberts before April 2020. Then I happened to hear his poem “The Great Realisation,” on YouTube and thought it was the most wonderful commentary on the pandemic I had heard. Little did I realize that millions of others thought the same or that, in a few short weeks, it had been translated into multiple languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian. Since the poem was released, Roberts has been flooded with requests, all urging Roberts to turn his virtual tale into a bound book that parents can read to their own children.

I transcribed it into My Covid Diary describing it as a simple rhyming bedtime story I hoped my grandchild would read to his children, a future commentary on our 2020 crisis. And I hope these little ones of the future will react as Roberts’ little brother, Cai, does on the YouTube presentation. “Tell me the one about the virus again”. “Why did it take a virus to bring people back together?” Cai asks toward the end. “Sometimes,” Roberts replies, “you have to get sick, my boy, before you get better.”

Although the poem deals with the heavy themes of corporate greed, familial alienation, the pandemic, it has a happy ending as a “great realisation” sparked by the scourge.

The stories I listened to as a child, and that later I read to my children were about kings and queens and witches. They told about a variety of miseries and misfortunes that befell children; however, they ended up ‘happy ever after’ and taught lessons of friendship and trust and bravery and resilience. So here is the modern day equivalent where we hear about corporate greed, familial alienation, the pandemic. And  why shouldn’t this pandemic bring good as well as disruption. Instead of going back to ‘normal’ why can’t go somewhere even better than before?

There have been some incredibly dark times in human history, followed by times of light and hope: wars followed by peace, pandemics followed wellness. We go through difficult and dark times but they don’t last forever. The human spirit is so resilient and we rise again. Listen to this amazing poem and be lulled by the soft sleepy music in the background to high hopes and pleasant dreams.

Shops that are gone but not forgotten

Last week Pricewatch in The Irish Times asked about the shops which have closed that people missed the most.

The response was reportedly “enormous” as people remembered book shops, supermarkets, corner-shop institutions, …. Reading the report I could not believe how many of them were my favourites and had featured very strongly in my life.

Xtra-Vision

The hours I spent in Xtra-Vision with the lads choosing “our weekend movie” always age appropriate, costing £3 fbor 24 hours, risking a massive fine if late – gone forever.

Quinnsworth

Pat Quinn opened his first supermarket in Stillorgan in December 1966 and very shortly after 3 more stores were opened – leading to the above ad. Our Quinsworth was in the Crumlin Shopping Centre. As the nearest bank to my workplace was also there, at least once a month it provided for some retail therapy.

Superquinn

We also had Superquinn on the Walkinsyown Road, a bit more expensive than Quinsworth but with far better quality. Jim’s friend worked there – in the fruit and veg department I think. They had an amazing bakery and when I started to do my own household shopping – it was a great place to stock up for a party! Posh food!

Roches Stores

Roches Stores was the shop for buying Wedding Presents – as you could bring almost anything back and exchange it for what you wanted. In an era when you might get 5 toasters and 6 kettles as presents, that was a great service. No wedding lists in those days.

Woolworths

Woolworth’s on Grafton Street – an array of sweets inside the door that was second to none! On a school tour to Limerick, Woolworth’s was the shop of choice – all sorts of souvenirs, goodies and impractical gifts could be purchased there!

Switzers

OMG – the memories of our Christmas visit to town to see the lights! Switzers elaborate Christmas windows full of fairytale winter/snow scenes.

Peats World of Electronics

When we first started to go “into town” alone, we usually hit for Henry Street. Parallel to Henry Street was Parnell Street and any sort of odd electrical device that might be needed “was only available” in Peats. Later it was the shop of choice for TVs, stereos, cameras.

Boyers & Co

Boyers was the Arnotts of the working classes. It was the “sensible/reasonable” shop of our parents and the shop I dreaded; it became a war between fashion and sense, style and bargain. It was the shop where you bought “a good coat”.

Clerys & Co

Although I cannot remember shopping in Clerys as a child, I remember the romantic stories my mother told of the ballroom at Clerys which hosted dances every night of the week with a full-time orchestra” and she could name the many couples who had met there. In my teens “under the clock at Clery’s” was almost an institutional part of Dublin culture, a meeting place for couples. I can still remember arriving there and waiting with hoards of others, hoping that “he” would arrive and “not stand you up”.

Guineys & Co

Guineys and Boyers were two of a kind as far as I was concerned, one at the top, the other at the end of Earl Street- bargain basement for parents when money was tight. It’s only when you have to do your own budgeting and refusing your own kids luxuries that you realise the importance of such shops.

Greene’s Bookshop

Greene’s book shop had to be my favourite book shop in Dublin. It was actually my yardstick for “good” bookshops and one that was almost impossible to better. Maybe I knew it had a special place in James Joyce’s heart because it was where Nora Barnacle worked, – but something made it old old school and wonderful.
There was the book-lined staircase, leading up to rooms crammed with old tomes. And the glass canopy and the tables of books left outside come rain or shine in summer and winter.
It started out as a book shop and lending library in 1843 and given its name by the then owner John Greene.

The Irish Yeast Company

My mother was a confectioner. She baked and decorated the most exquisite cakes for wedding, christenings, jubilees, Christmas. I can remember accompanying her to this shop for the many intricate decorations that were used to adorn the cakes. With a history stretching back to the 1750, this small building with a most memorable facade was one of the oldest shops in Dublin. It sold yeast – obviously – and all manner of cake-decorating paraphernalia and stepping through its doors was as close to time travel as anyone lucky enough to visit before the doors closed for the last time was likely to get.
I just have to write a bit of the history it was so special: The business first opened in 1894 in what had been the foyer of the George Hotel, which later became a bank and later still the Westin Hotel.
The Moreland family took over the business in the 1930s and John Moreland started work there when he left school at 16 in the early 1940s. He was still behind the counter, aged 91, in 2015. After he died, the shop closed and the building was eventually sold and is currently being redeveloped.

The Worm Moon

I missed the first supermoon of 2020 – busy having knee replacements! Amazing recovery allows me to consider celestial events again and report that the second supermoon of 2020 is set to light up the night sky and delight skygazers this evening (if the clouds clear).

It is dubbed the “worm moon” and will be visible from 5.30pm.

But how did it get its name?

Royal Observatory astronomer Emily Drabek-Maunder said: “The March full moon is known as the worm moon, named after earthworms that emerge towards the beginning of spring as the ground thaws.

This full moon will also be a supermoon, meaning it will appear about 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter in the sky as it reaches its closest point to Earth.

The moon will set in the west at sunrise on Tuesday morning around 7.13am.

GAA and the Gospel according to John


One of Ireland’s most famous GAA supporters, Frank Hogan, who spread the gospel from the terraces with his yellow sign “John 3:7”, has died at the age of 81.

Although a Limerick man, his popularity among the wider GAA family, transcended county lines.

People called him ‘John’ because of the sign. He went to All-Ireland Finals with no ticket and never failed to get in.

When Derry won the All-Ireland back in the 90s, he went up to Derry for the homecoming celebrations and he slept in his car.

He said he got the inspiration for the sign when watching the 1987 Wimbledon men’s final when Pat Cash beat Ivan Lendl. As the victorious Australian climbed through the crowds to get to his family and supporters, Hogan saw a man holding a car number plate with the message John 3:16 and he decided to do likewise for hurling and Gaelic football.

John 3:7 reads: “Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again”.
In early years the Christian evangelist had a sign that read John 3:16, the bible verse that states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

A committed Christian evangelist, Hogan’s John 3:7 sign was a fixture at GAA matches for over three decades, usually being held aloft on Hill 16 and other terraces around the country whenever a score was landed. 

All ireland 2004 Kerry v Mayo


Mr Hogan’s famous sign was once stolen as it travelled home by train from an outing in Croke Park in 2009. It was later recovered by gardaí after it was left in a public place, and returned to Mr Hogan.

Munich remembered

Harry Gregg died today

My teen years coincided with the rebuilding of one of the greatest teams seen in England, Man Utd. Manager, Matt Busby had a winning wonder team in the late 50s. However, the Munich Air Disaster robbed him of some of the era’s greatest players. Once he had recovered from his own injuries, he set about forging another side to take the world by storm.

I was hardly a fanatic Man Utd fan as my football knowledge was pretty scant but the story of the air disaster captured my interest.

The signing and debut of the superstar from Belfast, George Best with his film-star looks however made me an eventual life long fan of Man Utd. The lads bought me a match ticket and stadium tour apart of a weekend in Manchester for my 50th birthday.

The death of Harry Gregg, the Man Utd goalie of that era today caused me to reread articles of the time. This poem was written by Harry about the Busby Babes and is a particularly touching account if the disaster.

The Busby Babes

How they laughed, they loved and played the game together
Played the game and gave it every ounce of life
And the crowds they thronged to see such free young spirits
My good God, there wasn’t many who came home
Roger Byrne, Mark Jones and Salford’s Eddie Colman
Tommy Taylor, Geoffrey Bent and David Pegg
Duncan Edwards, Dublin’s own boy Liam Whelan
My good God, there wasn’t any who came home
There are those gone down that long, long road before us
But each morn we try and keep them in our sight
In memories’ eyes, the Busby Babes are all immortal
The Red Devil spirit lives and never died. (Harry Gregg)