Included along with the works of the late Paddy Clarke and his Oriel Park counterpart, Jim Murphy, also sadly gone to his reward. (Pic: Sportsfile)
This is being written on Friday afternoon, March 20. No danger, therefore, of deadlines being missed.
These are extraordinary times, an attack being mounted on us all by coronavirus. On the wings are cabin fever and stress, not feeding the centre-forward, but off it.
Age has me among the vulnerable. Instructions are to stay under house arrest. Parole allows for a walk a few times a day. That’s appreciated by me and, I’m sure, the many others I meet along the way. We observe the rules; not among them is the one that forbids us from saying hello.
The sun is shining, the birds are singing and Dundalk Bay’s tide is on its way in. You’d think there was nothing wrong. Perhaps in sympathy with us, the fully-blossomed daffodils have their heads bowed lower than usual.
All of the Tipping’s Wood trees are the same dull colour, but, virus or no virus, come later in the year there’ll be 40 shades of green. And maybe the point-to-pointers will be back, galloping over the Bellurgan Park grounds. In the background, the Cooleys are a reminder of 19 years ago, their fields sheepless. That, however, is not unusual for this time of year. The next generation is making its way into the world in the farmyard barns.
There are many other hours to be passed - reading the dailies fills a few of them, doing bits and pieces about the place even less. There are books on the shelves, unopened in quite a while but now being taken down. They’re only thumbed through. I’m not a book-lover; because it was compulsory at the time when I masqueraded as a CBS student, Treasure Island is the only book I’ve read from front to back. Newspapers suffice, though having risen in cost to €4.50, the Racing Post is no longer on order.
The mix of books is eclectic, sport, politics and local. Most were gifts. Among the former are the tales of Alex Ferguson, Tony McCoy, Frankie Dettori, Peter O’Sullivan, Michael O’Hehir, and the racehorse Sea The Stars. There are others on soccer, tennis, golf, greyhounds and, not surprisingly, GAA.
The story of many Louth GAA clubs and others in some neighbouring counties are included along with the works of the late Paddy Clarke and his Oriel Park counterpart, Jim Murphy, also sadly gone to his reward.
I may have bought Eamon De Valera, written by Lord Longford and TP O’Neill, but am sure I was gifted the Bertie Ahern, Frank Aiken and Pádraig Faulkner autobiographies. There’s another on Aiken, The Irish Revolution.
There should by now be no doubt about the foot I kick with, and have done throughout my life, except for the four years I spent wielding the red pen of mass correction in this ’paper’s editorial chair. There was a need for impartiality then, and I hope it was accepted that I displayed it. I know that Arthur Morgan was first to congratulate me on my appointment, in 2000, Fergus O’Dowd sent me a card when I retired, and in between the angriest phone call I had came from one of Fianna Fail’s chief foot soldiers, Peter Sands.
Maybe I should collaborate with my school buddy, Seamus Kirk, telling the story of how this most decent of men began at the coalface that is the County Council before climbing the ladder to become Ceann Comhairle. He went through the ranks like his long-time sidekick, Dermot Ahern, and was named a Junior Minister for Agriculture along the way.
Kirk had me and a few others from the Dundalk Gaels club up in the Shelbourne Hotel for the launch of Bord Glas many years ago. He was Junior Minister then, and as his No1, Michael O’Kennedy, was needed in the Dáil to answer questions, the former St. Bride’s and county footballer was asked to preside.
Myself and other Ramparts reprobates had a planned meeting with Department of Education officials that day, making a case for a Lottery grant. On hearing this, Kirk suggested we should kill two birds with the one stone, and we readily agreed. We drank the bit in the Shebourne’s salubrious surroundings and got £10,000 lotto money, the first time Gaels scored a double since the senior championship and Cardinal O’Donnell Cup wins of 1942.
Con Houlihan’s Windfalls and More Than A Game are not out of place in company with Racing Lives and A Feast Of Clement Freud, both penned, of course, by the very readable CF.
Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots And Leaves should be avoided by those who believe punctuation is not important when putting pen to paper. I’ll stop reading if it’s ever deemed there is no further use for colons, semicolons, commas and even the latter’s first-cousins, the inverted.
Jack McQuillan’s Voices of Dundalk, published in 2004, is a masterpiece, a must-have for anyone who wants to know about the town’s outstanding personalities. Many of those featured are gone, but their lives and achievements still make interesting reading.
There’s no-one who better speaks from the altar than Fr Michael Murtagh, presently Dunleer’s Parish priest; as his St. Patrick’s Dundalk - An Anniversary Account portrays, he writes with the same clarity and authority.
And Knockbridge’s Pat O’Neill? The time and effort he spent on the Journal of Henry McClintock must have been enormous. Running to almost 1,000 pages, its research may have taken its toll on the author, whose recent death is lamented.
As this piece comes to the last furlong a few miles away, as the crow flies, the runners are getting ready to go to post for the 2.30 at Dowdallshill. Different from Cheltenham, Dundalk and other Irish meetings have been running behind closed doors.