Ireland v Republic of Ireland

Two Irish teams were on pitches on the opposite side of the world playing their respective World Champions within 36 hours of each other this last week. In soccer, our boys in green took on the mighty Spanish in Gdansk, the current European and World Champions and lost miserably despite the wonderful support of c.20,000 very forgiving fans. In New Zealand, our rugby team returned for a second bite of the apple against the formidable All Blacks in Christchurch and almost beat them, despite having minimal support.

Lambs before the slaughter

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Elegant Matadors preparing for the kill

A sea of Green fans fails to inspire limp Irish team

15 Irish warriors face down the fearsome Haka

Roy has a go at low standards in the Irish camp

Whether we like it or not, Roy Keane told us a few uncomfortable home truths after the game against Spain about our standards and expectations. Speaking as an expert panellist on ITV, he lambasted the Irish performance and also the singing of the fans despite the trouncing being handed out by the World Champions. Largely, I have to say I agree with his core point but his delivery was OTT and to an extent, offensive. As he is probably one of the best players ever to pull on an Irish shirt and in his playing days, his standards were always for perfection, he is in a place to hand down criticism. This team has nothing like the quality of players assembled by Jack Charlton so it is unfair to be overly harsh on them.

Giovanni Trappatoni has achieved his target of reaching a major championships but without players of sufficient quality to grace such a vaunted stage. There are rumours of dissent among the players, quality young players are being ignored and his ideas seem to focus on his way or no way – a recipe for disaster when other teams know the script before taking the pitch. Ireland is not producing the Roy Keanes, Liam Bradys, Paul Mc Graths etc at present and even if we were, Trap might ignore them! Many of his players now ply their trade in lower status teams and are not on the mercurial wages of many of their illustrious predecessors.

Enda calls for an all island Ireland team

Even though it is a political hot potato, maybe Enda Kenny is right – why not join forces with our fellow islanders north of the border and form an all island Ireland team. In the past, it would have been a delight to see George Best, Pat Jennings, John Giles and Liam Brady play together in green. There could be future talent waiting in the wings on either side of the border and what a joy it would be to see them playing as a united team. It works well in Rugby – where would this team be without Rory Best, Stephen Ferris, Andrew Trimble and previously such luminaries as Willie John Mc Bride, Mike Gibson and Trevor Ringland. We are too small of an overall population to be splitting our resources.

BOD has a go at the Kiwi defence

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Robbie Keane in better days

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you compare the leadership qualities of both Robbie Keane, Ireland’s soccer captain and Brian O Driscoll, our rugby captain, both are top scorers and multiple cap winners for their country, there is no comparison. O Driscoll appears to lay his life on the line everytime he wears the green of Ireland, while Keane, admittedly a trier, drifts in and out of games and often lets the head down if things are not going our way. Of course, his cause is not always helped by a very poor service from mediocre players, while O Driscoll has a lot of quality players all around him to help his case.

Roy Keane and Enda Kenny are shooting from the hip on different angles but our soccer team will not achieve miracles without the best talent available from this tiny island as a whole. We might be higher in the rubgy pecking order as only a relatively few nations play at the top level but our cause is helped immeasurably by being an all island team. As with the Peace Process, let us move forward towards sporting unity and maybe political unity might follow someday.

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Camino del Norte – Basque country – Day 1

A view of the Basque country from our alberque in Orio

On 15th May 2012, myself, my brother-in-law, Cormac Jevens and his friend, John Nolan arrived to the French border town of Hendaye to walk some or all of the Camino del Norte. Cormac and I were only going as far as Bilbao, while John was hoping to go all the way (c.830kms) to Santiago de Compostella.

The Basque country is in the foothills of the Pyrinees and is, to say the least, rather hilly. Our chosen coastal route via Irun/San Sebastian/Orio/Deba/Markina/Gernika/Bilbao of c.160kms was very much in this hilly mode. But what a beautiful countryside it was. Despite having 5 wet days out of our initial 7 in rain, the beauty still shone through.

A quick “confession” in Hotel Santiago, Hendaye, before heading for the Basque hills

Bridge on French/Spanish border

Santuario Guadaloupe outside Irun, our first mini-climb

View over Hendaye, France

The plaza in Pasaije San Juan – a beautiful basque village

Cormac answers a call of nature. Believe it or not, this outdoor facility is unisex!

Don Quixote and his Sancho Pansa in San Sebastian – a really beautiful city despite its industrial heritage.

When we arrived in San Sebastian, we were met by another peregrino (pilgrim), Alan Cronin, from Cork a mutual friend through my sister Mary, Cormac’s wife. Our days trek was of the order of 29kms in very warm conditions and it was nice to have someone else organising our accommodation, a Youth Hostel on the western fringe of the city. After a few hours sampling the cities food at 31 August and a beer, we retired for an early start on Thursday. Day 1 was very enjoyable, taking in the long ridge between Irun and Pasaije, a wonderful little fishing/ferry village and the final climb above the coast to bring us to San Sebastian.

One guilty image remains in my brain. As we descended towards Pasaije San Juan, we came across a ewe in distress on the forest path. Something or someone had damaged her throat, with blood visible around a recent wound. She was obviously close to dying, but we couldn’t do anything for her. Afterwards, a few days later, the thought occurred to me that we could possibly have smothered her to put the poor creature out of her misery. Too late. I hope she died soon after we left her.

Cloghoge Valley walk

Waterfall on Cloghoge Brook

Having completed 6 days walking on 2 sections of the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain last September, 2 of our group decided to try another section in May this year with another new pair. Our plan is to walk from the French border at Irun through the Basque country to Bilbao over a week or so. To get in shape for the tough Basque hill country, I have been doing walks around Wicklow, including the Cloghoge Valley between Loughs Dan and Tay.

David Hermans map of Cloghoge Valley

Using David Herman’s “Walker’s Companion – Ireland” as my guide, I set off on a beautiful early April afternoon from the car park overlooking Luggala, residence of Garech de Brun.

With my dog Toesun on his lead, we descended the steep hiilside to the valley floor alongside the Cloghoge river. All around us were deer grazing, numbering in their hundreds.

With Toesun sniffing the deer, I had my hands full trying to keep him in check as we wandered along above the river bank, enjoying the rustic pleasures that abounded around us. Following a rough roadway, we eventually made it to Lough Dan, where a beautiful spectacle awaited us.

With the afternoon sun shining through it, an oak tree welcomed us to the northern shore of the lough. Away from the deer now, Toesun was at last able to wander around sniffing the hedges and paddling in the stream. From here, I followed the directions along the shore to the beach at the northwest corner of the lough and looked up at the very steep climb that was to take me to the peak of Knocnacloghoge, towering above us.

Girding my loins, I started up the sheer side of the hill, resting every 30 steps or so. With Toesun taking some of the workload, I allowed him lead the way, holding firmly to his lead as he worked his way up, rock by rock. The stops allowed me to enjoy the fantastic scenery that was unfolding below us, the Wicklow Mountains were in view over the vista of Lough Dan.

Beauty abounds in the Wicklow Hills

Near the top, we stopped for another rest break and snacks. Around us were small remnants of the snow that had fallen on the mountains earlier in the week – very cooling on my sweaty brow.

After taking nearly an hour to climb up the 150m or so, I was glad to be able to move freely again once we crested the top. Our taget now was the peak of Knocknacloghoge Mountain across heather on mixed peaty and rocky ground. With the sun now on it’s evening retreat, it was important for us to keep moving and we eventually made it to our goal.

My shadow made it to the top!

Looking down the northern slope to Cloghoge Brook, I could see it was a lot kinder looking than the formidable southern slope we had just ascended. Setting off down the boggy slope, we made it to the right bank of the brook, but try as we may, there was no handy crossing point to get onto the recommended left bank. So with the sun dropping in the sky, I decided to keep following the bank down towards the valley floor. It was tricky at times but we made it in about 30 minutes.

The final leg was to work our way back up the roadway from the de Brun homestead, climbing to the car. In all we covered about 10kms (6 miles) in 4 hours. However, the climb from the shore of Lough Dan to the top of the mountain, a distance of c. 350m, took one and a half hours of that time. My dodgy knees survived, my muscles ached but it was a fabulous experience and a good tester for my upcoming Camino walk.

Round Ireland SailFest Fun Run

Get in on the action with Bart, Homer and friends.

This coming weekend on Sunday April 29th, the Round Ireland SailFest is organising a Fun Run/Walk over 5 miles around the town of Wicklow. This an ideal opportunity to put on your runners to boost your own fitness and help with our fundraising efforts for our Festival in June. All the family can take part and enjoy a few hours of fun. Entry is €20 for runners and €10 for walkers.

Come on down and run for fun this Sunday

You can win prizes, you are entitled to take part in another run on Saturday 23rd June for free and there will be spot prizes on the day. REGISTER online http://www.runireland.com/events/wicklow-sailfest-5-mile-run-walk  or if preferred, in person (Grand Hotel) from 9am until 9pm on Saturday, April 28th.

Be on the start next Sunday - run or walk, it's in a good cause.

 

Enniscorthy RFC do it again

Receiving the Leinster Junior Challenge Cup

My home town team, Enniscorthy Rugby Football Club, where I started playing the game as a kid and later as an adult for 5 or 6 years, won it’s 7th Provincial Towns 1sts Cup in its centenary year by defeating Tullow RFC at Portarlington yesterday, 15th April. With 4 successes way back in the 1920’s, another in 1963 and most recently before yesterday in 1989, they have proved to be remarkably consistant with wins roughly in each generation of it’s 100 year existence.

LBRFU President Stuart Bailey hands over PTC pennant to ERFC President Charlie Kavanagh

My first cousin, another Charlie Kavanagh, had the honour of being club president for this landmark year and relished accepting the accolades on behalf of the players and club. Another cousin Charlie, in company with his brothers and my nephew Terry, were kept up to date with events in the early hours of Monday morning down in Perth, Australia. This win literally reverbated around the world!

ERFC and TRFC line up for the National Anthem

Fans give vocal support

Both Tullow and Enniscorthy come with the reputation of being two of the best supported Junior clubs in Leinster and the huge crowd at Portarlington was testament to that. Supporters were 3 or 4 deep all around the ground, with opposing fans intermingling in good humour in the fine weather. Once the National Anthem was out of the way, the noise levels lifted and the game commenced.

Enniscorthy applying pressure

With the wind at their backs, ‘Scorthy were quickly out of the blocks and played most of the early 20 minutes well into the Tullow half.

Ross Barbour races in for 1st try

Good Tullow defense and an off day for kicking by the Enniscorthy fly half Ivan Poole kept them scoreless but eventually the pressure told and captain Ross Barbour crashed over for a well taken try, converted by Poole.

Ivan Poole about to kick for goal

Soon afterwards, Poole finally found his range with a penalty to leave the score 10 – 0.

Hughie O Neill dives in for try no. 2

With a few minutes to go to half time, ‘Scorthy winger Hughie O Neill weaved his way through several poor tackle attempts to score on the opposite wing, diving bravely under Tullow men to get his touch down to give his team a 15 point lead. Tullow were now in danger of being annihilated and responded with gusto. They totally dominated the last 5 minutes of the first half and were rewarded with 2 penalties to leave the half time score 15 – 6 in favour of the Wexford men.

Alan Jacob puts into a scrum for Enniscorthy

Having bossed the game in all areas of the pitch in the first half, it was up to Enniscorthy to hold their nerve and cool to contain a determined Tullow side in the second half. Scrums, lineouts and back play were all dominated by the Wexford men, with only their goal kicking letting them down. Now playing against the wind, indiscipline started to creep into the game and the ‘Scorthy open side flanker was lucky not to see yellow for throwing punches in front of the referee. Willie Canavan kicked a long range penalty to close the gap to 6 points. Not long afterwards, veteran forward and former Leinster hero, Deccie O Brien did however find himself cooling off in the sin bin for an offense. Tullow missed this kick and a few minutes later, Enniscorthy had another try from a determined forward drive that released the backline and Fiachra Ryan ran in for a 5 pointer in the corner. A few minutes later, Poole made it 23 – 12 and the game looked over.

Enniscorthy were playing well but Tullow just would not go away. With time running out, they applied a serious amount of pressure to the Enniscorthy try line, eventually forcing their way over for a try in the dying minutes. With the score at 23-17, they needed another try but the clock was against them and Enniscothy deservedly took their 7th PTC trophy win in their centenary year.

Championes, championes ole, ole ole.

Alan Jacob

President Charlie Kavanagh celebrates

Charlie Kavanagh, my namesake, made a speech on behalf of the victorious club, commiserating with Tullow and congratulating Portarlington on a well run event. He pointed out that scrumhalf Alan Jacob was the brother of Darren Jacob, the jockey who rode Neptune Collonges to Grand National glory the previous day, a very proud weekend for their parents and family. It was a fitting way to celebrate 100 years of rugby in Enniscorthy and all players and teams can take credit for the Clubs endurance and performance over that century. He made the point that he had to be home before Tuesday evening, as his wife was due back on Wednesday – a veiled reference to the last extended celebrations in 1989, when they beat Mullingar to lift the PTC.

It was great to be there to witness the success of my old club for which I still have great affection and strong family ties to. Rugby is alive and well in provincial Ireland and with Tullow producing current Ireland star, Sean O Brien, let’s hope these strong nurseries will prosper for several more years to come. Well done Enniscorthy Rugby Club – we’re proud of you all.