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Life in the frontline can be tough for trophy homeowners

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

When Pat Kenny told us that the Frontline would be a different sort of current affairs show, he wasn’t joking – but even he must be surprised to find his own financial situation under infinitely greater scrutiny than that of the nation at large.

First Jack O’Connor – a man who could hardly be deemed to be living anywhere near the breadline himself, despite his socialist credentials – raised the issue of Pat’s ‘trophy home’ in Dalkey before apologising for talking what Pat termed ‘crap’.

Funnily enough he never apologised for talking it so many times before.

But then Alan O’Brien broke loose from the Frontline audience to wade into Pat on his wages and his big house and how the nation might be able to get rid of Mary Hanafin but there’s no chance of shifting Mr Kenny because he’s not up for re-election.

He did seem to concede in the course of his rant that Pat was worth a salary of somewhere in the region of €300,000, which is not far off half of what Pat now takes home ever since he took a 35 per cent cut from his high of €950,000.

Pat, in fairness, let him rant to his heart’s content and came out smelling of roses after his retort that everyone’s opinion was welcome on the Frontline, proving that he remains the coolest head in the tightest of corners.

And maybe stony-broke Ireland can no longer afford the luxury of a €900,000 or €600,000 presenter, but this is a lot better than Questions & Answers where there was as much chance of a real good row as there would be of late drink at the DUP annual conference.

Alan O’Brien is clearly a man with issues, but he might feel a lot better in himself now that he got quite a bit off his chest. Certainly Mary Hanafin has reason to be grateful because suddenly the threat of cuts to social welfare was wiped off the Frontline agenda.

Pat Kenny is perfectly entitled to put the tough questions to whomsoever he feels like; the problem now is that he is having to answer a growing amount of his own. And sometimes shooting the messenger isn’t off limits after all.

Gerry Ryan – that voice of the working classes and idol of the bored housewives – found himself strangely out of touch with both when he refused for so long to take a wage cut. See, it’s not just politicians who can occasionally be accused of living life in an ivory tower.

We’d all love to be dropping in on Bono – preferably from a height and attached to a large boulder – or hanging out with Gerald and Lisa, if only to prove that money can’t buy you everything.

But we’re not Premiership footballers or rock stars – or hacks for the Sunday Independent for that matter – so we have a pint which we pay for in our local pub and go home to our houses that do not boast a €1 million strip of wasteland to one side of it.

Pat Kenny is a fine broadcaster and, despite the ratings to date, the Frontline is a massive improvement on Q&A – and not only because of the unique style of audience participation.

But it’s hard to align questions on social welfare cuts with life in a plush Dalkey pile, even if it was paid for through the good times on the back of blood, sweat and tears shed in the radio and television studios of Montrose.

Alan O’Brien may never become the poster boy of the recession generation – he’s more likely to end up as a “Where Are They Now?” trivia question after his 15 minutes is over – and his outburst may have been well over the top.

But if you’re going to deliver the punches, you must learn to roll with a few too – because in these straitened times, the messengers can be up for a bullet as well.

Customer service has had its chips

The Restaurants Association of Ireland has warned that over 20,000 jobs are at risk in the sector.

The Association says 80 per cent of its members are losing money and one in three restaurants could close in the next six months with a potential loss of €700m to the economy.

Well they better get the news fast to Basil Fawlty, who is alive and well as masquerading as a restaurant manager in the heart of Galway.

We’ll spare his blushes and those of his restaurant by not naming them (this time) but if he reads this, he’d do well to rethink his views on customer service.

A week or so ago, four of us were out for dinner and like many in these changing times, we opted for the Early Bird menu with two courses for €19 – not a fortune but hardly a giveaway either.

One of the menu choices was a steak with mash.

Asked how I’d like this steak, I was told I could either have it medium or well done. But my request for medium to well done was out of the question – it could only be medium or well done. A further brush off the grill to take one of the pre-cooked mediums up to the next level was a step too far.

As to the possibility of changing the mash for chips – hardly an astonishing request given that chips were on the menu as well, and are hardly an unusual accompaniment to steak – that was also a non-runner. The steak – either medium or well but nowhere in between – came with mash and not with chips. You could have chips if you paid for them, but then they came in addition to the mash as opposed to instead of it.

And it wasn’t that they didn’t have chips – it did come with a battered fish of unknown origin whose life look like it ended from natural causes, given the withered size of it.

This might seem like a personal rant but it’s more down to the sense of frustration that such appalling customer service is still to be found in a city that depends on tourists to survive.

In fairness, it was an isolated case and it also explained why this restaurant had six other customers while its adjoining neighbour – where we’d actually wanted to go, if the truth was known – had a minimum 30 minute wait for a table on a wet Sunday night.

The fact that the meal was the worst I’ve ever been served – and there have been some bad ones in the past – was, pardon the pun, the icing on the cake.

And it didn’t seem to come as a huge shock to the manager that I was refusing to pay for it. He looked like a man who’d been down this road once or twice before.

We won’t be going back there but I’m sure that won’t bother the management. What would worry me more is if we’d been visitors to Galway and that this shoddy approach was our first impression of the city.

Galway has many wonderful restaurants to suit every taste and pocket – a point in hand is that the friendliest, most efficient waitress in the entire country is Brid, who works in Rodeo on Quay Street – and it is not right for one bad egg to spoil it for the rest.

As Early Bird menus go, €19 for two courses is not a freebie – in most European cities that would constitute an average price for which you’d be entitled to expect good food and proper service.

We hear so much about how the hospitality business is being hurt by the downturn in our economic circumstances – but frankly service like this would bring the whole thing crashing down a whole lot faster than the property bubble could even dream of.

Sports News Archive

Galwegians get back to winning ways with six try rout of Students

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Galwegians 38

UCD 17

Galwegians got back to winning ways with a comprehensive six-try demolition of UCD in cracking match at Crowley Park on Saturday.

 

‘Wegians came into this game lying in second from bottom, and a win was vital to get their league campaign back on track, and they opened the scoring in the 12th minute when two graduates of their own underage system combined, with out-half Tadhg Leader feeding no 8 Eoin McKeon who made a fine break.

McKeon was stopped just short of the line, but he managed to off-load to Leader to score the opening try, which he duly converted for a 7-0 lead.

The danger from the visitors clearly came from their free-running backline, and they levelled matters in the 18th minute when full-back Michael Twomey sliced through the cover to score a try, which was well converted by out-half Niall Earls to level the game.

It got better for the Students when they took the lead on 25 minutes. ‘Wegians were punished when a long lineout throw in their own 22 went crooked in the strong breeze, and following quick clean scrum ball, UCD flanker Richie Bent took a pop pass to crash over near the posts, with Earls again converting for a 14-7 lead.

However the home side responded well and they completely dominated the remainder of the half, and just before the half-hour mark an excellent break by young winger Matthew Dever set up an attack, which was finished off several phases later by scrum-half Dave Moore who sniped over near the line.

Leader’s conversion levelled the game for a second time, and the hosts deservedly regained the lead just before the break. It followed an excellent cross-kick deep into touch from Leader’s younger brother Darragh, who made a very impressive debut at full-back.

‘Wegians won possession on the Students’ lineout, and several phases later it was older brother Tadhg who got in for his second and his side’s third try in the right-hand corner, leaving it 19-14 at half-time.

The Students thought they had levelled the contest once again at the start of the second-half when referee Simon McDowell awarded another try to full-back Twomey following the opening passage of play, but it was overruled as the touch-judge had seen a tackle in the air on ‘Wegians captain for the day Brian McClearn at the restart.

 

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Sports News Archive

November 20, 2009

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

An extraordinary attack was made on the house of Mr. Berty Powell, assistant county surveyor, in Athenry last Friday night, About midnight loud knocking was heard at the front door and this was followed by kicking at the door and a man put his foot through the door and broke glass in the panels.

The windows on the ground floor were then broken – nine panes in four or five windows having been smashed.

The following morning, an Athenry man was taken before Mr. Stephen Ruane P.C. at a special court and charged in connection with the attack.

Paths problems

The residents of Mountbellew are about to petition the County Council to have the paths of the town repaired. Since the opening of the roads for the laying of pipes in connection with the sewerage schemes, the paths in some places have fallen under the road level and in wet weather, the water remains on the surface. The path leading to the Church, Convent and Monastery is also in very bad repair.

Slums menace

The relationship between housing and public health was stressed at a recent meeting of the County Galway Board of Health when the insanitary conditions in Ballinasloe were put forward as the main grounds for sustaining a petition by the people of Ballinasloe for a district hospital in the town.

It was stated that doctors were often called to see patients living in conditions in which even the most elementary principles of hygiene or comfort were absent.

About £13,000 was due by patients for treatment at the Galway Central Hospital.

No small portion of that was due by patients who could have been treated in their own homes if the surroundings were such as to enable the doctors to work effectually.

Fire tragedy

As a result of falling into a fire while her mother was fetching water from a barrel outside the door, a three year old from Derrygimla, Clifden, received burns which resulted in her tragic death at Galway Central Hospital.

Dr. Casey, Clifden, who was sent for, came at once, and having done all he could ordered the child to be sent to Galway to hospital where she died shortly after admittance.

1959

Sheep invasion from the North

The cattle invasion from over the Border has greatly diminished, but the invasion of sheep and lambs had markedly increased, especially since the sheep and lamb prices slumped in the North and Britain.

Victuallers are feeling the effects in loss of trade. Lambs imported from the North have particularly depressed trade in the West, where dressed lamb is being offered at prices so low that one would have to go back many years to find a parallel.

Urgent needs

To meet the increasing demand for a water and sewerage scheme to serve the urban area of Ballinasloe, both of which were urgent, would cost £68,000, the Council was told by their engineer. This would mean an additional 2/11 in the £ on the rates – this year 47/9 in the £.

In detailing the need for an extension to the water plant, Mr O’Connor, Town Engineer, said it was urgent. In the past eight years, demand for water went up 40 per cent.

Free houses

Tenants on the Scanlon Estate, Dunlo Hill, Ballinasloe, are anxious to purchase their houses from the trustees of the state, and are negotiating to do so. These seven houses were offered ‘free’ to the local Council by the owner, a Miss Scanlon, at present in the U.S.A., but the Urban Council refused to accept the offer.

Pub talk

How men in a public house at Ballymore put Fianna Fáil in and out of office and then did the same with Fine Gael with the result that the time passed until the Gardaí ‘caught’ them, was told the District Justice Loftus at Williamstown Court, when a Ballymoe publican was summonsed for a breach of the licensing laws at 1.40am on 16th June last.

 

Defence said it was the night of the Presidential Election and the men began discussing politics and put Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael into and out of office. In fact, the breach might be said to be caused by the Government having too many elections.

Shanty towns

Referring to “misunderstandings” with regard to recent statements made at Galway Chamber of Commerce in connection with “shanty towns” around Galway City, Mr. J. Lydon, president, said that he wished to make it clear that the members only wanted to control “unsightliness”, and that all types of holidaymakers were welcome to the city.

1984

Car tax strike over potholes

A ‘golden’ half-mile of road between Galway and Moycullen on which £500,000 has been spent over five years has sparked off a car tax strike threat from angry motorists.

For though half a million pounds has been spent by Galway County Council, the stretch is known among motorists as ‘the corrugated road’ because it is unfinished and potholed.

Frequent users of the road have reacted by threatening to withhold road tax payments.

Residents’ fears

People living in Corrib Park in the city have threatened to block a newly-built roundabout near their estate to prevent it being brought into use in a row over the safety of their children.

They plan to form a human chain on the roadway to prevent traffic from using the partially-completed roundabout, built as part of the approach network to the new bridge planned to cross the Corrib between Newcastle and Terryland.

Bus attacks

CIE may withdraw its bus service at night from a number of Galway City estates following a series of incidents in which drivers have been attacked and windscreens smashed by stone-throwing youths.

There have been at least four incidents over the past six months in which buses travelling through Inishannagh Park have been attacked with stones, while there have been numerous incidents in which the drivers of the one-man buses have been abused.

New trains

The most recent and up-to-date CIE train, the Inter-City Mark III, has passed its first week in operation – running from Galway to Dublin four times a week – with flying colours.

It is now faster to travel to Dublin by Inter-City than it ever was before. The Mark III is capable of doing a maximum speed of 95 miles per hour, compared to 72mph on the older trains.

However, it is at present impossible for the Mark III to do its maximum speed as the track running between Galway and Dublin would not be capable of holding it.

Signpost plea

A demand has been made for proper signposting and safety measures at unprotected piers in Connemara – it came following the deaths of three brothers who drowned when they lost their way in dense fog and their car plunged into the sea at Caladh Thadhg.

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Sports News Archive

O Fatharta goal puts Leitir M—r on cloud nine!

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Leitir Mór 2-14

Westport 2-13

(after extra time)

Declan Tierney atTuam Stadium

THERE is much greater satisfaction to be derived from winning a gripping encounter than prevailing in a rout. The expressions of the faces of the Leitir Mór players after this cracking Connacht intermediate club football final bore testament to that.

As darkness drew close at Tuam Stadium on Sunday, the South Connemara side could scarcely believe their good fortune as they edged out an equally wonderful Westport side in a match that had everything.

Some well taken scores, crucial goals, fantastic saves and a nailbiting finish evoked every emotion possible from the near 1,000 spectators who witnessed a match full of more twists and turns than they would find on a Gaeltacht road.

It was not surprising that Leitir Mór players, management and supporters were absolutely ecstatic after the match because apart from winning the prized provincial crown, they knew full well they could equally have lost it.

In fact, it was Leitir Mór who forced extra time to be played when Ferdia Breathnach scored a last gasp equaliser in injury time – they knew they had gotten out of jail and were relieved that they still had two 10 minute periods to prove themselves.

And that they did. Their hero of the day, Patrick Mark O Fatharta, really came into his own and scored the crucial goal three minutes in the second period of extra time to give his side a two point cushion.

O Fatharta, listed amongst the substitutes on the programme, played the full game at corner forward and contributed a tally of 1-7 and was ultimately the difference between the sides and his valiant efforts have put Leitir Mór within an hour of appearing in Croke Park.

However, even though his tonic goal late in the match proved the crucial score as far as his side was concerned, there was still plenty of wind left in the Westport sails and they had at least four chances of either making a draw of it or winning it for themselves.

If O Fatharta was doing the business up front, then so too was goalkeeper Eoghan O Conghaile who pulled off two incredible saves – the most crucial one coming in the dying seconds when Westport seemed odds on to snatch victory.

The Westport full forward Damien Keane had crept inside the Leitir More full back line and had a goal at his mercy only for O Conghaile to approach from his line and smother the kick. The sighs of relief from the Leitir Mór supporters were palpable.

While Leitir Mór looked like winning the match on several occasions, there were as many times when they appeared to be heading across the Corrib potless. It was an incredible match, full of intensity and excitement and was played at a blistering place throughout.

On occasions, Leitir Mór’s over elaboration threatened to be their undoing but they compensated with some brilliant patches of play – and particularly late on when it counted most.

Leitir Mór had the better start, looked comfortable when they held a four point lead during the first half and ended up having to summon up all their reserves to force extra time.Through Antaine O Griofa and Cristoir O Flatharta, they won the midfield exchanges throughout the first half but yet there was only a limited supply of ball reaching their forwards with the Westport backs marking very tightly and successfully.

County player Fiachra Breathnach moved from full forward closer to midfield and this had an immediate impact with Leitir Mór scoring four points in a five minute spell to lead by 0-7 to 0-3. Ferdia Breathnach, Daithi MacDonnchadha and Patrick Mark O Fatharta all finding the range.But this advantage was short lived with Leitir Mór relinquishing a lot of possession needlessly and it was one of these blunders which led to Lee Keegan finding the net for Westport in the 29th minute which actually gave them the lead at the break with Philip Keegan having earlier scored two points from play.

With Westport leading by 1-5 to 0-7 going into the second half, the sides were level twice before substitute Eamon O Lionsigh found the net having been on the field a mere four minutes. It came from a move involving Daithi MacDonnchadha and Fiachra Breathnach and put Leitir Mór into a two point lead.

Things were not going great for Westport who saw a couple of good scoring chances being wasted and then wing back Brian Higgins being sent off for an after tackle foul. With a Leitir Mór victory seemingly on the cards, Westport corner back Liam Joyce turned the game on its head with a goal the start of three minutes of injury time – putting the Galway intermediate champions a point in arrears again.

When Ferdia Breathnach scored a long range equaliser for Leitir Mór, it was no more than they deserved – neither did Wesport deserve to leave Tuam with a victory in such a last gasp manner.

It was to extra time and again Leitir Mór were guilty of hemorrhaging a lot of good possession as they stayed one point in arrears at the end of the first period, 2-11 to 1-13 in favour of Westport.It was Patrick Mark O Fatharta’s goal three minutes into the second period which sealed the match for Leitir Mór although they did have to endure some agonising moments as Westport sought a winner or at worst an equaliser but it was not to be.

Eoghan O Conghaile, Coilin O Hogain, Seosamh Seoige, Ciaran Bairead, Tomas O Griofa, Antaine O Griofa, Cristoir O Flatharta, Daithi MacDonnchadha, Patrick Mark O Fatharta, Eanna O Cathain and Fiachra Breathnach were the heroes of this 80 minutes of inspirational football from both sides.

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