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Connacht Tribune

Packed like sardines in Salthill and only 200 allowed gather at a game

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John McIntyre

Inside Track with John McIntyre – sports@ctribune.ie

IN a moment of madness, I decided to take a cycle out to Salthill last Saturday. By the time I got to the Blackrock Diving Tower, I thought I had just come through Torremolinos or one of those sun hot spots on the Costa Del Sol. There were cars and people everywhere.

The first inkling that Salthill would be heaving came when there was a traffic-jam halfway back the Lough Atalia Road leading to the Docks. Such were the number of cars, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Pearse Stadium was hosting a Connacht football final that afternoon.

If the people of Offaly, Laois and Kildare – all currently under partial Covid-19 lockdown – could see the carefree holiday mood in one of the West’s favourite tourist attractions, they’d be wondering had they stumbled on a parallel universe.

As readers will know from previous columns, I have a jaundiced view of NPHET and the Government’s cautious approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions. The scaremongering continues at frightening levels and many people are living in a climate of fear – though few of them were in Salthill.

NPHET must be immune to what’s really happening on the ground. If it thinks that there is widespread compliance, the group is living in cloud cuckoo land. All over Ireland’s favourite tourist attractions, there are thousands of holiday makers with little or no observance of social distancing.

My frustration over this scenario is fuelled by the way sport and its followers have been so badly compromised by the Covid-19 restrictions. My club Lorrha was playing in the Tipperary hurling championship last Friday evening and many of our diehard supporters couldn’t get a ticket to the match.

It’s the same in every GAA parish. So much unnecessary agitation and frustration. On Sunday evening, reporting duties took me to Ballinasloe for an attractive derby clash between Tommy Larkins and Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry. In a nutshell, there was nearly as many people inside as outside the wire. The ‘gathering’ limit of 200 annoyingly remains, especially in the context of the throngs in places like Salthill.

NPHET have justified not increasing crowd limits to beyond 200 over fears that people will congregate afterwards and the assumption that individuals from different families are travelling together in the one car. Frankly, it’s a load of nonsense and just irrational justification for not being prepared to compromise.

Of course, if the Government had any backbone instead of acting like a lapdog, it would never have come to this. I am fed up of hearing the line, in the interests of ‘public health’, as if people are dying from nothing else other than the coronavirus. The reality is that there have only been a handful of fatalities from the disease over the past fortnight. In the same period, how many have passed away from cancer and cardiac issues when their standard of care wasn’t what it should have been due to the fixation with Covid-19 over the past four months?

There’s now a genuine health and safety issue at play as well in relation to sporting fixtures. We have all images of fans hanging off trees and ladders, and others on rust-laden roofs, in their desperation to support their local teams. Furthermore, does NPHET have any idea what their draconian approach is doing to the mental health of some people?

There was no justification for stopping sporting activity in Laois, Offaly and Kildare last Friday. Locking down the affected towns where there was a surge of new infections in local meat processing plants would have made more sense. There have been no clusters spread through sport so why should codes like GAA and soccer be punished?

We all appreciate that the virus hasn’t gone away and there is an obligation on all of us to act responsibly, but only making the use of masks compulsory for most indoor settings from last Monday takes the biscuit altogether. Why has it taken so long? The pandemic has been with us since last March and only now is this measure deemed appropriate.

Over the past few weeks, I have observed individuals wearing masks travelling alone in cars, while cycling, and outdoors where there’s hardly a sinner in sight. What’s that all about? It’s not as if you can pass on the virus to yourself! Horse racing is going to extremes altogether. Now everybody at a meeting has to wear a mask outdoors. Suffice to say, they all look ridiculous walking around in what is the equivalent of big open fields.

I have absolutely no issue with our civil liberties being compromised in the ongoing quest to supress the virus, but logic is being repeatedly thrown out the window. NPHET’s ‘one size fits all’ approach must be urgently reviewed and the Government needs to stand back and make up its own mind about what activity constitutes genuine risk.

Though I believe the horse has long since bolted when it comes to wearing masks in indoor centres, I am willingly obeying the rule while as team manager of Lorrha, all our players have their temperatures checked before each training session; there are hand santisers supplied; and the training props are disinfected.

The primary focus should be on sorting out meat processing plants and the direct provision centres, while travel in and out of the country ought to be restricted to emergencies or on compassionate grounds. House parties also need to be clamped down on. Everything else is hardly worth a hill of beans in tackling this pandemic.

Keeping gatherings at 200 and not allowing pubs to reopen are soft targets. I am not proposing anarchy or anything like that, but the powers that be need to wise up and concentrate their efforts on the places where outbreaks of the virus are occurring. Everything else is just window dressing.

Connacht Tribune

Shannon back in full flight!

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Turlough O'Neill, Ryanair Base Captain at Shannon; Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine, and First Officer Virginie Blazin, pictured at Shannon Airport at the announcement of new services to Corfu and Gran Canaria.

There was a festive atmosphere at Shannon Airport this week as the inaugural Ryanair Corfu service prepared to take flight – ahead of another new service to Gran Canaria, which begins this week.

The new route to the popular Greek Island will operate twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays until the end of October, and the new weekly Ryanair service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) begins this Saturday.

All of this means that Shannon Airport is now serving Alicante, Barcelona, Stansted, Gatwick, Kaunas, Krakow, Wroclaw, Warsaw, Manchester, Corfu, Faro, Lanzarote, Malaga, Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) and Turin.

Passengers on the first Corfu-bound flight enjoyed a pre-departure reception in the airport’s transit lounge which was decorated in festive style.

To celebrate the new routes, the airport gave one lucky passenger a special surprise, return flight tickets for two people to a choice of one of Shannon Airport’s 17 exciting destinations.

A special water cannon salute by the airport’s fire service added an extra sense of occasion as airport staff welcomed passengers and looked after them throughout their time in the airport.

Welcoming the new air services Mary Considine, CEO, Shannon Group, which owns and manages Shannon Airport said: “The global pandemic has had a huge impact on all our lives and being able to once again welcome our passengers as they take to the skies bound for sun drenched holiday destinations is really wonderful.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Pixies slot proves time is now for the Clockworks

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The Clockworks...supporting Pixies on September tour.

Groove Tube with Cian O’Connell

When Pixies were announced as Galway International Arts Festival headliners way back in 2019, a promising Loughrea four-piece were fresh from relocating to London and bullishly embracing their role as the new faces of former Oasis manager Alan McGee’s Creation 23 record label.

Two years on, the US alt-rock pioneers are yet to grace the Big Top – but the Clockworks, made up of James McGregor, Tom Freeman, Seán Connolly and Damian Greaney, are set to make a US debut in their company with a series of support slots that cement their place as one of Galway’s biggest artistic exports.

In less than six weeks’ time, Pixies will embark on a September tour of the states with the Clockworks by their side for six gigs. The Galway group play their own maiden headline US show in New York’s Mercury Loung on September 8.

On their horizon too, is an end-of-year Irish tour with Dublin indie-rock outfit Inhaler as well as a host of festival appearances, barring cancellations.

With news of the Pixies tour coming in the same week NewDad were announced as support for Fontaines D.C.’s highly anticipated Belfast show on August 13, it is powerful evidence of the ground Galway acts continue to break.

“It’s very exciting to have loads of gigs lined up after absolutely nothing for so long,” James admits.

“It’s really nice to feel like we’re going to hit the ground running and when Pixies came through, that was just amazing and what a way to start. It’s our first time gigging in America – my first time going there personally.

“All four of us are massive fans of Pixies too. Any time they’d come to Ireland, we’d always try and throw our hat in the ring for a support slot and just to think that now we’ll be going around the States with them is insane.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Groove Tube, in the Connacht Tribune – on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital version from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

All out in force to cheer home one of their own

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Fiona Murtagh…back home with her Olympic medal on Sunday. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Sitting on an airplane, mid-air from Japan en route to Dublin, Olympic bronze medallist from Moycullen, Fiona Murtagh was unsure whether anyone would be at the airport to meet her and teammates Aifric Keogh of Na Forbacha, Eimear Lambe and Emily Hegarty when they touched down.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there was no big welcoming party planned for Dublin Airport. But Fiona need not have worried; as she strode out of airport security and into Arrivals, all her family were there to hug her.

Fiona hadn’t seen her parents Marguerite and Noel since April because of a pre-Olympic training camp in Italy; and her siblings Pádraig, Lorraine and twin Alan all turned up, too.

“Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it. It was actually really emotional, it was so lovely. I didn’t expect the full family to be there. Tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t seen mom and my dad in seven weeks,” said Fiona.

That was just the first leg of what was to be a heart-warming homecoming for a hero.

The family drove back to Galway with Fiona, who had heard “through the grapevine that there was going to be something in Bushypark”.

“But the scale of it, I didn’t expect it at all, it was incredible, it was so lovely to see everyone come out and support and see me”, she said.

Read the full story over eleven pages of coverage on the homecoming of our Olympic heroes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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