Who is Ireland’s greatest football player?

A RAMBLING ENTRY IN WHICH WE ENTER THE END GAME OF THE TRAINING SCHEDULE, HAVE A VISIT FROM MY BROTHER AND NEPHEWS, GO SLIGHTLY OFF-PISTE IN THE BEER DEPARTMENT, LEARN A LITTLE ABOUT IRELAND’S GREATEST FOOTBALLER, AND DISCOVER (THANKS TO A BLOGGER), THE MEANING OF LIFE…


Yes, some heady topics in there alright.

My brother Robert came over this week with two of his sons, Adam and Saul. Saul has been accepted into Trinity so this week is orientation, settling in, and buying pots and pans and duvets. Best of luck to him.

Robert joined Saoirse and I earlier this year in Athy for triathlons of various lengths. I was able to get my Olympic out of the way in the morning when the weather was fine, but they had to hang around all day waiting for their events and the weather had turned a little nasty; the wind kicked up, and the clouds rolled over. Having done a couple of Sprints already, I was trying carry off an air of the consummate veteran; for the guys, it was their first outing. Now, Robert has signed up for another Sprint back in Italy this weekend coming, so he was keen to get in some late training. I did point out that this was supposed to be a rest week, but I gather he has not done any structured training anyway, so why change now. May as well continue to buck the trend!

The famous Beech Tree in St. Catherine's Park, Leixlip.
The famous Beech Tree in St. Catherine’s Park, Leixlip.

We managed a couple of runs in the Park. There’s certainly nothing wrong with his fitness levels, and he does cycle and swim a lot. Can’t imagine he’ll have any problems, though he does claim to have no interest in doing anything more than Sprint Triathlons. We’ll see. That’s a tune we’ve all hummed before!

In between the training, I also took Holly the Cocker Spaniel for a walk into the woods proper. We don’t normally go this way but I was having a quick look at an active badger sett. We also stumbled upon a feast of mushrooms, and I was sorely tempted to take some home for breakfast but I was not 100% convinced they were Agaricus campestris, so I left them to their own devices. This site looks good for identifying mushrooms. Seems a shame not to do some wild foraging; we do so little of that these days. I recall Dad taking us out near Lacken in Blessington and searching the fields for mushrooms, which when found were fried up, probably with sausages and bacon.

Mushroom. But which 'shroom is it?
Mushroom. But which ‘shroom is it?

During the week, I got a swim in, and rather than plough up and down, I really tried to concentrate on stroke and kick. I came to the conclusion that I really need some coaching from a professional, but as that is highly unlikely to happen, I’ll just soldier on as I am. Not drowning. Not swimming. Somewhere in between.

Yesterday, Rob and I headed out on the bikes. A pair of eejits on a pair of Mercians 😉

As my programme tells me I am to cut back on the hard sessions this week in order to ‘reduce fatigue’, I decided a wee ramble up to see Arthur Guinness’s resting place would be in order. Starting from home in Leixlip, we headed out on my usual route along the Celbridge Road, Stacumny, and the Lord’s Road, before hitting the metropolis of Ardclough.

The Brothers Kenny. Rob on the left, me on the right looking more like I'm planning to jump out of a plane than jump on a bike...
The Brothers Kenny. Rob on the left, me on the right looking more like I’m planning to jump out of a plane than jump on a bike…

Rob surged up Boston Hill; clearly all those Alpine-like climbs around where he lives in Italy are helping with his cycling. And here I am reminded to recall the legendary Mick ‘Iron Man’ Murphy, winner of the Rás Tailteann in 1958, who passed away this week, aged 81. Google him – he has the most amazing life story, and was the original Iron Man long before the US Marines co-opted the title.

We headed up to the cemetery in Oughterard, which is still in use today, and is beautifully maintained by locals.

Robert at the grave of Arthur Guinness.
Robert at the grave of Arthur Guinness.

In the ruins of the church you will find a modest slab marking the resting place of the famous brewer, his brother Richard, and their wives.

You can climb on to the roof of this church, still, though I suspect one day this privilege will be denied to the curious traveler due to health and safety reasons. So, for wonderful panoramic views of Kildare, go now before the mandarins get their mitts on it.

Kildare locals will of course be aware that they live in a fairly flat county. Not quite Holland or the prairies, but we don’t have many peaks to boast of. Cupidstown Hill at 379 metres is our highest, and as it nestles in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, it is generally ignored by all but the most ardent hill walkers keen to do the County Tops (taking in all the highest peaks in each county of Ireland).

So out amongst the plains, we find a small and low range of hills often called the Chair of Kildare, taking in the Hill of Allen, Dunmurry and Redhills. These are just about visible in the picture here. Just about. You can click on any image to enlarge it, by the way.

The view out west into Kildare and beyond. Those little bumps are, I believe, from right: Hill of Allen, Grangecommon and Dunmurry, and Redhills. Collectively known as the Chair of Kildare.
The view out west into Kildare and beyond. Those little bumps are, I believe, from right: Hill of Allen, Grangecommon and Dunmurry, and Redhills. Collectively known as the Chair of Kildare.

Turning the other way, you can see Boston Hill, Lyons Hill and Athgoe in the near distance. We chose not to trouble the sleeping giants (!) of Lyons and headed back down Boston Hill and then detoured along the towpath of the Grand Canal. The towpath is getting an upgrade, thanks to the work being carried out for Arthur’s Way, a tourism initiative I have mentioned before in this blog.

On the way home, I was pointing out various locations to Rob. A car fire here. A crash there. Funny how these landmarks have lodged themselves into my head. Our area of coverage for call-outs with the brigade is relatively small, and when I’m out running or cycling, I am constantly passing by places where we had incidents. That’s the nature of the job, I guess.

Lyons Hill, left for another day.
Lyons Hill, left for another day.

Home, station drill, shower, and then a second trip to the Salmon Leap pub in one week. I do like a beer now and again (and again) but generally, if I am training for something, I cut right back.

So two trips in the space of a few days is probably not what the training programme would suggest (though I have read it cover to cover, and it doesn’t say anywhere that I shouldn’t have a few pints…)

The Lep (as locals would call it) suffered a fire a few years ago, and it was boarded up for a good while, to the point where it was doubtful if it would open again. It’s under new management now, and seems to be doing great trade, and the best of luck to them. It’s a historic inn, and something of a landmark in pub lore. Certainly, when the Dublin to Galway road ran past its doors, it was known far and wide. It was also once owned and run by Arthur Guinness’s brother, Richard. I suppose, seeing as we were paying our respects to him earlier that day, it was only fitting that we would raise a glass to him that evening.

The Salmon Leap pub, Leixlip, with my Dad, Adam, Dallan, Saul and Robert. And beer.
The Salmon Leap pub, Leixlip, with my Dad, Adam, Dallan, Saul and Robert. And beer.

For the record, I really like Blue Moon on draught, and also Hop House 13, just in case you ever happen to bump into me in a pub one day. And Smithwicks. And Guinness. Whatever you’re having yourself, like.

In the back bar of the Lep, they also honour two of Leixlip’s famous sporting legends. Trevor Brennan became a rugby hero in Toulouse where he lives and works these days. A signed shirt is framed on the wall.

Also on the wall with a jersey, picture and pair of gloves is a triptychal* tribute to Ireland’s greatest football player. Or soccer, if you prefer.

You may be thinking Roy Keane. Or Paul McGrath. Or Johnny Giles. You would be wrong. Our most successful player, if you rank them according to caps and trophies, is Leixlip woman Emma Byrne. If you feel aggrieved by this decision, please mail me and point out a better candidate. I doubt you’ll find one. No Cork psychotic eye-balling. No crashing of sports cars. No battles with the booze. Just a professional going about her business. Emma is also a fine looking woman, and my Mammy played badminton with her Mammy, though that hasn’t swayed the jury in any way.

Emma Byrne. Official Leixlip and Ireland legend. So there!
Emma Byrne. Official Leixlip and Ireland legend. So there!

My brother heads home today, along with Adam, who is following in his father’s footsteps (the one’s that stayed in college for as long as humanly possible!).

I gather he is doing a PhD in Anthropology in Oxford.

Saul will stay on in rooms in Dublin whilst he studies, so no doubt he will be out with us a fair bit over the terms to come.

Week Eleven is half over. I feel in reasonable shape. Tweaks and twinges in various parts of the legs, to be expected, and this weekend I will do the last of the longish sessions before the final taper of Week Twelve. I will throw in a brick too, as these have not featured on the programme; something which I had not really copped to be honest.

All we need to do now is keep fit, and pray for good weather. And avoid the rising, panicky urge to pack all my gear.

And finally. The Meaning of Life. If you are a Douglas Adams fan, you know the answer is 42. It also a great film by Monty Python, and a poxy TV series with Gay Byrne.

On another blog recently, I was pointed towards an interesting piece on the BBC website about endurance and how far we can push ourselves, questioning whether a lot of the barriers are more mental than physical. Here’s the link. The subject came up in a few comments about how I can recall runs I have done ages ago, but not the breakfast I had yesterday. Trevor posted the link, and it contains some really fascinating ideas about training and the brain. It goes right back to the beginning of the human species, and how we evolved to run and survive. There’s a lot more to get your head around on how the chemicals we produce when we train help us with cognitive abilities. I will read more, especially the Chimp Paradox, which is getting great reviews. But let’s just call it the meaning of life, coz’ that’s catchy!


*  triptychal is not really a word, as far as I can tell. But it’s kinda funky.

Happy Feet. Taken at Lough Owel, Mullingar.
Happy Feet. Taken at Lough Owel, Mullingar.
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