Holly woz ‘ere…



A dear old friend of my Dad’s was over the weekend before last. He’s a generous soul, and a Leicester Tigers supporter to his bootlaces. I suspect he was a fearsome number 7 in his day. Which is to say we are talking rugby here.

Anyway, Jeff had bought tickets for Dad and I, and we ended up down in Limerick on Saturday 12th December to watch Munster take on the Tigers at Thomond Park. That weekend was one of the worst for flooding this year, and hopefully we have seen the end of it for now. Even driving down, the weather was appalling. When we checked in to our hotel in Castletroy, we realised the Shannon was trying to check in too. The actual river is a long way from the hotel, but it had burst its banks and made its way across the flood plains and had us almost surrounded.

The view of our swimming pool from the hotel room…

Let the record show that the match was perhaps not the highlight of the weekend. Munster squandered numerous chances to make a game of it, and a couple of the Tigers tries involved large slices of luck and some poor tackling. Nothing wrong with Ben Youngs try though; that was a cracker.

Thomond Park, Limerick.

Both Dad and I have come to the same conclusion. We have only been to Thomond Park twice. Both times to see Munster v Leicester. And both times, Munster have lost. We reckon we are jinxed. No more visits for us! Having said that, I was somewhat conflicted for the weekend, and it caused some confusion in the pubs, particularly afterwards. I was born in Leicester (Market Harborough, to be exact, and if that name rings a tiny little bell somewhere in the back of your head, it’s a town in Leicestershire where they used to make HP sauce. Since moved production to Holland I believe. That’s the global economy for ya…)


Not sure what other great wonders of the world came out of Market Harborough; no doubt there are a few others. So, to return from that particular spicy tangent, I was wearing my Tigers rugby shirt to the game. But I still have a hard time shouting for an English side when they’re playing an Irish team. It’s a dichotomy I face quite often in rugby; not so much in other endeavours. With an English Mum and an Irish Dad, you’ve got more options, I suppose (to look on the bright side). In the pub after the game, I had a good yarn with a few diehard Munster men. And I should add at this point that Munster fans are the best in the world, and very magnanimous, even in defeat. So for them, a Tigers supporter with a Dublin accent, yackin’ on about Ian Keatley* at outhalf missing a few sitters, and Conor Murray’s box-kicking… it took a bit of explaining…

The next day, after a hearty breakfast (hearty in this context means artery-clogging), we set sails for home. But I had planned a little detour for Jeff. As we neared Leixlip, I took a left off the Naas Road at Castlewarden and headed up to Oughterard to visit the final resting place of Arthur Guinness.


We had company as we made our way up the gravel path from the road to the cemetery. This rather friendly and tail-less cat followed us up. If you are into reincarnation, you could pick from a number of great contenders; plenty of historical greats have passed through this area, from saints to Vikings, and more recently, Daniel O’Connell – the great Liberator and champion of Catholic Emancipation – reputed to have had a duel on this site, and various other figures of note. Though of course, none that may have wished to come back in feline form, that I’m aware of.

Jeff and the other guy…

We paid our respects to Mr. G and I made sure that we took in the view from the top of the church, which is superb on a clear day, giving you pretty much the whole of the midlands in one sweep.


Pay a visit if you’re in the area. It’s a little gem of a place. The graveyard is still used and well-maintained by the local community. Dad and Jeff both seemed to enjoy the visit, or pilgrimage. Over the years, both will have done trojan work in filtering the creation of Arthur Guinness through their respective systems. It’s a labour of love…

We’re now into the final free-fall before Christmas. It’s an odd time, but a welcome one. It’s the calm before the storm. Last weekend, I togged out for a game of footie on a full size astro pitch. It’s a memorial game for a brother of one of the firemen, and they have played it every year for the last twelve. I play the odd game of five-a-side, but this is a different animal.


I played at right-back (should have been left back… in the changing rooms, ha ha!) and as per last year’s game, had to mark a younger and much fitter winger who ran around me for fun. I tweaked a hamstring as well, at the start of the second-half, and played through it, partly because we were short on subs, and largely ’cause I’m an eejit.

We won the perpetual trophy, 4-3. Ciaran on the right hands over the cup to our team captain on the day.

And the ‘mile a day’ programme contains unabated. The weekend just gone was a challenge, not just because of the football. On the Saturday, we had a very busy day with the fire service, and I was also helping out with crew cover in another station. So I ended running up and down the canal bank at Maynooth in the evening to clock up my mile.


As runs go, it was less than inspirational. And the following evening, despite having played pretty much a full game and tweaked a hamstring, I still felt the need to do a ‘proper’ mile on the treadmill.


I will be glad when this thing is over. I know the training will get a lot more intense over the next few months, but running every day this month seems to be taking its toll. Probably just need to HTFU. Which is internet acronymic slang I don’t need to spell out here. On a serious note, it reinforces the importance of rest in a schedule, if nothing else. It’s been three weeks, so hopefully we can see it through to the end of the month. If the legs are up to it, a half marathon awaits on the last day of the year…

Finally, these odd shapes have been appearing around the house…

They coincide with wet days outside, and are roughly the shape and size of a Cocker Spaniel. ‘No idea what they could be…


* Ian Keatley plays out-half for Munster, and he’s not having a good run of it of late. Always tough to see a pro having a bad patch. We took a taxi into town after the game and had a few pints in Peter ‘The Claw’ Clohessy’s new bar. The taxi man was hilarious. You have to hear this in a thick Limerick accent:

“Keatley? Sure he’s not even related to an out-half…”

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