Rothar Routes

Cycle routes & pilgrim journeys in Ireland and Europe …..

Proposal B is Daft …. Part Two!!

Glad that my blog created talking points about Proposal B. We all want to see our county perform well in the summer months. A Competition structures that achieve those two aims is definitely something to aspire to.

But the more I look at this the more convinced I am that it must be rejected.

8 top teams, drawn from Division 1 and Division 2 will have no summer football in June and July. What was all the clamour for change about? If we based it on the NFL standings of the 2020 League here is what it would look like:

If I am wrong please let me know but this is the scenario based on league finishing positions.

Take it a step further. Imagine that teams from one province dominated the 10 positions for the ‘All Ireland’, sorry ‘Semi All Ireland’, I mean ‘Third of an All Ireland’! Seriously have a look at this scenario, again based on the make up of the four divisions of the 2020 NFL, adjusted to show Ulster teams dominating:

These are real possibilities. Once the league is over – and it is the National Football League, just played in April and May. Dress it up anyway you want, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. And this is the NFL, out of which 10 TEAMS ONLY will contest the All Ireland series.

For the life of me I just cannot see ANY merit in this proposal and I hope it is sent back to the drawing board. Please tell me I have this all wrong. We deserve better.

Proposal B is DAFT!!!!

I’ve been biting my tongue. I now understand how people voted for Trump and for Brexit! The amount of group think happening in the GAA world right now is right up there with the lunatics across the water to our east and west. If social media and bots can influence votes on a grand scale across the USA and the UK, well I guess it can happen here too! This is change for changes sake.

This Proposal is not the solution, not near it, and it’s going to do more harm than good for inter county football. Sorry to say it but this is lemmings marching off a cliff type of behaviour. There is an alphabet soup of better proposals that could be put forward before this ‘dogs dinner’ of a solution.

I hate stereotypes and generalisms but that old ‘an Irish solution to an Irish problem’ springs to mind. Why is it that GAA units design competitions with back doors, side doors and trap doors and think these are equitable and fair ways to run our competitions?

Here we go again. Imagine designing a competition that rewards the 26th and 27th placed teams above the 6th and 7th placed teams. How is that acceptable??? In a very very competitive Division 1 league the margins between finishing in a top 2/3 position and 6/7/8th position is minimal; but ‘you lads are just unlucky’. Bye bye lads till next year oh and we hope you enjoy watching teams 20 places below you progress while you disappear over the cliff with those lemmings…. this is daft…

So we have now rebranded the O Byrne Cup, the McGrath Cup, The McKenna Cup and the FBD League as provincial championships and we are going to play them in the very worst of weather. It’s gonna be riveting. Roll up roll up and book your online tickets before they sell out! Anyone who has trained and played in the NFL in January, February and March know full well that these three months are by far the worst months of the year for GAA. October, November and December are even better months to play our games….so we can expect these provincial championships to be every bit as successful as the much ridiculed pre season competitions…

And for those counties now bating at the breath for the Tailteann Cup, well I hate to break it to them; this competition will probably be dominated by the teams operating at the top end of Division Three. The possibility of a Croke Park Final is as elusive as playing in The All Ireland Final for those counties. We are being sold a pup.

There is a considerable campaign afoot to push this proposal over the line and fair play to those who believe in it. But many of those same people have demonised any opposing voice to this magical solution; ably abetted by many in the media who have a vested interest. Their interest is in having the top teams playing over and over again to fill their column inches and their podcasts. Ching Ching. Once this is up and running watch how the media responds and where the coverage goes. Every other point of view is of dinosaurs and the insulting comments about provincial officials and county officials who hold different views is sickening to read. If I was asked who I thought were the best promoters of our games between the provincial councils and Croke Park, I would select the provincial councils. In my experience their record on the ground is far superior.

As I alluded to earlier, there are a myriad of better solutions that could have been put forward. I don’t know why they have pushed this one. Yes there is need for change – and quite a bit of it but this is not it. Without doubt the League is the most important competition for most counties, probably for 25/26 of them – it is where long term improvement can be made. But the Championship is about the magical days. its about the rare one off victories – just like the FA Cup. Lower ranked teams need days where they rub shoulders with the giants of the game. There is no better vehicle for promoting the game in a county. Yes there are hammerings. The main reason for hammerings isn’t population or sub standard players; it’s the preparation and coaching infra structure a team needs to compete. The Leitrim County Final is rightly being hailed as a classic. How is that possible? Is it because there are in fact good footballers in every county? Yeah I think so. There are very good footballers in every county.

Hammerings happens in every team sport. We need the league and championship running concurrently; we need a defined season. That may mean less games but more quality, more concentrated exposure.

The bigger questions are the patent unfairness in funding and structures that favour the strong larger counties. That even extends to voting rights. It should be equal representation for counties when the issue relates to county competition; yes the larger counties have more clubs and they need to be given proportionate representation – when the issue is a club issue. And how can overseas units have so many votes about competitions they have not part in? The voting system is at best flawed.

Where has the debate gone about funding? Where is the equalisation that we need to develop the smaller units to enable them be more competitive? Even American football and the Premiership recognise the need for positive discrimination in their professional sports. Yet we are an ‘amateur’ sport that allows unequal funding to underpin our competitions to maintain the status quo.

We all care about the game, we all want our county to do but any serious analysis of this proposal will show how poor it actually is.

I’ve blogged about linked issues before but sadly I don’t see any enlightened vision from Croke Park or the GPA on the County scene. Here are links to two previous posts:

The GAA’s Berlin Wall

Dublin, Funding and Tiers

Carlow to Wexford

“A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the first student. “You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!” The teacher commended the second student, “Your eyes are open, and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave his praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.” The teacher was pleased and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “I am your student.”’

Zen proverb

I can so relate to this when I go on a long cycle, as I did on Saturday, when I took to my bike cycling to Wexford Town from Carlow. Believe it or not I was going to a 70th birthday party (she looks 30 and I put it down to all the hill walking she does and of course her doting husband!). Every journey brings so many benefits; I love to look over the hedgerows, up onto the hills, down at the fast flowing Slaney and marvel at the beauty of it all. Something that cannot be truly appreciated from inside a tin box travelling at 100kms per hour. And getting lost in the art of cycling. The simple act of cycling for cycling sake.

The network of local roads is so expansive, it’s possible to go anywhere on your bike and feel perfectly safe. Saturday’s route took me out via Kellistown, a tough little hill with the old church ruin commanding great views of the surrounding countryside.

Kellistown Church

From Kellistown its cross country towards Aghade. Fr. Murphy, of Old Kilcormac, made his last journey across these roads and the route is commemorated with signposting. The events of 1798 resulted in a lot of death and destruction in the south east principally in Wexford and Carlow and as I was heading for Wexford it was nice to cross the path.

And the Yeos at Tullow took Father Murphy

and burned his body upon a rack

Boolavogue by Patrick Jospeh McCall

I had a route on mind to head via Ardattin to Clonegal but when I met a fine gaggle of geese at Aghade, forcing me to ask the question…. goosey goosey gander, where shall I wander?‘ Interestingly one theory about the origins of this nursery rhyme is that it refers to Catholic persecution in England which forced parishioners to hide their priests, similar to here during the time of the penal laws and entirely apt when we talk about Fr, Murphy! So they stopped me in my tracks and I had a rethink, deciding to head over by Altamont Gardens and on to Kilbride Cross where a recent memorial caught my eye while driving but where it was too dangerous to stop.

Goosey Goosey Gander, where shall I wander?.

On the last few occasions I drove past Kilbride Cross, I spotted a memorial to 9/11, it seemed to consist of a large poster with all the names of those killed in the Twin Towers and an American Flag alongside the Carlow and Dublin Flags and another which I couldn’t make out until today. The poster was gone unfortunately when I got to the Cross but it was nice to see plaques honouring Kevin Barry, the 1916 Rising and Michael Fay of Altamont who was killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1921. The mysterious flag was a United States Marine Corps flag! Not sure why.

Kilbride Cross

By changing direction and heading to Kilbride, it meant an unpleasant 800 metres on the busy main road. I was glad to turn left just before the White Mills pub and take a nice local road down to the River Slaney at Kilcarry Bridge, on of our favourite swimming spots when the lads were young.

It’s only a short few kilometres from here to one of the prettiest villages in Carlow, Clonegal. Full of history, Clonegal is worth a weekend ramble. The first sight you meet are the Weavers Cottages and on the opposite side of the road is a small garden featuring a number of interesting artefacts.

Continue down the street and look out for this fascinating gateway!

This stone is in the Arched entrance to the yard beside what once was the Church of Ireland Presbytery and earlier the home of the Captain of the Yeomen In 1798 this was the home of Captain De Renzy and the stone marked an execution site. The hangman who carried out the executions was Bob Young. Chilling reminder of the persecution our ancestors suffered…. and of course close by is Huntington Castle, well worth a couple fo hours to explore both the castle and gardens. It has a fascinating history but today I was just passing by.

Entrance to Huntington Castle.

The Derry River flows through Clonegal and forms the county boundary with Wexford and divides the village of Clonegal in two. The part of the village in Wexford is known as The Watch House. The name comes from the fact that when the 1798 Rising commenced a hut was built at the Water House cross which was manned by Yeomen or soldiers day and night. A person bringing an animal to the fair of Carnew had to get a permit at the Watch House cross, and if he failed to sell he had to get another permit from the Yeomen in Carnew to bring the animal home.

I’ve always loved the colours of the Derry River…

I turned right in the Watch House and pointed the front wheel in the direction of Kildavin, all the while admiring the views of the specimen trees across the river on the grounds of the Castle. In no time I was at the Geata na nDeor.

Another sad reminder of our troubled past.

The back roads in Carlow are superb; all of them are well surfaced but that does not seem to be the case in Wexford and the further I travelled the worse the surfaces became. Thankfully my Giant Tough Road is made for just about every surface; I wouldn’t dream of taking a road bike on these roads. Its a lovely scenic route through the Slaney Valley and that more than makes up for the bumpy ride. I was able to avoid Bunclody and instead take a quiet road through Clohamon all the way to Enniscorthy. The great thing about the back roads is there is always something to stop and stare at.

This beautiful thatch cottage was once the local post office in Ballycarney

I took a long way round to get into Enniscorthy to avoid the main road and truth be told I was just barely hanging in at this point. So I was glad to finally make it to the Bus Stop on Abbey Quay. Sitting outside having a reviving snack and was glad to meet with Wexford goalie Conor Swaine and have a chin wag about our clashes in recent years! The route continued to provide reminders of 1798 as I head up towards Vinegar Hill and cross country towards Oilgate. I was surprised when I came across this as I didn’t know such a facility existed!

Unfortunately the road was blocked just here and I had no option but to retrace my steps down the hill and head out onto the busy main road. Time was pushing on and I had to up the effort to make the party in time! I was to finally catch sight of Ferrycarrig and head into Wexford Town. The sun finally broke through as it had been promising all day!

Yellow bellied giraffe, only found in Wexford..
Believe it or believe it not!

Wexford Town is always a great spot to visit and I enjoyed cycling down along the Quayside.

Kerry fishing boat tied on the quays.

It was a long 87 kms but full of interesting sights and with plenty of stops for photos it was a great Saturday spin; in between stops, I did as the fifth Zen student did; I rode my bike to ride my bike.

Turas Columbanus

Life is a real road,

broad for some,

and narrow for others

Columbanus of Carlow

These story boards of the early stages of Turas Columbanus, the latest addition to pilgrimage routes, give a great insight into the life of Columbanus and his journey from Myshall to Bangor and eventually to Bobbio in Italy. Hopefully they will be rolled out soon for the rest of the route to Bangor in County Down for the Irish sections of the route. The route moves to Europe where it crosses through France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. I cycled a version of the Irish route last year and the map of my version of the route follows after the story boards. Credit to all involved in the research and production of the story boards that highlight the life of one of the great saints of Ireland.

Inis Mór

Cuairt ar Inis Mór!

With the last days of an Indian summer approaching I decided on a flying visit to The Aran Islands, my interest piqued by the visit of my good friend Tommy Wogan who was there last week and was raving about the island.

I’ve been to many of the islands of our coast line but Aran eluded me until yesterday.

A late call secured a b&b for Friday night on the mainland. The poor woman, who hadn’t opened since Covid began, recently lost her husband to the virus and I was her first guest. She didn’t even want to take money from me for my stay and I was glad that my stay helped occupy her mind at this lonely time.

Inis Mór is the largest of the three Aran Islands that lie off the coast of Connemara and North Clare. Part of the Connemara Gaeltacht, it was great to hear so much usage of the language in everyday life.

The old Ros a’Mhíl harbour was built in 1877 and it’s principal operation was the transportation of turf to The Aran Islands on the famous Galway hooker sailing vessels. Modern ferries carry a very different cargo!

It’s a bit of shock to the system to arrive in Kilronan which is buzzing with visitors and hundreds of hired bikes! I was glad to get out of it and on to the bóithríns to begin exploring one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

Ciúnas gan uaigneas! If you wanted a place to get away from it all, you couldn’t find a better pace to visit. Steeped in history and with a dead slow pace of life it is the ideal island retreat.

I was glad I brought my own bike – where the road ends, the rocky mountain trails begin and it meant I could visit parts of the island that couldn’t be visited on a hired bike.

I covered 45kms crisscrossing the island which is 28kms in length and, while there are no massive hills, I did just over 450 metres ascending, some of it on rocky paths.
Dún Aonghasa is surely a rival to the Skelligs for the next Star Wars block buster! This cliff top fort is perched on the edge of 300 foot high cliffs facing westward into the Atlantic Ocean. Entrance is free at the moment due to Covid! It consists of massive semi circular stone walls and it looks like half it may have disappeared into the ocean at some stage in its ancient past. It’s like a magnet for visitors and I found the crowds a little off putting.
Entrance to Dún Aonghasa
You can just see the walls of Dún Dúchatair in the foreground – my drone battery died on me just at the wrong time!

The island has many ancient sites and though difficult to access, I found Dún Duchatair to be even more wondrous – I loved the solitude. ‘The Black Fort’ is very similar to Dún Aonghasa, but to get there requires a difficult enough trek as the the Black Fort is surprisingly difficult to access, set as it is on the far side of long rows of limestone rock that have to be traversed with great attention – the rock is uneven, flat in places, pocked with holes and crevices – and you must focus on the ground despite the stunning surroundings. It’s dramatically perched on a clifftop promontory 2km southwest of Kilronan with terraced walls up to 6m high surrounding the remains of a clochán(early Christian beehive-shaped hut). They say the name comes from the dark limestone prevalent on this part of the island.

The Black Fort with its Clocháns. Note the long lines of limestone rock behind it that have to be traversed.

The Aran Islands are of course an extension of the Burren region of County Clare. Great expanses of limestone are interspersed with sparse greenery.

The islands supports alpine, Mediterranean and artic plants alongside each other due to topography and climate. The crevices in the rock, known as grikes, provide shelter and support some very rare plants such as orchids and gentians.

The Aran Islands and Connemara are famous for their stone walls – what artistry to create these boundary walls of the tiny patchwork of fields
The walls of Inis Mór
Sheer expanses of limestone and row upon row of stone walls
Bun Gabhla, on the western tip of the island.
Islands at the western tip.
Connemara pony

It would take much more than day to explore the island properly and a longer stay is definitely on the cards next time. Dún Eoghanachta is another Stone Age fort but this one is inland and well preserved. Access is easy enough on foot:

Dún Eoghanachta – the name is thought to refer to the Eoghanacht tribe of Munster who settled here in ancient times.
Dún Eoghanachta
Limestone and crevices – best keep your eyes on where you are walking!

I had some great conversations with some local people, a fisherman from Carraroe, who was out at the island with customers; we had a great chat about cycling – he’s a hard bucko and he has taken to the bike when he is not on the sea! Also met a marine biologist who was out investigating a dead whale which had washed up on the island. We had a great chat about basking sharks and other giants of the sea that populate the waters around Aran. It sue was a memorable day; granted it was a pet day but life on Aran seemed to be idyllic – it’s probably a different story in winter storms but wouldn’t it be nice to be there at some stage and experience it! I will have to get back and also visit the other islands next time

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