DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 37 2018
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
Dingle Peninsula driving day (from our base in Tralee) in atrocious weather. After inspecting Inch Beach (from our car) we seek shelter in a pub at Ventry, where the original licensee, Paidi O’se managed Kerry and Wesmeath Gaelic Football sides. Also spent quite some time in Blasket Islands Centre/Museum, which records the history of the now uninhabited islands, off this coast. A worker, in the centre’s cafe, spent two years in Newcastle, Australia, and describes Newcastle locals as ‘salt of the earth’. “They take no bullshit,” he says. “That’s why they send product testers there.” (I didn’t know they did).
After a lap of the peninsula, we dine at ‘Out of the Blue’, Dingle, which serves up excellent seafood – chowder, mussels, plaice – no chips. Our waiter lived in Sydney and follows the mighty Roosters. Great man. We had one drink at Dingle Pub beforehand – 15 Euros 30 cents for a Guinness and gin and tonic. The dearest yet. The place was full of Americans. That might explain it.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
Rise 6.50 a.m. and, across the courtyard from our hotel, I see a bloke, in his office, working away at his computer. Sad.
Book out of our hotel and head north to Ennis in County Clare, negotiating heavy traffic in Listowel, where there is a monument to the Presentation Sisters. I was taught by the Presentation nuns at Mt St Patrick’s, Murwillumbah. Some were dinky di Aussies, but others, like Sister Adan and Sister Gerard, were as Irish as Paddy’s pigs, and neither of them spared the rod. Catch ‘Shannon Breeze’ ferry from Port Tarbutt, just behind a Kerry Agribusiness tanker. Drive along the spectacular Kilkee Cliffs (we had seen the Cliffs of Moher on previous visits). One drink at Johnny Burke’s Bar in the Armada Hotel. Spanish Queen Sophia visited here in 1988, to mark the 400th anniversary of the floundering of the Armada off this coast.
At Ennis, we stay in a flat, which is one level above the street. Anita, a South African, is the landlady. A bloke shoves his cigarette packet down the drain grates, near our residence.
Back in Brisbane, ABC Radio want me to appear on a panel show to discuss the Broncos’ future after it is confirmed coach, Wayne Bennett is not wanted after 2019.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
Buy fillet steak at Kelly’s butcher shop, from the man himself, Vincent Kelly. He is a bit hard to understand. Fishmonger, Sean Cahill gives me a contact for fresh oysters. Sean had a month in Australia, in 2017, and liked Brisbane the best. “They were all up at 4.30 a.m. jogging, or off to the gym,” he said. Marie and I walk 3km, O’Brien Castle loop at Dromore Wood. The ranger, who was born in Surrey, England, lived in the USA and Perth, Australia, before he married an Irish girl. He played rugby union for London Irish, Limoges (France) and a few other clubs, and, at one stage, stayed at the home of Cronulla rugby league coach, Ted Glossop in Sydney, in the same room as the Sorensen brothers, Dane and Kurt who played rugby league for Cronulla and New Zealand. At Cruises Pub, we have a great chat to Irish born, Patrick Walsh who now lives at Brighton in England. He is here, retracing the route of the holiday he had with his now departed partner, 14 years ago. She succumbed to breast cancer. He is 60 and loves a punt.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
Explore Ennis, including Tim Smythe Park, which is named after a world cross country champion. Lunch at Brogan’s, where we meet David Baker, who has a Holstein dairy farm, near Limerick. At a fruit shop, a lady gets emotional talking about ‘the famine’. She gives me a taste of her home grown plums. Catholic activist, Bernadette Devlin spoke at a rally in Ennis, when she was a young woman.
Our daughter, Melanie gets F1 tickets from a chap she is seeing. He is not getting on her nerves yet, so the relationship sounds encouraging.
Sports journalist, Mike Westlake has taken a redundancy from News Limited, after 24 years, eight months and four days working for the company. He did work experience with me when he was a student at Iona College.
Learn of the passing of former Queensland, Brisbane Wests and Parramatta winger, Arch Brown, who also was a top professional sprinter.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
The Clare newspaper leads with a story about the disappointment of people from the county, at US president, Donald Trump’s decision to call off his proposed visit. Trump owns a golf course at Doonbeg.
Lovely drive around Lough Derg. At Mount Shannon, three young people are being taken to Holy Island for a walk. Lunch at Portumna Castle cafe (quiche/carrot and coriander soup). One drink at Paddy’s pub, Terryglass where we chat to Josh and Mick from Suffolk in England. For the next few days, we are to stay with Marie’s niece, Kellie Kelly; her husband, Alan and daughters, Leanah and Emma, who live in a lovely house at Fantane, in the countryside outside Borrisoleigh, in County Tipperary. Also staying at the house is Kelly’s mum (and my wife’s sister), Carolyn Soward, from Lismore in northern New South Wales. Roast chicken for dinner. Leanah wants to be an events manager, like our daughter, Melanie. After dinner, we watch a dvd of the play ‘Wake in the West’, in which Kellie featured. Her ‘husband’ was played by Ollie Delaney.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
Marie and I walk the hills near the Kelly’s place. See lots of cows and there is a good view of the village of Templederry, and its GAA ground. Templederry is where Kelly’s mother-in-law, Ellie grew up. We have an early dinner (chicken curry) at Ellie and her husband, Ollie’s house, which is literally just across the paddock from Kelly and Alan’s. Ollie the principal of ‘Kelly’s of Fantane Quarries and International Road Construction Company. The honey on the table is from the hives at the quarrie. Attend Novena Mass at Holy Cross Abbey (a restored Cistercian Abbey) where Ellie sings in the choir. People were writing petitions as we left the service. Marie and I touch what is claimed to be a relic of the ‘Real Cross’. ‘Home’ via drinks at Finn’s pub, Borrisoleigh, where there is music in the back barn. Kellie had worked here. The publican, Joe Kennedy has family connections with White Gypsy Brewery, Templemore, which supplies some of the ale.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
Lovely lunch at Oliver and Amy Kelly’s house, Ileigh. (Oliver is another son of Ollie and Ellie). They have 10 hunting dogs and dozens of quail. Oliver takes the dogs to Scotland, via Belfast. He and Amy have a lovely selection of travel photos on their walls, including one from the Whitsundays in Queensland, where they visited in 2010. They are both devoted rugby union fans. To Clonmel to watch Emma play Camogie (hurling) and she scores two points, in a convincing win over Moyle Rovers. She plays an aggressive game, and has one girl in tears after cracking her on the shins.
Photo 1: Dingle Peninsula
Photo 2: With Patrick Walsh in Cruises pub, Ennis.
Photo 3: Vincent Kelly
Photo 4: Suffolk blokes at Paddy’s, Terryglass
Photo 5: Boat to Holy Island
Photo 6: Marie Ricketts (left) and Carolyn Soward with Emma Kelly
Photo 7: Tipperary countryside
Photo 8: Lunch at Oliver and Amy Kelly’s
Photo 9: Alan and Kellie Kelly with their daughter, Emma at Clonmel Camogie match.