The thrill of qualifying for our first All-Ireland appearance since 1963 has lifted the entire county but, I think, to people of a certain age, like myself, the breakthrough is so much more emotional. I don’t wish to appear like a sentimental old fool but I can’t help but think about and remember all the times and all the people from those intervening 45 years, many of whom are no longer with us. Imagine, 45 years, 45 feckin’ years!

When Waterford played Kilkenny in 1963, I was a boy growing up in Ferrybank and you can imagine the rivalry that enlivened days and nights in our border village. We felt particularly close to the action as Jim Irish, the Waterford half-back, was a Ferrybank man and, even though he played his senior hurling with Erins Own, he still trained and managed us juvenile players in the Waterford street leagues. Another Ferrybank man, Percy Flynn, was also a member of the Waterford panel. Meanwhile, Kilkenny’s Willie Murphy, who worked in Clover Meats, lived in Rockenham and many of the other Waterford and Kilkenny hurlers were also well-known and familiar figures in the Ferrybank area so the excitement was only fierce.

Kilkenny are an awesome force but they are still only human and, come the big day in September, anything can happen. In the meantime, let us savour and enjoy the utterly delicious feeling of being in an All Ireland final after such a long absence.

The ‘dark’ Theatre Royal

Normally, at this time of year, we are gearing up for the annual International Festival of Light Opera at the Theatre Royal but, sadly, the theatre is ‘dark’ at present waiting for renovations to begin and there will be no shows. There is no point in crying about the situation as everybody knows the festival struggled in recent years but, all the same, it’s a shame the 50th. Festival could not have taken place in a welter of glamour and excitement.

One of the biggest problems for the organising committee and potential competitors is the crippling cost of mounting quality productions these days. A society could spend €100,000 with a slap of their caps and they might have to find another €30,000 to €50,000 to take their production to Waterford. That is an awful lot of hard-slog fundraising. It’s a shame but that’s the harsh reality of the situation. The Arts Council doesn’t finance ‘amateur’ shows although it would help if, for instance, it paid the fees for professional choreographers, musical directors and producer/directors. But that’s an argument that has been rejected in the past and there doesn’t appear to be any change of heart any time soon.

Incidentally, congratulations to our neighbours down the road in Wexford where the Grand Opera Festival is flying. On September 5th., Pat Kenny will host a rare outside broadcast of The Late Late Show from the town to coincide with the official opening of the new Opera House. The main performance space in the lavish, new theatre will be known as The O’Reilly Auditorium as the 781-seat venue has been dedicated to the memory of the parents of Sir Anthony O’Reilly who is the Festival President.

His time wasn’t up!

A great friend of mine has a habit of saying that ‘when a person’s time is up, it’s up and not until then’ and that surely was born out in the case of an elderly heart attack patient who survived to tell the tale after he was revived no less than 58 times with a defibrillator during a three hour period.

The drama began when Mr. John McCarthy from Booladurragh, Templeshambo, which is near Bunclody, checked into Wexford General Hospital complaining of heart problems. He was admitted to the Coronary Care Unit where he suffered five heart attacks and received the first of the 58 defibrillator treatments. The medical team decided Mr. McCarthy required urgent attention at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin so he was despatched in an ambulance with a garda escort.

Mr. McCarthy suffered more heart attacks during the journey and the medical team used the defibrillator 38 more times before reaching St. Vincent’s. According to the report, the patient received three electric shocks and was defibrillated twelve more times before an operation was successful in stopping the heart attacks. To everybody’s delight, Mr. McCarthy walked out of hospital in fine fettle two weeks later and is now recuperating comfortably at home.

A spokesperson for the HSE said they could not comment on individual cases but they were happy to acknowledge the high standard of training given to ambulance personnel. “Our emergency services are staffed by a dedicated and skilled team of professionals who, on a daily basis, provide a valued service of the highest standards”, said the spokesperson and never a truer word was spoken.

The greening of Barack O’Bama

The US Presidential Election is of great political interest worldwide and also in this country which has staked a claim on the Democratic Party’s candidate, Barack Obama.

It has already been famously established by Canon Stephen Neill (son of the former Dean of Waterford, Archbishop John Winder Neill of Dublin) that Senator Barack Obama’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side was Falmouth Kearney, the son of a Moneygall shoemaker who emigrated to the America in 1850. Falmouth’s father and his mother, Phoebe Donovan, came from families well established on the North Tipperary/Offaly border.

But new evidence emerged last week that strengthens Senator Obama’s Tipperary roots but shows that the Kearney side of the family most likely originated further south in the historic town of Cashel. The information was unearthed by a Trinity College campus company called Eneclann led by Ms. Fiona Fitzsimons.

The team has also discovered that there is much more to the Senator’s Irish ancestors than the humble shoemaker’s family in Moneygall.

One of his relatives, Joseph Kearney, was a prominent wigmaker in Dublin during the 18th. century and his older brother, Michael, was a Master of the Guild of Barber Surgeons whose son, John Kearny, went on to become Provost of Trinity College before being installed as Bishop of Ossary.

Unfortunately, the Kearney family fell on hard times for a variety of reasons including the introduction of the Act of Union, the decline in the popularity of wigs and the consequences of the Famine and, by the mid 19th. century, they were selling their land-leases back to their landlords.

Meanwhile, our friends in Longford are also watching the race closely because the Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, is being tipped by many as being the favourite to join Senator Obama as the Vice presidential candidate. Mr. Kaine has strong Longford connections and, only last month, he addressed a joint committee on enterprise, trade and employment in Leinster House where he told his hosts he had been to visit the house in Kilashee, County Longford, where his great-grandfather was born.

Shooting pigeons and crows

A controversy has arisen over unusual shooting trips for French tourists organised on farms in County Carlow and there have been suggestions similar trips have also taken place on lands in Kilkenny and Waterford.

Apparently, the shooting of pigeons and crows on Carlow farmlands has proved to be a lucrative boost to the local tourism economy and hundreds of mainly French tourists travel there regularly to participate in organised shooting parties with pigeons and crows as their quarry.

Traditionally, Carlow is a tillage county and, apparently, there is no shortage of farmers happy to allow such groups on their lands to eliminate wildlife they consider to be vermin. For the past ten years, Michael and Jolene Terroni are just one of the organisers catering for such shooting parties. Mr. Terroni claimed last week that he had a list of 150 farmers from the general area of Carlow, Wicklow and south Kildare who had granted his visitors permission to shoot crows and pigeons, but nothing else, on their lands.

However, the Director of the National Association of Regional Games Councils, Mr. Des Crofton, is concerned about the practice. He points out that, in order to shoot in this country, a tourist must be issued with a firearm licence and a game licence by the gardai. Even then, the shooting of all birds, including woodpigeons, magpies and crows, is only allowed from November 1st. to January 31st..

However, under a directive, the shooting of birds is permitted for certain reasons such as the protection of crops and Mr. Crofton claims that shooting tourism is taking place under this loophole. The problem arose in the interpretation of the direction, he said, and he urged that a Ministerial Order be issued to clear up the confusion surrounding the practice.