What a difference a week makes. Last week we were beside ourselves with sadness on the passing of Brendan Grace. Brendan will never be forgotten, but this week our cup of joy overfloweth as we pay tribute to another Irishman who will never be forgotten either.
Never has there been a more popular winner of any sporting event than Shane Lowry after winning the golf ‘Open’. Whoever wrote ‘nice guys finish last’ will be forced to return any money he was paid for coming up with that line.
I have never met Shane Lowry, but I did meet his father, Brendan, and Uncles Mick and Sean. The Lowrys are sporting royalty in Offaly. When Offaly won that famous All-Ireland football title in 1982, the three brothers were on the team. I think it was three points Brendan scored in the first half – against a rock-hard Kerry defence. So, you see, Shane comes by his sporting gene and genius honestly. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and he couldn’t avoid being a nice guy to boot.
But is there something about the town of Clara that spawns being special?
I have a soft spot for that midland town of no more than 3,500 people. Maybe some of this has to do with the fact that Clara and my own town of Mullingar are both built on the river Brosna. Before I hit on the name ‘Paddy’s Point’ for the pub I opened in 1999, I was going to call it ‘The Brosna’. Then Mrs Youcantbeserious piped up with, “God knows what Brosna means in Spanish” – and so it became ‘Paddy’s Point.’ But I digress …
When I think of Clara, I think of honest, decent, hard-working farmers and schoolteachers. I think of Michael Egan and his wife Kathleen (RIP). I think of the great days (and nights!) we enjoyed in Michael’s ‘Clara Squash Club.’ I always say we should never generalise – but for me, I have to say the people of Clara are the friendliest group you might ever encounter.
Clara is a proud town – and it has a lot to be proud about. It even produced its very own Taoiseach – and whilst Brian Cowen was not one of Napoleon’s ‘lucky generals’, he is a decent man. We join with every fair-minded person in wishing Mr Cowan a speedy return to full health.
How many towns of three thousand population can point to a Taoiseach, All-Ireland medallists and a ‘masters’ golf winner?
There are strong soccer and a boxing club in the town – and as you will see sport means a lot to the people. (Have I mentioned golf yet?) When Shane Lowry was a boy he was as likely to be seen with a hurley in his hand as a golf club. “I was too slow to play football”, he once said in his care-free self-effacing manner.
It is the GAA which really defines Clara and Clara was the first GAA club, outside of Dublin to affiliate to the fledging GAA organisation in 1884. The club has won six senior football county titles and a Leinster Junior hurling title in 2012. Shane is the current president of Clara GAA Club.
Founded by The Quakers on the Brosna bank in seventeen-something, a man told me one time that when a football opponent sees that black and white jersey bearing down on him, he ‘quakes’ in his boots – thanks to the Quakers!’
My neighbour Lal Timmons was a Christian Brother attached to the Franciscan order in Clara. I attended his funeral in Clara, after he was murdered in Kenya. The entire town of Clara turned out that day – and that will never be forgotten around Delvin. My own brother, Sean, doesn’t have happy memories of his time in the monastery there – but every ounce of kindness he received was from Clara natives.
Shane Lowry has brought immeasurable joy to Clara and to the entire country. His own standing among the greats of the golf world will stand the test of time. He is a great credit to his county, his schools, Esker Hills Golf Club – but most of all to his parents. What a role model and what an example of the dictum, ‘anything is possible if only you believe’.
I admit to holding a ‘hump’ against the Clara man for opting out of the last Olympics – but it’s OK now Shane! And when I read that you are looking forward to the next Olympics … what can I say!
Yes, I do believe there is ‘something’ about Clara. Wasn’t the first barman I hired for Paddy’s Point a Clara man? A man by the name of Oliver Carey. I rest my case …!
Every action of our lives touches some chord that will vibrate in eternity