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My Darkest Day 




By Oilibhear Breathnach


It wasn’t the time of the infamous raid on Quinn’s orchard.  Though I enjoyed the forbidden fruit, I hadn’t been able to reach it for myself.  ‘Twas lads further up the mountain took the heavy hit for that one.  No names mentioned, MH, MC and ETC come to mind.  Nor was it the day my mother scarcely recognised me as we all traipsed up through the village. The look on her face, as she was heading in Lahiff’s door, and me looking like the original Chocolate Santy.  She didn’t even try to salvage the trousers, even though there was only the wan patch on them!  There was to be no school as two of the teachers were ill and we immediately set sail for home …..across jockey hall.  It was great fun hopping from clump to clump until I missed one.  (Many thanks to all who assisted in recovering the missing two-thirds of me).

No, ‘twas years later, 4th class, early June of 1974.  There was a great buzz around the school all that day. I s’pose ‘twas giddiness that got that dare game going while we waited for Vincent Harte to return from the first run home.  I was 3rd or 4th up to walk the length of the school gates.  I failed a little past halfway and next I was looking up at all the faces and suffering excruciating pain.  Miraculously the unspeakable hadn’t occurred, but I felt like my right leg was now positioned at a right angle to the rest of my prostate body.  And though I didn’t want to believe it I knew this was going to spoil this longed for day, the First Sports.  I managed to get home and to hide my infirmity, being fearful I might not be allowed go at all.  After a rest I gave myself a late fitness test.  I found I could run, but the right leg wasn’t keeping up like it should.  I would usually be expectant of a top three finish, but the chances of any podium finish were fading fast.

But hope springs eternal and off I cycled to the meeting.  That first venue was behind O’Donnell’s house in the village side of the church, a somewhat undulating tract.  But oh the excitement, even the frequent showers of rain couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm!  Tom McGarry had a megaphone, the high jump was in place, the long jump had sand and was perfectly symmetrical.  Brilliant!  There was even a tape for the finishing line and the prizes for the victors… new hurleys, guns galore, footballs and best of all these great looking bow and arrow sets…. And stuff for the girls.  I must have looked the biz togged out in my hurling boots, maroon socks, white togs and “me shirt”.  There was to be no prize for the best dressed and an evening of honest endeavour under top weight was proving fruitless.  Last chance, the 50 yards dash.  I broke well but couldn’t sustain the effort and when the photo finish camera i.e. Sean Dooley, couldn’t separate me from Oliver Fitzgerald for third place; my despair was complete when we were immediately returned to the start line.
What was wrong with having a bow and arrow every second day?

Anthony Cunningham swept the boards that fateful evening and Fiona Mulcair cleaned up on the girl’s side. 

Nothing for it but to head for Farnane.  And as I turned my aunt’s old Raleigh outside the church wall, thankfully, the sun was doing me a great service way down on Galway Bay.