British & Irish lions tour preview
Venue: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
On TV: Live on Sky Sports
Necessity being the mother of invention after being restricted to just one outing together in 21 months, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have had to dip heavily into their front-line World Cup-winning team tonight. Hence to call them their previous incarnation, Emerging Springboks, would be a misnomer.
A dozen of the players who played against England in the World Cup final feature for the “As”, including nine of the starting line-up that night in Tokyo: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Steven Kitshoff, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert and Pieter-Steph du Toit, as well as Morne Steyn, who kicked the winning penalty to seal the series 12 years ago.
The pre-Test series mind games having started, “bring it on” was the gist of Warren Gatland’s response, while at the same time rejecting Erasmus’ entreaties for a sequel next Saturday as the Lions fulfil their obligations to play the Stormers.
Instead, a match against the Bulls this Saturday is being lined up for the Springboks in order to afford them some more match preparation when others, such as Handre Pollard, can be given a badly needed run-out. However, Siya Kolisi appears to be in a race against time for the first Test following a lengthy period in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.
That first Test is but 10 days away and so, for the vast majority of this Lions team and possibly all, this is their last chance to state their Test credentials. At least it will be the most meaningful game of the tour to date, and how.
As well as drawing 13-all with the Emerging Boks 12 years ago, the Lions won all six provincial games, and a fat lot of good it did them come the first Test.
So far the tourists have racked up 26 tries and 181 points, while conceding eight tries, in three wins. But this will be no romp, and it is the generous sprinkling of spice which the tour probably needed.
The level of physicality will likely make it look like a different sport and with the additional risk of injuries Gatland was assuredly correct in rejecting another meeting on Saturday. Two of these in advance of a three-Test series would be bordering on reckless for it will be widely felt Boks would like nothing more than to soften up the tourists.
“Emm, yeah, who knows,” said Lions kicking coach Neil Jenkins when that was put to him yesterday. “At the end of the day the games are tough anyway, no matter which country you are touring.
“There was the Maori All Blacks four years ago and there’s been Aussie ‘As’ and different things on other tours, the Emerging Springboks in ’09 and South Africa ‘A’ tomorrow.”
Conor Murray was quick to label this game the unofficial fourth Test before finally leading out the Lions for the first time since being named tour captain. With Finn Russell’s tour in doubt, alongside the skipper Dan Biggar, he has another chance to nail down the “10” Test spot.
For the other two Irish starters, Bundee Aki can offer compelling evidence for his inclusion in the first Test matchday squad, and should it come to pass that Alun Wyn Jones does rejoin the squad, Iain Henderson needs a big game here against Etzebeth and Mostert.
Then again that’s true to varying extents for most of these Lions.
“I think the game will be very tight and very tough, and could go either way,” ventured Jenkins. “We will do our utmost to win and perform to the level we need to and give ourselves a good understanding of where we are at. It’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s all about the Test series. That’s what you generally get remembered for on Lions tours. Tomorrow is important, so is Saturday. We’ll be doing our utmost to win.”
In the heel of the hunt the Lions may have enough cohesion to shade it, although perhaps the Springboks will get more from it.
SOUTH AFRICA ‘A’: Willie le Roux; Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Damian de Allende, Sbu Nkosi; Morné Steyn, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Joseph Dweba, Trevor Nyakane; Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert; Marco van Staden, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Vincent Koch, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Damian Willemse, Kwagga Smith, Elton Jantjies.
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Anthony Watson (Bath, England); Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester, Wales), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland), Bundee Aki (Connacht, Ireland), Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales); Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), Conor Murray – captain (Munster, Ireland); Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England); Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), Iain Henderson (Ulster, Ireland); Josh Navidi (Cardiff, Wales), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), Taulupe Faletau (Bath, Wales). Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales), Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England), Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales), Elliot Daly (Saracens, England).
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).
Betting (Paddy Power): 5/4 South Africa ‘A’, 19/1 Draw, 4/6 Lions. Handicap odds (South Africa A + 3pts) 10/11 South Africa A, 22/1 Draw, 10/11 Lions.
Forecast: Lions to win.
Travel agents experiencing increase in bookings since Covid-19 restrictions eased
Travel agents are experiencing an increase in inquires and bookings since the government announced the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on Friday.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association, says there has been a “phenomenal” turn around in bookings, and travel agents are busy getting back to inquiries.
“We are looking at a healthy summer season, it’s the first time I’ve been positive in two years.”
He advised people to book their holidays early to avoid disappointment. “The longer you leave it, the dearer it will get. Mid-term break in February and Easter are almost full.”
Mr Dawson believes there is a pent-up demand. “There are some people who have money they haven’t spent, a big chunk of that will be spent on foreign holidays.”
John Spollen, director of Cassidy Travel in Dublin, says he has seen an increase in bookings over the weekend.
Popular destinations include Spain and Portugal, which have been Irish favourites for many years now, says Mr Spollen. There are also some bookings for the US, Jersey, Madeira and the Greek islands.
People should avoid peak travel times from mid June to the end of August and consider booking mid-week, early or late flights to get the best value, according to Mr Spollen.
“In May, September and October, the weather will be similar to summer weather.”
Mr Spollen added people should take out travel insurance and ensure their passport and driver’s licence are in date.
Michael Doorley of Shandon Travel in Cork said they have seen a huge increase in inquiries.
“We are not back to 2019 levels yet… the EU is a big destination. We have had a lot of inquires about mobile home holiday parks. Italy would be the most popular destination for this type of holiday, but Croatia is becoming almost as popular.”
There are also bookings for America coming in, as well as some couples celebrating their honeymoons belatedly, according to Mr Doorley.
It is important that people understand the restrictions in the country they are travelling to, he added, and they should check the Department of Foreign Affairs website regularly.
Aoife O’Donoghue is just one of the many Irish people who have not been on a holiday abroad in two years, and she is excited to be going to Barcelona at the end of March.
“A friend is moving over there in February, so myself and two other girls are going to visit her. It’s actually all our birthdays that weekend too,” she says.
The friends used to live together in Galway, and Ms O’Donoghue says it’s fantastic to have something to look forward to again.
The last time she went abroad was to Switzerland in January 2020. “Just as we were coming back there was news of the big Covid outbreak in Italy, so felt lucky to have gotten a holiday in before it all kicked off.”
Property group clashes with council over Dundrum residential development
The owners of Dundrum Town Centre have clashed with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council over demands for more large apartments as they advance fast-track plans for a major residential development in the south Dublin village.
Property group Hammerson and insurer Allianz, which operate the new shopping complex in the area, have been in talks with An Bord Pleanála to build up to 889 apartments on the site of the old Dundrum shopping centre.
Their company, Dundrum Retail Ltd Partnership, has told the council it should scrap new requirements for “a minimum of three-plus bedroom units” in large apartment blocks that are included among proposed amendments to its draft county development plan.
In a submission last week to the council, the company said the new guidelines were in conflict with official rules that said there should be no minimum requirement for apartments with three or more bedrooms.
According to the company, the justification for the guidelines was based on fast-track strategic housing development permissions in the council area and “evidence” from certain boroughs in London.
“[Dundrum Retail Ltd Partnership] submit that the logic underpinning the policy is flawed and is not a basis for imposing prescriptive unit mix ratios on a countywide basis,” it said.
“The draft development plan needs to be amended to remove the very prescriptive requirement for apartments with three or more bedrooms and to allow applicants to make the case for a particular unit mix based on the particular attributes of local areas where a different mix might be appropriate.”
The company also told the council that proposed amendments to the development plan presented “contradictory or ambiguous objectives” in relation to proposals for a community, cultural and civic centre in the area.
Such objections were included among 106 submissions on the draft plan in a public consultation which closed last week. Numerous other developers and the Irish Home Builders Association lobby group also opposed the measures, some saying they would delay or prevent the delivery of new homes.
Asked about the submissions, the council said the response to any issues raised would be set out in a report by its chief executive to elected members which would be published. “It will be a decision of the elected members to adopt the plan and it is anticipated that this will take place in early March 2022. The plan will then come into effect six weeks later,” the council said.
In its submission, the Irish Home Builders Association said its members were concerned that the introduction of “further onerous standards” would increase the cost of delivering new homes and their price.
“This at a time when construction costs are already under huge inflationary pressure and affordability is a major issues for most home buyers,” said James Benson, director of the association.
“A key concern of the home-building sector in respect of the new plan is a lack of consistency with national planning guidelines/standards, which may be considered to be contrary to recent Government policy which sought to bring a greater extent of standardisation to national planning standards.”
The submission added: “The key concerns relate to the locational restriction and unit mix requirements for [build-to-rent] schemes, other standards for apartment developments which are more onerous/restrictive than the Government’s… guidelines, and the requirement for early delivery of childcare facilities in residential developments, all of which have the potential to impact adversely on the viability and affordability of housing in the county.”
Another builder, Park Developments, said in a submission the draft sought “more onerous policies, objectives and standards” that would have a direct effect on housing supply. “We are already seeing the impact of the chronic shortage in the supply of housing on the affordability of rental accommodation and homeownership.”
Castlethorn Construction said the blanket imposition of three-bedroom requirements “can only serve to militate against development of apartments” in the council area. It said the cost of delivering three-bed apartments was “very significant”, adding that demand was “not evident by reference to market sentiment, estate agents’ advice” and national policy imperatives.
Developer Hines, which has major interests in the Cherrywood strategic development zone, said in its submission that the logic underpinning requirements for more three-bedroom units was flawed.
“While making the case that recent development has been weighted towards one- and two-bed units, it fails to recognise that three-bed semi-detached and detached houses remain the predominant typology within [Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown] and that the [strategic housing development] permissions provide a much-needed mix of housing types within the county to redress this balance within the county.”
Laicisation of Catholic priest in Tipperary causes disappointment and anger in parish
Today, Geoghegan is no longer a priest, following the Vatican’s decision to issue a laicisation order, with the history of the story up to that point a subject of disagreement.
The former parish priest at Ballyneale and past curate at St Nicholas Parish in Carrick-On-Suir announced on Twitter last week that he had been officially “dismissed by Rome” on January 7th.
“My Bishop was happy to dispense me. I’m a good man. And he talks about the shortage of vocations,” said Geoghegan, who entered the seminary in 1987 aged just 19, and he was ordained six years later.
Geoghegan had petitioned Pope Francis for laicisation last March and it was granted on December 15th, said the bishop: “I wish to acknowledge and thank Richard for his pastoral ministry over the years and wish him well for the future.”
Geoghegan came under fire from conservative Catholics following an appearance on hotelier Francis Brennan’s RTÉ show Grand Tour of Vietnam in 2017, wherein he performed in drag as singer Shirley Bassey, wearing a blonde wig and lipstick.
The TV appearance might not have done him any favours, Hearn accepts. “He is only human at the end of the day. He is well loved here in town. We’d love to have him back. I’d have nothing but deep respect for him,” she says.
“He is a real people’s person. Some older priests could be aloof. You couldn’t meet a nicer, more down to earth man. I think he has been pretty hard done by the Pope and the bishop.”
Hearn is not alone in her feelings, with many members of the tight-knit Catholic churchgoing community in Carrick-On-Suir and surrounding districts still shocked and disappointed by the turn of events.
Despite the bishop’s declaration that Geoghegan had himself applied to be laicised, the Association of Catholic Priests’ Tim Hazelwood describes his treatment as “inappropriate, unreasonable and unacceptable”.
In 2020, Hazelwood accompanied Geoghegan to a meeting with Bishop Cullinan, and his secretary.
“It was obvious from the meeting that he wanted Richard to apply for laicisation,” Hazelwood says. “That’s when Richard said he would have liked to be a curate…Richard found it difficult being on his own in a parish. He needed support,” Hazelwood adds.
“Obviously, the bishop had made up his mind,” says Hazelwood, “I was shocked, really because the majority of bishops would be supportive, but what I was hearing was really a put down.”
Geoghegan declined to comment when contacted.
Former parishioner, John Nolan said, “The Church is crying out for priests and is leaving a good man go. He was friends with everyone, an absolute gentleman. Anyone having a wedding here would look for him. I think it is all down to Bishop Phonsie. ”
Describing him as “a fantastic priest”, Carrick-on-Suir butcher Morris Whelan says was a great man. “He knew everyone by name. You’d meet him once and he knew your name forever. He was involved in the parish in every part of it.”
Local Sinn Féin councillor David Dunne remembers Geoghegan’s kindnesses during his mother’s illness.
“Everyone recognised him for the programme he did with Francis Brennan…It was fairly flamboyant and wasn’t in keeping with the Church, but it was typical of Fr Richard,” said Cllr Dunne, “He was always friendly, outgoing and is well-regarded. It is a major loss.”
Describing the former priest’s ability to engage, Luke Foran says: “One of my favourite memories of him is my brother’s Communion where he had all the kids gathered around and Richard’s phone rang, and who was on the phone only ‘Jesus’.
“You should have seen the kids’ faces drop. It was brilliant and he enthralled and captivated the whole place. He was ahead of his time. Richard humanised the priesthood and was a breath of fresh air,” he said.
Besides the memories, there is anger, too. Ashling Ní Fháthaigh said: “When he was saying mass the church was a lot fuller with a younger congregation. (He) was liked by so many and was punished for that.”
Believing that the church’s hierarchy has questions to answers, Margaret Croke says: “A church without compassion and understanding who can so readily dismiss a person who was so dedicated for so many years to its flock and to God really needs to change.”
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