WHEN Covid cases fell sharply last January and Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the easing of almost all restrictions, I cracked open a pack of the good toilet roll to celebrate.
The mist had risen and we emerged from the Covid cloud. The effects of the pandemic linger of course, and some unfortunate people will still get seriously sick, while the rest will be pulling forgotten surgical masks out of pockets of coats and jackets for years to come.
The year just gone must count as a good one compared to the two that preceded it.
Speaking of counting, a census in April revealed there are more than five million of us in the Republic now. We got to fill out a time capsule section, and I would like to apologise to any of my relations in 100 years who read what I wrote. I have no idea what came over me.
The Echo reached 130 years, but I missed the celebratory photograph and wasn’t even included within a floating egg-framed headshot, which was disappointing.
The Macroom bypass eventually opened. The Dunkettle interchange sort of did. An update on the Events Centre was also finally announced, with Billie Eilish’s great-grandson booked to be the opening act.
Here is my A-Z of 2022...
A is for Angela Lansbury
The passing of the iconic Murder She Wrote actress and presumably Russell Rovers GAA supporter occurred in October.
When Jessica Fletcher arrived in your town, someone usually stopped breathing. But after less than an hour she’d have fingered the culprit and her local sheriff friend would turn up to make the arrest, no matter how far she had strayed from Cabot Cove.
The sleuth. will always have a place in the hearts of Imokilly folk for being the one celebrity to choose the barony as her second home, rather than following the herd down west. Much to my chagrin, I believe I was the only person in the region to have never encountered her at all, despite sightings reported weekly most summers.
Some too-clever people said they were puzzled when obituaries claimed Lansbury was nominated for an Oscar for her acting debut in the 1944 psychological thriller Gaslight, when no movie of that title exists. Cute joke.
B is for Béal na Bláth
100 years after his assassination, Michael Collins was honoured where he fell, on a windy back road in West Cork. A soldier fainted and hit the deck at the ceremony, which might have been taking the commemoration too far.
While Civil War politics in the south is gradually disappearing, a century on, the census in Northern Ireland reveals there are now more Catholics in the six counties than Protestants. Although surveys in December reveal no major appetite for a United Ireland there.
Doing their bit for blended communities was the Orange Order, who launched a coffee bean named after King William III. The most important thing, whatever the region’s future, is that nobody wants to see Troubles brewing again.
C is for Chess Cheaters
Bending the rules is always a popular pastime, and it reared its ugly head in chess, fishing, and Irish dancing this year.
The board-game community was rocked (wobbled might be a better word) when the world’s best chess player, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, said he would no longer play against 19-year-old Hans Niemann, who he accused of cheating (and who has admitted doing so in the past). Carlsen offered no evidence or explanation as to how he believed it happened, fuelling speculation from fans of the game.
The most common theory was the young man used his back passage to win games. Elon Musk suggested he used bluetooth-controlled anal beads and someone controlling a chess supercomputer communicated the best moves to him via vibrations.
Carlsen believes this explains his defeat, saying he was flummoxed by the unusual initial moves Niemann was making (on the board, not in his seat). Niemann for his part has offered to play his next game against Carlsen in the nip.
Whatever the eventual outcome, you have to feel for whatever tournament official they find to carefully study Niemann’s opening.
D is for Djokovic
The Australian government forced a return of Serb after he landed in Melbourne to defend his Aussie Open crown in January and refused to get the Covid jab needed to compete. Rafael Nadal won it and led ‘No-Vax’ on the all-time list with 22 Grand Slams to 20 after adding another French Open. Djokovic did claw one back and get to 21 after coming from a set down to defeat Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon. The hot-headed Aussie had a complete meltdown on centre court, blaming his defeat squarely on a woman in the crowd drinking too many gin and tonics.
In other tennis news, Roger Federer and Serena Williams ended magnificent careers, while Novak’s former coach Boris Becker got out of prison after serving 231 days for hiding assets from debtors in the UK.
E is for Energy Crisis
Fuel prices rocketed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On one day in August, spending €5 at pump two would just about get you to pump three in a forecourt. Meanwhile, oil companies announced £3bn a day profits.
Reports from the US that a breakthrough in nuclear fusion (the safe cousin to fission) might be on the horizon were very welcome as fossil fuels are destroying many creature’s habitats (including our own) at an alarming rate.
Eunice visited in February, prompting me to ponder why we have ‘former tropical storms’ but ‘ex-hurricanes’? Cold weather in the final few weeks of the year saw some people get angry at Met Eireann for issuing ‘coloured’ weather warnings for what they saw as normal winter conditions. “Snowflakes!” they thundered. Here’s hoping a few of them slipped and landed on their backsides.
F is for Filatov fish
As we all discovered for the first time that the Russian embassy is located on the apt Orwell Road in Dublin, their ambassador was forced to announce his country would back down after protests by Munster fishermen over military manoeuvres planned off the south-west coast.
Other angry fishermen include those in Ohio - competitive anglers who were left reeling when it was discovered that, like in chess, balls were being placed into orifices to help cheaters prosper. The would-be winners of a $30,000 tournament in the U.S state were disqualified when it was discovered their fish were stuffed with lead balls. And loose fish fillets, which meant their catch was extra fishy.
G is for Garth
We could have opted for Ryan Giggs’ love poetry, but still remain a bit traumatised after reading excerpts from it (especially the totem pole reference). So we’ll go for the king of country, Mr Brooks, who helped shift the population of the capital to 70% Midlanders for five nights during the summer.
H is for Handshakes
They’re back after a few years away. Some still fist bump though, which I prefer because it makes us look down with the kids.
Former mentor and protege Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin almost did neither after two fiery hurling encounters between Kilkenny and Galway. Watching them studiously avoid each other after the Croke Park tussle was one of the highlights of the GAA season. We doubt Shefflin went to Cody’s subsequent retirement party. The Cats’ supremo’s departure means we will not be treated to a possible ‘down low, too slow’ next season.
I is for Irish dancing
The fishing and chess dramas weren’t the end of the cheating claims, which revealed itself to these shores in the most traditional way possible. Native tap dancing was left reeling (yes, reeling again) by accusations that dance teachers have fixed tournaments and even asked for sexual favours in exchange for higher scores. Apparently, the jig is now up. The Irish Dancing Commission are taking steps to ensure the behaviour is stamped out.
J for Journalism
In my other job, when not reviewing calendar years or providing losing tips in the sports pages, I have to check spelling and grammar across a few of the newspapers in our group.
While scanning someone else's A-Z for 2021 in the first few days of the year I spotted they had gone J for Journalism. Nothing wrong with that. Sort of makes us proud. Then I noticed the compiler had written “the biggest dong of the night at the annual Journalism awards” went to one of our colleagues. I changed it to ‘gong’ to save blushes all round. Why has a sub-editor or proofreader never won an award at one of these things?
K is for Kristallnacht
Fast-food franchise KFC in Germany sent a push notification to customers encouraging them to dig into some breaded chicken to mark the anniversary of the 1938 pogrom in November. “Treat yourself to softer cheese and crispy chicken,” they were told, as a way to commemorate the day Nazi rioters destroyed synagogues and thousands of Jewish stores and arrested 30,000. Perhaps the chain might have ‘A Night of the no Knives of Forks’ next year.
L is for LIV Golf
Links were severed between quite a few golfing pals when many of them leapt from the US PGA Tour to gulf-backed golf in the shape of the LIV Tour. Dinosaur-juice funded Saudi Arabia have been accused of sportswashing by offering ludicrous sums to get top players to defect. The prize money is paid up front, so any wins on the tour are monetarily meaningless. And there is no halfway cut, making the competitions low-risk for participants. Viewing figures have been risible. Maybe they should behead the player who comes last in the 18th bunker.
M is for Mummy
Monkeypox sounded a lot more fun and frightening than it turned out to be. So we’ll opt for the 2,300-year-old mummy found under floorboards in UCC, presumed to be an urban myth for years. There probably isn’t a curse, but it’s being sent back to Egypt just in case.
N is for Neighbours
Everybody needs good neighbours. With a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend. Just a friendly wave each morning, helps to make a better day. Neighbours, need to get to know each other. Next door is only a footstep away. Neighbours should be there for one another. That’s when good neighbours become good friends… That’s when good neighbours become good friends.
Ramsay Street is at a dead end. You’re crying, not me.
O is for Outgoing Politicians
Boris Johnson became the third UK prime minister in a row brought down by Boris Johnson. Mostly because he partied like it was 2019 throughout 2020 and 2021. His successor Liz Truss didn’t last for too long after his exit, as the famous Downing Street door was replaced with a revolving one.
On a school visit during his leadership campaign, her successor Rishi Sunak told two stunned students he was addicted to Coke. Coca-Cola, he corrected himself, before going on to say he loves Mexican Coke the best.
It might soon be time to hand the reins over to Handforth Parish Council clerk Jackie Weaver to sort the mess out.
Finnish PM Sanna Marin also faced criticism at home and abroad for (*checks notes) dancing. And an MEP from Hungary’s ruling party, Fidesz, which is virulently opposed to LGBT rights, resigned after he was caught shimmying down a drainpipe while attempting to surreptitiously leave a gay orgy during one of that country’s lockdowns.
But should he have had to resign? He was fleeing a 25-man orgy. His bigoted colleagues would surely have been far more concerned if he had been running towards it.
P is Post Mortem
Is it easier to hold up a post office or hold up a dead man and attempt to defraud one? We got our answer this year. It’s the former.
Proving you don’t need to find dead certs to make money, a Cork man was discovered to be claiming his late parents’ pension for 33 years. Investigators eventually caught up with him, which prompted a headline of ‘Scrutiny of the Bounty’.
Q is for Queuing for the Queen
Normally, we would struggle with this letter in our annual A-Z. We could have had Qatar, but we’ll go for the death of the queen, Britain’s grandmother.
The queue to file past her lying in state was almost as long as the Suez Canal tailback last year (or four times as long as the queue at Dublin Airport on the busiest day in July). They had to cancel the month’s mind.
Some British people got upset over a separate fast line for MPs, Lords and celebrities, seeing it as unfair some people get treated better than others as they waited to see their late ruler. There were accusations of nepotism in some quarters when Elizabeth’s son Charles replaced her in the top job without even one interview being held. His brother Andrew inherited the corgis, allegedly because he is apparently the most experienced groomer in the family.
R is for Rebel Songs
After qualifying for the World Cup, some of the Irish women’s team decided to celebrate by belting out a Wolfe Tones song in the dressing room afterwards, with its contentious lyrics that everyone in the country will have heard at some stage.
It was disappointing to hear (especially in the wake of an explosion in Ulster that was a reminder of the terrible days when some among us planted devastating bombs), but it was quickly followed by an apology for the mistake.
Plenty of people have joined in on that chant without giving it sufficient consideration to what it is celebrating. Just as many Limerick hurling fans and players will belt out ‘Sean South’ without giving a second thought to who the man was or what he stood for.
The next day, we were presented with the perplexing scene of a Sky Sports presenter grilling midfielder Chloe Mustaki on the lapse in judgment. Rob Wootton took a lot of heat off the players by not simply accepting the apology offered. He wanted to know how embarrassed the players were (very) and if they needed to be educated on Irish history (no).
It was especially curious considering Sky are the sponsors of the team. And they didn’t mention any of the controversial songs the Argentine squad crooned after their wins in Qatar.
S is for Slap
Chris rocked by flesh prints from Bel Air. Lessons? Never mock a woman’s hair (or lack of it). Never defend your wife’s honour without her permission. And if you want people to forget the high point in your career, smack someone a few minutes before it is announced.
T is for Turbulent Priests
What is it with Kerry men of the cloth? If they’re not being exposed as dads on the Late, Late, they’re tackling marathon runners or dancing on Formula One tracks.
Most of them are fine, honourable men of course, but one particularly unpleasant sample of the species trotted out the company line in the harshest terms possible during a sermon in Listowel in October.
More than 30 parishioners walked out as he thundered against supplying condoms to teenagers, same-sex couples and transgender people. The latter attack was a bit rich coming from a fella named Sheehy.
U is for Unhappy Finnish
A Scandinavian skier at the Winter Olympics in China reported that his penis froze after the 50km cross-country event.
Remi Lindholm still managed to finish 28th. He must have had ice in his veins.
V is for Violins
Is that the Lone Ranger theme tune (the William Tell Overture to the more culturally attuned among you) you hear as you race past speed detection van? It could be.
In October, we learned many operators of Go Safe speed camera vans have used their time during monitoring sessions to learn musical instruments. If I ever get hauled up before the courts for being caught over the speed limit, I’m going for a ‘prestissimo’ defence.
W is for World Cup
While the simple online game Wordle took the world by storm in the early months of the year (my personal run ended cruelly in March), football dominated the final month.
Irish interest revolved around a young Limerick man claiming to be a baguette, Roy Keane upsetting the whole of Brazil, and a young Argentine midfielder.
Alexis MacAllister might sound like he has Scottish ancestry, but he can trace his forebears to an immigrant in Donabate in Dublin. His dad Carlos played with Diego Maradona, and now he has helped Lionel Messi to a fairytale World Cup win to put the cherry on his career.
Alexis also has a brother who is a professional footballer named Kevin. With a name like that, you’d imagine he was left at home over Christmas while the rest of the family were in Qatar.
X is for Xenophobia
“Why are we giving accommodation to these refugees, when we can’t give our own homeless people houses?” ask people who up until this point have expressed no major concern about helping homeless people.
Curiously, those who do care for the more unfortunate citizens in this country can usually stretch their sympathy to those fleeing persecution.
Y is for YKPAIHA
The Cyrillic spelling of Ukraine reminds us that the country has been linked to its larger neighbour for centuries. Much of the country speaks Russian as a first language. It suffered a horrific famine that still casts a shadow over the nation.
There are plenty of other parallels between here and there. That’s why it is heartening to see the majority of people welcome those fleeing the war-torn country and arriving on these shores.
The sooner Russia’s ‘Wallygarch’ Vlad Putin realises intensifying his invasion in March was the worst decision of his appalling reign, the better. Plenty of his own citizens would be delighted to see the back of him too, as they can be bundled into a police van for simply holding up a blank piece of paper in protest.
Z is for Zouma
The West Ham footballer appeared in court during the summer after footage was posted in February on Snapchat by his brother of him kicking and slapping his pet cat.
The French international shielded his face under two umbrella-wielding bodyguards, who bundled him through a scrum of photographers on the court steps. It was cat weather in fairness.
Zouma knew he was in trouble when the judge took off his wig and put on his whiskers before sentencing. He got 180 hours of community service and was told to keep away from cats for five years.
In better feline news, a cat that sounded like a Heay-Rae took Irish social media by storm.
And in an altogether better animal sports story, a pigeon landed on a table at the World Snooker Championships in April. His coo action was poor, which was hardly a surprise when he came into the tournament unseeded.
That’s it. Enjoy 2023.
Ok. One final thing. Why did the chicken cross the snooker table?