Next stop Australia for Grand Slam heroes

 Conor Murray celebrates Ireland's historic Grand Slam at Twickenham.

Conor Murray celebrates Ireland's historic Grand Slam at Twickenham.

The next challenge facing Ireland's Grand Slam heroes will be in Australia as they take on the Wallabies in a mouth-watering three-test series.

Joe Schmidt's team have soared to number two in the world rankings, after clocking up 12 consecutive victories. They have not tasted defeat in more than a year.

But Ireland's record in Australia is poor and they will have to reverse a losing trend to continue their unbeaten run.

The Wallabies have hosted Ireland ten times since 1987, winning all ten tests.

To find the last Irish victory on Australian soil, you need to go back to 1979 when Olly Campbell kicked Ireland to victory in a tryless encounter at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

That win, and a 27-12 victory a week earlier in Brisbane, gave the tourists a clean sweep.

 Can Irish head coach Joe Schmidt conjure a rare win on Australian soil.

Can Irish head coach Joe Schmidt conjure a rare win on Australian soil.

Ireland famously fell one-point short against the Wallabies in the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Melbourne but that's as close as the Irish have come to a win on Australian soil over the past 30 years. 

The Irish have, however, won three out of four of the most recent clashes including a famous win over the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.

Australia has struggled against northern hemisphere opposition in recent years, losing all three tests against England in 2016 and going down to Scotland last year.

Irish rugby fans in Australian will now be hoping that the Irish arrive with all their Grand Slam stars.

To purchase tickets for the Ireland v Australia tests, click here.


Returning emigrants face many obstacles, report finds

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IRISH emigrants in Australia say housing and car insurance costs are the biggest barriers to returning home. The findings are contained in a new report that also proposes ways to tackle the problems.

The independent report, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs, looks at the challenges facing returning emigrants worldwide. It makes 30 recommendations about how to cut the red tape and make the move home easier.

As part of their research, the report’s authors, Indecon, surveyed more than 1,100 returned emigrants and emigrants living abroad – including Australia – about the barriers they faced on returning to Ireland. The biggest obstacles cited by all Irish emigrants were: buying or renting a house; getting a mortgage; car insurance costs and the paperwork needed to open a bank account or transfer savings or pensions, the survey found.

“The cost of car insurance is going to force us back to Australia,” one respondent told the researchers. Another said: “It is impossible to get a mortgage. Added to that the price of rentals and I am in a crazy living situation.”

Other major issues were finding employment – particularly with the requirement for face-to-face interviews – and the difficulty of having professional qualifications recognised.

Health insurance, childcare, access to welfare and higher education costs were also significant concerns.

“My son, who has just finished high school in Australia, cannot move home for university because he is now considered a foreign student,” another respondent said. “He was born in Ireland and has always considered himself Irish but because we, his parents, left for work, he is now not allowed to move home for university.”

Respondents living in Australia and New Zealand viewed many issues even more negatively than respondents living in other countries, or those already returned to Ireland. Perhaps this is not surprising because the report notes that people who emigrated to non-EU countries face more barriers when they try to return.


More than 80 per cent of survey respondents living in Australia or New Zealand believed buying or renting a home in Ireland, or getting a mortgage, was either difficult or very difficult. More than 50 per cent viewed opening a bank account as difficult or very difficult. 

Overall, car insurance was the biggest area of concern for those returning from Australia, with 81.6 per cent rating it as very difficult.

The problem is the Irish insurance companies often do not recognise a no-claims bonus from overseas. In response to all these issues, the report has made 30 recommendations on removing unnecessary administrative or other barriers.

The numbers of returning emigrants prove there is a need for urgent action. The report found that more than 26,000 Irish emigrants returned to Ireland in 2016 – 20 per cent of those from Australia. 

On the issue of bringing down the cost of car insurance for returning emigrants, Indecon has recommended promoting companies that offer noclaims discounts to returning emigrants and introducing measures to remove unjustified penalties for these motorists.

To help returning emigrants with housing, the report recommends extending eligibility for the government’s Help to Buy scheme. The scheme gives a tax rebate to first-home buyers. However, at present anyone who has lived overseas for more than four years is not eligible. The report recommends extending eligibility to people who paid tax in Ireland in the last 14 to 15 years.

In its conclusion, Indecon said some of its 30 recommendations will require significant changes but adds: “Given the extent of the barriers faced by our returning emigrants we believe these [changes] are justified.”

On a positive note, one of the key recommendations has already been implemented. A centralised Returning to Ireland website, with advice on everything from setting up home to setting up bank accounts, is now live on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Global Irish website.

Government departments must report on their progress in implementing the rest of the 30 recommendations before summer. The full report and recommendations can be accessed at:

Michael Cusacks double winners at Pearses sevens

 Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

MICHAEL Cusacks of Sydney were the big winners of the Padraig Pearses sevens, completing a double victory of both the hurling and ladies football titles. New South Wales took cups in three of the four codes with Sydney’s Cormac McAnallens also coming out on top in the camogie competition while Garryowen made sure the football title remained in Victoria.

Pearses sevens is the biggest club GAA tournament in Australia with participants coming from as far away as Western Australia and this one proved to be the biggest yet. The full day of family fun also included a petting zoo, live entertainment and an exhibition match by Kids GAA Melbourne. Special guests were Conor Nash and Conor Glass, two Hawthorn Irish AFL stars, who presented trophies to the lucky kids.

Michael Cusacks came out on top against Melbourne Shamrocks in the hurling final. Cusacks captain Frankie Culleton, said: “Over the moon, we were. When we start off the season, we try to focus on sevens and that’s our first goal of the season. You need a lot of luck down there as well.

 Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

“We had the two buses coming back so we had a cup on each bus but we weren’t long meeting up with each other when we got back. We headed out onto the town. We celebrated well anyway. “We won it two years ago and that was the first time we won it in the history of the club with the hurling. That was big but it was very special to be able to captain the side to win it as well.” Cusacks’ lady footballers had to overcome Cormac McAnallens to take the club’s other crown of the day. Captain Grainne McGread said: “It was an unbelievable day, such a great atmosphere and I think it’s probaby the highlight of the pre-season competitions that all the teams in Australia go to. There’s such a good atmosphere and everyone goes there for the football and the craic as well.

“I think it’s been nearly 10 years since Cusacks have won it so it was really good especially for the older girls who have been there and then the new girls as well, winning it and being successful for their first season. It’s motivated us to continue our success this season and definitely push us forward and start the season as we mean to go on.

” Cormac McAnallens got revenge in another code when they beat Michael Cusacks in the camogie final. Their captain Maria Brody said: “It was fantastic to get it because we have never won the camogie there before. We’re absolutely over the moon. It’s fantastic to get the win.

“A lot of our team this year are new players that are just out this year and they had never experienced the sevens before. I’ve been in Australia five years and I’ve been playing with Cormac McAnallens five years so it was great for me to get the win after five years of losing or getting to finals and getting hammered by other teams like Michael Cusacks but finally it was our turn this year. It was such a pleasure to be captain as well after five years of playing. Cusacks are our big rivals so it was extra sweet to beat them.”

Craic everywhere - St Patrick's Day 2018

 The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW is just one of the greenings in 2018.  See the  Tourism Ireland website  for the full list of Australian and global greenings. 

The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW is just one of the greenings in 2018.  See the Tourism Ireland website for the full list of Australian and global greenings. 

IN Sydney, St Patrick’s Day gets underway with Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral at 10am with Bishop Terry Brady. After early Mass, there is a lunch at The Castlereagh Club.

The Mercantile Hotel, the oldest Irish pub in Australia kicks the big day off with its annual St Patrick’s Day Breakfast, including a three-hour beverage package with Irish coffee, live Irish music and dancing.

For the first time in over 20 years, The Mercantile has been granted access to George Street with pop-up bars and food stalls making it an Irish street party. Paddy’s weekend at the Bald Rock Hotel, overlooking Sydney Harbour, includes live music all day.

You can enjoy St Patrick’s Day at any of the four PJ Gallagher’s pubs, where you will find traditional Irish music, Irish dancers and Guinness giveaways. There will also be festive fun at the St Patrick’s Race Day in Gosford. You can join the craic for PJ O’Brien’s St Patrick’s Day Weekend whether you are in Cairns, Port Douglas, Melbourne or Sydney.

 NSW State Library is going green in 2018

NSW State Library is going green in 2018

There will be live Irish music all weekend. On Sunday, the festivities continue in the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park. There will be a variety of music on the big stage from 12pm, a children’s parade and play area with bouncing castles and face painting galore, Irish dancers and marching bands displaying the very best in local talent.



You can catch Eireborne, The Rebirth of Irish Dance, on March 17- 18. They perform at Wentworthville on Saturday and Dee Why on Sunday. More than an Irish dance show, Eireborne is a theatrical experience like nothing you have seen before. Featuring a live band, dancers from hit Irish shows Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance kick up their heels performing traditional and modern Irish dance as well as ballroom and tap dance. Canberra Irish Club is hosting a range of events over St Patrick’s weekend with Saturday filled with fun, including Irish dancers and Irish-style dishes. On Sunday, you can recover with a BBQ and drink deals from noon.

Perth St Patrick’s Day Parade and Family Fun Day takes place on the day itself. Starting at 10am, the streets of Leederville turn green for parade day, with floats, walking groups and marching bands. The Family Fun Day includes kids activities, food stalls, live entertainment and a bar. Also in Western Australia, you can head to St Patrick’s Race Day at Ascot Racecourse. There, you can celebrate all things Irish with plenty of Guinness and Kilkenny on tap, live music and a full race day schedule. In South Australia,

Adelaide Oval is turning green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in conjunction with the Irish Australian Association. There will be food and drinks, live music and entertainment all day. In the Northern Territory, you can join in the festivities at Shenannigan’s St Patrick’s Race Day on Saturday 17 March. You are encouraged to come dressed in green to enjoy a relaxing luncheon and a three-hour drinks package.

Lots of laughter in Qld BRISBANE’S St Patrick’s weekend celebrations get underway with the Irish Ausralian Chamber of Commerce’s annual St Patrick’s Day corporate lunch. Starting at 12pm, March 16, the event will be addressed by prominent speakers and a guest appearance by comedian Paul Martell.

Queensland Irish Association’s St Patrick’s Eve dinner takes place at the Pullman Hotel from 6.30pm on Friday, March 16.

 LEADING THE WAY: The Queensland Irish Association Pipe Band will be playing at Brisbane's Parade.  PHOTO: Katherine O'Malley

LEADING THE WAY: The Queensland Irish Association Pipe Band will be playing at Brisbane's Parade.  PHOTO: Katherine O'Malley

The day itself starts with a St Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral of St Stephen at 8am before the parade gets under way at 10.30am. The parade begins at the Botanic Gardens with more than 700 participants and 40 floats to travel through the city before returning to the botanics. This will be the 29th St Patrick’s Parade in Brisbane.

Entertainment will be provided by Celtic Fusion on the rotunda while stalls in the Gardens will offer food, drink and crafts for sale. Jimeoin, the Northern Irish comedian who has long called Australia home, will take to the stage at Paddyfest, a day of Irish music and entertainment at Eagle Farm Racecourse. General admission and VIP packages have already sold out but a Celtic Stable Party package has been added. There will also be performance by pipe bands, rock bands (including a U2 tribute act) and Irish dancers.

The festivities start at 11am and continue until 10pm. Fortitude Valley’s Brunswick Street Mall will also turn into an Irish street party. Finn McCool’s pub, celebrating its second St Patrick’s Day, extending its outdoor area to incorporate two stages and food stalls. The festivities will wind down with a performance by the Queensland Irish Choir at the Brisbane German Club from 2pm on March.

Full St Patrick's Day What's On details here

Celtic Club Melbourne open for St Patrick's Day

 The Celtic Club Melbourne's new premises for the next three to four years in Courtney St, North Melbourne

The Celtic Club Melbourne's new premises for the next three to four years in Courtney St, North Melbourne

THE Celtic Club Melbourne has launched its new licensed premises in time for St Patrick’s Day. There is a full day of music and entertainment planned for March 17, culminating in the screening of the Ireland v England rugby match.

The club’s new home, named Celtic at Metropolitan, had a special gala launch attended by the Irish Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí on February 15. The club expects to be in its new home for three years while its former premises at Queen Street is refurbished and the club can return there.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan, visited the new club as part of his pre-St Patrick’s visit to Melbourne. While in the city, the minister attended an Enterprise Ireland lunch and visited memorials to Irish sporting heroes Jim Stynes of the AFL and Ron Delany, who won gold in the 1500 metres at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. “With the new club, Celtic at Metropolitan, we’re able to focus on the cultural aspects,” Celtic Club Melbourne committee member James Dunne told The Irish Echo. “For the launch, we had a four-day event. We had a lot of cultural activities: we had two days of Bloomsday [and] lots of Irish music.

The 130-year-old Celtic Club Melbourne is the oldest Irish club in Australia. Located at 36-42 Courtney Street, North Melbourne, the club’s new home is part of the old Meat Market, an iconic Melbourne venue and hub for creative arts and cultural activities. It is also very close to the city and accessible by tram.

Last October The Irish Echo reported that The Celtic Club had sold its premises at 320 Queen Street. However the Celtic Club has exercised its option to buy back into Queen Street so it can return to the fully refurbished building in three to four years’ time.

The sale marked the end of another chapter in the club’s 130-year history but it put the club’s finances into the black, with more than $22 million retained after the payment of longstanding debts and taxes.

“We were there for over 50 years,” Mr Dunne said. “Luckily enough, with a lot of foresight a few years ago we negotiated air rights for 44 floors above the building and so, as a result of that, we were able to sell it for $25.5 million and that cleared the club’s debt.

“A lot of clubs, not just ethnic clubs but also RSLs and other types of clubs, find that when memberships have aged a lot of them have gone under and luckily enough, because of the foresight of some of the previous presidents, we’re able to sell the air rights and also negotiate our way back in.”

The club moved its administration and cultural activities to 420-424 William Street. Queen Street is being renovated into a prestigious, high-rise complex that will incorporate a vertical forest providing some nature in the heart of the city. The club is guaranteed 2,460 square metres and may look to lease some of this space to generate income.

The annual Melbourne Irish Festival takes place on Sunday 18 March from noon in Edinburgh Gardens. Open to all, the family fun day celebrates Irish culture and heritage and creates an opportunity to come together as a community, to reflect the true nature of a diverse and modern Irish community and its contribution to the fabric of Australian society. The family fun day will feature entertainment such as U2 tribute act Achtung Baby, a session tent for featuring more intimate acts, Irish dancing and kids activities such as fun races, GAA and Irish language events. There will be a history tent where people can ask about their ancestry or find out more about the influence of the Irish in Australia.

You can enjoy food, drink and music at Jimmy O’Neill’s, St Kilda for its St Patrick’s Weekend making it a great focus for Irish culture and history. There is entertainment all weekend and Irish dancing on Paddy’s Day.

Hyland family to represent Australia at Dublin Catholic event

 The Hyland family will represent Australia at the 2018 World Meeting of Families. From R-L: Shane, Alyssa, Joshua, Lachlan and Leanne. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

The Hyland family will represent Australia at the 2018 World Meeting of Families. From R-L: Shane, Alyssa, Joshua, Lachlan and Leanne. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

The Hyland family have witnessed God perform miracles in their own lives and they can’t wait to share their faith story at the World Meeting of Families (WMF) in Dublin this August.

The family of five from Charmhaven in the diocese of Broken Bay have been selected by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to attend the international gathering as the delegate family from Australia.

Shane and Leanne—both teachers at Catholic schools—and their children Joshua 12, Alyssa 8 and Lachlan 5 will take part in a pilgrimage of Ireland followed by six days in Dublin for the WMF.

“The kids are really excited to go overseas. It’s great just to give them the opportunity to go somewhere and experience something bigger than our little church,” Shane told The Catholic Weekly.

“It’s a real honour and a wonderful opportunity for our family. We’re really elated with happiness, with joy,” Leanne added.

The theme for this year’s WMF running from 21 to 26 August is “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World” and will include keynote speakers, workshops, testimonies, discussions, daily Mass, as well as prayer time and cultural and musical performances. It is the largest international gathering of families in the world and takes place every three years.

The climax of the meeting will be the final Mass which it is hoped will be celebrated by Pope Francis himself.

The Hyland family are very active in their parish St Mary of the Cross MacKillop in Warnervale and have been running family groups there for a number of years. Shane is also involved in prison chaplaincy.

They are looking forward to meeting other Catholic families from around the world and sharing with them how God has transformed their lives.

“Our youngest Lachlan had a very traumatic birth and during his time in intensive care we had a lot of people praying,” Leanne said. “He made a miraculous recovery and doctors can’t believe that he is functioning like a normal little boy.”

“It was God’s love and it was the Holy Spirit. It was beautiful to see the life being brought back into him.”

“Through sharing our stories with other families we can make wonderful connections and find God’s love in that.”

Shane said it was his wife’s prayers that eventually brought him back to the faith and he would like to give a message of hope to other families at the WMF. “I think it’s important for people to know that whatever situation they’re in, that the Church is there for them. And that with their faith, there’s hope in any situation.”

Twelve-year-old Joshua said he was looking forward to “maybe meeting the Pope and meeting other families”.

For more information about the World Meeting of Families 2018:

Published with permission of the Catholic Weekly

Ireland will tour Oz as Six Nations champs

 Irish players congratulate Sean Cronin after his try against Scotland.

Irish players congratulate Sean Cronin after his try against Scotland.

Ireland will arrive in Australia in June as Six Nations champions after defeating Scotland in Dublin on Saturday.

England's loss to France in Paris means that Ireland have won the 2018 title with a game to spare. They also have the opportunity to claim a rare Grand Slam if they can defeat England on St Patrick's Day in Twickenham.

Ireland racked up a 28-8 bonus-point win over Scotland in Dublin to move within just one victory of their first Six Nations clean sweep since 2009.

Head coach Schmidt's side must end England's unbeaten Twickenham record under boss Eddie Jones, who took the helm in December 2015.

Ireland are unbeaten at home in the Six Nations since 2013, leading Schmidt to insist he knows full well the pressure England face defending home-turf honour.

 Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt after the win over Scotland.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt after the win over Scotland.

"I guess history doesn't protect you from the future; we knew that today," said Schmidt.

"We hadn't lost in five years in the Six Nations here in Dublin. It didn't protect us, we had to go out and win again today. That's all part of the challenge.

"We need to go to Twickenham and try to test that record out, I guess.

"But it won't be uppermost in our thinking because you can be distracted looking back when you need to be moving forward.

"We didn't feel our five-year run in the Six Nations here protected us.

"And I'm sure Eddie Jones and the boys will be fully focused on winning the game next week."

Jacob Stockdale became the first Irishman to claim six tries in a single Five or Six Nations competition with a brace against the Scots.

Conor Murray and Sean Cronin sealed Ireland's third bonus-point win in their four clashes to date, with the Grand Slam now on the line at Twickenham.

 Man-of-the-match Rob Kearney on the burst against Scotland.

Man-of-the-match Rob Kearney on the burst against Scotland.

Ireland registered a national record 11th consecutive win too, in another boost for former Leinster boss Schmidt's hugely impressive tenure.

Asked how he would feel to guide Ireland to a Grand Slam to equal the exploits of the 1948 and 2009 vintage, Schmidt said: "I think it would give me incredible satisfaction.

"I work with these young men who go out and do an incredibly difficult job and work very hard. It would give me incredible satisfaction to see that rewarded.

"In the end the satisfaction is something that really is placed around the effort that they make."

Only Best and Rob Kearney remain in Ireland's squad from those that claimed the Grand Slam in 2009.

Current skipper Best admitted Ireland will now need to summon their best rugby yet in this year's tournament to topple England and complete the clean sweep.

"We're going to have to save the best for last, and that's what it's going to take to win everything next week," said Best.

"It's only a big game now because of what we've done previously. So we have to stick to those processes.

"It would be special for every member of the squad. It is a squad thing.

"There will be moments next week when we need to dig deep, and we've a lot of big leaders in that squad.

"At times when we were under pressure today and they were trying to play chaotic rugby, we were able to get a breath back and get control through the spine of our team.

"Everyone knows the size of the challenge. They haven't lost at Twickenham under Eddie Jones.

"It is about as much as possible trying to treat it like another game. We know what works for us."

Scotland captain John Barclay admitted his side botched a hatful of scoring chances, which proved definitive on the day.

"I don't want to say you get what you deserve in rugby; the scoreline didn't reflect the chances in the game," said Barclay.

"But they took all their chances whereas we probably had four two-on-one chances and we took none of them. That's the difference today."

Moore Park set to turn green

 SELFIE STICKS AT THE READY.The Sydney Opera House will turn green again this St Patrick’s Day thanks to the Sydney St Patrick’s Day Association and Tourism Ireland. It’s the first time since 2014 that Opera House has taken part in the Global Greening initiative. Other Australian sites turning green include Hyde Park Barracks and Sydney Town Hall; The Bell Tower, Council House and Elizabeth Quay in Perth, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.

SELFIE STICKS AT THE READY.The Sydney Opera House will turn green again this St Patrick’s Day thanks to the Sydney St Patrick’s Day Association and Tourism Ireland. It’s the first time since 2014 that Opera House has taken part in the Global Greening initiative. Other Australian sites turning green include Hyde Park Barracks and Sydney Town Hall; The Bell Tower, Council House and Elizabeth Quay in Perth, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.

THOUSANDS of Sydneysiders are expected to flock to the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park on Sunday, March 18 for their city’s first St Patrick’s Day celebration in three years.

And organisers are very confident that the free event will go ahead – rain or shine – because of the new choice of venue. Last year’s event at Prince Alfred Park had to be cancelled because days of heavy rain turned the park into a safety risk.

The Sydney St Patrick’s Day president said this year’s Green Quarter event will be a fantastic family celebration of Irishness. The venue, he said, was fit for purpose and offered both open-air and covered areas.

“The reason we’ve chosen the Entertainment Quarter this year is because there is proper drainage,” said Robert Kineavy.

And, while most of the festivities will be in the open air, Mr Kineavy said there are also canopies and marquees.

One of the highlights is the children’s parade beginning at noon.

About 300 children wearing fancy dress will march around the Entertainment Quarter, accompanied by pipe bands and flag bearers for the 32 counties. Parents can register their children to take part.

“We see this as a great way to put family at the centre of the celebrations,” said Mr Kineavy.

“The event has different meaning for everyone. For me the celebration is about passing Irish culture to my children.”

There’ll also be a dedicated children’s area, with a bouncing castle, face-painting, lots of fun field events and a creative tent for arts and crafts.

For the adults, most of the focus will be on the main stage where bands like Blackwater and The Bottlers will perform.

A smaller sessions stage will showcase Irish traditional music and there will be a performance tent with story telling. Of course, there will be a bar for that essential St Patrick’s Day Guinness, as well as many Irish craft and food stalls.

“We want to make it a truly worldclass St Patrick’s Day event,” Mr Kineavy said.

Organising all this has taken months of work for the Dubliner and his fellow volunteers. Mr Kineavy admits they have not had it easy.

In 2016, the parade had to be called off because of financial losses caused by bad weather. Having to cancel again last year was a double blow.

While the organisation’s financial situation is much improved thanks to a determined fundraising effort, Mr Kineavy said they still need ongoing community support. Staging the event each year costs about $250,000.

“It is in Irish and Australian Irish people’s interests to keep our culture alive and kicking in Sydney,” he said.

Car parking discounts will be available with the purchase of official merchandise.

To find out more or to register children for the parade or field events, go to or follow Sydney St Patrick’s Day on Facebook/Instagram

O'Donovan brothers for Sydney


Champion rowers Gary O'Donovan (right) and Paul O'Donovan (left) celebrate winning silver in the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls Final at the Rio Olympic Games. Picture: MIke Egerton

IRELAND’S popular Olympic medallists of two years ago Gary and Paul O’Donovan are coming to Australia.

The brothers are taking part in the Sydney International Rowing Regatta, an event that attracts elite athletes from around the world.

They will be joined by Mark O’Donovan (no relation) and Shane O’Driscoll, who are world champions. Gary and Paul O’Donovan, from Lisheen near Skibbereen in West Cork, took silver behind France in the lightweight double sculls, winning Ireland’s first rowing medal at the Olympics.

Along with Annalise Murphy’s silver in sailing, these were Ireland’s only medals of the Rio games. However, Gary and Paul came to prominence for their hilarious interviews as much as their athletic success, with people all over the globe warming to their personalities, broad accents and quirky humour.

Talking in Rio, they discussed their steak diet, the awkwardness of doping tests and missing out on the party for their triumph back home. The brothers have even been invited onto Graham Norton’s celebrity chat show with their motto “pull like a dog” finding its way into the vernacular.

Last year, the brothers won silver in men’s lightweight double sculls at the European Rowing Championships. They also won silver at the second World Rowing Cup regatta of the season in Poland in June and bronze at the third in July.

In September 2017, at the World Rowing Championships in Florida, Paul O’Donovan won gold at the lightweight men’s single sculls.

Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll, also from Skibbereen, took gold in both the 2017 European and World Championships in lightweight coxless pairs.

The Irish quartet have been preparing in New Zealand where they have been competing in the national rowing championships at Lake Karapiro where Paul O’Donovan took bronze in the single sculls and the foursome also took bronze in the Premier Four.

The Sydney International Rowing Regatta takes place at Penrith in the western suburbs of Sydney from March 19 to 25. To find out more, click here.

Big snow forces flight cancellations

 Snowploughs were deployed at Dublin Airport to clear service roads and runways.

Snowploughs were deployed at Dublin Airport to clear service roads and runways.

The massive snowfalls from storm Emma have caused travel chaos in Ireland forcing the cancellations of many services, including flights.

Those travelling to Ireland are advised to check with their airlines before going to the airport.

More than 1,900 flights were cancelled to or from British and Irish airports on Friday.

Heathrow, the world's busiest two-runway airport, saw at least 370 departing or arriving flights cancelled, representing around 30 per cent of all scheduled services.

Dublin Airport was forced to close, leading to 342 cancellations but is expected to reopen later today, Australian-time.

"We are preparing for a resumption of flight operations @DublinAirport tomorrow morning," an official tweet. "Some airlines have cancelled services & there may be delays to others."

Emirates cancelled a number of flights between Dublin and Dubai over the past two days.

In a statement, the airline advised customers impacted to "contact their travel agency or the local Emirates office for rebooking."

A Sydney travel agent advised those planning to travel to Ireland from Australia to consider rescheduling their flights or risk delays.

She said to check with the airline or their travel agent before going to the airport.

"If you don't absolutely have to travel, I would reschedule," she said.

"Most of the airlines and being quite understanding in the circumstances."


Sydney Mardi Gras' proudest Irish woman

 Sydney Queer Irish co-founder Loretta Cosgrove with Panti Bliss at the 2017 Mardi Gras.

Sydney Queer Irish co-founder Loretta Cosgrove with Panti Bliss at the 2017 Mardi Gras.

This Saturday, I will join 80 strong Sydney Queer Irish (SQI) community members to proudly march (more accurately dance!) up Oxford St in Sydney’s 40th Mardi Gras parade.

It's 40 years since the first march in 1978 was met with unexpected police violence.

This Mardi Gras parade is extra special as it aims to celebrate the community’s struggles and triumphs and the evolution of Mardi Gras.

SQI, too, remembers our own LGBT journey at home over the past 40 years. I am the president and founding member of SQI, an organisation emerging from late night conversations in my kitchen with a group of friends who wanted to create a social support network for Irish ex-pats and those with Irish ancestry who also identify as LGBT, queer or just left of centre.

I am of Irish-born parents, a proud Mayo man and equally proud Galway woman. I lived in Clonbur, Co Galway until I was six. We emigrated to Australia in the 80s.

Since then I have spent years back and forth living in both Ireland and Australia and feel patriotic to both my home countries. Ireland will always be ‘home’ for me and I have a huge community in Co. Galway. Settled in Sydney (for now!), I feel very proud to be an Irish gay woman and love to connect with the Irish community.

As a result, in a suburb in Sydney’s Inner West, SQI was formed in 2010! SQI has been a saving grace for me and many ex-pats from Ireland who have joined us over the years. Whether your stay in Australia is long, short, permanent or fleeting, SQI offers a home away from home for the Irish LGBT community.

We are also very proud of the connection we have made with other Irish community groups in Sydney and the support of The Consulate General of Ireland, whose ongoing assistance is invaluable.

 The 2016 SQI Mardi Gras entry.

The 2016 SQI Mardi Gras entry.

By far, SQI’s biggest event of the year is our celebrated Mardi Gras entry.

To achieve an award-winning float takes months of planning and preparation. In the days leading up to the parade, members are making last minute touches to costumes and props, doing final choreography rehearsals, as well as holding down day jobs!

Every year we are oversubscribed with eager float applicants, and we are joined by people flying from Ireland and interstate. This year’s Mardi Gras theme is ‘Evolution’, and our entry celebrates Ireland's road to equality over the past four decades.

Our small island has embraced love, equality, modernity and LGBT rights, while still celebrating our rich history, tradition and culture.

In remembering our much loved Dolores O’ Riordan, The Cranberries’ track Dreams helps us celebrate our Irish pride and brings together a choreographed group with a mix of traditional and modern dance.

Our costumes and props will showcase the Irish tri-colours of green, white and orange, with each section representing a decade over the past 40 years.

The green marchers, with their shoulder-pads ready for battle, represent the first LGBT protests in the 1970s and the foundation of the Irish gay rights movement.

Our winged white marchers pay tribute to those impacted by HIV/AIDS in our community in the 1980s and beyond, and the various Irish gay organisations who formed Gay Health Action (GHA) in response to the crisis.

The gold/orange section, in their flower covered broken chains, represents the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1990s.

Sounds like a lot of work? It is! It’s also a huge amount of fun with the Irish community and friends.

It’s about this time of year, a few days before the parade and planning in full-swing, that I say, “never again!”. Predictably, by Saturday night when it all comes together, cheered on by a roaring crowd, I’ll already be thinking how to grow Sydney Queer Irish and planning for next year’s Mardi Gras!