As a professional sportsman Antrim's Mark Allen spends a lot of time away from his nearest and dearest.

The 26-year-old is due to tie the knot with local woman Kyla McGuigan in a lavish ceremony surrounded by family and friends.

The world’s number eight, who has a daughter Lauren from a previous relationship, will also become a proud step-father to Kyla's son.

Due to his work commitments the couple is regularly separated for days at a time. Already this year, Allen has traveled to Blackpool for the Snooker Shoot-Out and to Berlin for the German Masters.
[Source: Antrim Guardian]


Speculation is rife that a lucky couple who scooped $670,000 on the Euromillions lottery draw may be from the south Armagh area.

The winning jackpot was sold in Watters shop at Annavackey, close to the border with Crossmaglen, and a popular lottery stop with locals.

The National Lottery confirmed that a young couple from County Armagh won the draw and has already come forward to claim their winnings.
[Source: Examiner Newspaper]


The shamrock is the familiar emblem of Ireland, but these days the snowdrop might be a better one.

In full bloom by early February, the white flower offers a defiantly cheerful face in the bleak winter landscape. For a people still waking with anger, pain and regret from a ride on the Celtic Tiger, the snowdrop offers a lesson in humility, hardiness and hope.

Robert Millar, a 37-year-old plant geek, snowdrop lover and nurseryman in Carlow, refuses to let Ireland’s slow economic recovery dampen his spirits. Earlier this month, he held a festival — a “gala” — that drew more than 100 other snowdrop fanciers from across the country to revel in a craze known as galanthomania, after the plant’s botanic name, Galanthus.
[Source: Washington Post]


A man who received a 14-year sentence for possession of $8.7 million worth of cannabis more than seven years ago claims he is being wrongly denied a chance to get temporary release from prison.

Shane O'Rourke (34), New Inn, Enfield, County Meath, received a mandatory 10 years with another four years suspended in Naas Circuit Court in March 2007 arising out of the 1,500 pounds of drugs found in a container parked at the rear of a house between Enfield and Carbury in Co. Kildare, on August 23, 2005.

O'Rourke, a father-of-two who formerly operated a plant and tool hire business, has served his sentence in a number of prisons and is currently held in Loughan House in Cavan, which is a recognition that he has been of good behavior, his counsel John Fitzgerald told the High Court last Monday.
[Source: Irish Independent]


The West Clare Economic Task Force, which was formally established five years ago, is to be disbanded due to lack of interest from the agencies involved.

Last Monday’s Kilrush Electoral Area meeting of West Clare’s six county councilors heard claims that the task force didn’t manage to create a single job since it was set up.

Electoral area chairman Bill Chambers told the meeting that a recent letter sent to the stakeholders, establishing their interest in remaining involved in the task force, had not elicited a single response.

“That’s sad,” Councilor Christy Curtin replied. “We had a full day of a task force review on September 14, 2012. I don’t know what has happened, the report, it hasn’t been made public. We all got a copy of it but I think it should be made public and I think we should join with the community and get on with phase two of the project,” he urged.
[Source: Clare Champion]


A fight that took place between two teenage girls is being investigated by Gardaí (police) in Cork. The fight, which was prearranged, took place in Kinvara Estate in Ballyvolane on Friday, February 15, between two girls who are believed to be from both the north and south sides of the city.

Several videos of the fight were uploaded to video sharing site YouTube, although they have all since been deleted as such content contravenes YouTube’s terms and conditions. The videos show the two girls fighting and surrounded by a large group of about 200 teenagers. The disturbing footage shows the two girls pulling each other’s hair, as well as one of them kicking the other in the head.
[Source: Cork Independent]


The grieving family of a Derry man who died just hours after he was assaulted in the city center has appealed for the public’s help in tracing his final movements.

Terry McCartney’s body was discovered at his John Street flat at 10 a.m. on February 5.

Earlier that morning, at 2:50 a.m., Mr. McCartney was involved in an altercation with a group of men at Shipquay Gate, during which he was punched to the ground.

Police later said they were not treating his death as suspicious following the results of a post-mortem analysis.

However, the 42-year-old’s heartbroken mother, Margaret, is urging members of the public to come forward with any information that can “help me come to terms with my son’s death.”
[Source: Derry Journal]


Shay Given hasn’t given up on his dream of keeping goal for Donegal’s inter-county footballers.

The Aston Villa goalkeeper was a spectator at Celtic’s Champions League draw against Juventus on Tuesday night, February 12, alongside Donegal manager Jim McGuinness.

“I’ve gotten to know him through the Donegal football team goalkeeping coach — Pat Shovlin — who said Jim would like to meet up with me at the Juventus game,” Given write in his column in The Sunday Sun.

“So we met up in Glasgow and it was a really good night despite the result against Juventus. I enjoyed his company and we spoke a lot about sport. He’s an intelligent guy who’s really passionate about sport and it was interesting to hear his slant on various things.”
[Source: Donegal Democrat]


A Newry man has pleaded guilty to possessing an “arsenal of weaponry.”

Christopher McManus from Aileen Terrace, had been due to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court Wednesday, February 13, but instead, his lawyer requested that some of the charges be put to him again. McManus entered a guilty plea to six indictments: four firearms related and two terrorist-related charges.

The court heard the 56-year-old engineer plead guilty to possessing eight firearms, including one which was disguised as the removable handle of a walking cane.  He also admitted to having a rifle, component parts of weapons, seven magazines and various ammunition including armor-piercing and “dum-dum” bullets, all with intent to endanger life.
[Source: Examiner Newspaper]


The constant jangling of wind chimes in a neighbor's back garden was described by an 83-year-old last Tuesday as a deliberate act of cruelty against her and her husband.

Mary McBride, of 40 Villa Park Gardens, Navan Road, Dublin, told Judge Alison Lindsay at the Circuit Civil Court that next door neighbors Michael and Marian Hanway, who live at Number 38, would deliberately hang out several wind chimes at a time.

"It was torture," she said.

Barrister Pat O'Brien, counsel for the McBrides, asked Judge Lindsay for maximum damages of $51,000 against the Hanways, who are demanding a similar amount of compensation for bad neighborliness.
[Source: Evening Herald]


A Fermanagh community organization will be able to carry out energy saving improvements to its venue and save money, thanks to a grants windfall from the Big Lottery Fund.

Colaghty Orange Lodge 365, Ederney has been awarded a grant of $76,067 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Energy Efficient Venues program towards improvements to their hall.

The group, which opened their hall in 1955, is in a rural area between Ederney and Lack and offers community activities, including bowls, social evenings and summer barbecues.
[Source: Fermanagh Herald]


A 42-year old accountant has gone on trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court charged with sexually assaulting four schoolgirls over a 10-year period.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denies 24 charges of sexual assault against the four girls, which are alleged to have taken place in a rural village between 1996 and 2006 when they were aged between five and 12 years of age.

Two of the victims, who are now aged 18 and 19 respectively, gave evidence on the first day of the trial last Wednesday.
[Source: Galway Bay FM]


A county councilor has told how she was "emotionally bullied" in the lead-up to a vote on marriage rights for gays.

Labour's Gillian Wharton-Slattery had to switch off her phone on Sunday, February 17, because she "couldn't take" another call criticizing her support for same-sex couples.

Councilors in Kerry last Monday supported the married mother-of-two's motion by an 18 to seven majority, becoming the 14th local authority in the State to support same-sex marriages.
[Source: Irish Independent]


Anti-crime texting schemes, which would help communities in Leixlip and elsewhere in Kildare, could be approved and up and running this summer, writes Henry Bauress.

Following requests from members of the public in Leixlip and the town’s Joint Policing Committee heard on February 18.

Garda (Police) Inspector Paul Dolan told the J.P.C. public meeting at Newtown House last Monday that there was a report on the desk of the Garda Commissioner which is “awaiting approval.”
[Source: Leinster Leader]


The first phase of the $2.1 million overhaul of High Street will begin in the next fortnight, scheduled to take place over an 11-week period until May.

It will involve new pavement, curbing and road surfacing from the Patrick Street junction to William Street junction.

The improvement works will also involve a reconfiguration of the junction at The Field pub, and the removal of the left-turning slip lane there – although this measure has not met with universal approval.

The works are part of Kilkenny City’s much-vaunted “Medieval Mile” project.
[Source: Kilkenny People]


A Portlaoise man in jail for running a $1.5million cocaine factory whose finances are being investigated by the State has told the Circuit Court that numerous lodgments to his bank accounts over a period of almost two years were due to him carrying out carpentry jobs for cash.

John Troy (37) was one of three men convicted of running the drugs factory at Troy’s property in Ballyknocken in 2005. When Gardaí (police) raided the house they discovered around 13 pounds of cocaine, which the men were in the process of cutting with mixing agent to turn into 22 pounds for sale. Paraphernalia including mixers, bowls, weighing scales and bags were also found on the premises. It was estimated that the drugs had a street value of $1.544 million.
[Source: Leinster Express]


A day that started in celebration for Allen Gaels G.A.A. club as they gathered to celebrate the memory of Tony McGowan ended in shock for the town of Drumshanbo with the sudden passing of Gerry Keane, described as “larger than life” by Club Chairman Sean Wynne.

Leitrim Club Player of the Year in 1991, Gerry Keane was one of those legendary players who come to symbolize their clubs, their dedication legendary and commitment to the club marking him out as one of those unsung local heroes who do so much for their communities.

Gerry won three Leitrim Senior Championship medals as a player in 1991, 1996 and 1997 and was part of the Allen Gaels management team who won two further titles in 2001 and 2002
[Source: Leitrim Observer]


A car salesman stole tens of thousands of dollars from his employer by selling cars off the books a court has heard.

Denis Curtin (42) of Woodview Park, Newcastle West, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of theft relating to offenses on dates during 2008 and 2009.

The total amount of money stolen by the defendant was $59,716.

Limerick Circuit Court has heard the defendant was employed as a sales manager at Liam Cleary’s Car Sales, Eastway Business Park and that he was a “trusted” employee who had “full control” over the sale of cars at the premise.
[Source: Limerick Leader]


Gardaí (police) were last Tuesday night expected to arrest two suspects they believe viciously attacked a newly-married couple with a hatchet in Edgeworthstown on Sunday afternoon, February 17.

Up to half a dozen officers from the Gardaí’s armed Regional Support Unit (R.S.U.) were drafted in to assist local Gardaí as part of a planned operation.

Both men, who are related and well-known to Gardaí, were last Tuesday evening being quizzed by senior Gardaí over the assault after Gardaí swooped on a house in the Lisnanagh area of Edgeworthstown.

Investigators have already spoken to the victims of the incident, which occurred two weeks ago in broad daylight at around 2 p.m. along the town’s Main Street.
[Source: Longford Leader]


A 65-year-old local man who was arrested in a Garda (police) surveillance operation where they seized $227,000 worth of drugs had sentence adjourned for Judge Leonie Reynolds to obtain an up-to-date medical report on the accused.

Dundalk Circuit Court heard on Friday, February 15, that Francis McDonagh a father-of-three of Cocklehill, Blackrock, who was present in a wheelchair, became involved in what was described as a “one-off” venture into the drugs trade. He admitted a charge of possession of drugs for sale or supply.

He was apprehended when Gardaí monitored the movements of a co-accused as he traveled from Coolock. They nabbed the pair outside town and seized $227,000 worth of cannabis resin. They also found $40,000 cash in a boot of a car owned by the accused at his home.
[Source: Dundalk Democrat]


Gardaí (police) in Castlebar have interviewed a number of people as part of their ongoing investigation into the aggravated burglary at the home of Castlebar businesswoman Regina Sweeney earlier this month.

Ms. Sweeney was the victim of a second savage assault in her home/business on February 6. She was also the victim of a similar attack on December 1.

While no arrests have been made yet, a Garda spokesperson said they had interviewed a number of people who are “assisting” them with their inquiries.

The spokesperson said a “mammoth” investigation into the attack was ongoing and that “no stone is being left unturned.”
[Source: The Mayo News]


Kells will receive a massive tourism boost in June when the world-renowned Hay Festival comes to town, bringing writers and book fans from all over the world.

Up to 10,000 visitors are expected to flock to the festival, and among the writers already confirmed are Booker Prize-winners John Banville and D.B.C. Pierre.

As reported in the Meath Chronicle last year, the home of the Book of Kells will host the three-day festival from June 28 to 30.

The festival will bring together the best of Irish, English-speaking and international authors and thinkers to celebrate the sharing of stories and ideas.
[Source: Meath Chronicle]


Two men being sued over the Omagh bombing have no case to answer, the High Court has been told.

Lawyers for Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly claimed the lawsuit against them should be thrown out due to lack of evidence.

Both men are defending an action over allegations they played central roles in the Real I.R.A. attack in August 1998.

Relatives of some of the 29 people killed in the atrocity brought proceedings against them in an attempt to have them held liable.

Murphy, a Dundalk-based contractor and publican, and former employee Seamus Daly, from Culaville, County Monaghan, were ordered to face a civil retrial after their appeals against being found responsible for the bombing were upheld.
[Source: BBC News]


Four Offaly students have been named as finalists in the fifth annual Doodle 4 Google competition.

They are now amongst 75 Irish students in with a chance of having their doodle displayed on the Google Ireland homepage for millions of people to see. Everyone in Offaly is now being urged to visit and vote for Conor, Darrell, Annie and Caoimhe.

The following students are among 75 regional finalists in with a chance of winning the competition: Conor Ryan (Group 3) from Scoil Bhride, Kilcormac; Darrell Lally (Group 4) from St. Brendan’s Community School, Birr; Annie Nichols (Group 4) from St. Brendan’s Community School, Birr; Caoimhe Mahon (Group 5) from Banagher College Collaiste Na Sionna, Banagher.
[Source: Offaly Express]


This was posted on the Off the Ball Facebook page recently, but just in case you missed it, it’s worth another look.

Chris O'Dowd commented on the St. Brigid’s man of the moment and all-around goalkeeping sensation, Shane Curran.

"He could save a penalty and he could score a 45, but at the same time he'd be just as happy to ride a bull into a church."
[Source: Newstalk]


It’s bad enough for hard-pressed shoppers in the center of Sligo to have to pay for parking.

But if An Taisce has its way, shoppers using out of town car parks will also have to cough up.

The proposal is part of an effort to protect town centers.

But Sligo's mayor, Clr. David Cawley, is not impressed.

His solution: rather than penalizing people for shopping in out-of-town outlets, make town centers attractive enough to draw people in.
[Source: Irish Independent]


Gardaí (police) are appealing for witnesses following a two-car collision in Thurles, County Tipperary on Friday, February 15.

At about 10:40 p.m. a 22-year-old man was seriously injured when the car he was driving collided with a second car on the N75 at Rathmanna, Thurles. He was taken by ambulance to South Tipperary General Hospital with serious injuries, and later transferred to Cork University Hospital where he was pronounced dead late on Saturday night, Feb. 16. The driver of the second car (22) was taken to the hospital with minor injuries and later discharged.
[Source: Tipperary Star]


Burgers have been recalled from local schools and hospitals in the Mid-Ulster and south Tyrone area amid the ongoing horse meat scandal.

Burgers were recalled two weeks ago from schools in the Southern Education and Library Board, which takes in Dungannon and Cookstown, and the North Eastern Education and Library Board, which takes in Magherafelt.

The Tyrone Courier has seen a letter sent by the Southern Education and Library Board to school catering staff members, instructing them to "quarantine" their stock of the burgers for collection by the supplier.

The letter, which was sent on Thursday, February 14, states that Henderson Food Service, the supplier of the Board's frozen food contract, "is withdrawing supply of burger items as a precautionary measure and is instigating a full product recall pending further assurances from the producer that there is no contamination of the products supplied."
[Source: Tyrone Courier]


A shopping complex developed a number of years ago at Rathculliheen, in Ferrybank, just three miles from Waterford City center has been placed on the property market at a fraction of its building cost.

Ross Abbey, which was built as a “substantial” neighborhood center, never actually opened its doors, and not one of the 13 units – varying in size from 900 sq. ft. to 10,500 sq. ft. – was ever occupied.
The entire complex located on a 2.35 acre site with parking for 80 vehicles has been put up for sale on the instructions of Tom Kavanagh, receiver and manager for KavanaghFennell.

The guide price for the entire property is $764,000, which, according to the selling agent Des Purcell, “seems extraordinarily competitive notwithstanding the current very difficult economic climate.”
[Source: Waterford News & Star]


Scottish singer Paolo Nutini certainly won’t forget his attendance at the 2013 Westmeath Hunt Ball in a hurry.

The chart topper, who was recording his new album at the Grouse Lodge Recording Studio outside Moate, was forced to come out and voice his opposition to blood-sports after he came under fire from animal rights activists for attending the Hunt’s shindig in the Bloomfield House Hotel earlier this month with studio owner Paddy Dunning.

Activists bombarded the singer’s Facebook page with critical messages after the Westmeath Examiner published a picture of him at the black tie event. Such was the level of the criticism directed at Nutini that he issued a statement on the social networking site – marked February 14 – letting his fans know that he “in no way supports fox hunting or any other type of animal blood-sports.”
[Source: Westmeath Examiner]


The community of Ferns is in shock following the tragic death of local man who was killed in a road collision while out cycling last Monday. The man has been named locally as Martin Mimnagh of Boolnadrum, Ferns.

The collision, which is believed to have involved a 4×4 jeep, happened around 4 p.m. on the N30 at Ballymackesy, and the road was closed off for a number of hours afterwards to facilitate an exam of the scene by a team of forensic collision investigators.
[Source: Wexford Echo]


A U.S. bond market wizard named in classic book “Liar's Poker” is expected to buy the luxury Ritz Carlton Powerscourt hotel after the Wicklow venue went into liquidation Tuesday night, February 19.

The company behind the five-star, 200-room Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt Hotel was put into liquidation at the High Court after a 100-day examinership failed to save the business.

Liquidation could threaten almost 300 full-time and part-time staff members at the high-end venue.
[Source: Irish Independent]

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