Ireland, Irish folk music legacy

Ireland, the legacy of Irish folk music may be the greatest gift given to her emigrant sons and daughters. I have my opinion on who is the best Irish folk group to listen to on St. Patricks Day, who is your favorite Irish folk music band, of today or yesterday?

Yea, Paddy is my favorite Irish music singer of Ireland,link to Dara records for Paddy Reilly cd’s, You really can’t go wrong with The double cd- Gold and silver days-  For other great Irish folk music artists and Irish folk music songs, check out my top ten Irish music cd’s.

cheers

Tell me who is your favorite Irish folk music band?

why Ireland? See why.

Why Ireland? The first reason truly is, in the words of Johnny Cash, the forty shades of green. I have traveled to Ireland for vacations, weddings and business, and still to this day I am always in awe of the beauty of Ireland. you would think that the green fields of Ireland would lessen in their allure over the years, but I find the opposite to be true, as the years pass by Ireland’s earthy charms increase. Whether I’m at The Cliffs of Moher, The Dingle Peninsula, or Malin Head, Ireland’s range of beauty is endless.

Drumlane Abbey, Milltown

Why Ireland? In Ireland they speak a form of english which is fairly comparable with  the form of english I speak as an east coast American. Is it the same? No. But with a little effort and patience and listening the communication barrier is fairly easy to overcome. Don’t expect to know everything that is being said, especially when two fellows from the same town are talking. The local slang words will fly and you don’t have a chance of knowing them, the old “separated by a common language” would apply here. You will however be able to understand 80% of what’s being said, be able to order a meal, rent a room, and most importantly order a guinness at the bar. Try doing that in Paris.

Why Ireland? There are little pockets of old Ireland to be explored and enjoyed like a painting by Van Gogh or music by Mozart. Old little pubs that haven’t changed in appearance for a hundred years, unassuming, off the beaten path only found by mistake. Sometimes hidden behind a touristy cabaret in the back can be found a snug little locals bar. These present the opportunity to enjoy the character of a true Irish Pub. Next time you are in Bray try the Harbor Bar, one side contemporary music venue, other side beautiful old bar. If you go here don’t try to pick up the euros you can see on the floor (they are glued down)

Why Ireland? To hear the best Irish music. Go to the Fleadh Cheoil in Cavan in August, the All Ireland Fleadh is a beacon for Irish Musicians worldwide. Small towns swell with Irish music lovers and the sessions are mighty

Why Ireland? The chats I’ve had with the most varied and down to earth people. In Dublin, you get to play the game of give and take, don’t give it, if you can’t take it. Lots of fun, especially if you have a thick skin. Once accepted the conversations are tremendous. In Doolin town, spent an evening talking with some Irish fishermen waiting for some weather to pass, a more rugged and hospitable people you’ll never meet. Singing songs in Kinsale at the Shanakee pub with people we got to know that night, off season, no other tourist, just a little impromptu local sing song. The kind of thing that if you looked for it, you would never find it. On a first visit to Ireland I was told to sit down and be quiet, it was a good lesson-(Proper pub etiquette and pub tutorial)

Why Ireland? Because when you travel to Ireland, follow some simple rules of courtesy, you will want to go back. I owned an Irish gift shop for 15 years and people would ask me when the best time to go to Ireland was. I would always tell them the same thing, now is the best time to go to Ireland.

 

Cheers

Irish folk music

Irish folk music is what most new comers to irish music think of when they think of Irish music. I’ll have to confess that I am an Irish music lover of Irish folk music first and foremost, and have grown an affection for the traditional irish tunes as I’ve attended different trad sessions. Irish folk music is very similar to old country music in that it tells a story, the hard simple life experiences of the Irish trying to make their way through, or their mark on, the world, recorded in song. The Irish folk music scene was quite small until the 50′sand 60′s when bands like the Clancy brothers, Dubliners, Wolfetones, resurrected it. These artists combined their love of their native land, with incredible talent, and social turmoil, to create what is the Irish music experience we have come to love.

I have a running joke that resurfaces every St. Patrick’s Day when the sing alongs start which warns the listeners that the next song might be on the tragic side, because there are so many Irish Folk songs written about horrific conditions, or horrible mistreatment. The best songs are produced from the hardest times or a remedy for them, Irish folk music themes of evictions, betrayal, rebel tunes, pub songs, which may on the surface seem depressing, have the opposite effect. The surviving the battle, the overcoming the odds, provide great pride in the singing and the listening. They also have the responsibility to tell the history of battles fought and struggles encountered.

Many times we Americans are poked fun at when traveling to Ireland because we want to experience the Ireland of our forefathers, the thatched cottage, the small farms, the traditional Irish music, much, like the log cabins of the American west, exist in very few places. On vacation we have two weeks in Ireland to uncover generations of connections to our Irish heritage. The music keeps the memory and history of harder times alive and the connection to our heritage which we find important, alive. The best places to find Irish folk music is in the more touristy towns. The Irish folk music is played in the bigger tourist towns to attract tourist, don’t confuse Irish folk with Irish traditional music. Irish traditional music is centuries old back to the Halls Of Tara, there are fiddle tunes without names played by young and old as the traditions are passed on. Irish session music as a whole is learned by listening and the traditions are passed down from one generation to the next.

Most CD’s that we hear are usually a combination of Irish folk music and traditional Irish music. It’s funny what one person would consider a classic another might not be able to stand. The nice thing about living today is that we can listen to different styles and arrangement of songs till we find a group we like. Besides the top ten cd’s of mine I’ve come to like bands like the Orthodox Celts from of all places Serbia.

So learn the words to an Irish folk tune or two, St. Patricks Day is right around the corner, or find a local band and sing the chorus, the enjoyment of the song is what’s important,

Cheers

 

St. Patrick’s Day in America-How to cook corned beef dinner

St Patricks day in America-How to cook corned beef dinner

Why corned beef and cabbage for St. Patricks day in America? This question is always asked by my Irish born friends, they never serve corned beef and cabbage, now bacon and cabbage is a different story, and by bacon I mean a pork shoulder, that’s a more common meal, but corned beef hardly ever. The Irish cow was used for milk and was expensive (we’re talking about harder times, rural Ireland, British occupation) pigs on the other hand bred faster and required less care, which made them more suited for eating.     In America, especially in the big cities, New york, Chicago, Boston, there were many different ethnic immigrants established throughout different sections of the cities. The corned beef’s connection to St Patrick’s day in America comes from the Jewish brisket being a cheap cut of meat and it would be salted or corned to preserve it. To celebrate their connection to the old country, Irish immigrants would splurge and buy some corned beef as that what was available and affordable.

  • America is a melting pot so Jewish butchers suppling corned beef to my ancestors leads to corn beef being the traditional meal for St. Patrick’s day in America. Now history lesson over with, every St Patrick’s day I serve 60 to 90 people at my house a corned beef dinner. There are only a few things you need to know to have everything turn out great.
  • I like the flat cut of corned beef, if you like a fattier piece use the point cut, but the flat cut is the way to go.
  • Cook the meat separately in a large pot, put the meat in the pot and cover with cold water, have the water come to a boil then turn the heat down so it only simmers, make sure the meat doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (I stir the meat slabs every couple of minutes until the broth simmers), and let simmer 3.5 to 4 hrs. or until it falls apart with a fork
  • Grey or red, new england corned beef is traditionally grey, is done by local butchers and is saltier than the red. the red tends to be mass produced and is sold in vacuum wrapped packages in the super market. I do both, most people will prefer the red as it is a little less salty. If you cook only the grey, you will want to either pre-soak some of the salt out before cooking or dilute the broth for cooking the vegetables.
  • Reserve meat in a separate container or pot with some broth, with remaining broth cook the vegetables. Cook the potatoes, carrots, turnip, and any other vege you like till they are fork tender, add the meat back to the pot of vege, add the cabbage toward the end or cook separately
  • I usually have several pots cooking at one time, I like to cook the cabbage separately for two reasons. The first being you can control the amount of doneness, some people like it firm others like it falling apart, the second reason is for left overs, the cabbage will give off gas and can sour the left over broth.
  • When everything is cooked scrape the fat off and slice the meat across the grain, try not to eat too much while preparing the platter, leave some for your guests. Make sure to have some good mustard and a bottle of vinegar

Danny Boy

Danny Boy is an old Irish song made up of an extremely old tune “The Londonderry Air” retrofit with lyrics from an Englishman Fredrick Weatherly in 1910, re-worked in 1911. That being said Danny Boy really is either your favorite Irish song or your worst nightmare. This double persona I believe grew from the popularity of Danny Boy when it was sung by the likes of Bing Crosby and Andy Williams, thus being very popular with the last generation of Irish Americans. The tune itself is full of booby traps when being attempted to be sung by everyday folk, and everyone thinks they know the words when in reality they love the tune (It’s a slow air and very soothing) and they know the first line. You may think that the author of this article may not be a fan of Danny boy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I grew up listening to this song, dubbed, “the Irish American National Anthem” and loved the old versions refered to above and continue to be impressed with the modern Irish and non Irish singers of the song today.

Rules for singing Danny Boy.

  1. For the most part sing it at your own party, or with a familiar group of friends.
  2. Know the words and the spots in the song that are a little challenging. (when songs get higher pitched sometimes it’s easier to go down instead of up)
  3. Regardless of your talent sing with enthusiasm and joy.
  4. never apologize for singing what you like.
  5. If there is an older person or someone who just loves the song and you know the words, let her rip.
  6. Defend this beautiful classic, A lot of people don’t like the National Anthem, tell them to get a life.
The lyrics to Danny boy ;
Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling
‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be there in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

but when you come, and all the flowers are dying
If I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.

And I shall hear, tho’ soft you tread above me
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be
and you will bend and tell me that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

Danny Boy’s popularity was in the United States and Canada not so much Ireland. I remember reading about the Irish singer Noel Henry’s account of having to learn Irish songs like Danny Boy when he came to America, which he had never known growing up in Ireland. The Canadian tenor, John McDermott, of The Three Tenors fame, attained his notoriety with his initial cd  titled the Danny Boy Collection, this originally was produced as a collection of his father’s favorite songs, and later promoted on infomercials with the Danny Boy branding. An unknown talent singing a powerfully popular song on late night infomercials, there is power in that song.

Why the bad wrap? Danny boy suffers from it’s popularity. Traditional Irish Musicians grew tired of being asked to sing it over and over again, to the point where they refused to give it the time of day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be talking to an Irish folk singer, when his main complaint was, “Can you play Danny Boy, Can you play Danny Boy, I’m so sick of Danny Boy”. I like the way The girls of the Ivy leaf traditional Irish band handle the Danny boy question. “Can we play Danny Boy, yes, if your an old fellow who loves the song, we know the words to Danny Boy, if you’re drunk and just want to hit on us and Danny Boy is the only irish song you know then no we never heard of it.”

Danny Boy is a ballad set to the tune of a slow air which by definition is a slow melodic walk down the road for most musicians, Most traditional Irish bands strengths lie in the lively jigs and reels, or hornpipes, and an occasional air thrown in, if you are listening to a true irish music session then it is unrealistic to expect such a ballad to be part of the play. The Irish folk singers are more apt to play this classic Irish song especially if they to enjoy the song.

When my Father Daniel passed away in the month of March some 18 years ago, after all was said and done my sister and I stopped by a local restaurant to get a bite to eat. As we finished our meal The Juke box plays out Danny Boy through it’s speakers. My sister fought back the tears and I had to laugh, I was sure the old man planned it that way.

 

Cheers.

What to know about Ireland

What to know about Ireland when you are traveling for the first time has been written about several times on this site. I recently received an e-mail article from the Irish Central newspaper written by James Farrell which has prompted me to publish some travel advise. The article titled – The top ten reasons Irish Americans have no real clue about Ireland – (Please bear with me and read the list, the explanation will follow)

We Irish;

  1. We don’t live in thatched cottages
  2. We don’t say faith and begorrah or chase leprechauns
  3. We don’t drink all day or fight all night
  4. We don’t hate the british
  5. We generally don’t like American Republicans, We like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and their nuanced international world views than cowboys like George Bush and Ronald Reagan-sorry you tea party guys.
  6. We don’t think you are Irish
  7. We don’t like Danny Boy and sentimental songs
  8. We tell jokes about you
  9. We don’t know the the Murphys from Cork or the Sullivans from Kerry,as there are thousands
  10. We don’t want to hear  any more irish jokes as they are pathetic and demeaning
Have you got the gist of his opinion? Can you tell what political bent he is from?
I had to count to ten when reading this list as I felt like its author was poking me in the chest with each word, WHAT A STUCK UP ELITIST PUKE. It is not my intent to sway a persons political view in this article, the point of each article is to be helpful. So, what to know about Ireland before you you spend 3 to 4 thousand dollars traveling to a really special and mostly pleasant place.
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What to know about Ireland as a tourist, relax and represent, You will run into narrowed minded people like Mr. Farrell, they will assume the worst, you are a loud and proud American intent on waging war for the exploitation of the poor. They are not the majority, but they can ruin your day. Since you are on an Irish vacation your days are precious, avoid the politics, (check out previous article avoid politics)
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We Americans are fed a lot of hype about rural Ireland, the thatched cottage does exist but more as a memorial of the past, much like Abe Lincoln’s log cabin. What to know about Ireland is that people live with as much comfort as possible, and the thatched cottage was from a time of meager means which is romanticized.
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When you get ready for your trip remember that we are Americans, we like the connections to our past, the Irish don’t always realize this, the Irish you run into are busy living their everyday lives, but approached properly are very happy to be of assistance. The people who are use to tourists sometimes enhance the myths thinking it is what you came to see, there are stage shows and cabarets aimed at the tourist market, (think Dollywood). If you wish to understand the Irish culture, know there are many sides to it and you get to choose which side to explore. Example, I like the Irish pubs and Irish music. When I go to a pub, I practice pub etiquette, I listen, I keep my politics to myself until I am comfortable with the other people. I do not expect anything but a nicely poured guinness and a comfortable pub. When I open my mouth and make my order with the bartender, they know I am an American. I can’t tell you the number of nice conversations started with ordering a pint and leaving everyone alone. I never expect Irish music unless I’ve traveled to an Irish music festival, but I have had many times been part of local sing songs not staged for Americans as Mr. Farrell states, but started by irish locals who actually like Irish folk music. I’m sure Mr. Farrell would consider these Irish to be backward and an embarrassment to his high and mighty crowd.
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What to know about Ireland is that you can make all the mistakes  this web site was started for you to avoid, and still have a good time. I know because I made all the mistakes before. You know Live and Learn, they’re both a lot of fun with the right attitude.
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As always A little connected story. On monday nights after playing Ice hockey, I like to have a guinness before going home, there are usually a couple of American musicians I chat with. On this night  at the far end of the bar there is a group of Irish born Americans and Irish visa holders having a song or two. The two musicians start complaining to me about the singing. I tell them I like enthusiasm especially in singing. They tell me that the Irish don’t really like these songs and that this sentimental crap is is for the birds. I tell them that they seem to sound like they are Irish and they seem to be enjoying the singing. Well the American top 40 player can take it no more and leaves, the Folk singer holds out for another couple of minutes and takes off. (in their defense, it is not easy to be a professional musician and listen to regular people sing). So I make my way to the other end of the bar to the outside of this singing circle to listen. There’s a fellow and his girl, just over from roscommon  named Martin who engages me in conversation, and I sing along with the chorus of a song or two. It was a lot of fun. Now this group consisted off two fellows from cork, one of their wives, a clare man and the two from roscommon. The cork fella’s wife I’m guessing cork, wants to hear Danny Boy. Now I know the famous writer James Farrell will tell you that the Irish hate Danny Boy, and I will tell you that the only time you sing Danny Boy is at your own party or when somebody really begs to hear it. But anyway, I look at this girls husband and ask are you sure?, He says ya she does love the song, One of the fellows starts then stops the words escaping him (as with most songs knowing the words is most of the battle) As he starts again I sing with him and find myself singing Danny Boy to a group of Irish Ex-Pats by request, something I never would have done if my musician friends hadn’t left. I finish up, don’t butcher the melody too badly, get a nice thanks from The cork man’s wife, she’s happy- so he’s happy (some things are universal)
I get to hear one more song before heading home. This was an un-expected fun time, can’t wait to tell the two musician friends what they missed.
Cheers.

previous articles for what to know about Ireland- or to enjoy your trip

pub etiquette

first time in ireland

avoid the politics

Going to an Irish wedding in Northern Ireland.

My friend and his wife are going to an Irish wedding in Northern Ireland and wanted to know what they should try to see while there. First off, an Irish wedding is a great way to be introduced to Ireland, it combines the the best parts of the three categories of Irish trips, guided tour, self guided, and local family. Since you have a destination an Irish wedding forces you to a specific spot and specific times, the wedding and reception are pre planned much like a guided tour would be. Once the wedding and reception take place, there will more than likely be planned parties throughout the following week, you will however have the options of planning some excursions, more like self directed tours. Of course you may also spend the week being shown the local hotspots with family and new friends met at the wedding.

Things to remember. First the roads are not as close as they seem, what looks like it might take 45 mins to cover usually takes 2 hrs. the major highways (yes there are some major highways) are a safer bet on smooth travel, but the drive through the Irish countryside is half the fun on an Irish holiday. You can only see so much so pick a destination or two and enjoy them. Avoid politics, since you are a visitor its easy enough to empathize without having to commit to the battle. There is a difference in the north vs. the south of Ireland, there are strong opinions on both sides, fostered by living in and around the situation, avoid the politics, the only exception is with very close relatives who will school you on the realities of the situation. That being said, Northern Ireland is beautiful, They have great sites, The Giants Causeway, The Bushmills distillery, The Burial place of St. Patrick, a myriad of castles and ruins, the people are pleasant with a british influence. There are still segregations between the Catholic and Protestant populations, subtle but evident, particular stores are used by one, another by the other, you are a tourist , it shouldn’t affect you. Londonderry or Derry? it depends, on the map it says Londonderry and if you are Protestant it says Londonderry, If you travel to Donegal or Monaghan, or are speaking to a Catholic it will be Derry, I suggest  when asking for assistance to ask for the town and leave the Derry, Londonderry enigma alone.

O.K. so you are going to an Irish wedding in Northern Ireland, you have 9 travel days total, what to do.

  1. Flight arrives at Dublin airport, take a bus to Belfast or the nearest spot to your wedding destination. Yes, take a bus. it will be the easiest way out of Dublin Airport, The Irish Bus system is pretty reliable and user friendly. There are info booths at the airport and you can check things out online. Taking the bus from the airport avoids dealing with Dublin centre, it also puts you in a seat for a 2 1/2 hr trip when you are pretty tired. If your stop is before the last stop tell the driver they usually will help you out (wake you).
  2. Make sure you have your passport available as you may be asked for it when entering Northern Ireland. Settle into your hotel, try to stay awake until at least 10 pm., this first day is quite taxing, as most U.S. flights leave in the evening and arrive in what would be early morning.
  3. Enjoy the wedding and reception, hopefully it will last into the wee hours. Did you learn a song or two? It could come in handy, Something from Home, a little Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Skynard.
  4. Checkout some sites, the Giants Causeway is a Biggee. my friends party takes them to New Castle, a nice seaside village where the mountains of Mourne roll down to the sea, and by the way next to one of the most famous Golf links in the World- Royal County Down. This is where you have some options. Do you stay in a quaint Northern Ireland village and relax or try to see some of the Irish Republic?
  5. You have four travel days left, what can I see in the south before leaving from Dublin. First you can take the bus back to Dublin and check out a first class city. The bus route from Belfast to Dublin is a straight shot and leaves hourly. O’Donoghues on St. Stephens Green is a great pub, it has real Irish music year round, and it won’t be too crowded in February. Check out the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate, or tour Kilmainham Jail.
  6. From Dublin you could take a bus from your hotel to Johnny Foxes pub on the Wicklow- Dublin border, This tourist/local fusion pub again has live music year round, good food, and nice guinness.
  7. You could take a day trip either by renting a car or by bus to the monastic ruins of Glendalough Wicklow. You could also rent a car and just cruise the wicklow hills, once out of Dublin city its nice to see the Irish countryside. If you are a slow learner or fearful of driving on narrow winding roads, on the opposite side of the street, on the opposite side of the car, with a standard transmission, then take a bus. Also if you drive remember the DUI laws are very strict and sobriety road blocks are common.
  8. If you don’t mind more bus travel. take the bus from Dublin to Galway city 3 1/2- 4 hrs., The Pub scene is lively, well laid out, full of Irish music. Stay in a local hotel, most pubs and restaurants are easy to walk to, and catch the bus back on your departure day. If you are doing this make sure your flight out is as late as possible. It always take longer than you think to get to the airport.
  9. My suggestion would be to pick either Dublin or Galway, Dublin being more convenient since most are flying out of Dublin airport, and if you played a round of golf at Royal County Down you might as well play a round at Portmarnock Golf Club.(  a note; there is Portmarnock golf club and Portmarnock golf links, almost side by side, the golf club is the famous one, they are both links style courses.)
There is no wrong way to do it just try not to cram too many things into too little time, there will always be things you’ll love or be annoyed by. Practice proper pub etiquette and enjoy.  A cabbie once told me the only thing better than an irish wedding was an irish wake, maybe we’ll save that for next time,
Cheers.

Irish music vacation, Boston

It must be time for an Irish music vacation, it’s dead of winter in the northeast and that lively, soulful traditional Irish music is beckoning me. The only problem lies in the commuter time from Boston to Galway is a little long and airfare to Ireland a little hard to come by with the after Christmas bills coming due. So we found a nice spot to be for some Irish trad music, that spot was the Landsdowne Pub, Landsdowne st. Boston. Ma. The Ivy leaf or more precisely two leaves of the Irish music group The Ivy leaf were playing at a sunday brunch in the Landsdowne Pub. I walked in not expecting much, and was pleasantly surprised, This place brought back memories of Cork city or Dublin. The place was fairly large and cozy at the same time, They served a proper guinness in the correct glass, (not always the case in so-called Irish bars) and I had a nice bowl of lamb stew. Ya, guinness and lamb stew in a cozy pub on a January winters day in Boston, listening to a really good Irish music duo playing airs and reels, jigs and hornpipes, with an occasional Irish song thrown in for good measure. That afternoon was worth a weeks vacation, granted it wasn’t an Irish music vacation to Galway city, but pretty darn close.

Photo

Irish music venue

 

 

The Sunday we were at this place was freezing cold so being a sap   gentleman, I walked around the block to get the car and pick up our group,the irish music still fresh in my mind. On the way I see a couple fumbling with a camera trying to get a picture of themselves and the Fenway Park sign. Being sympathetic to tourists, I ask if they would like me to snap the picture, which I did, and I had to ask why they were at Fenway in January. Turns out they were at the Broncos- Patriot play-off game the day before and were trying to cram as much Bostonisms into 2 days as possible. They had been to Quincy Market (Faneuil Hall), the Public Garden, The Freedom Trail, and they were on their way to the north end that night before leaving the next morning, —WOW! This itinerary reminded me of  something you might want to avoid if you take a trip to Ireland, don’t overstuff your trip, but they were engaged in their see all of Boston in 3 days extravaganza, we had a really nice chat. And yes I did not rub it in that their team had a bad day. They were a nice couple and I gave them as much info about the north end as possible, it was as pleasant a chat you can have in 20 degree weather. I picked up the car, head back to the Lansdowne, load up the people, tell the Denver tourist story, my daughter laughs  ”you’re the only person I know who can pick up the car and find new friends.”  We all have a good laugh and head out.
The Landsdowne is more known for its live bands and after game celebrating, being that it is located right behind Fenway park, but if you happen to be in the mood for a laid back sunday afternoon with some live acoustic music playing, (hopefully irish music) check out the Landsdown.Cheers,

Irish music and Tim Tebow