Brian Cowen in great form at Mullingar Fleadh

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was in Mullingar today for the Seisiún Mór na hÉigse, that saw hundreds of young musicians - all students of the Comhaltas summer school, Scoil Éigse - play as one.

The Offaly man was presented with a special Gradam na hÉigse award, for his contribution to Comhaltas and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.

“Thank you very much, it’s a real pleasure to be here in Mullingar," said the former Taoiseach.

"My first journeys to Mullingar was going to the Dog Track with bad dogs, and Francie Murray and Micky Murray to train them for me,” he said.

He also congratulated Westmeath on winning the Tailteann Cup, receiving a huge cheer from the crowd.

“You gave us an awful hiding up in Croke Park, we hadn’t been there in a long time, but very best of luck to ye!"

Speaking of the fleadh, he said:

“You have a near neighbour here in Offaly looking enviously at the great craic ye are going to have in Mullingar over the next few days.

"And I’m certainly delighted that so many young people are able to come out to entertain us today.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved in giving this award to me, whether it’s deserved or not remains to be seen, but it’s done anyway and I’m not giving it back!"

Labhrás Ó Murchú, Ard-Stiúrthóir, said "no words of mine could express what it means to have Brian Cowen here today."

"For those of us who have been working in Comhaltas over the years, he was always a great anchor for us.

"One small bit of information, at the Fleadh Cheoil in Tullamore, at the Ceili Band competition, he was sitting in the front row and I noticed he was taking notes, I thought he was going to make a statement as Taoiseach, but when he finished, he handed over the notes to us, and he had the first three places selected in Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Bualadh bos Brian Cowen!"