It’s Saturday the 8th of December, traditionally the big Christmas shopping day, and as I head to Athlone to the day job, I hear out of the corner of my ear (on Shannonside Radio) mention of the Co. Monaghan townland of Aghabog.
My mind immediately transports me back to the early 1970s, to a Gaelic football match I played there all those years ago. At that stage I was a young innocent bank clerk, working in the Bank of Ireland in Park Street in Dundalk, and, even though I wouldn’t have been exactly legal, I would occasionally play a match or two for a local Gaelic team. As they never used to win a game it didn’t matter who played for them, and there was never any likelihood of an objection.
Anyway, this particular evening, a few carloads of us headed off to Aghabog after work to play the locals in some sort of a tournament game. I can remember, as was the custom back then, togging out beside a stone wall, and leaving our clothes in the car. There was no such thing as dressing rooms or showers anywhere that time, so togging out in the open was the done thing and it was up to yourself to preserve your modesty. A number of us got togged out before we realised that one of the cars hadn’t made it, and for a little while we were secretly delighted and hoping we couldn’t field, as it was obvious the locals were a hardy bunch – and relishing the thought of giving the townies a bit of a lesson. Sadly, about a half an hour later the missing car made it, and in my life I don’t think I ever lined out with as unenthusiastic or uncommitted a bunch of lads. Our worst fears were realised as the Aghabog lads tore us asunder. They won every single battle, and by half-time we were ready to call it quits and throw in the towel.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse…it did. All of a sudden two British Army helicopters arrived overhead to see how we were doing! They hovered so low above the field that, if we had got any kick at the ball, we would have had to keep it low, for fear we might hit the pilots. I presume, as we were playing in the Republic, that they were out of their jurisdiction, but it didn’t seem to matter, as they maintained a very visible presence for the entire second half. Eventually, after they had done a few flyovers – which were greeted with a load of derision by the locals – our misery was brought to an end. I don’t think I was ever as glad to see the back of any football pitch.
The funny thing is that only a year or so ago I met a fellow from Aghabog, and he told me that he was playing in that very game, and that he remembered it well. I told him that I too would never forget it, even if for very different reasons. He also told me that, in the meantime, the local club has got new grounds/dressing rooms, and thankfully the British Army helicopters are no longer turning up to have a look at the matches.
Sticking with small GAA clubs, and, as it’s now Monday morning, there is only one story that matters in the world of Gaelic football, and that is the remarkable win in the Leinster Senior Club Football Final by the half-parish of Mullinalaghta – with a total population of 447 – over Dublin kingpins Kilmacud Crokes in Tullamore on Sunday afternoon.
Eamonn Sweeney in the Indo described it as “the greatest club story ever told”, and I would have to agree with him, as for all of us who live in half parishes or full parishes all round the country, and who see first-hand how hard it is to keep little clubs going, this had to be the most uplifting win ever. It showed that miracles can still happen in sport, and that with the right commitment anything can be achieved. It was just wonderful to have a real-life David once again taking down a Goliath. The difference in every way between the two clubs could not have been greater, but at the end of the day it was fifteen against fifteen, and the massive outsiders were full value for their win. As I write this, I’m sure the celebrations are still going strong.
Here in Creggs we have a huge connection with the Mullinalaghta win, as one of their panel members, Luke Meehan, who played a part in almost every game they played this year, is a star player with our firsts rugby team. They, like Mullinalaghta, are making a mockery of their small village status and are blazing a trail through Connacht rugby.
All I can say – on behalf of every small rural club in the country – is thanks Mullinalagta, well done, and may you see off another club giant, Dr. Crokes of Killarney, in the All-Ireland semi-final in February.
Cookery Demonstration in aid of Creggs NS
On this Friday Tom Coleman, one of Ireland’s best-known and most successful nutritionists, and his wife Jeeny, who is a regular guest chef on different TV shows, are holding a Christmas Cookery Demonstration in the hall in Creggs National School. There will be local food producers and Christmas craft stands. It all starts at 7.30 pm. Tickets are only €10. All proceeds go to the national school. This is a night not to be missed.
Tom and Jeeny recently welcomed their first child, Kai, into the world, so heartiest congratulations to them. It is a major honour for Creggs to have them hosting this demonstration, so get there in your hundreds and make sure it’s a night that we will remember for a long time to come.
Finally for this week, one of my favourite events of the year is Christmas Day Mass in Donamon Castle. I am delighted to tell you that Annette Griffin, her mother Frances, and John Staunton, will all be performing there again this year.
Annette is one of Ireland’s best singers, as her long-held position of head of entertainment in Ashford Castle will confirm, and with beautiful musical accompaniment by Frances and John it is an absolute treat to look forward to. I will remind ye again next week, but put it in your diary, and please God I will see you in the castle on Christmas Day.
Till next week, Bye for now!