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A weekend of sporting highs

It’s the bank holiday Monday, and as I’m writing this at the kitchen table, I can only say that it’s been one of the best sporting weekends that I can ever remember.

  It started off on Friday evening, when myself, my brother Duff, James Gavin and Jim Roarke met up at Roscommon Golf Club and played 18 holes in the Creggs Rugby Club Classic.

  While we didn’t get the call to go back in for the presentation ceremony (which presumably means we didn’t win), we had good fun and thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

  Roscommon is a long course, so by the time we played the last hole it was nearly pitch dark, and I spent several minutes looking for my ball, which by some miracle was sitting pretty in the middle of the green. There was some speculation that it might have been placed there by the hand of God, but I categorically deny any wrongdoing. It was on the green as a result of a brilliant shot that no-one, including myself, managed to see.

  As it was about the only time I got on the green in what they call regulation figures, I have now decided to play all my future golf at night. Maybe I will produce better scores that way.  

  Anyway, on to Saturday, and the bane of my life – work – meant that I was in the shop in Athlone while the Irish ladies hockey team were trying to pull off one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time by becoming the first Irish team in any sport to qualify for a World Cup Final. When they beat Spain in a penalty shoot-out, the radio – and Des Cahill – was pure radio gold.

  Within a few minutes of the match finishing and Ireland going through to Sunday’s final against the incredibly talented Dutch, we were listening to messages from a lad cutting silage somewhere on his tractor who told us he was crying his eyes out at the result (hope it wasn’t that he was broken down);  another visitor to the Clonmacnoise early Christian site rang to say she had spent the duration of the game praying for a win, and Des told us that in all his years presenting the sports show they had never seen a reaction like it, and the number of messages into RTE surpassed anything they had encountered before.

  In fairness, for an amateur team who were competing with several full-time professional players, it was a stupendous achievement, and in a small country where we have had outstanding female sportswomen – like Sonia O’Sullivan, Katie Taylor, Catherina McKiernan and the golfing Maguire twins, Leona and Lisa – these hockey players have elevated our status on the world stage and deserve all the praise and accolades that they will now receive.

  Their heavy defeat in the final in no way detracts from their heroic deeds, and if I had a tractor I too would have cried my eyes out.  

  By now I was on my way home, excited at the thought of watching Galway play Monaghan in the last of their Super 8s games, but if ever excitement was misplaced this most certainly was – and the stuff that was served up in Salthill should have carried a health warning –unless you were from Monaghan. But as Galway have a semi-final next Saturday against the Dubs, I will make no comment on last week’s effort, and will wish them well in a match where they will do very well to stay in touch with Jim Gavin’s men.

  The other semi-final will be a battle between Tyrone and Monaghan, and it would be a good man (or woman) who would predict that result. The popular verdict is that Tyrone will prevail, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Farney men could spring a surprise.

 

A great trip to Croker

 

The Bank Holiday Saturday night passed off quietly and peacefully. I had a few, very few, quiet pints in Mikeen’s, followed by an early bed, as I was heading to Dublin on the Sunday morning.

  This was a long-planned visit to our daughter Lisa, who lives in Malahide, but as luck would have it (maybe luck is stretching it), myself and my son Mark were given premium tickets to Croke Park, where, in case you haven’t heard, the Rossies were taking on the mighty Dubs in what was the last of their Super 8s matches.

  Off we headed on Sunday morning – after the obligatory full Irish – and, having made it to Malahide, myself and Mark hit for Croker on the Dart, where I made friends with a true blue Dub supporter  who invited us to join him and some buddies in Maher’s of Ballybough for a few beers.

  Sadly, as we wanted to see the hurling replay between Galway and Clare, we didn’t take him up on his invite and instead made for the wonderful Croke Park stadium. We made it just as the sliothar was thrown in, and I have to say the premium ticket was just something else, as we watched the game on a giant screen that that was so big, yet so clear, that you would think you were playing yourself, that in a room that had several hundred people. It was just magic.

  We had the dinner there as well…a top class helping of roast beef for me (with all the trimmings – and a good deal more), and the only thing that annoyed me was that 90% of the support was for Clare and it was the Dubs’ supporters that were fairly roaring on The Banner. When Shane O’Donnell scored the goal in the second half, the roof nearly lifted off. I have to say it was one of the great individual goals of all time, but at the time I was fit to kill half the Dubs around me, and in truth the Galway lads were outrageously lucky to win by a solitary point.

  Out then to the hallowed ground to see the football game, and as I watched the Dubs in the flesh for the first time since I togged out against them for a league match back in early 1975, my mind drifted back to that day, a day that was to be the end of my wonderful(?) intercounty career.

  It’s only now, 43 years later, that I realise I should not have been there at all, as not having turned up for the previous league game against Offaly, I must have been dropped off the panel – but nobody told me. The penny didn’t drop, even though when myself and my good mate, Jack the Lower (who was my chauffeur) turned up at the team hotel before the game, there was no food for us, only for Gerry Beirne saving the day when he managed to get some tea and sandwiches for us.

  Then when we got to Croke Park we had to plead our case to be let in at all, with Jack nearly having to pay in, until finally, having togged out with all the other lads, I realised something wasn’t right when there was no jersey for me. It didn’t finish there either as there was no room for me in the dugout, and so I sat amongst the supporters, in my togs, on a freezing cold day. As no-one would have known me they must have thought I had escaped from some institution. Besides it being the end of my career at 23 years of age, the main thing that game is remembered for is the fact that it was the only time the great Dermot Earley was sent off after he hit Bobby Doyle with a haymaker that Muhammad Ali would have been proud of.

  Anyway, my day-dreaming over, I sat down to watch the present-day Dubs, and even though it was more like a challenge match than a championship encounter, it was an education to see them in action. Their athleticism, speed, power and ability was there for all to see, but it was their workrate that impressed me the most; their willingness to chase back, even when winning by a large margin, was amazing, and they truly are an example to all who want to excel at football.

  The Rossies played their part as well, and they tried to play their football right to the end, and despite getting a bit of a beating, they contributed a lot to a game I quite enjoyed.

  There were very few Primrose and Blue colours in view, as not too many travelled to the Capital, but those that did could be proud of their team and realise they have been terrific ambassadors for their county over the last couple of years.

  As for us, we went for a lovely meal in the Scotch Bonnet in Malahide. It was just superb. We followed that with a few pints in the renowned Gibney’s pub, which was absolutely hopping on the Bank Holiday Sunday night.

  All told it was a great day, and while I won’t be there next Saturday – due to that horrible thing called work – my heart will be with Galway, and I hope they do themselves justice. Let’s hope they have a go and take on the Dubs. As Mayo have shown several times, it’s the only way.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, the posters and tickets have arrived for our annual fundraiser in Dowd’s, Glinsk, on September 15th. It’s in aid of the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West. We will be out and about from next week on calling to your houses, looking for your ever-generous support.

 

Till next week,
Bye for now!

 

 

 

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