Paddy Walsh – sports fan and sports writer is back after a brilliant first column for Donegal Daily last week. The well-known Letterkenny terrace-talker once again puts his unique slant on all things sport in Donegal and further afield.
SAM ENCHANTED EVENING
Sitting in Hill 16. Not ON it. IN it. The watering hole in Dublin’s Gardiner Street. And this fellow planks himself beside me. Looks familiar but I’ve had a couple and I can’t quite place him even with those bigger than normal ears he has.
“Evening”, says I. “Evening,” he returns.
We get chatting. Asks me where I hail from and when I answer he says: “Ah, been there a couple of times.”
“Oh yeah, which part?”.
“Every bloody part. Every single nook and cranny of the place. You name it, I’ve been there, mate…”
Last visit, he tells me, 2012. “Mad it was. And then even more madder. You’d think they’d never seen me before the way they went on.”
But they had seen him before, he tells me. Back in1992. “Mad then too. First time I’d ever been there and I thought I’d never be back again. You’re all fecking crazy, stark raving the whole lot of ye.”
Tells me he’s been living in Dublin this past year but fancies a change of scenery.
“I’m thinking. Kerry or Donegal. Been in Kerry a fair few times. Thirty-six if I can remember rightly. Nice place. Some quare views…”
“Ah, nothing compared to what we have in Donegal,” I reply. “We’ve views that puts Kerry in the half-penny place. Awesome’s too mild for it.”
“Aye, true. But they’re not as mad as ye. I was almost damaged property the last time I was in your neck of the woods. Crazy days. And the nights weren’t half mad either…”
“Ever been in Leitrim?,” I ask him.
“Where?” he asks.
“Might have passed through but never stopped there.”
“Here, will you have a drink?”, I enquire.
“Hardly touch the stuff. Except once a year when they fill me up with champagne.”
Right, says I, climbing off the barstool. “Must go.”
“Oh, you heading back to Donegal?.”
“That’s right. Be seeing you….”
“Aye, you just might, mate. You just might.”
Still couldn’t place him but I’m sure I’ll run into him again…
WHAT NEXT FOR THE MIDAS MAN?
Some speculation on the future of Jim McGuinness should Donegal find themselves in the losers dressing-room come Sunday evening. Or even the winners enclosure.
Will he step down? Vacate the post that he was passed over for by the County Board – truly difficult to believe that – a few short years back?
A defeat might make his mind up and the likes of Mayo will be looking on from the sidelines with some interest, assuming James Horan doesn’t reverse his recent decision to quit and never minding the fact that a pack of five led by Kevin McStay are in the running to replace him. Or could Glasgow Celtic take a huge gamble and appoint the Glenties man manager in place of current boss, Ronny Deila, who, even at this early stage, doesn’t look up to the task? No sniggering back there, that age old Donegal connection with the Glasgow club could swing a managerial move that would shock both the world of soccer and Gaelic football.
Win, lose or draw this Sunday (and I’d be getting odds on the latter if I was a betting man), most Donegal supporters – all of them let’s face it – will be hoping he stays on for another crack at the ultimate title.
Even if Declan Bonner – what a job he’s done with the Minors – might be waiting patiently to step up to the plate.
GREENE AND BLUE
Many moons ago – and a few more manys along with that one – on a family outing to Downings one Sunday afternoon, I was listening eagerly to the car radio waiting for a result from a Finn Harps away trip to Shamrock Rovers.
And finally the R.T.E. sports presenter of the time – a time when there was no internet or social media to catch up on these things – passed proceedings along to Milltown where the familiar voice of Philip Greene sat ready to reveal all.
He didn’t quite share the masterful vocal intonations of the recently deceased B.B.C. sports announcer, James Alexander Gordon, who could disclose a result and whether your favourite side had won, lost or drawn, just by the way he stressed the name of the home team, but, nevertheless, our Philip on this occasion gave it away as soon as he opened his mouth.
For it was like he had just been given the news that his home had been burgled and his prized collection of Shamrock Rovers match programmes had all been dumped in the garden and burnt to a cinder. I was already dancing a jig on Downings beach when he announced, in seriously doleful tones, that Harps had won by a goal to nil, his beloved Hoops undone by the team from the North-West. He still remained one of my favourite broadcasters of that era simply because of his tendency to drift into describing the birds flying over the pitch or the respective colours of the goalkeepers’ jerseys during a match report but also, more specifically, when he provided the good news (for those of us with blue and white blood at least) that Harps had won in his own backyard.
I was reminded of that afternoon last Sunday, this time while walking the dog in Ards Forest Park and keeping an ear out for the latest from Avondale United where Harps were attempting to make it into the semi-finals of the F.A.I. Cup.
This time the name of the Cork sports reporter who conveyed the news on R.T.E. that Mickey Funston had given the Donegal side the lead escaped me but his tone suggested that he too might have been the victim of a break-in such was his mournful approach to delivering the news.
I didn’t hear him on again but, no doubt, there was a bit more joy when the Munster League side drew level with thirteen minutes remaining, resulting in tonight’s scheduled replay at Finn Park.
As Ollie Horgan stressed, Harps have still a lot of work to do to reach that semi-final but that draw in Cork might have been for the best given that it will mean some much required gate receipts even if the two sides are up against, not just one another, but the rival attraction of Manchester City and Bayern Munich on the T.V.
The die-hard Harps followers will certainly be there and hopefully the fringe fans might also come along in their hundreds as Harps bid to hit the last four.
Incidentally, what with all the green and gold fluttering about the place, it was nice to see the Bank of Ireland on Letterkenny’s Main Street lend their backing to the Harps cause with a large cluster of blue and white balloons framing the front entrance this week…!
UNITED IN SPORT
The Sky Sports cameras will have caught an element of true sporting unity in Letterkenny last week.
Former South African rugby captain, John Smit, was being interviewed along with a couple of the Wallace brothers, on the balcony of the clubrooms at The Glebe shared by both Letterkenny Rugby Club and Letterkenny Gaels, discussing the fund-raising Rugby Legends cycle which ended in Malin and, no doubt, his eye will have been diverted to the activity on the pitches below.
In one corner, the local rugby lads were being put through their paces; further up the field, an even younger set of hurlers were competing in a mini-game; and at the same time on the Gaels pitch, the footballers were parading their skills.
As was pointed out more than once on the evening, you don’t get that sort of scene everywhere – rugby and the G.A.A. operating in tandem and doing so with none of the bitterness that might have greeted such a scenario away back in the distant dark days of the ban and all that entailed.
Smit, who holds the most international caps for his country at 111, may not have appreciated the relevance of it but his Irish rugby colleagues will certainly have.
That SKY Sports coverage will, so I’m told, be broadcast during the forthcoming November internationals and credit to all who took part in the charity cycle including a healthy batch of locals.
If I had a vote in tomorrow’s Scottish Referendum, it would certainly go to the ‘yes’ camp.
Yeah, says you, important political move… independence…. going it alone…break off from the mothership.
Well, no, it would just be to see how Sue Barker and the rest of them at the B.B.C. would be able to cover Andy Murray at Wimbledon without mentioning the “great British hope’ in every second sentence.
A warning this week from the I.S.P.C.A. on the painting of animals with the Donegal colours ahead of Sunday’s Big Final.
A bit too late as I’ve already slapped a couple of dabs of green on the old goldfish.
Meanwhile, if the residents of Bonagee in Letterkenny could just sound a foghorn or some other noisy instrument every so often during the game on Sunday it might, just might, prevent a certain local man from falling asleep as he did for the entire duration of the semi-final clash against the Dubs. No names mentioned, of course, but he’ll be scratching his beard wondering how this one got in.
And finally, the best of luck – though luck alone won’t do it – to both the Minors and Seniors in their respective Finals against the Kingdom.
Get those bonfires ready but don’t set a match to them just yet.