This week Donegal Daily sports columnist Paddy Walsh, recalls a week when John Haran rolled back the years, Jason Quigley rolled over another opponent and Ciara Grant got rolled over.
BIG JOHN WAVES THE WAND FOR MAXI THE MAGICIAN
There were invariable concerns for the security of the door-frame in the offices where this columnist once plied his trade whenever John Haran dropped in. They don’t call him Big John for nothing but at a stoop he was always able to negotiate his entry into the working space of the Donegal People’s Press and Donegal Democrat at Larkin House in Letterkenny.
And since he picked up a football at whatever age and started advancing with menace in the direction of the opposition’s goal frame that concern was equally uppermost in the minds of many an opponent.
Difficult to believe that the big man turned 38 years of age yesterday – though not according to Wikipedia who still insist that Haran is a “former Gaelic football” – but not difficult to believe that he put in a man of the match performance against Glenswilly in Sunday’s Dr. Maguire Cup showdown at MacCumhaill Park.
Playing a captain’s role – even though he wasn’t captain – he helped leave Michael Murphy and his side chasing shadows at times (and what a shadow the Letterkenny man casts). And, let’s lash on the credit here, the man who was captain, Rory Kavanagh, was also hugely impressive in a St. Eunan’s performance that may not have matched some of their previous thirteen successes at this level but was still solid enough to dismiss the challenge of last year’s Donegal champions.
A two point gap going into the closing seven minutes meant that Glenswilly were still very much in touching distance but a strong finish by Maxi Curran’s men – what a job the new boss has done – had opened that gap and marksman, Conall Dunne, fired over the point that confirmed Dr. Maguire was packing his bags and making the short trip to the O’Donnell Park.
And no better man, or voice, than Eunan’s stalwart, Brian Kelly, to lead the chorus of ‘Letterkenny Town’ as the team celebrated at the finish (I’ve heard him render it at full volume on Letterkenny Reunion events and, like John Haran, he doesn’t hold back).
Meanwhile, O’Donnell Park should be fairly heaving this Sunday when Roslea roll into town for the Ulster Club quarter-final. It’s a competition that Eunan’s have struggled to make an impact in but the very fact that local rivals, Glenswilly, managed to get to the Final last year should surely inspire the Letterkenny side to at least advance into semi-final territory.
And, sure, don’t they have that “former Gaelic footballer’ in their ranks to aid them. And no Crossmaglen in their way.
APPEALS AND PRECEDENTS
There were invariably two disappointed losing teams come the end of Sunday’s Final. One on the pitch and the second one, listening on from the Glens of Glenties and wondering if they could have overcome the black and amber on the day had they been given the chance.
They weren’t, of course – their appeal to both the Donegal Competitions Control Committee and subsequently to the Ulster Council Hearings Committee falling on deaf ears and blind to a precedent set in Munster back in January.
That match in Killarney involved a quarter-final tie pairing Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne and Colaiste Chriost Ri which the former won after extra-time. But it transpired that the match referee had not sent off Corca Dhuibhne player, Barra O’Suilleabhain during normal time despite the fact that he had been shown a black card after previously picking up a yellow. Because of the error, the eventual winners were allowed to bring on a replacement for O’Suilleabhain.
Cue an objection from Colaiste Chriost Ri and one upheld by the Munster Post-Primary CCC, resulting in a replay between the sides.
Precisely the same situation confronted Naomh Conaill in their semi-final clash with Glenswilly. Ciaran Bonner, first of all given a yellow card, and later in the game shown a black variety and then permitted to be replaced by Oisin Crawford.
The only difference is the Glenties team were not afforded the opportunity of a replay.
Ah, sure that game in Munster was only a schools outing, some will cry, but it still fell under the rules and the umbrella of the Gaelic Athletic Association and was therefore a precedent to be followed – or not as was the case – elsewhere.
KERRING FOR PAT’S
As if it wasn’t bad enough having three Dubs in the studio panel for Sunday’s F.A.I. Cup Final, we had another one in the R.T.E. co-commentating box in the form of Brian Kerr. And not alone a Dub but a confirmed St. Patrick’s Athletic supporter, having once managed the club and so obviously not lost any of his passion for the Inchicore outfit.
That was clearly evident throughout the game – frequent Christian name references to the Pat’s players – and never more so than at the end when Christy Fagan had netted the decisive second score and George Hamilton reported thus:…”AND BRIAN KERR IS IN TEARS.” [Note: not tears of disappointment on Derry City’s behalf but instead from sheer delight that the Cup was destined for Richmond Park after a gap of fifty-three years].
And the photograph of Kerr locked in an embrace with man of the match, Greg Bolger, dominant in some of the Monday paper coverage, and sporting a smile the width of the Liffey, offered, as if we needed it, another clue as to the affiliations of the R.T.E. pundit.
Couldn’t – shouldn’t – the national broadcaster have roped in a complete neutral for the job, given that this was a Cup Final and not an international when you can get away with such bias? Someone like Dave Barry or Pat Morley – anyone but a blatant St. Pat’s disciple. Seriously doubt that Liam Coyle or the likes would have been slotted in beside Hamilton for the live coverage.
But now a plus mark for the same Brian Kerr. You might have heard or read Roddy Collins remarks on the match and how he was “embarrassed” by the quality of it and how he had brought over Luton Town manager, John Still, to the Aviva to help him scout for potential talent.
Apparently the latter – whose team occupy second spot in League Two in England – reported to Collins after the game: “There’s not one of those players would get into my team.”
What? Not even former international, Keith Fahey, who has played at the top level in England? Or double scorer, Fagan? Or Chris Forrester? Or the afore-mentioned Bolger?
True, the game didn’t live up to expectations as a spectacle though it had its moments but then how many Finals, either here or abroad, do? Answer – the four or five that were previously played at the Aviva since the League of Ireland’s premier Cup competition was relocated to the old Lansdowne Road. Thrillers all.
Kerr was quick to hit back at the much-travelled Collins claiming that there were a number of players who could play at a higher level than the L.O.I.
And Fahey, too, was critical of the comments by the former Bohemians, Athlone Town, Derry City and Carlisle United boss. “I could play League Two with my eyes closed,” he indicated modestly in a tweet.
But then you’d sense that Collins was hardly likely to sing the praises of a game involving one of those sides that let him go.
Still on the Cup Final, I know he had been carrying an injury in the week leading up to the game but judging by the recording of the game I watched, Barry McNamee, when eventually introduced into the fray by Peter Hutton, could have made the difference had he been on from the start.
The Ramelton native was a livewire and while he squandered a decent opportunity that would have put City level, he was still head and shoulders – though perhaps not physically – over his fellow Candystripers. Perhaps, another prospect for a cross-channel club though obviously one above the stature of Luton Town.
Sean Houston – was his father, Mickey at the Aviva or at MacCumhaill Park watching his old side, St. Eunan’s in action in the county decider? – came on with two minutes of stoppage time left, not enough to make any sort of impact.
But there were a couple of other Donegal images in the post match scenes, former Harps goalkeeper, Declan McIntyre, now in Derry’s backroom staff, warmly congratulating Pat’s boss, Liam Buckley. And another familiar figure lurking in the background, one Gerry McDermott, former sports reporter and editor with the ‘Donegal Democrat’, who was appointed F.A.I. Communications Officer back in 2006.
Due to a slight reversal in the semi-final, Finn Harps were unable to make it to the Aviva but sent their regards.
JASON FLEECES ANOTHER
What about young Jason Quigley, then? At seven years of age engaged in his first ever contest up against an equally young – we presume – Noel McBride of St. Mary’s B.C. of Annagry.
And here he is sixteen years on having claimed his third professional victory in the ring.
That’s three professional bouts to date and three wins under the belt. And on course for his ultimate objective – a World title. Just don’t be surprised when – no if’s here – it comes.
It must be said that he certainly wasn’t stretched in two of those fights – clearing the decks with last weekend’s opponent, Greg McCoy inside three minutes at the Memorial Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts (far from the tender age of seven was Mr McCoy – more in the region of 38 and just back after three years out of competitive boxing).
It took the Twin Towns man less time to dispose of his debut opponent in the professional arena – a technical knock-out 82 seconds into the first round leaving Howard Reece wondering what hit him.
Fernando Najera lasted until the third round but was forced to retire against the Donegal Super Middleweight.
The U.S., where Quigley is based for the time being, is beginning to take note but there’ll be much tougher bouts ahead if – sorry, when – he fulfils that ambition. Much tougher.
But what a start for the likeable Ballybofey native.
No joy for former Kilmacrenan Celtic player, Ciara Grant and her U.C.D. Waves team-mates in the Women’s F.A.I. Cup Final, the Aviva Stadium taster to the men’s equivalent.
The Donegal woman scored a wonder goal for Sunday’s opponents, Raheny United in last year’s Final but having switched sides in the close season, there was to be no repeat despite an impressive performance in the right full-back slot. Indeed a 2-1 win for Raheny might have been greater had Grant not cleared off the line in a match that went into extra-time.
WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE?
Will Rory Gallagher be taking, or seeking, any advice from Jim McGuinness when the business end of his regime as Donegal manager gets underway in earnest?
As much hope, I should think, as Irish Water have of being named semi-state body of this or any other year.Tags: