Not many sports columnists would have ladies as their main talking points. But then again Paddy Walsh knows what side his bread is buttered on. And besides – did you see some of those tackles from the Termon ladies last Sunday?
PUTTING ON THEIR SUNDAY BEST
Quiet around Termon on Sunday night, I hear. They say you could hear a pin drop in the Lagoon. And not a being around for miles, I’m told. Though I may have misheard and what they actually said was that it was quite deafening around Termon, that you could hear the din from the Lagoon in Creeslough, and there were miles of beings around.
A lot more like it. Didn’t make it to Termon for the celebrations but I guess if I ventured there any day or night this week, I’d still catch a few. Though I might leave it until later in the month when things get back to some sort of normality. The month of March, that is.
What a weekend. What a Sunday, What an achievement. An All-Ireland club trophy and title arriving on the Burn Road and a large slice of history along with it. And a performance by the Termon women the locals will never tire of watching over and over again.
Francie Friel reportedly was at pains all year in telling his players that the only team who could beat them was themselves. And for a chunk of Sunday’s Final, it appeared they were about to do just that with the concession of a series of frees that threatened to hand the title to Mourneabbey.
The sin-binnings of Grainne McDaid and Emer Gallagher (both otherwise in outstanding form) in the respective halves also appeared to surrender the initiative to the Cork team. And in between those yellow card offences when Termon went in at the half-way stage trailing by four points with Laura Fitzgerald enjoying a rich vein of form and scoring almost at will for the ‘Abbey, the signs looked ominous.
But, hey, this is Termon we’re talking about and they’re nobody’s whipping girls. And in that second half , we saw what they’re about – passing and movement that would have had Pat Spillane reaching for the Book of Gushing Tributes – and that unstoppable force called Geraldine McLaughlin.
What else can be said about this astonishing footballer? Your average dictionary hardly seems to have the words to describe her (and I should know, I’ve searched the bloody thing from cover to cover).
Eight points alone would have been some return from An All-Ireland Final. But three goals AND eight points is quite incredible (see what I mean, there’s bound to be a better description for her than incredible). Left foot, right foot, it doesn’t seem to matter – neither know the meaning of the term ‘miss the target’.
At this stage it’s a straight contest between her and Mark English for the Donegal Sports Star of the Year award and I’m just glad I don’t have to make such decisions.
But let’s not forget – and the modest Geraldine never does – the part played by all the Termon team throughout the competition and in the Final itself. Each of them giving their all in a match that was always going to test their mettle with Mourneabbey showing why they, too, were deserving finalists.
Absolutely no doubt where the team award is going this year in the Sports Star awards. And if there was an award for supporters, the Termon fans would also be taking home the goods.
But the Tesco Homegrown All-Ireland Cup will probably do just fine.
ON THE SHORTLIST
If you’re one of those types who believe that women belong in the kitchen – here, dear, is the dinner ready yet? – and not on (or indeed at) football pitches or in boxing arenas or whatever sporting enclosures, don’t look away now.
If proof were needed that sport is not – and should not be – a male preserve, well, there it is coming at you in the form of three participants who are currently dominating local, national and international headlines.
We have our very own, Geraldine McLaughlin, who put your Michael Murphys and Kieran Donaghys in the shade with those three goals and eight points in Termon’s outstanding All-Ireland Club Final in Tuam on Sunday; Katie Taylor punching her way to a fifth successive world title last week; and Stephanie Roche short-listed for the F.I.F.A. Goal of the Year award.
We’ll know in the New Year if Roche has been successful – her remarkable strike for Peamount United against Wexford Youths during a match in the Women’s National League in October 2013, up against the World Cup efforts of Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez as the final listing was pruned down to three.
I’ve seen all three goals on a number of occasions now and it won’t surprise me if the 25 year old Dubliner takes home the Puskas Award after the polls close on January 12th. Truly an incredible goal as Roche kept the ball in the air with two touches before swiveling on the edge of the area and volleying it into the corner.
Difficult to remember any male soccer player coming up with sort of brilliance though I, and a ground full of fellow spectators, did watch one man execute something similar away back in the mists of time.
March 23rd, 1973 to be precise. Venue: Finn Park, Ballybofey. Finn Harps versus Shelbourne. And Big Brendan Bradley is making his first appearance for Harps since returning from Lincoln City. And the ball is played through to him by Terry Harkin and Beezer lofts the ball over Shels defender, Ray O’Brien, and with the ball still in air-space deftly flicks it over the head of the advancing goalkeeper and volleys it straight and true to the empty net.
Not quite the same goal but close and the other reason I’m mentioning it here is because the ‘keeper in question was called Roche – Paddy who went on to play for Manchester United – though I’m not sure if he is related to the former Peamount United striker.
During Bradley’s spell at Lincoln, a family friend posted me on a cutting from the ‘Daily Mirror’ (those were the days when there were no Irish editions) which highlighted a match between City and Reading when Big Brendan was reported to have scored a goal of similar vintage.
Not sure if that particular effort was picked up by I.T.V. or B.B.C. cameras of the day but there is no doubt that Bradley’s gem against Shelbourne is, sadly, only reserved in collective memories as there was no television coverage from that afternoon in March 1973.
And had it not been for the initiative of some Wexford Youths cameraman forty years later, we would have had no visual record of Stephanie Roche’s magnificent and potentially award-winning goal either.
Mentioned this before but the soundest of credit is owed to TG4 for their continuously excellent coverage of sport.
Apart from the albeit deferred showing of Termon’s All-Ireland win, preceded by two other Finals including the Ulster showdown which saw St. Enda’s of Omagh, conquerers of St Eunan’s, narrowly beaten by Slaughtneil, the station featured all three matches in the Pro 12 Cup involving the four Irish Provinces between Friday and Saturday evenings.
The pick of the bunch had to be that blistering game at Thomond Park between Munster and Ulster with the home side shading it by a solitary point, fly-half, Humphreys missing a conversion in the dying moments that would have won the match for the Ulstermen.
Only one thing that puzzles me about TG4’s coverage of women’s football. Why is it that the clock in the top left hand corner of the screen counts down rather than up as it does for the men’s equivalent?
BROTHERS IN ARMS
One of the sporting moments of the weekend came at The Valley where Charlton Athletic were hosting Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town in the Championship.
Former Republic international, Stephen Hunt, had already vacated the action when his brother, Noel, came on as a late substitute for the Town. As the match entered the fifth and final minute of stoppage time with the sides goal-less, up popped the latter Hunt to crack home the winning goal following his recent signing from Leeds United – his first in two years.
He celebrated by racing to the dug-out into the arms of his brother – undoubtedly an image for the family album.
McCarthy is certainly giving the Irish a run in his team –Daryl Murphy and Conor Sammon also featuring against Charlton. And now he has added another one to the squad in the Hunt for promotion.
Many’s a word – every single one of them in glowing terms – has been written or broadcast in recent days about the great Jack Kyle, the rugby legend who has passed away.
Part of the original Irish Grand Slammers team of 1948, the Belfast born international was a warrior on the field and a gentleman off it. But he played in an era where he and his team-mates didn’t enjoy the comforts of today’s counterparts.
In an interview he recalled receiving stern warnings from the rugby authorities of the day that if he didn’t return his Ireland jersey immediately after a game he would be charged for it. “You had to bring your own shorts and socks and also provide your towel and soap,” Kyle related.
True, the rugby players of today probably have it harder on the pitch where the physicality is concerned but they are certainly treated much better than the men of old.
I always have a quiet snigger when I watch a match in the English Premiership and the commentator refers to the players “on the bench”.
Bench? Some five star hotels wouldn’t have the like in their foyers. This is plush with a capital ‘P’ far removed from the days when you were as likely to get a splinter in the backside as get on the field of play after the substitutes rule was introduced.
And so another potential snooker title passes Ken Doherty by after his 6-1 defeat to England’s Ricky Walden in the Coral UK Snooker Championship.
The Englishman was supreme and the Dubliner never looked like pulling the match out of the fire even after winning the fourth frame.
It’s doubtful at this stage of his career that Doherty will ever again repeat his world championship success of 1997 when I can recall, late on that Monday night, kneeling in front of the television and anguishing at every attempted pot, both his, and his opponent, Stephen Hendry’s. The Irishman was to reach two more world finals but failed to replicate his previous success and watching him these days, it appears that he won’t be putting his fans through any more anxious moments with a world title on the line.
But a decent skin who, we’ll never forget, once enjoyed that feeling of being the best snooker player on the planet.
So Shay Given is, apparently, in line to take over Roy Keane’s role as assistant manager at Aston Villa.
What’s the betting that he might be doing the same where Keane’s equivalent Republic of Ireland post is concerned?
Read somewhere over the weekend that the Kerry duo of Colm Cooper and Darragh O Se are considering entering the field of politics.
Surely shouldn’t be too long before we’re reading about Jim McGuinness being parachuted in to some political regime up here.
A couple of years ago, I heard him speak at an Adult Learner Fair in Letterkenny and for a full hour he had the audience in the palm of his hand and spoke more sense in that time than many political heads have managed in a lifetime.
Which made me thing he’s much too good for the world of politics and should stick to more sporting ventures.
WORLD CUP LATEST
Sepp Blattermouth insists the 2022 World Cup WILL be staged in Qatar.
“2022, it is Qatar, and ladies and gentlemen, believe me, with all that has been said around the world by whom? Those not involved with what happens in football,” the FIFA President was quoted at the weekend.
Those not involved with what happens in football? Sounds exactly like Qatar, if you ask me.
Late news: Greenland puts in counter bid to stage the 2022 World Cup.