Paddy Walsh recovers from his shock at his beloved Man Utd recording a sixth victory in a row to plug in his laptop for his latest offering. This week he questions the merits of Donegal’s latest possible GAA signing, tells Rory McElroy he might need a new passport and drops a major hint at the sports book he wants in his Christmas stocking.
FROM BULGARIA WITH BRONZE
Just four months since the last European athletics bronze medallist arrived back in Letterkenny – and thirty-five years since Donegal could claim a captain’s role in another significant international achievement – Ann Marie McGlynn was greeted with the fanfare she deserved in her adopted home circuit last night (Tuesday).
While many Irish eyes may have been on Fionnuala Britton in the senior women’s European cross-country event in Bulgaria at the weekend – bidding her to claim another medal at this level – few might have envisaged when she came home in sixth place that there was still success on the horizon for Ireland.
And it came when team captain McGlynn loomed into view and strode to the finishing line, having pushed herself past a number of runners to get there, in 46th position.
As she revealed herself, when interviewed by Ciaran O’Donnell at the homecoming reception at the Aura Leisure Centre, she didn’t immediately realise that her efforts had helped the Irish team secure bronze with just a point separating them from the French women. But bronze it was and it hung around her neck for us all to see as she took the plaudits.
Sitting just in front of me at the reception organised by Letterkenny A.C., Joe and Brigid English heard a number of references to their own pride and joy, Mark, who also dug deep during the summer to claim a European Championship bronze medal in the 800 metres. And as M.C. Ciaran pointed out, present, too, was the legend known as Danny McDaid who captained the Irish team way back in 1979 when John Treacy clinched the world cross-country title in Limerick.
Captains of two Irish teams and both of them boasting Letterkenny Athletic Club links. “It won’t happen too often,” as Ciaran insisted.
Ann Marie’s coach, Teresa McDaid, had watched the race on a laptop at the Aura on Sunday where she was involved in organising the annual Turkey Trot. “Beyond my dreams,”, the Letterkenny woman described the third place finish by the Irish team and her own prodigy. Beyond all of our dreams.
Though not completely outside the bounds of possibility, according to the athlete herself who spoke of having been “quietly confident” before the race got underway.
Her running career included a ten year absence from the sport when she decided, after the birth of her second child, to take it up again and after a spell with Lifford A.C. – her then coach, Kevin Connolly, also coming in for high praise – she joined the Letterkenny club and aimed her sights on events such as last Sunday’s. And what an aim.
All of the speakers at Tuesday’s reception – and from left to right they also included Letterkenny A.C. chairperson, Michael Galvin; club captain, Aidan McKenna; chairperson of the Donegal Athletics Board, Brendan O’Donnell; and Letterkenny Municipal Mayor, Michael McBride who also highlighted the recent national success of young Kilmacrenan lad, Oisin Kelly, who took home a gold medal in the under-11 cross-country competition at Santry – were loud in their praise (well, as loud as they could manage under the competition from the young boys and girls in training in the adjoining lane at the Aura hall !) of this latest Donegal success at international level.
And, yes, Offaly born she may be and Strabane based – proud husband, Trevor, also in attendance at the homecoming – but the track outside and the coach seated beside her, has seen her put many a long evening into training and at the end of the day, athletics is, and should be, a united sport with its international successes to be shared by all.
Another homecoming, another bronze. And for Ann Marie Glynn the training will begin again in January with sights this time set on even more global competition.
WHEN YOUR HOME COUNTY IS NOT QUITE YOUR HOME COUNTY
The one stand-out feature of inter-county football over the decades has been the parochial feel to the whole concept. The very fact that the players were born, bred and buttered in localities stretching from Buncrana to Bundoran; from Kilcar to Creeslough; from Letterkenny to Lettermacward.
On the club front, such parochialism can, and has, led to rivalries that have occasionally strayed into the over-physical both on and off the field but on the positive side has bred a pride and passion almost unique in the wider sporting community.
Where the inter-county game is concerned such pride has, over the decades, engineered itself in the battles between Donegal and Tyrone; Dublin and Meath; Cork and Kerry; and Galway and Mayo.
And compared to the rival world of association football, this has separated the G.A.A. as the last true bastion of parish-pump sport in the best sense of the term. No chopping and changing from club to club or team to team here. No pumping the chest on one jersey one week and then kissing the badge on another the next.
Here in the G.A.A. you knew where you were and where you were from and when you pulled on that county shirt you did so with a sense of playing with, and for, your very own people.
Not that it hasn’t prevented a handful of straying away from original allegiances and setting up camp in new territory including a number into Donegal ranks. The latest of these is promising young Leitrim defender, Paul Brennan who had his transfer from Melvin Gaels to Bundoran ratified last week and can now, as a result, make the step into the Donegal inter-county ranks, assuming Rory Gallagher has such intentions when it comes to picking future squads.
And let’s face it – if Brennan is chosen he stands a much better chance of claiming a Provincial or All-Ireland medal with Donegal than he ever would with his home county.
But while it would be unfair to stand in the way of any young player wanting to better himself and his ambitions, it is surely leaving the way wide open for a whole glut of potential transfers unless Croke Park puts the clampers on such moves.
One man who might reflect with certain regret on his own career in a county jersey is the recently retired Benny Coulter. I always had a lot of admiration for the Down dynamo but despite earning Minor and under-age All-Ireland medals, the big one eluded him during his years in the red shirt, an undeserving outcome for one of that county’s most inspirational players.
I’d hazard a guess that the thought of moving to pastures new had the opportunity ever come about would never have crossed Coulter’s mind and credit to him if such was the case.
There are many other outstanding players who have never – will never – tasted the ultimate glory in Gaelic football terms but they’re still heralded as heroes in their own backyards.
Paul Brennan could indeed help bring Sam to the Hills (and I will be joining in the celebrations if he does) but I wonder if there does come a time when they’re crossing through Leitrim on route to his newly adopted county on the celebratory parade would he share the spasm of a nagging conscience along the way?
Time, I believe, for the G.A.A. authorities to ban such transfers before the sport turns into a free for all and the era of the days of swelling with pride in your home county’s jersey become truly tainted.
Oh my sweet sainted aunt, what have they done? Turned the B.B.C. Sports Personality of the Year awards into the Oscars, that’s what. Complete with dumbed down, celebrity twaddle and all the razzmatazz that goes with that kind of television event. Strictly Come Dancing with boots on. Or spikes. Or boxing gloves. Or whatever.
I’d just switched over to it on Sunday night to be greeted with Gary Lineker interviewing fellow presenter, Sue Barker in a sitting-room scenario. But it wasn’t sport they were chatting – you kind of expect they would be on a programme that has it as its running theme – ; it was a giggling exchange about a kiss the former tennis star had received from some comedian or other at what may have been last year’s awards ceremony but could just as well have been this year’s for all I knew (or cared at that stage).
Anyway, in attempting to introduce some vague sporting angle into it, the B.B.C. kindly showed us a replay of the kissing scene to allow Gary and Sue some more moments of mirth. And then….well, I didn’t stick around to find out but got back to watching a documentary on Abba on Channel 5 which, at the very least, gave us what it promised it would (great band, Abba, but, listen, this is supposedly a sports column so I’ll not get all showbizzy on it).
Switched back later but by that time there was some violinist performing on a Hollywood style stage (albeit against the backdrop of actual sporting footage) and I went and took the dogs for a dander.
Truly it was mighty difficult to tie in this all too glittering sports awards ceremony with hard slogs on early misty mornings, and mauls and rucks on muddy rugby pitches, and uppercuts to the solar plexus.
Outrage it seems – particularly in his home territory – when Rory McIlroy finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in the afore-mentioned overall sports award for 2014. Apparently they went for a driver as opposed to someone swinging one.
“What on earth does he have to do to win Sports Personality of the Year?,” frustrated Stormont Minister, Jim Wells, shared the feelings of many on Twitter.
Become a nationalised Englishman, some of us might suggest.
Had hoped to get along to the fan forum hosted by Finn Harps in Ballybofey on Sunday night but due to an afternoon spent at the Sportshall trials in the Aura Centre, I give it a reluctant miss.
But judging from some of the reports, it was an instructive and informative get-together with the common dominator among both club representatives and supporters that of getting Harps back into the top ranks (though Ollie Horgan, sensibly enough, was making no promises on this one).
There are those, of course, who believe (and have done so for many a long year) that the club is not just based in Ballybofey but is basically a Ballybofey club.
Not true as many of us who travel to home and away games from Letterkenny and others points besides can readily testify.
Hopefully, as on previous occasions, Harps will host several more of these evenings in other towns throughout the county and, indeed, in the likes of Dublin where there is a hardy bunch of dedicated followers located.
Latest score from Finn Park: McGettigans back on board as sponsors and the trio of Packie Mailey, Matt Crossan and Caoimhim Bonner sign on the dotted goal-line. Keep them coming…
FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Naturally, all of the Irish sports media focused extensively on the decision by the money men behind the English Premiership to broadcast at least ten top level matches on Friday nights from next season.
All part of a new 5.6 billion euro deal worked out between the Premier League authorities and the television giants who now control just about everything but the results.
But hardly a whisper on our own sports pages and platforms on how this might affect the League of Ireland and its current glut of Friday night fixtures.
Yeah, yeah, switch them to Saturday nights, the Irish based Premiership advocates will shout up if they even bother to concern themselves with it in the first place.
But it shouldn’t be long before the authorities in England decide that they could also squeeze in a handful of matches on Saturday nights as well leaving those in charge of the L.O.I. (as if some of them really care either) to consider turning to mid-morning slots to free domestic games up from the rival televised offerings.
BOOKING THAT CHRISTMAS PRESENT
A few recently released publications on offer for sports lovers out there, all of them with local connections and each of them worthy Christmas presents.
Fr. Sean Gallagher has launched another edition of his well researched ‘Book of Donegal G.A.A. Facts’ while there is also ‘Four Summers’, a book depicting the quartet of memorable years of Jim McGuinness’s term in charge of the county team.
Each of them history in their own way but none more so that Kieran Kelly’s actual history book ‘Where the Winding Swilly Flows’ which features plenty of information and anecdotes for the non-sports advocate but does devote an entire chapter to the subject the rest of us revel in. True, it flows mainly through Letterkenny but there is nevertheless an Everest (or at least an Errigal) of intriguing sporting stories to be unearthed between its pages.
Last week, Jose Mourinho was mouthing off about the ball boys tactics in Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United.
But this week, absolutely nothing about the falls boys in his own team…