It may be the last day of the year but Walshy’s keyboard is still full of venom. This week he sticks the boot into Chelsea and Newcastle, looks for a pay-rise (snigger, snigger!) and tells the story of a hammer that was missing for 28 years! And that’s before he puts a two-footed tackle in on the Convoy Centre of Excellence.
PITCH PERFECT? FAR FROM IT
The closed up notice has been posted at the so-called Centre of Excellence for the foreseeable future. Apparently, the pitches at the G.A.A. venue in Convoy are in poor shape due to over-use and inclement weather.
While the whole concept of such a centre was, and is, an admirable one, you’d have to say – as this column pointed out a number of weeks ago – that the tag ‘excellence’ hardly befits it in its present state. And this was before the playing surfaces cut up so badly.
A row of portacabins do the scantest of justice to the name while the lack of sheltered accommodation, particularly for unused players and officials on the sidelines, puts the venue well behind most other G.A.A. arenas in the county.
There’s been a lot of money spent on this facility to date – the purchase of the 26 acre site alone topped €1.3 million – eight years on from when it first got off the ground and while there are plans for a spectator stand and work is ongoing on the development of two further pitches, it still cannot by any stretch of the imagination be deemed a centre of excellence.
A centre of some progress to be sure but nothing more as yet.
It’s St. Stephen’s Day, 1986, and Letterkenny Rugby Club official, Jim Moore, is helping to put up the uprights for the annual Kee Cup fixture between a Ballybofey/Stranorlar select and their counterparts from the Cathedral Town.
Jim gets the loan of a lump hammer from Seamus Culhane to help him with the job. Yeah, a bit like that lump hammer you can see in the accompanying picture.
In actual fact, precisely that lump hammer.
For this is Jim taking the opportunity to present said hammer back to Seamus – a mere twenty-eight years almost to the day when he first took possession of it!
Not, it should be said, that Seamus was running around frantically looking for it or that Jim had deliberately avoided giving it back. It was just that he had misplaced it and finally came around to discovering it in his garage.
Hence, the specially organised presentation on the occasion of last Saturday’s Exiles/Veterans match against the Letterkenny 2nd’s at Dave Gallaher Park where Seamus was acting as touch judge.
The Exiles/Veterans won the game but there were no reports of anyone being hammered.
Not surprisingly as the year draws to a close, sport is recognising those achievements from 2014 which hit the headlines. None more so than Mark English’s magnificent bronze medal in the 800 metres in the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.
Monday’s edition of the ‘Irish Times’ hails the Letterkenny man’s feat – or even his feet – as one of the abiding memories of the year with the paper’s athletics correspondent, Ian O’Riordan recalling that the great Sebastian Coe was also 21 years of age when he claimed a European bronze in the 800 metres back in 1978. And look what the British middle distance runner went on to achieve subsequently?
English also features in a two page spread in the ‘Irish Runner Yearbook’ which is currently on sale.
It’s the safest of bets that we’ll be reading a lot more about him in the year(s) to come.
It’s not like Seamus Coleman to go down easily – for starters, he doesn’t play for Chelsea! – so when he was laid out in his own penalty area in Everton’s match against Newcastle United you knew something was afoot. Or in this case, aface.
Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse was clearly captured on camera having dug an elbow into the cheekbone of the Killybegs native and while the referee and his assistants apparently missed the incident – Cisse went on to score in the Toon’s 3-2 win over the Toffees to add salt into the wound – the English Football Association did not with the result that the Senegal striker (sic!) was facing a charge of violent conduct.
The only way to stop this type of action is to impose serious bans on the culprits, as in ten matches or more, and for their own clubs to cancel a couple of pay cheques or, better still, direct them to some worthy charities.
But what did Cisse get for his assault? A mere three matches to sit on the sidelines and mull over his offence.
Meanwhile, is there a possibility that the next time Coleman and Cisse meet on the pitch, the Donegalman could be doing so in the colours of Manchester United? Rumours still going the rounds that the Everton and Republic of Ireland full-back could be destined for Old Trafford in the January transfer window or, at the very least, next summer.
Growing up in Killybegs, Coleman was an avid United fan so such a move would have a young lad’s dream attached to it even if he did insist he was happy at Everton when he signed that five year contract not too long ago.
FIXTURE GLUT? YOU’RE HAVING A LAUGH…
Manchester United boss, Louis Van Gaal, and Sunderland manager, Gus Poyet, have become the latest of many to moan about the “hectic” Christmas /New Year schedule for English Premiership clubs.
“If you want to see the best players performing well, you need to make sure you are not playing every two days. It is not needed,” the Uruguayan hit out before the Black Cats faced Aston Villa on Sunday, a couple of days after their 3-1 home defeat to Hull City. And Van Gaal was equally critical of the quick turnaround even though he named the same starting side for United’s match at White Hart Lane (0-0) that lined out against Newcastle United forty-eight hours previously.
You always get it at this time of the year. Harping on about the unkind fixture list and the glut of games pencilled in for decision.
Those of us of a certain vintage will recall the days when the top flight clubs in England used to face into THREE matches in the space of FOUR days and not a whimper from the managers or players of the time. They just took it as part and parcel of the game at the time.
And what entertainment for the supporters of that era. Goals galore and the occasional teams getting a trouncing one day only to turn out a day later to wallop some other side.
I can distinctly remember a thrilling 4-4 draw between Derby County and Manchester United at the old Baseball Ground back in 1970 during one of those Christmas fixtures. Three goals in one four minute spell and a footballing spectacle for all.
The Derby team of those days was the one managed by Brian Clough and featured some outstanding players. And in the opposition one George Best.
There’s a ‘You Tube’ video of the game somewhere which I couldn’t access but I did manage to track down some of the online comments on the match from a few years back when, presumably, the video was put up.
“Look at the pitch, the fancy dans who play now wouldn’t even walk on it,” one observer remarked. How true.
Four years ago, a fan, Keith Richardson, posted this comment on that Derby/United game: “I was there. I was 22 years at the time…. Boxing Day…. Derby did have a great side thanks to Clough and Taylor and by the way George Best was the greatest player I have ever seen and I have seen Matthews, Finney, Moore, Charlton and Pele at Hillsborough playing for Santos. I just wished he had been English, we may have retained World Cup…”.
Sadly, Bestie never got the opportunity with his native Northern Ireland to perform on the greatest stage of all but he did shine on many another stage, not least the Baseball Ground in this particular Boxing Day fixture.
Thrilling days when football meant much more than pocketing obscene weekly salaries and complaining about having to play a couple of game in three days.
HISTORY AND HUGH
The late Hugh Duffy – who many moons ago, God help him, attempted to teach me history and Latin at St. Eunan’s College – was laid to rest last week in the blazer of his beloved Letterkenny Golf Club.
Someone pointed out to me that he was the club captain when the L.G.C. transferred from its former nine-hole course at Crievesmith to the existing eighteen holer at Barnhill back in the mid-sixties. If so, he was undoubtedly at the clubface of local history.
While never having taken up the game – apart from one summer away from the classrooms of St. Eunan’s when I attempted (successfully as it turned out) to single-handedly remove as many divots as I could – I can vaguely remember the course at Crievesmith and the subsequent move to Barnhill where, initially, an old farmhouse was deployed as the clubrooms. And after that, it was green for go for the Letterkenny Golf Club and a sense of major achievement for old stalwarts such as Hugh Duffy. May he rest in peace.
COACH LOADS TO A HARPS FRIENDLY!
During the Christmas season, I was directed to a book entitled “Come With Me To Ireland’, written by one Philip Ward who resides in Cambridge in England.
Published in 1972, he details a visit to Donegal Town during a fair day where he observed coaches “taking soccer supporters to a friendly against Portadown” in Ballybofey.
That’s right, coaches plural. To a friendly match. Against Portadown. You’d be hard pressed to fill a minibus for a Harps friendly game against the Ports or any other Irish League side these days. 0r, the cynics might suggest, any other game for that matter.
NEW YEAR WISHES
Finally, may I wish you the Happiest of New Years and hope that your sporting dreams come true. Just as long as they involve Finn Harps winning promotion to the Premier League; Donegal claiming both Ulster and All-Ireland glory; Seamus Coleman signing for United (see above); and the sports editor agreeing to a 300% pay rise for this column…