He wishes he had Patrick McBrearty’s eye for goal and Mark English’s legs. But then he just wouldn’t be himself. Paddy Walsh is back with Donegal’s favourite sports column.
McBREARTY PASSES ALL TESTS
Once upon a time in the far – very far – distant past, I sat for the Leaving Certificate examination. Actually make that twice upon a time as I was forced to repeat it but no call to go into the finer details here particularly as there were no finer details.
But that era in my educational life came into my head while I was watching the highlights of Donegal’s victory over our cross border neighbours in Ballybofey in the opening round of the Allianz National League.
I wondered why and then I realised I was thinking of that time a few short years ago when a 17 year old Patrick McBrearty burst onto the inter county scene.
He looked a lively prospect then and one for the future. And, as they say, the future is now. What a performance he put in last Saturday and while a highlights package can’t provide the full picture, the glimpses of him showed enough to tell us that here is a real talent. Took his scores superbly and didn’t allow the Derry defence to settle.
And I thought back those couple of years when he himself was sitting his Leaving but was still showing a maturity beyond those teenage years. And I wondered how I would have coped with an All-Ireland title on the horizon and an important school examination to deliver had I been good enough to turn out for Donegal (or even good enough to sit the Leaving). Can’t imagine I would have been mature enough back in the day to cope with that double demand but the Kilcar man has certainly proved himself and will surely be an automatic starter in Rory Gallagher’s line-out for the rest of the year.
Not a classic performance by the home team but, quite often under the tenure of Jim McGuinness, they countered a disappointing one half with an impressive second. And with the veteran pairing of Christy Toye and Neil Gallagher showing they have lost nothing in terms of what they brought to the Donegal table during the McGuinness era, there are plenty of grounds of hope.
The ground they’ll perform on next weekend will be the one they’ll hope to revisit in the third week of September and I fancy Donegal to put one over the Dubs at Croker even if certain Dubs in close proximity to this column may be sniggering in the background.
A double triumph for Mark English last weekend. On Friday night, he was named Donegal Sports Star of the Year and followed that up by helping the Irish team to smash the world medley relay record in New York.
The Irish quartet which also included Ciaran O’Lionard, Brian Gregan and Declan Murray, came home – not literally now! – in a time of 9:25:37 with the Letterkenny man clocking up 1:48:59 over his 800 metres distance. They finished second behind the host nation in the New Balance Indoor Games.
Due to his American commitment, English wasn’t in a position to be present in the Mount Errigal Hotel to accept his sports star award but there to receive it for him was his father, Joe, and, by all accounts, the latter gave an inspiring address on behalf of his son.
Some weekend and some year for the affable former Letterkenny A.C. man who took that never to be forgotten bronze medal in the 800 metres at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in the summer.
You suspect being named sports star of the year in his home county might even edge his achievement in New York on the personal satisfaction rating.
And what about Danny Mooney? He breasted the tape in first place in the 1,500 metres at the AAI Games in Athlone and in the process registered a European indoor qualifying time of 3.42.69. The Letterkenny athlete has, as a result, confirmed his place at the European Championships in Prague in March.
Two international sports stars that we can call our own and there’s no doubt there will be more rewards and medals for both down the track.
Meanwhile, glowing tributes to all those sports people who were recipients at the awards ceremony in Letterkenny and to everyone nominated.
NO, NOT YOU THIERRY
So you get wind of a rumour that a French striker is being linked with Finn Harps and you think – surely not, surely not HIM? Would he want to end his playing career at Finn Park and show us that he could mix it in the First Division of the League of Ireland?
But no, it appears he’s going to continue watching the Gunners at the Emirates and has no interest in being handed (sic) a chance to really make a name for himself.
In any case, the French striker who did turn up, one Wilfried Tagbo, marked his first – let’s hope the first of many – game for Harps with the only goal in a pre-season win over the side who finished runners-up in the Premier League last season, Cork City.
Tagbo was recommended for a trial with Harps and partnered former Carlisle United and Fleetwood Town striker, Greg Peel, in the frontline against Cork in the game played in Roscommon, both apparently impressing.
And strikers are what Harps urgently require to ensure the burden of scoring doesn’t fall on the ageing shoulders of Kevin McHugh who, I have no doubt, will, despite a mixed campaign last time out, deploy all his experience and guile to typical effect in the new season.
Should Tagbo and Peel remain on the striking problems might just be resolved but if they leave, the search can only go on.
T.V. OR NOT T.V.
Never mind the Super Bowl, the Six Nations is almost upon us. And Ireland will, the pundits and experts are telling us, start as favourites after last season’s championship triumph and impressive performances, and results, in the November internationals.
So that’s that then, no title win this year which might not be the worst thing that could happen in a World Cup year – just as long as they don’t collapse completely in the Six Nations – with that big fish to fry.
Meanwhile, let’s hope the Women’s Six Nations championship will receive due television coverage as it, too, gets underway this weekend.
Not that it will be much good to the family of one of Donegal’s rugby women, Nora Stapleton, who don’t even have a T.V.
Interesting interview with the Fahan woman in a Six Nations supplement in the ‘Irish Times’ this week during which she confessed: “As a child I wouldn’t have known anything about rugby, really. I didn’t come from a very sporty family. We didn’t sit in front of the T.V. watching sports because we didn’t even have a T.V. growing up.”
Apparently her parents had decided their children could provide their own entertainment and got rid of the box in the corner. And they still don’t have one to this day.
If it weren’t for televised sport, there’d probably be a lot of us doing the same.
Late into transfer window deadline day it was beginning to look like the whole thing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be until along came the story of the year to take the pane out of it.
Kieran McDaid transferred from Buncrana Hearts to Exeter City! Twitter had all the latest on it with one tweet from a City supporter declaring: “Makes me laugh that we all know we’ve signed someone, yet official ECFC won’t announce it.” Wonder why?!
Even SKY Sports were hoodwinked and, unlike Exeter, DID announce the signing. Not that the news was appreciated everywhere, least of all from one Jack Stirling who tweeted: “Why have we signed a 23 year old striker from Ireland who plays in a park?”
But, for a spell, it seemed they had, reports circulating that McDaid had signed an eighteen month contract with the SKY BET League 2 side. “Big thanks to all at Buncrana Hearts for all they’ve done. Looking forward to my next opportunity….”, Kieran took to social media to acknowledge his gratitude.
But as Exeter supporters were getting to grips with the news of the latest arrival to St. James Park –and wondering (a) who he? and (b) where’s Buncrana? – it was left to the local media outlet, the Express & Echo, to deliver the bombshell: “No, Exeter fans, Kieran McDaid did not sign for City last night” before going on to reflect on those fans left red faced with the transfer day prank.
To those behind it, a heartiest well done. Full-time score: Buncrana Hearts 1 Exeter City O.
Great prank, lads. Oh look, there’s another one: Wilfried Zaha, Manchester United to Crystal Palace…
MEDALS AND MAGHERAFELT
They could have lined Magherafelt’s main street with the haul of medals that Donegal’s juveniles took home from the Ulster and Northern Ireland indoor athletics championships over the weekend.
Representing clubs from Finn Valley, Letterkenny, Lifford, Cranford and Tir Chonaill, the county’s young athletes claimed honours in all disciplines in track and field in the Meadowbank Sports Arena. Well done to them all and indeed to those who may not have returned with a medal around their neck but were still prominent performers.
There were early morning departures on both Saturday and Sunday for athletes, coaches and parents – dedication that was to be rewarded with some glittering returns.
Cold it was. Freezing in point of fact. And that was inside the Meadowbank arena. When they tell you you’re running in the heat, they don’t mean it literally here. For an indoor venue it fairly sends the shivers through you though the performances on and off the track would quickly warm us all up.
Outstanding show by all our young athletes and the Glenshane Pass looked particularly spectacular on the way home.
LEAGUE OF DUBLIN
Brilliant. Just when you think the League of Ireland authorities couldn’t make a bad situation worse, along they come and do just that. Out go Shamrock Rovers ‘B’ from the First Division – they should never have been allowed into the league in the first place – but in comes Cabinteely F.C. to replace them.
The head count of Dublin clubs in the League now stands at seven and you can include Bray Wanderers in that considering they’re only a short Dart ride from the rest of them.
Just how big a city do the authorities believe our capital is? Certainly not big enough to facilitate seven clubs. The support base surely cannot justify such a selection. U.C.D.? A couple of Bus Eireann coaches would comfortably hold their regular home attendance tally with a few seats to spare. Bray Wanderers? Derek Wilkinson could transport their supporters to the Carlisle Grounds in the back of a handful of his Daihatsus.
And while the likes of Shelbourne might have a somewhat greater contingent of fans, I can recall a match in Finn Park towards the end of last season when they were still in the hunt for automatic promotion and brought along a mere mini bus load of followers.
And now we have Cabinteely entering the fray. They will be operating out of Stradbrook, home of Blackrock Rugby Club but it’s hardly likely the rugger types will be lending their support come match days.
To be fair about this, the Dublin club may have been the only one to actually apply for league membership. But surely had they been pressed other non-league clubs around the country could have been persuaded to make an application?
Social media highlighted the case this week for the inclusion of the likes of Tralee Dynamos and Killarney Celtic from deepest Kerry but in a county where Gaelic football rules supreme, they may not have been the best options. One comment online summed up another potential problem: “Kerry teams would struggle in the League of Ireland. Imagine having to field a side for a midweek game against Finn Harps.”
And the very same Harps would hardly savour another country length trek to Tralee or Killarney, particularly as they already have matches in Cobh, Waterford and Wexford to contemplate.
We may be looking at the last hurrah for the First Division of the League of Ireland and for someone who has always advocated a promotion/relegation scenario to keep the interest alive for clubs at the bottom end of the Premier League and the top ranks of the First,that would be a bitter pill to stomach.
Not that the league authorities appear to care too much.
TOUCHDOWN (ON THE OLD SCRATCHER)
I had little or absolutely no intention of staying up to watch the Super Bowl live from Arizona. But once I got settled into the start of it and the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks got down to brass tacks and the ball carriers bounced off another tackle and the cameras scanned the stadium and caught sight of Mark Wahlberg and that fellow who used to play with the Beatles, I still had no intention of staying up for it and headed off to the leaba.
The next morning brought news of a 28-24 win for the Patriots and history being made in the form of their 37 year old quarterback, Tom Brady, smashing Joe Montana’s touchdown record.
But I was still glad I didn’t stay up until the wee small hours watching it. Touching down on the old scratcher at a reasonable hour is much more preferable to watching Paul McCartney sitting in the free seats.
After their 5-0 tanking at the Emirates, Aston Villa have now gone a full ten hours and twelve minutes without finding the back of the net. Not the first time the Villa Park outfit have hit such a barren spell but this is particularly worrying (Adrian Shiels, I feel your pain) and despite a couple of chances against the Gunners they rarely looked like ending the run.
Even the award of a penalty might open the way for a resurgence in front of goal but Villa are one of just two clubs in the Premiership who have yet to be given a spot-kick this season.
The other club? Step forward none other than the team everyone tells us gets all the refereeing decisions, Manchester United.
A couple of weeks ago this column may have given the impression – a reasonably good impression at that – that it had won €17,000 in an eleven game accumulator at Ladbrokes.
Until I was approached in the street the other day congratulating me from someone who heard it from someone else, I thought nothing more of it.
Sadly – except, of course, for the individual who actually did win it – it’s not true and your average church mouse continues to share the same account as me.
Though should Ladbrokes feel it necessary to send a pile this way for all the free publicity, I wouldn’t say no. But I wouldn’t bet on that either.