Thursday, March 5, 2015

Update 5th March

Kerry’s Declan O’Sullivan’s Star Turn 

Saturday last at King House was an atmospheric event with a superstar of Gaelic football in attendance in Declan O’Sullivan. There was a great mix of people from the region present, the very young to the not so young. I guess they were there to celebrate the presentation of well-deserved awards to three young Boyle Gaelic stars, Donie and Enda Smith and Tadhg Lowe, by Boyle GAA club. The presentations were made by Boyle GAA officers Mary Clifford, Kathleen Hanmore and Martin Dolan. The M.C. for the occasion was Benny O’Brien of Shannonside Sport. Also present was five time All-Ireland medal winner,captain on two occasions - Declan O’Sullivan. Declan spoke clearly and well. While he touched on the usual themes of good coaching and saying that “If something is worth doing at all it is worth doing well”. The commitment of the top sportsperson was highlighted in his feeling that they have little or no time for a social life. While he did not see professionalism in Gaelic football he said the players might get better expenses to offset the many infringements on the lives of top players because of that necessary commitment. He was dismissive of the idea of being annoyed by people bothering him saying, tongue-in-cheek “I’ve only five All-Ireland medals which in Kerry...”. The ongoing conundrum prevails for all non-Kerry GAA activists and it is; why and how are Kerry so successful? Declan suggested that “It’s all about Gaelic football in Kerry, it’s in our blood, our commitment …”and so on.

  I too have pondered on this from time to time also. The elements that I see existing in Kerry that are not nearly as evident in other counties are tradition, the success to date, success breeds success, the demand for success by the general GAA public. I remember Kerry supporters being very annoyed with the late and great Paudie O’Shea some years ago. Kerry seem to do what is necessary to succeed. Short periods without an All-Ireland are seen as major crises. Belief is another thing. While there have been many great winning Kerry teams they have also won All-Irelands with average enough teams. I think last year’s Kerry team is a case in point as was the Kerry team of 1962 who beat Roscommon. Recently I met Eugene McGee on the train to Dublin and the above discussion was touched on since he trained Offaly to guillotine the Kerry ‘five in a row drive in 1982. Interestingly he said a book that would interest him would be one on the years Kerry lost All-Irelands. A very different take on things. Perhaps such a case study of similar Mayo losses might be enlightening.

  Regarding great footballers he played with and against Declan referenced Michael Meehan and Bernard (?)Brogan of Dublin while the Kerry greats were the Gooch Cooper and Tomas O’Shea not just for his football but also for his dressing room passion. He mentioned the joy it was to train with Cooper and see in a non- game- setting the skills of this genius of a player.
Declan was a great and patient guest and posed in innumerable photos with young and old. A star in more ways than one.

Sports and Associations Display

This was a central event of a broad exhibition of sporting clubs and associations in the town of which I am told by Frank Geelan there are approximately seventy two. While this number sounds high it is fair to say that the town is pretty well served by many vibrant clubs and associations, soccer, Gaelic, badminton, cycling, golf, walking, running, tennis, badminton, fishing, community games, scouts, brownies, photographic, musical and residents associations  and many more. 
It is was an impressive event and the organisers from Boyle Chamber of Commerce, Boyle TM and Bank of Ireland and participants are to be commended for their considerable efforts.   

Michael Harding and the Arigna Way

On Thursday night March 5th the writer Michael Harding is the presenter of an episode of the RTE. series called ‘Tracks and Trails’. Its promo states it embraces the trail ‘from Boyle to Arigna’.  In the background of the clip is walking enthusiast and guide Philip James. Michael Harding is a columnist with the Irish Times and has written a number of interesting books such as ‘Staring at Lakes’ He has quite a different take on things in a kind of an upbeat culchie way. He has appeared on the usual diet of Irish Television talk shows and will be  playing in the role of the Bull McCabe in John B Keane’s ‘The Field’ on the 50th. anniversary of the play, at the end of April in the Gaiety in Dublin.  Harding was born in Cavan in 1953 and is now living in Leitrim. He was in the priesthood for a time and has received a number of prestigious writing awards and has built up a considerable cv . in cultural areas. Michael has a different persona but I suppose that is not too different to many of us. 
Series Three of Moone Boy has returned on Monday nights at 9 on Sky 1 or Sky 1+1 at 10. It took a bit of jigging to get the second channel there.  


1. Gerry Emmett

Last week I repeated an anecdote involving Rattler Byrne of Tipperary today I relay one close to home involving restaurateur, raconteur, and Roscommon Herald Sports Personality Award winner Gerry Emmett. Gerry was a member of various Summerhill College teams during his time there. He was for a long time a great club stalwart for his club St. Ronan’s. Gerry was a member of the Roscommon 1978 All-Ireland U-21 winning side which defeated Kerry in Roscommon and was a member of the panel of the 1980 All-Ireland Roscommon senior team defeated by Kerry. He played in the 1981 League Final v Galway. He remained as a member of the Roscommon panel for a number of years. 
Now the anecdote. Gerry was playing at corner forward and Tony McManus was playing at full forward. Tony, a star player, missed a few chances. Eventually Gerry admonished Tony Mac with ‘Tony if you don’t up your game I’ll be taken off’!  

1. ( b)

Summerhill will contest this year’s Connacht Senior ‘A’ Football Final against Roscommon C.B.S. on Saturday the 14th of March (I think) in Carrick-on-Shannon. Summerhill defeated St. Jarlath’s and Roscommon C.B.S. defeated St. Gerald’s of Castlebar in the Semi-Finals. This is a rare pairing for the Connacht final and if anyone knows otherwise you might let me know. Also it must be long time since there was no Galway or Mayo school in this grade of Connacht final. 

2. Boyle Man World Number One

At a 90th birthday party recently in King House, I met a Boyle Athlete, John McDermott, who represented Ireland in the 60's in hurdles when at college. Now aged seventy he is still at the  top of his game. He won the European Masters (aged 70 and over) 300 metres hurdles last year in a time that  placed him at number 1 in the world. He also won the 400m. flat putting him at number 2. He also ranks number two in the world in the decathlon and number five in the world in the  Pentathlon. He attributes his ability to his lifelong commitment to fitness and his luck in avoiding injuries. John was a member of the Boyle GAA which won the junior Championship in the mid-sixties. (There were only junior and senior grades then). Many young people will remember John from his life-long association as regional organiser with Foroige.  As Michael Caine’s biography title relayed ‘Not a Lot of People Know (all) that’.    

3. New Land League

People have been surprised that an organisation called The New Land League are involved in a major property dispute in Killiney in Dublin. The founder of the New Land League is Jerry Beades originally from Roscommon. The organisation is in existence for about a year. And concerns itself with repossessions on foot of mortgage arrears. Their concern for the dilemma faced in Killiney regarding a property valued at millions of euro is a far cry from the concerns of the original founder of C19th Land League, Michael Davitt.

4. The ‘Claire Byrne Live’ show

The ‘Claire Byrne Live’ show on R.T.E. on Monday night also dealt or tried to deal with aspects of this major issue. This revolved around the effectiveness or otherwise of P.I.P.S.  i.e. Personal Insolvency Service and its Practitioners. Apparently this panacea for those in mortgage arrears has not been very effective as only one thousand of the 30,000 plus in arrears have engaged with the service. Claire herself seemed overrun by the debate as she flitted from one person to another without giving them time to answer. The one person presenter was not a success here. Talking of TV programmes there was an interesting discussion on the Vincent Browne on Monday night on the minimum wage which has stood at €8.65 for a number of years now.      

5. Happy Retirement

I extend very best wishes to Martin Dolan on his retirement from Leitrim County Council Executive. I am sure he has been a great servant to that Council and that he will be sorely missed. Their loss is Boyle's gain as Martin is involved in a number of the town's organisations including the GAA and Boyle Credit Union. 

6. Best Wishes

Best Wishes also to Abbey Community College with their production of Oliver this week. I look forward to it. Also Roscommon Drama Festival which gets under way this coming weekend and Glenamaddy Drama Festival which begins on the 19th of March. 

7. Donegal to Dublin

I presume a good few people will have heard of the Donegal woman who was brought to Mountjoy Jail Dochas Centre in Dublin by Taxi accompanied by two Gardai via Sligo for incomplete payment of a fine for not having a TV licence. She was released from there after three hours and given the means to make her own way back home. What can one say! I actually heard an couple of hours ago on the Sean O’Rourke programme a person who was being interviewed by Paddy O’Gorman outside Letterkenny courthouse, as it happens, refer to Castlerea prison as being like a ‘playschool’ !  

Cootehall’s Double Diamond Sign

8. On a trip to a game in Cootehall I noticed that a kind of iconic trade sign of that village is in terminal contraction. It is the Double Diamond sign on the way up to the church or for others on the way up to Henry’s bar. The last time I referred to this in print it was missing just two letters but now it HAS just two letters. Maybe it can still be saved. Cootehall won’t be the same without it!       


Sports Books Countdown

7.  (I was in New York for 3 summers in the late sixties and got to watch baseball, mostly on TV but got smitten with it and now have read a number of classic books on the sport and this is at the top).

The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn (Baseball)

A classic in the genre, Roger Kahn’s love letter to baseball is really an epic in three parts. From his childhood spent as a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers to his time as a reporter covering them up to their 1955 World Series victory to his revisiting of the Dodgers’ greats like Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella in their dotage, Kahn’s exploration of his own life through the lens of baseball is not to be missed.

Also: ‘The Summer of ’49’ The Yankees v The Boston Red Sox with Di Maggio v Ted Williams. (There is an American singer, who has been in the Moving Stairs in its day, Chuck Brodsky, who specialises in Baseball songs.)  

6. Back from the Brink: The Autobiography … Paul McGrath, with Vincent Hogan (2006, Arrow) (soccer) ... (Tony Adams of Arsenal also has a fine similar confessional book)  

A book that should be read by everyone — once. To read it a second time could be too much. It is a harrowing story, with passages that will make you wince, maybe even cry and certainly reflect poignantly on the friend or relative you know similarly affected by alcoholism as McGrath clearly is here. At times it is even almost too truthful, for squeamish us and for McGrath who gives us occasional reason to not particularly like him, something we’d never have considered previously about the most loved Irish footballer of them all.

Of course we’d known he was adopted but just how troubling and scarring that childhood was, we’d no clue; ditto his troubled mental health which involved him suffering a mental breakdown at just 19, leaving him unable to even kick a ball for the guts of a whole year. But it is the depths and lengths to which his alcoholism brought him to that make this such challenging but brilliant reading.

Yet amidst all that, there was football too, and it is a credit to McGrath’s inner fortitude as well as exceptional talent that he was able to sustain such a career at the elite level well into his late 30s. Vincent Hogan does a masterful job here, with one of his cleverest ideas being to interview old colleagues and managers of McGrath, blending biography within the autobiography. Not only does it offer us stories and insights that either McGrath’s modesty or bleary, beery memory could not volunteer, but a revealing admission from Alex Ferguson that he mismanaged such a troubled but gentle soul. It will always be something of a struggle for McGrath to manage his life but with Hogan, he’s managed to write possibly the greatest football autobiography ever.


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