The Passing of three sports men
The past week has seen the passing of three sporting men of different times and levels. The tragic death of Limerick, Munster and Ireland rugby legend Anthony Foley came as huge shock to all sporting people. The reaction of people particularly in his home town and province was evidence of the regard in which he was held and the incredulity that a giant of a man, aged just 42, could be swept away from this life so suddenly. I copy to here, the reaction of sports journalist Roy Curtis to Anthony Foley’s death
“The chokehold of sorrow, the vice-grip of inexplicable loss seems to banish the oxygen, lock out the light.
Stop all the clocks, for the heartbeat, the ticking timepiece of the Munster nation has been stilled.
You did not need to know Anthony Foley to sense a hole gouged open in the ozone layer protecting Ireland’s soul, to believe your very core, the ability to think straight, had been drop-kicked into a hellish swirl of confusion and incomprehension and disbelief when the dreadful news arrived like a volley of winding punches to the solar plexus”.
Sudden death is an incomprehensible shock and all Irish sports people shared that shock with the rugby community when the news pinged through the instant media networks on Sunday. The gates of Thomond Park became an instant shrine to a much beloved sporting icon, a man steeped in a sports tradition handed down by his father Brendan. Anthony was a chip off the old block and it looked as if the dynasty was to be a lasting one. But fate and the gods thought otherwise and a deep, deep, wound is being felt now by his family, friends, colleagues and the communities to which he brought such enjoyment and pride. Perhaps there will be some consolation for those closest to him in that he had achieved so much in a short life and leaves a legacy of memories to be tossed and turned in their minds in times to come.
‘Death, be not proud’ by John Donne.
‘Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Paddy Beisty, Rathcroghan
Paddy Beisty passed away on Tuesday the 18th aged 90 years. He was a member of the Roscommon panel of the last Roscommon team to win a senior All-Ireland football championship in 1944. There is just one member of that great side still with us now and that is Liam Gilmartin who lives in Dublin. I had been asked many time ‘how many of them left’ the them being the members of the 43/44 Roscommon teams. My numbers have declined incrementally in the last few years with the demise of men such as Brendan Lynch and John Joe (Nerney). Paddy Beisty was a kind of ‘forgotten’ man of that group as he was a substitute in ‘44 as an eighteen year old and later spent a good spell in the U.S. He went to Summerhill College at the turn of the forties and played football there and later when he went to Ballyhaise Agricultural College. In’43 Mantua set up their own team breaking for a while from Elphin and they won the junior championship with Paddy being one of the stars. Dan O’Rourke brought him into the county panel for ’44 and they went all the way and Paddy got his All-Ireland medal. It was suggested that it would be the first of a number but again fate took a hand in proceedings. Paddy’s father had been in the United States and had got citizenship which also passed to his son. The result was that even though domiciled in Ireland he was eligible to be ‘called up’ to join the U.S. army which he did at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. After training in England he was posted to Europe in support units in ’45. After the war he ‘demobbed’ in the States and stayed there and married an American lady, Carol. With their family they returned to Ireland and Rathcroghan in the late sixties.
In talking to those Roscommon football stars, and I’ve been lucky enough to have talked to most of them, the decency, integrity, camaraderie, and how easily they wear their honours, shines through. In that most difficult period they were the county’s heroes and this carried through to many other counties also. They made Roscommon people happy and proud and they left a legacy that lives on. It has been the benchmark for Roscommon football for over 70 years. Paddy Beisty played his part in all that, and as the proud holder of a senior All-Ireland medal with Roscommon, deserves his due in the record of Roscommon’s great era in Gaelic football.
Johnny O’Neill of Clann
Johnny O’Neill was one of the cornerstones of the emergence of Clann na Gael as a powerhouse of club in Roscommon football. After being a top minor player he became an established goalkeeper with Clann and then the Roscommon team. He was a keeper on the Connacht team of ’73 which was defeated by the Combined Universities in a replayed final. He won multiple county club championship medals. Boyle resident John Kelly was a playing colleague with of his with Roscommon and spoke of the ability, warmth of personality, and popularity of Johnny as a person. So the Clann club has lost one of its many legends with the death of Johnny O’Neill.
The Third and Final U.S. Presidential Debate
I decided to stay the course by watching the final debate in the U.S. Presidential Debate last Wednesday night/Thursday morning. It reminded me of when I was a boy and getting up in the middle of the night, with my dad, to watch Cassius Clay fight Sonny Liston. I was not really looking forward to the debate. It was hardly worth the effort. I was a bit frayed from the previous occasions. The format was different on this occasion and more stable. It was divided into segments and ‘moderated’ by a man called Chris Wallace. The segments covered The Supreme Court, Immigration, Economy, Fitness to Govern, Foreign Hot Spots and National Debt. The emerging reality is that both of the candidates are seen as poor options. There were two programme analysts and one of them encapsulated the merits of the candidates as follows; ‘He (Trump) is everything that is wrong with our culture and she is everything that is wrong with our government’. Which suggests that in the next election the choosing of candidates will be more rigorous since the current pair are so divisive.
The usual topics of Clinton’s emails, huge fees for a speaking engagement, the Clinton foundation funding and so on surfaced. The one real strike in the debate was Trump’s failure to say that he would accept a result after the election count – obviously if the count went against him. This of course could call into question any election result so the whole roster of candidates for Congress could, theoretically, be thrown into the mix.
The actual election is not a straightforward numbers game either. Even as it stands there are states which are solidly ‘blue’ (Democratic) or ‘red’ (Republican). States which are won by ’blue’ or ‘red’ give to their winner all the states ‘electoral’ votes example Maryland a ‘blue’ Democratic state has 10 electoral votes or California also a ‘blue’ state with 55 electoral votes. There are a small number of ‘swing states’ which could go either way and they are key to victory. These include Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and Colorado. So on count night those are the ones to watch.
All this seems a bit out of kilter, to me, with the idea of the great democracy where in fact voting for a ‘blue’ candidate in a hot ‘red’ state is just exercising your franchise but has no effect and vice versa.
(As you can see I’m interested in this process. Perhaps some night classes organiser might set in train a programme of lectures on U.S. History and Politics for our enlightenment of this hugely important subject.)
1. The best of luck to Jonathan Conroy who manages Creggs in their Junior Final replay on Saturday at Strokestown v Kilglass Gaels at 4pm. A top man always, Jonathan.
2. I had a discussion with a sports person recently and he was noting the effect of the narrow selective broadcasting of games such as golf and cricket to pay per view channels. This has the effect of limiting the viewer numbers and by so doing the possible wider interest in the sports. I know this is a big discussion and sports are going after the huge money on offer. Rugby is another sport as last week-ends schedule illustrates; Connacht v Toulouse, Sky; Leinster v Castres BT Sports; Munster v Racing Sky and so on.
3. One of the most drawn out and unnecessary television programmes recently must have been the ‘draw’ for the 2017 GAA Championships.
4. The Roscommon Herald continued its very nice series of Snapshots with a short profile of Annie Egan. I imagine Annie has more interesting lore from her war years in London.
5. I have not managed to get to the Saturday morning Lough Key run/walk but it is on my list!
6. On Sunday there is the 21st staging of the run/walk in aid of cancer. Damian Regan at 086 394 2388 is the man to contact regarding particulars.
7. A Harvest Thanksgiving Service will take place in Ardcarne Church of Ireland also on Sunday the 23rd at 7.30.
8. It has been a disappointing week watching big television soccer games. Liverpool v Manchester United, on Monday night, was a bore. Man City v Barcelona was chaotic. In terms of Manchester City it was like watching key elements of Mayo’s All-Ireland performances in terms of goal giveaways and goalkeeping blunders. Was "Pep" Guardiola not watching the All-Ireland football final and replay?
9. Fair play to Chris O’Dowd and Niall Horan (of One Direction) and host Graham Norton for a very entertaining show on Sunday night last. While the show transmits at one hour it actually takes three hours to record so what you see is the edit. Also it means that the guests are in situ for three hours!
1. I see that one of the iconic town hotels has closed i.e. Hayden’s Hotel of Ballinasloe where I attended a few weddings decades ago and post-match reviews when Ballinasloe was a GAA fixture venue.
1 In the sports section of the Sunday Independent page 10 there is an ad. for a Sports Conference in Dublin with ‘special’ guest Lance Armstrong. (As I write he has withdrawn!) The price quoted for tickets from Ticketmaster...€175!!