Archive for the ‘Donegal’ Category

At around 500 BC, and in a moment of weakness whilst being hacked off at the lack of things to do in China at the time, the great Confucius said “when the Gods piss on you, they piss on you from a great height”. Now, I’m not sure if he was a visionary as far as 2500 years into the future, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was predicting the outcome of the Antrim/Roscommon round 5 NFL game in Casement in mid-March under a musky northern sky.

Confucius – Saffron man?

Another of his quips was “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”. Well, if Dawson has anything about him this weekend he’d bring in a few Antrim fans to training this week and show to the squad the effect their limp performance last weekend on the unwashed. I’ve never been as depressed. Drinking heavily. This was meant to be a new dawn and it was going ever so well. Cavan were put to the sword. The ref acted the bollocks against Sligo. Fermanagh parked their entire county’s people (453) in front of their 20m line in a draw. Another draw in Wicklow after a traumatic 5-day journey. All acceptable.

The road to Wicklow

All that changed last weekend. Antrim refused to score until the 27th minute. I can’t put my finger on that. With a forward line of the Murrays, Pollock, the Herrons and Kelly it makes no sense. There was a rumour circulating Casement that Tomas McCann, who truly looked agitated on the bench, had recently been seen reading books about voodoo and telepathy in a library up near Randalstown. Was he sabotaging the attacking unit with his newly acquired expertise in the dark arts? It cannot be ruled out. He did come on for one of the Murrays and knocked over two dubious frees, making him top scorer. Was the ref affected too? We’ll watch that space but it’s the logical next step for tactics within the GAA and something the ingenious Cargin man is capable of leading the way in.

I really don’t want to dwell on the rest of the game. The Sheep Stealers were always in control. Barra Best scored the only Antrim goal – a credit to the weatherman from the West after his sublime performance that morning on the BBC when he predicted snow on St Patrick’s Day which, although never happened, excited the orangemen momentarily. We need to look forward though. This weekend Meath come to town. A win there and relegation fears turn to promotional hope with one game to go.

Barra Best knew it’d be cold

Are Meath any good? Cavan beat them out the gate. That’s enough for me. I’m not here to pick the team for Frank but he could do no worse than look about changing the whole team. I’ve always thought a full forward line of Barra, Conal Kelly and Sean McVeigh would dazzle the keeper’s eyeballs from their sockets. It’d be like three big lightbulbs haring down on you. Unmarkable. I’d have the two Herrons flanking Connor Murray in the full back line. They’re big mountain lads from Lamh Dhearg, well used to protecting their land from bears and goats. I’d place Kerr and Finucane in centrefield. Them lads could pluck grass from a giraffe’s nostril. You’d also have the added bonus of Kerr’s unerringly accurate free-taking expertise without having to run the length of the field from his own goalmouth – something that he simply cannot do given his tendency to chat to everyone he passes. Such a friendly chap. Throw Pollock in goals and give Tomas a free reign to work his magic. Hey presto – a team to put the fear of God into Donegal.

Kerr and McCann

So there you do. The future can be bright. I just hope Frank is reading.

It should have been a feeling of satisfaction. I’ve completed an inter-county season as a supporter starting way back in January on a cold winter’s night in an eerie Enniskillen. I’ve learned a lot (about Ireland) and lost a little (marriage probably). Donegal took home the cup to the province I used as my base. Yet the feeling is quite empty now. I know the hurling replay has yet to come, and I’ll be there, but there’s a fear surrounding me about the abyss after that. I have decided on a new non-sporting mission and, like Crocodile Dundee, it’ll take a bit of getting used to. But more about that anon.

Last weekend saw Donegal take the big one as expected. So confident was I of a victory, I emptied my credit card, savings and Confirmation money and lumped it all on Jimmy’s men to take it home. It’s rude to talk about money but let’s just say that my winnings has enabled me to stay another 12 months in Ireland working on my new project. I’m also sitting on my new Ferrari computer desk seat and I’m wearing a crown. Throwing money away you say but I’m not stupid to wear it around Belfast. I’d be destroyed. No, people buy iPhones etc – I buy a crown. That’s how I roll.

Me, 10 mins ago.

The day itself was a magical experience. In order to avoid the toll lady, I took a plane from Derry to Cork. I asked to go into the cockpit as usual and was quite amazed that I was successful. Luckily, I managed to talk the grumpy pilot into landing in a field near Croke Park to drop me off. It was a fantastic gesture and although I bored him senseless by my tales of what’s been happening in the XFactor and the ingredients to make a sensational Yorkshire Pudding, the surly 50-year old navigator still did me a good turn and threw me off. Threw me off isn’t an exaggeration as the plane never touched the ground but it was close enough. On reaching Dublin, I was swallowed up by genuinely 100% country folk from Mayo and Donegal. Not a streetwise person amongst them. I copped on to this early enough and it did cross my mind to do a bit of pick pocketing as I’d be wise to things like that but it soon dawned on me that these people were tight. They kept their hands in their pockets, jingling and jangling their money. A canny breed afterall.

Arriving in Dublin

The match was a bit disappointing. Donegal scored 5 goals in the first 5 minutes and the rest of the game was just a bit of a farce with Mayo shooting for points just to make the time go by a bit faster before they headed home to batten down the hatches in the windiest county in Ireland. I can understand their rush. I’m sure the players’ heads were wrecked thinking about gates being blown about and maybe even cattle. Talking about cattle and there was a man beside me at the game from Mayo. He seemed a bit unusual with his eyes going in different directions but he told me the following story at half time:

He was at the pub one night last week and decided to walk home as it was a clammy night. It was a good 2 mile walk. After a mile he couldn’t hold on any longer and went to the toilet in a field. It was the number two he had to do. It was fairly dark so he just grabbed a pile of grass and leaves to clean himself and made on his way happily enough. When he got home he went to close the door behind him but it wouldn’t shut. It was still pitch black so he groped behind him to see what was keeping the door open. It happened to be what felt like a rope. He turned around and groped is way to the end of the rope – it was a cow!! Unbelievably, when he cleaned himself in the dark he lifted the end of a rope that was around a cow’s neck and had mistakenly put it up his backside.  Unbelievable series of events.

Midnight walk

Anyway, the celebrations were great to watch although I felt bad about the Mayo people. They seem to lose finals a lot. One boy just said “same oul shite” and they all nodded in agreement. So that’s that. Sam Maguire is in Ulster and my journey is almost at an end.

As I intimated earlier, I’ve decided on a new adventure beginning the first week in October. I am to visit all 32 counties in 32 weeks, taking in the delights and culture of each one over a seven day period, starting in the southernmost corner. I’ll find out what that is when I look at the map. I’m a bit nervous about it with my accent and looks but sure, the abyss is to be embraced sometimes. Hurling next weekend first.

My home for 32 weeks

Donegal Final Training Night

Posted: September 19, 2012 in Donegal, Mayo
Tags: , ,

A short post here on a great night I had tonight. McGuinness put Donegal through their paces one last time up in Bundoran. I wasn’t expecting to see much really. I thought it’d be a bit of stretching and cajoling with blackboards etc. Sure they’ve been training hard all week and you wouldn’t want them to get injured a few days before the big one. Well I had my eyes opened.

I expected this stuff tonight

You used to hear of how the All Blacks would cut lumps out of each other in training, even before a World Cup final. I never really believed that. Well, if they only did half of what McGuinness made Donegal perform tonight, it was true enough. It started off with a light jog around the field as I expected. Murphy and McFadden were holding up the rear and doing a bit of ribbing with each other, having  a laugh. It was the All Ireland week and you could understand their happiness. Suddenly, from around the back of one of the dugouts, McGuinness ran behind McFadden, pulled a bag over his head and yanked him to the ground. He then whistled for Gallagher who arrived with some sort of pliers which appeared red hot. I soon noticed a small fire burning near where Rory was standing. McGuinness proceded to pull down Colm’s shorts, sniggering,  whilst Gallagher applied the hot tool to McFadden’s testicles. The Donegal hotshot squealed in pain, repeatedly shouting “sorry, Jim, sorry!” The rest of the panel looked on in horror, especially Murphy who seemed to get off lightly. McGuinness just stared back, coldly.

McFadden suffered these. Hot.

It was a shock to me. I almost threw up as McFadden pulled his shorts back on, crying, and meekly caught up with the rest of the squad who had doubled their pace. After a few more simple drills such as sprinting from one goal to the other 10 times consecutively without a break, Jim then whistled for what I thought was a final pep talk. Not so. Not forgetting what happened earlier, he called on Murphy to get on his hands and knees. When he complained a little, Gallagher appeared from behind McGuinness waving the red hot pliers in the air, laughing. McFadden winced again. Murphy did as he told as Jim and Rory climbed on his back. They made him crawl, at speed, out the gates and though the main street of Bundoran whilst shouting ‘yeee-har’ at the top of their voices. Behind them ran the rest of the squad. Locals just clapped on the pavements as if this was a regular occurrence.

McGuinness (left) and Gallagher

And that was it. No team talk. No tactics. Just ritual humiliation. It got them this far. Rory gave the players a tip-top mineral and a packet of mini cheese and onions. They seemed delighted.

Mayo on Thursday.

The curse has lifted. After experiencing the personally crushing defeats of Antrim, Tipperary and Down having thrown my support behind them, Donegal finally rewarded me with a day to remember in Croke Park, the dearest place in Ireland. I’d managed to get my hands on a ticket earlier in the week from a boy called Archery in the Irish News. He writes about the GAA but said he hardly watches the games so I was lucky I bumped into him after a bare-knuckle fight in Martinstown. That’s where my luck ended on the financial front. After the minor game won by Meath, who seemed to have brought their own ref which I thought was unfair on Mayo, I bought a packet of crisps, a Snickers and a pint of Guinness. The woman said “32 euros please” as two burly bouncers simultaneously emerged from under the counter to stare threateningly at me in case I expressed shock at the tally. I paid by credit card for which they asked for a ‘nuisance charge’ of 5 Euros for having to type numbers into the machine. I couldn’t enjoy the food as I was crippled with anger and poverty so gave them away to some starving Cork youngster.

 

The boy Archery who gave me the ticket

The game itself lifted my heavy mood. It was a titanic clash with men meeting men like those wildebeest head-on fights you’d see on the nature channel. Donegal never relented and, jesting in what I thought was witty Irish humour, I stood up and roared, “them boys are on drugs”. I was immediately pinned to the ground by a gigantic woman from Downings by my throat and was told, in no uncertain terms, to shut it unless I fancied a post-match dip in the Liffey. Having not brought swimming trunks or even goggles with me I decided to withdraw from attempting the Irish banter for the rest of my game and clapped politely at the correct moments.

Donegal won the game simply because they scored more. That usually is enough to go home as victors. The stand-out performers for me was the midget-like oxymoronish Mark McHuge and man mountain Michael Murphy who has one of the biggest arses on a sportsperson I’ve ever seen and I’ve had the pleasure of watching Mick Quinn and Fatima Whitbread in their prime. At one stage I was sure that Cork had 14 players on the field after one had disappeared up Murphy’s backside following a pile-on in midfield. Luckily, he only half fell into it but I thought O’Leary’s form dipped after the traumatic experience. Young McHuge was like a fish in scalding water. He has one those those long faces like a speed-cyclist’s wind-resistant helmet, making his head perfectly streamlined for lung-bursting runs into the wind. He’s the Mo Farrah of Gaelic Games and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if his mother was Ethiopian or Somalian.

McHuge’s head

Their manager, Jimmy McGuinness, seems like a bit of a physical improbability too. He’s the first man I’ve ever set eyes on with no shoulders. My first thought was how difficult it must have been for his dear mother, dressing him for school or putting a duffel coat on him on a snowy night. The whole operation would be pointless, like hanging a shiny shirt on a banana. But don’t let his homeless but handsome appearance fool you. McGuinness has his team running scared of him to the point that they’re afraid to lose. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jimmy is the housewives’ favourite and the players know that. He’s let them know that at any given moment he’ll woo their girlfriends with a wink and a lilt of his voice if they lose a game this year. Resistance is useless. The man is the Don Juan DeMarco of the Glenties. Unfortunately Counihan doesn’t have the same hold over the rebel women.

Jimmy McGuinness post-match

So that was that and I can categorically say that Donegal are the All-Ireland Champions of 2012. This weekend’s match is a play-off for second place. I have it on good authority that Sam is already being kicked around Bundoran at night.