Thursday 23 October 2014

In the GAA, local wins are still as big as All-Irelands

Published 21/12/2013 | 02:30

Pictured at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the year lunch in the Westbury Hotel were Packie Bonnar with former Dublin football players Jimmy Keavney and Paddy Cullen .

We won the North Kerry championship last weekend and landed in a huge controversy over a disputed point. Was it over the bar or was it wide?

It's the usual sort of thing, and there can be no resolution to such fallouts until Hawk-Eye is fitted out in every GAA ground in the land.

I couldn't see as I was too far away, honestly. Castleisland Desmonds were understandably upset as the last point scored by the brilliant Conor Cox was generally thought to be wide. But you must look at the totality of the relationships, and Listowel claim a Tadhg Kennelly point was waved wide.

Desmonds' Mikey O'Connor -- a man of great integrity and a legendary All Ireland-winning footballer -- feels there should be a replay. He asked me, in no uncertain manner, on Sunday night, to make sure his views were aired. I felt we out-battled the excellent Desmonds, who gave their all, and that we were the better team. So there. That's that out of the way. Local controversies are the worst in terms of personal safety and mental integrity. Not from Desmonds mind.

INVITING

The turning on of our Christmas tree lights in Listowel by Bernard Brogan caused me more grief than articles I wrote about abortion and gay marriage. Most people understood we were inviting one of our own back home as part of 'The Gathering'.

A welcoming home of the diaspora, in the year that's in it. Most of my generation left because they couldn't get jobs at home. Are we now gone so tribal in Kerry that we cannot welcome home their children?

Brogan has more cousins in our town than anyone I know. He is a sum of his parts. Both Dublin and Kerry. Listowel backed their own and we had the biggest crowd ever at the turning on.

By the way, Bernard refused all expenses. Bar a pint. It was the tree lights he was turning on. Bernard was taken aback when, as he drove into town, all the other Christmas lights were switched on. His response was, "I thought the Gooch got here before me".

In the GAA, local wins are as big as All-Irelands. Our 'C' team were magnificent winners of their North Kerry title after a thriller against gallant Brosna. We won the minor as well, so it was a great year for our club.

But Kerry lost in another tight and controversial game. A fact I was reminded of by three of my favourites Dubs at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year lunch on Wednesday.

Mickey Whelan, Jimmy Keaveney and Paddy Cullen were blissfully unaware that the Dublin goals against Kerry in this year's All-Ireland semi-final were a mile offside.

I had a good chat with Mick O'Dwyer, who is the toughest man I know. He drove up from Waterville, a 720km round trip, on the one day. It's a few years now since his 70th. He has a fix for Kerry. Not that there's that much wrong. Bring on the young lads. The game is all about pace, says Micko.

The Young Sport Star of the Year was given to Clare's Tony Kelly. In a nice touch, Cork's own Roy Keane congratulated Tony, as he rushed away to get down home to meet with Davy Fitz. Yes, it's all about pace.

We briefly met Podge Collins and Shane O'Donnell. They're not big and strong and you'd wonder what delights Brian Cody has in mind for Clare next year.

Micko says the game has always been the same. If you get to the ball before your opponents or can pass them out, then no matter how strong they are, you cannot be beaten. Davy Fitz recognised this fundamental law of sports.

Pace is a fundamental in any sport. I'd love to see Ian Madigan get a run when our national hero Brian O'Driscoll retires. He has deadly nought-to-60 acceleration. You can't coach speed. Madigan will score many tries for Ireland.

We'll go back to old controversies. I have heard many Kerry people complain about the fact that every time they turn on the TV, on comes the offside goal scored by Seamus Darby, the one that cost us the five-in-a-row, in '82.

But what about poor Paddy Cullen? Here he is a man of three score or more and they keep showing the Mikey Sheehy goal from 1978, from fully 35 years ago, when Paddy wandered out from his goal for a talk with the referee.

He still gets a terrible slagging over that goal, but was it offside? One way or the other, there's nothing he can do about it now.

Dublin wouldn't have won that breakthrough All-Ireland in 1974 or the other two in 1976 and 1977 without Paddy's saves and his marshalling of the defence. He was the best Dublin 'keeper ever.

I helpfully suggested to Paddy that I would contact RTE and ask them to put up a warning whenever the Sheehy goal is to be shown, like they do when there's a programme coming up with nudity or strong language or both. Paddy shows us how defeat and victory should be taken -- with good grace and good humour.

Sports writers live their sporting lives vicariously through the deeds of our heroes. It was just such a privilege to be in the presence of such greatness at our lunch.

There were Olympic gold medal winners present and champions in every sport. We are a mighty little island and Tony McCoy, who won the top prize, has competition from Ruby and Barry Geraghty for the title of the best jockey in the world.

I could fill the pages of this paper and more with the deeds of the people in that room. I was moved by their good humour, modesty and the respect they had for each other.

It was lovely to see them all in the one room in what was a celebration of an island of sporting greats.

Good luck to you all and have a wonderful Christmas.

Irish Independent

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