Monday 19 November 2018

Friends of Sligo football

GAA Club notes

Congratulations to the 1968 Minor Team, who celebrated with a dinner in Killorans , Tubbercurry over Christmas. For those of us, who can remember that day, it was a special one. Things looked bad at one stage but the team staged a mighty recovery and could have come out on top.This was truly a great performance by Sligo on the day. Sligo were unlucky to lose their keeper, Tommy Cummins, from the earlier rounds, and this disrupted the balance.

Two things in particular stand out for me from that date the fielding of Aidan Richardson and the sportsmanship of Aidan and Gerry Hegarty, who carried the victorious Cork Captain off the pitch. I doubt if such a gesture was ever done before that or repeated since on All Ireland day. It is testament to the quality of these people that, despite being gutted at their loss they were such good loosers. I had the privilege of attending Benada Abbey with Aidan, who was a few years ahead of me but he was an inspiration to all of us. Apart from being a great footballer he was a very talented athlete (Running and high jump) and could have been a star in that field. It is very regrettable that a prolonged illness prevented him being part of the celebrations. We should also remember the part of the Mentors, Colm Mullarkey and Brother Sebastian. Colm did trojan work over the years in Vocational school football and at local level.

It is hard to believe that a Sligo minor team has not reached that stage of the competition since and hopefully Brendan Mulhern and his team and mentors will change that.

Hard luck to Sligo senior team on their loss to Galway in a well prepared Tourlestrane venue at the weekend. Despite loosing it was an encouraging display with a depleted force and little time for preparation. Dessie Sloyane in his comments on Sligo website makes sound sense about the ban on training for all during November and December as it makes it difficult and indeed dangerous for players to play a competitive game after being of for sometime coupled with having to cope with new rules. If the objective is to prevent burnout, which I would support, surely one solution is to curtail games or at least training for underage players. Many underage players can play 6 or 7 games in a week with training a good few nights as well. This is what causes burnout and is driving young players out of sport.

Congratulations to Valerie Kearins and former Sligo player, David Durkin, on the birth of their baby girl last month.

We extend our sympathy to the family of James Tiernan, who died before Christmas and whose magic hands made sure many player was able to play in a vital match

We extend sympathy to the family of Harry McCarrick, Cloonbauniff, Mullinabreena who died over Christmas. Although Harry was in his 90s he was a very active man – a daily mass goer up till near the end. He was a very progressive farmer for his time and on a relatively small holding managed to ensure his 7 children received a good education. He was an avid reader and writer and obviously inculcated these values into his family as James and Pat are the scribes for community notes in the local press. James of course wrote Among the strawberry fields-a recollection of his childhood days and influences. James and Pat are involved in writing workshops and projects in the area. Mickey Kearins – Sligo's Greatest Sports star Continuing our theme of recognising some of our greatest GAA personalities in Sligo, it is appropriate we commence the year by paying tribute to our greatest GAA player ever and probably Sligo's greatest sportsman, Mickey Kearins.

Mickey began his inter County career for Sligo minors in 1960 at midfield and in 1961, while still a minor, he was picked for the senior team. At that stage THERE WAS NO COLLECTIVE TRAINING FOR THE SLIGO SENIOR TEAM. That seems incredible now with so much emphasis on weight training diet and training programmes.

Mickey made his championship debut on 10th June 1962 and played 30 championship games for Sligo between then and June 1978 amassing an amazing score total of 5 goals and 167 points in Championship games and an incredible 36 goals and 1,158 points in total for Sligo . He scored 13 pts against Galway in 1971 and 14 pts the following year against Mayo. (This Mickey describes as his most memorable and most disappointing day in a Sligo jersey). He scored 14 pts for Connaugh in 1972. He was an ever present in the top scorers list in the country for over a decade although Sligo would have played much less games than other Counties (there was no back door then) Obviously if Sligo had been more successful his number of games and scores would be considerably more. He was perhaps unlucky in that Galway were at their best for part of his career winning the 3 All Irelands in a row but Sligo gave them one of their toughest games in the Connaught final 1965 when they looked like dethroning them following goals from Mickey Durcan and Neil Farry and some Kearins' magic.

At Railway cup level he played 22 times over 13 successive seasons (a record for any Sligo player) and he was on the winning side in 1967 and 1969. Many of us recall his story of his first outing with Connaught against Leinster when the renowned Paddy McCormack warned him not to cross a line he had drawn in the ground if he wanted to get home safely to Sligo Mickey was to be the victim of plenty punishment throughout his career but he was never afraid of any challenge. If he got the protection players get today his scoring record would even be greater. It is interesting that Mickey did not practise his free kicks yet he was one of the greatest at this art kicking equally consistent with either foot. I recall seeing Mickey score a sideline kick from each side of the field in the same game. Now if a player scores a sideline kick it is considered amazing. Indeed most counties have a few free takers for left side, right side, down the middle long and short etc. but Mickey covered them all.

My first Sligo senior championship game was in Charlestown against Mayo in 1965.The word before the game was not good, Danny McHugh who had starred in the previous game against Leitrim had just lost his father and was out for the game but Sligo and indeed Mickey Kearins gave an amazing performance to defeat Mayo and I vividly recall Mickey being carried around the pitch and the celebrations in Bellaghy on the way home. I was also there when he scored those 14 pts against Mayo in 1972 and yet end up on the loosing side.

Mickey recounts his early influences as attributable to Nace O'Dowd, Sean Purcell and the great Down and Galway teams of the era and describes Brian McEniff, Donegal among his most difficult opponents. Brian of course was involved with Sligo in 1975 when we won the Connaught title.

In terms of recognition, it is amazing that Mickey Kearins only won one All Star in 1971 in their first year. Obviously the selectors then, like now, did not take a lot of interest in Connaught football. It has to said that wherever great Gaels assemble and engage in nostalgia the name Mickey Kearins is very much to the fore. Legends like Sean Purcell and Mick O'Connell testify to his wonderful ability. Most of us can recall his solo runs and side swerves, his artistry, his scores from play or frees.

Mickey also managed the Sligo senior team for a few years and that was just before the Connaught title in 1975 when Mickey finally won that coveted medal.

I am sure I was not too different from most young guys out in the field with a ball imagining I was Mickey Kearins – I had all the moves but none of the talent but the imagination and thrill was great. I recall him at the fair in Tubbercurry and my awe at being in his presence. Forget your Ronaldino or Torres this was a living legend in our midst and when any young Sligo man is looking for a hero to look up or to emulate take a trip down to Dromard .

One of the greatest compliments to Mickey is that although he was a National icon he never forgot his roots and every day he put on a St Pats jersey he gave it everything culminating in St.Pats winning 7 Senior Club titles (5 between 1968 and 1974) – 2 of these were jointly with Ballisodare - a wonderful achievement for a relatively new Senior Club. Much of this was down to Mickey and the help, leadership and encouragement he gave to his fellow club men.It should also be remembered that since he stopped playing he rarely misses a Sligo or a St Pats. game.

From all with an interest in Sligo GAA thank you Mickey for being a star for Sligo and an inspiration to so many and it is always a source of pride to be in company when your name is revered.

Finally a reminder Friends of Sligo will host Beeze Neez production of LOVE IS in the CIVIC THEATRE , TALLAGHT ON 30TH APRIL 2009. PUT IT IN YOUR DIARIES