From the Stands: Proud day for Rush and brave hero Aran
ALMOST three weeks ago in Croke Park, the young footballers of Rush National School made history, winning Division 1 of Dublin Cumann na mBunscol for the first time. They had many heroes in a thrilling 5-7 to 4-8 eclipse of St Brigid's of Castleknock, including goalkeeper Aran Mehigan, whose string of first-half saves were among the highlights. But his presence alone was a personal triumph.
Four years ago, aged 7, Aran was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the body's lymph nodes. "He came in one evening with a lump in his neck," his father Dave recalls. "We thought he had got a knock or had a fall."
Once diagnosed, he faced four months of chemotherapy. On completing the treatment, he appeared in the clear when a second lump was revealed, confirming their worst fears: the cancer had returned. This time they were told his chances of beating it were not as good.
Plans to return to school that September were shelved. Further treatment included renewed chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant using his own harvested stem cells. On Christmas Day, he was allowed home for two hours. His GAA club St Maur's rallied around and held a fundraiser. His young team-mates visited him in hospital to keep his spirits up.
Around January 2009, he completed his second treatment programme and has made a wonderful recovery. He returned to school the following September, and was back playing football by the end of the year. The fundraiser allowed the family a well-deserved holiday.
Little surprise then to learn how proud his father was in Croke Park as Rush NS won the Corn Kitterick. "It was fantastic, looking at him playing out there, and three or four years ago not knowing what was going to happen. He came through all that and it was very tough for everyone."
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They are the World No 1, present and past. Both achieve clubhead speeds of 120mph and both are expected to have major equipment contracts with Nike in the New Year. But while Rory McIlroy has taken over at the top of the rankings, Tiger Woods remains the most dominant brand in golf, according to a study released by Forbes magazine.
Woods generated $18.9m in what Forbes measure as "media value" for his sponsors during US telecasts this year. This compares with $12.9m for McIlroy.
For those more interested in their golf, American tutor Jim McLean describes McIlroy's swing as "predicated on rhythm, length, speed and feel". Woods is "more mechanical", notably in the way his right arm is kept close to his side at the top of the backswing. "Their swings are a bit different," says McLean, "but their commonalities are their strong points." Even to the matter of generating wealth, it seems.
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Premier League clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool may be more concerned with exploiting the commercial opportunities in Asia these days, but a trip to Old Trafford or Anfield is always a reminder of their enduring popularity in Ireland.
There was another example earlier this month when the people behind the Anfield Wrap podcast announced their intention to bring a roadshow to Ireland. The podcast was launched last year and now has 30,000 downloads every week.
On the February 16, they will bring a show to the Royal Hotel in Bray accompanied by Pep Guardiola's biographer Guillem Balague and the football editor of the London Times, Tony Evans, whose own book Far Foreign Land is a classic portrayal of life as a Liverpool supporter.
At one stage, tickets for the show were selling faster than tickets for The Killers. There are a few still available and can be purchased at seetickets.com. All profits will go to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
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GAA clubs should be aware that the new year brings a new rule which requires mouthguards to be worn in all underage football matches and training sessions up to and including minor. The rule will include adult players from January 1, 2014.
The new measure may have the welcome side effect of cutting down on the verbals to referees and others – it's not easy to unleash a string of invective with a mouthful of plastic.
Dermot Crowe, Dermot Gilleece and Dion Fanning
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