A - Has to be for All-star awards as Westmeath had an unprecedented three nominations, and collected two awards on the night. Gary Connaughton was a popular winner of the number one spot while John Keane picked up his second award at corner back. Michael Ennis was somewhat unlucky not to collect one at wing back following some outstanding performances throughout the year on the wing. It could be some time again before we collect two all-stars in the same year.
B - St Brigid’s seniors failed to live up to expectations and were caught on the hop against Western Gaels - I wouldn’t bet against them next year though. Meanwhile their u-21s made it seven in a row while their ladies ‘side were robbed in the Connacht club championship against eventual All-Ireland winners Carnacon.
C - Castledaly made 2008 a year to remember by winning their first-ever Westmeath senior crown. This feat is all the more remarkable given the way their season appeared to be heading when we beat them. The celebrations which accompanied their historic achievement, were well deserved, even if they didn’t do themselves justice against Navan O’Mahony’s.
D - Being crowned division two champions again this year gave the more experienced members of the Westmeath panel their third division two medal. Beating Dublin in the final was one of the highlights of the year in Westmeath football circles.
E - Emigration is already a real threat to many club and indeed county sides, and is set to become an even greater issue in the coming year as the recession deepens.
F - Tom Farrell found himself in a spot of bother this year following an altercation with referee Alan McCormack but the popular county chairman was returned unopposed at this year’s convention.
G - Galway have at last made the sensible decision to compete in Leinster. Their participation will spice up the provincial championship but whether it will be enough to propel them to all-Ireland honours remains to be seen.
H - is for Handout. Those opposed to the players’ grant including Of One Belief will not be too happy to learn that the grant was paid in mid- December.
I - Indiscipline again raised its ugly head on a number of occasions both on and off the field in 2008, most recently in the replayed Ulster club final. Closer to home, a local ref found he wasn’t safe from getting an ear-bashing in the sanctuary of his changing room.
J - is for joke, which is the best way to describe RTE’s Sunday Game analysts who, despite their high pay, copped out in the hurling decider by naming Brian Cody as man of the match.
K - Kilkenny showed again this year that they are the Kings when it comes to hurling. They completed a clean sweep this year, completing the three in a row of senior titles in the process.
L - is for the late tackle by Dublin’s Collie Moran on Dermot Bannon which ended his participation in the game in Croke Park and in doing so dented Westmeath attacking options. It could also be for the letter, which Dermot sportingly wrote to help Moran return for the Leinster final.
M - For my own club, Athlone, 2008 was something of a mixed bag. On the downside, we lost our manager Jack Murray before a championship ball was kicked. Then in our opening game against Tyrrellspass, Rory O’Connell picked up a broken jaw and missed the rest of our season. John Connellan decided to summer in America, and hard to blame him. He too was a big loss this year. We lost that opening game and indeed our second game against Bunbrosna, kicking 18 wides in the process.
The return of Brendan Clarke to the helm saw a renewed belief and determination amongst the players. Wins over Mullingar Shamrocks and eventual winners Castledaly further lifted morale but Garrycastle stood between us and a place in the quarter-final. We were confident going into the game, but our failure to turn possession into scores cost us dearly and Garrycastle ran out deserving winners.
Overall not a bad year for the club but still one in which no silverware came back to Aras Chiaran at senior level. Hopefully we can change that in 2009.
N - New-Zealand’s All Blacks were the only team to match the intensity shown by Tyrone and Kilkenny in Croke Park this year. Who ever have thought they’d see the Hakka in GAA headquarters.
O - Outrageous is the word that springs to mind when I think of the HDC decision to ban Westmeath from participating in their own provincial championship. Allow Galway and Antrim in of course, but not at the expense of counties from the province who want to take part.
P - Player of the year awards are often controversial but this year the decision was unanimous in both codes. Sean Kavanagh was a deserving winner of the football award after leading by example as Tyrone marched to all-Ireland glory. Eoin Larkin was a shoe-in for the hurling gong.
Q - has to be for the qualifier conundrum - why should teams in division four be excluded from the back-door system? This year the reigning Connacht champions Sligo were excluded from the qualifiers. Meanwhile Wicklow beat Kildare in the first round of the championship, yet were not given access to the back-door system, while the Lilywhites were. That hardly seems fair. Attendance figures were also well down this year.
R - Rosemount’s finest, John Keane, had a year to remember indeed. Not alone did the local primary teacher win his second All-Star and represent his country with distinction in Australia, but he also helped his club to the Junior county championship title. Not a bad year by any means.
S - Salbutamol is something most of us were unaware of until Aidan O’Mahony took a few puffs too many from his inhaler and failed a drugs test. A simple mistake for which he has had to pay a heavy price. The debacle should have been sorted sooner.
T - Tomas O’Flatharta can look back on 2008 with satisfaction for a job well done. He has also been recently ratified to continue in charge for another two years.
U - Unsporting antics made plenty of headlines this year. Paul Galvin won’t be getting any Christmas card from Paddy Russell this year, while Aidan O’Mahony and Brian Dooher are in line for an Oscar following their antics this year.
V - Value for money is something which we are told to shop around for in these tougher economic conditions. The GAA’s decision to introduce season tickets on a trial basis next year is an excellent one. At just €75, the county and code specific ticket allows holders entry to all round games of the Allianz GAA National League games as well as to the first round of the GAA senior championship involving their county in their chosen code and a discounted price on all subsequent games excluding the provincial and all-Ireland final. There is also an in-built loyalty programme involved in the ticket, in that should the supporters county in their chosen code qualify for the all-Ireland final, then based on a minimum 60 per cent attendance, the supporter is guaranteed an all-Ireland final ticket.Great value in my book.
W - Marty Whelan will forever be welcome in and around Drumraney. After guiding Maryland to success in the Celebrity Bainisteoir competition, the moustachioed maestro will surely be given freedom of the parish along with Finbar Egan who guided them to the Intermediate title.
X - X-Factor finalist Eoghan Quigg admitted that amongst the things he most missed during his amazing journey to claiming third spot was playing gaelic football and hurling with his home club Dungiven. I suspect he has no intention of sacrificing his budding music career for the sake of the parish just yet.
Y - The yellow-bellies footballers deservedly won the team of the year award at the Opel GPA awards after a roller-coaster year saw them reach the all-Ireland semi-final.
Z - is for zen, the state regularly achieved by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Does the man ever get excited? On the sideline, it looks like he could even be sending zs to the sky. Which may also be your lot at this stage dear reader. Have a good Christmas and may we all be winners in 2009.