Something very unusual took place last Sunday at the Gaelic grounds in Limerick. A Munster final without the Cork or Kerry club champions’ involvement. I cannot ever recall a Munster club final taking place without at least one of the big guns from either county being involved. As I drove to Dublin last Monday evening I listened to the footballers and management team from two rural villages give their own account of the historic victory that they pulled off the previous day over the Clare champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane. But then the achievements of the people of Dromcollogher/Broadford are many: the Organic Horticultural College and special needs residence built on land donated by the community, the renovation of the local church, the local history book produced by the local FETAC training group, the deep links between the local schoolchildren, farmers and the Bóthar project. The community was primarily responsible for bringing a factory to the town to create further employment and keep young people in the area. All of these highlight the tremendous sense of community and activism that permeates throughout these two rural villages. Such community triumphs prove that unified voluntary efforts can achieve much in towns where salvation is needed.
And to cap it all off they produced the piéce-de-résistance last Sunday to be crowned Munster champions. The likes of Jason Stokes, Tommy Stack and Michael Reidy came very close to winning an inter-county Munster medal with Limerick a number of years ago, so this victory obviously makes up for all that disappointment. There is nothing as special as winning a title with your own parish, playing with lads who you played with all your life, from Bord Na N’Og competitions, up through the ranks to senior football. It was very obvious they were enjoying themselves, as the interviews were coming live from some public house that clearly relished the boost to its business in these economically depressed times. After all, it was close to 7pm at this stage and I cannot imagine too many of those involved had had much sleep the night before! I read somewhere this week that the Drom Broadford goalkeeper, Eamonn Schollard, won a County Junior B title in 1992, followed by a junior A, an intermediate title, four Limerick senior titles and, to cap the collection, a Munster senior medal last Sunday. He was gushing with pride as he spoke to Des Cahill on Monday evening, and he is not even 40 years of age yet. He sounded like he intended to play for the rest of his life! Eoin Barry, their dashing half back, was still playing junior B in late September. He has only played in four championship matches and now has a county and a Munster medal. Meanwhile Limerick senior football manager, Mickey Ned O Sullivan, will have the unusual headache of starting his national league campaign without the services of a number of his county footballers. Now I am sure that is something Mickey never contemplated a few weeks back?!
Curtain comes down on club season
I watched a terrific game on TV last Sunday. The Leinster club final was a cracking game of football. Rhode from Offaly were brilliant in the first half, racing into an early lead over their Dublin city opposition, Kilmacud Crokes. Rhode led early in that first half by six points and appeared to be cruising. Kilmacud had a man sent off for a stupid head-high tackle in the first half and anyone would have thought there and then that there was no way back for them. But two quick-fire goals early in the second half, one of them of a very fortuitous nature, brought them right back into the game and they eventually held on to record their third Leinster title. Up north, Crossmaglen and Ballinderry will hopefully get to play their re-arranged replay next Sunday. That will bring the curtain down on serious club activity until next February when we will have lots to look forward to with the likes of Eamonn Schollard having a crack at winning an All-Ireland club title to add to his unique collection of medals!
Players grants’ up in the air
There is a lot of doom and gloom around us these days with talk of job losses, lengthening dole queues, negative equity, pay freezes, marches on Leinster House over cutbacks in all of our services, not to mention contaminated pork and beef. How much more grief can we take I hear you ask As part of the cutbacks the Irish Sports Council have been hit with an eight per cent cut in Government funding. There is a lot of talk of the GAA players’ grant being targeted and, understandably, players are getting more than a little agitated. This is an issue that never sat too comfortably with many within the GAA fold. Just to remind any of you who may have forgotten the sums involved, all inter-county players were to receive a minimum of €1,800, with senior finalists receiving €2,800. I always thought that these figures should have been the other way around, i.e. with those beaten earlier in the championship receiving more than those who get to the All Ireland final. How anyone could put a monetary value on playing in an All Ireland final is beyond me. After all most players would sell their souls for that opportunity. This grant was supposed to be paid this winter for the first time Because both the GPA and GAA played hardball over this funding there now remains a serious doubt whether the payment to players will take place at all this year. I can understand that players will feel aggrieved if they are the ones to be targeted to lose their funding. This grant will cost in the region of €3m if it is to go ahead. You could argue that this is a significant amount of money in these strange times, but when you consider some of the fiascos that the current minister for sport, Martin Cullen, presided over, this is a very small amount of money. Presently, professional sports people are allowed reclaim their tax after a ten year residency period in this country. This means that some of those “stars” who we get to see on our TV screens on Friday evenings from Terryland Park or Richmond Park or wherever can look forward to the luxury of reclaiming their tax at some point in the future. Good luck to them and to all professionals who enjoy this generous tax break. I have always supported the policy of looking after our players. After all, they give so much of their time and energy so that thousands can sit back Sunday after Sunday and enjoy thrilling encounters between competing counties that invariably bring a real feel-good factor to our nation. And God knows we might just be relying on these sporting occasions more than ever in 2009! So my advice to Minister Cullen would be to tread warily on this decision. If the Cork hurlers can hold with their strike action, who’s to say that all inter-county hurlers and footballers in the country can’t do the same?