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GAA magazine aimed at publication in Ireland

Text of GAA: Talking Point

  • GAA:TALKING P INT

    GAA-AFL links: Gaels down under

    INSIDE:

    Ciarn Kilkenny: ready to shine

    Former Derry star Joe Brolly launches transplant initiative

    GAA to probe alleged McBrearty bite incident

    Vol. 1Issue 1

    18 March - 18 April 2013

  • McGeeney ready to lock horns with Red Hands once againIn the 2001 Ulster quarter-final clash between Armagh and Tyrone, the ball came to McGeeney just a few minutes into the game and as he gathered the loose ball, the Mullabawn man was slightly off-balance. Tyrone rookie Ste-phen ONeill saw the opportunity to make a name for himself and clattered the Armagh veteran to the ground with a thumping shoulder takle.

    McGeeney wasnt aware that ONeill was making a charge for him and wouldnt have had much time to rearrange his feet and balance himself. Tyrone scored a goal immediately after McGeeney was bundled to the ground and although the goal had a much more significant impact on the scoreline at the end of the game, the Armagh legend getting flattened by a Tyrone teenager sounded through the entire ground and transmitted confidence through the entire Tyrone team.

    About 18 months later, Irelands Allstars of 2001 faced the newly elected 2002 team and although the match was a trivial exhibition game played in San Diego, there were two collisions worth noting in the whole game. Both involved McGeeney and Stephen ONeill. It was evident that McGeeney wanted revenge for the incident that burned long in his memory

    and probably caused him many sleepless nights. Armagh had just been crowned All-Ire-land champions for the first time in their history a seven weeks previous and Stephen ONeill was more than a little jealous that the Orchard County had won the Sam Maguire Cup before his native Tyrone. Captain McGeeney remained the symbol of the stronghold that ONeills Tyrone were still frantically trying to overcome and the battle that day was as entertaining as any champion-ship duel.

    Tyrone travelled to Donegal for a fitness camp a number of weeks before the 2003 All-Ireland final and in the team hotel, a flipchart highlighting Armaghs danger-men was shown to the Tyrone panel. McGeeneys

    name was at the top of manag-er Mickey Hartes list and the Tyrone team were encouraged to hassle the experienced defender from start to finish to quell his influence.

    Tyrone systematically broke

    down the Armagh team into key areas and focused on the zones they could exploit to overcome Joe Kernans men.

    Tyrones entire game plan al-most entirely hinged on stopping McGeeney exerting his authority

    Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney will be raring to go against the old enemy

    1

  • and making Armagh tick. Ulsters two best sides of the

    modern era met in no less than seven championship matches between 2001 and 2005 and Tyrones eventual ability to stop McGeeney was a turning point in Ulster football and helped shift the balance of power in the north. In reality, Armagh have never properly recovered from their All-Ireland semi-final defeat at the hands of their great rivals in 2005. Many players in the Ar-magh squad would now acknowl-edge that they were the victims of their own downfall.

    Armagh had the Red Hands on the ropes and failed to deliver the knock-out blow. McGeeneys substitution with ten minutes left to play was one of the defining moments. It crushed Armagh and lifted Tyrones morale, who scored the last three points of the game to win by a solitary point. When Kieran did leave the field, it definitely gave us a lift, said Sean Cavanagh to reporters after the game.

    Kieran McGeeney never ever forgot the moment he was substi-tuted without injury and without displaying tiredness. It put his relationship with the Armagh management on rocky ground and he subsequently retired a year later and altered his career drastically as he became Kildar manager just one month later.

    McGeeney has had to learn as a manager in similar fashion to his playing days. He has had his fair share of beatings already and

    in the first couple of years, almost all the big scalpings came at the hands of his notorious Tyrone rivals. When McGeeney made his Armagh debut in spring 1994, it was a McGeeney error that cost Armagh dearly in an epic clash against Ty-rone. He completely misread an harmless bounce from an Adrian Morris free-kick, and as the ball bounced over his head, Plunkett Donaghy was on hand to capitalise in a one-on-one with the Armagh goalkeeper. When Tyrone once again got the better of their fiercest rivals in 1997, it was Armaghs fourth champion-ship loss on the bounce.

    The sides became even towards the beginning of the new millen-nium and traded wins in 2000 and 2001 before they locked horns once again in 2002, in the biggest games Armagh had ever competed in. On both occasions, Armaghs talismanic captain set the standard.

    Kieran McGeeney would never strike you as a man who was mo-tivated by regret and disappoint-ment, but it was clear that he evidently despised how Armagh loosened their dominant grip

    and became a less aggressive team after winning the 2002 All-Ire-land title. That stylistic change was never more evident than in 2003 when Tyrone won their first ever All-Ireland title, prevent-ing Armagh from securing back-to-back champion-ships in the process.

    When Ar-magh became a more relaxed outfit and afforded teams more time

    on the ball, Armagh effectively announced that they were sur-rendering their status as Irelands most feared team. Defeat in the 2005 All-Ireland semi-final was the deepest cut of all for Mc-Geeneys and his substitution, at a time when he was often most re-liable, intensified that pain. Sean Cavanagh is arguably the greatest GAA player of his generation, yet in every single Armagh-Tyrone game between 2002 and 2005, the ten minutes when Kieran McGeeney had to watch from the sidelines were the only moments when Cavanagh was allowed to display his brilliance.

    Armagh attacker John McEntee once said that it was a huge psy-chological blow for us and a huge psychological boost for Tyrone. Manager Joe Kernan, however, only publicly defended his mana-gerial decision in 2008 in Finbarr McCarthys book Bainisteoir which is Gaelic for Manager.

    It was a huge call but thats my job, said Kernan. I dont know if Kieran is still annoyed with being taken off. Maybe he is but he never said it to me. But the facts are simple.

    Our stats man told us Kieran had not touched the ball in 17 minutes. We made the change hoping to freshen things up and to get on the ball. That was our call then and we stand over the decision. But that substitution was not the losing of the game.

    McGeeneys face could have said a thousand things as Peter Canavan slotted over an inju-ry-time free-kick to give Tyrone victory.

    That was the last time Mc-

    Geeney lined out against Tyrone and as a manager, he faced them for the first time in 2009, in the All-Ireland quarter-final, which Tyrone won. The Tyrone omen never really went away while Mc-Geeney was in charge of the Lily Whites as Tyrone gained victory in all four of their league clashes during McGeeneys reign. for the first time in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, which Tyrone narrowly won.

    Kildare havent beaten Tyrone in their last 12 outings and Mc-Geeneys character wouldnt allow him to pay attention to bogey status. McGeeney has always viewed Tyrone as the ultimate challenge, both as a player and as a manager, and this weekend, well expect nothing less from McGeeney than to have his side raring to go in the National League clash in Croke Park.

    Going up against Tyrone was pitting yourself against the best and thats the one thing McGeen-ey loved because he always want-ed to prove that he was better than them, Armagh legend Oisin McConville once said.

    Anytime we played Tyrone we were always hyped up and anytime we were that driven, it was McGeeney who was really driving us.

    Sunday is the best way for McGeeney to announce his Kildare side as genuine All-Ire-land contenders after a few years without silverware, and although a formidable Tyrone side stand in his way, there is no one more equipped to for a clash with the old enemy Tyrone than the master himself.

    Commanding: Kieran McGeeney in action for Armagh against Tyrone in 2007

    Kieran McGeeney has to watch from the sidelines after being substituted by manager Joe Kernan

    2

  • 3Scullion vows never to play for Saffrons

    under Dawson againGaelic football is renowned for be-ing a hard sport, physically challenging and played by real men in an era when athletes are diving and feigning injury. Here at GAA World, we reckon that Kildares young footballer Padraig Fogarty took hardness to a unique new level last week, thanks to the enlighten-ing diary he kept for the Nationalist newspaper in the build up to the recent Leinster U-21 football final.

    Fogarty, a private in the Irish army, was on a ground training block, a duty that includes long distance trekking through the Wicklow mountains laden down with full weighted backpacks. The day before Kildare beat Longford in the U-21 Leinster Final, Fogarty was required to trek 12km in full gear.

    The next day, Fogarty got off training at 1.0, met up with his county team-mates, won a Leinster fi-nal and was straight back up to the Glen of Imaal while his team-mates cel-ebrated and had a heavy night on the booze.

    Its a great feeling to win an All-Ireland medal. We all dream of this moment as kids but its just a shame I have to go straight back to work. I would have enjoyed a beer. he said.

    There are quite a number of GAA stars currently training in Fog-artys class in the Curragh barracks. Kilkennys Col-in Fennelly and Wicklows Rory Finn to name a few.

    Antrim defender Tony Scul-lion has declared that he will not play under current county manager Frank Dawson again after the two were involved in a heated argument following Scul-lion attending a ceremonial mass.

    Scullion and his brother-in-law Tomas McCann both failed to attend last weekends clash against Monaghan after the heated disa-greement.

    The Monaghan game clashed with an anniversary mass for Scullions deceased relative and both players wanted to attend the mass and travel independently to the game. Dawson, however, wanted the play-ers to travel on the team bus.

    When they went ahead with their plan, Antrim manager Dawson reportedly informed the players that they shouldnt bother traveling to the Antrim game, and veteran de-fender Scullion has since informed GAA World that he has provided the Antrim County Board with an ultimatum.

    I havent walked out on my county at all. I have left the decision up to the Antrim officials. Ive told them I would happily return, providing Dawson wasnt managing the team. But reaslistically, that will never happen so regrettably, I feel my county career is over.

    What happened is a total disgrace. It is a family matter and sometimes you need to be there at those kinds of ceremonies. Its a matter of princi-ple and in a Catholic-dominated sport, which thrives on the parish and community spirit, how can someone be told not to go to a family service at the chapel?

    Dawson has re-fused to discuss the issue publicly, stating: Those boys failing to get on our team bus does our team no fa-vours at all. And at the end of the day, thats all that matters when we get together and train for a game.

    He added: The two lads attended the mass and our management team are well aware of exactly what went on from late Saturday night until the early hours of Sunday morning.

    However, thats in the past already and as a team we must all move forward and ensure that Antrim football does not suffer.

    Dawson will be selcting his Ulster

    and All-Ireland championship panel in the next three weeks and the Loughiel man has stressed that every man is still eligible to play for Antrim, the door isnt closed to anyone.

    If the Scullion-Dawson standoff continues, Antrim are likely to be without their experienced leader, not to mention their most talented player, Toms McCann.

    Antrim star Tony Scullion may never line out for The Saffrons again

    Murray backs Dawson in Scullion-McCann disputeAntrim chairman Jim Murray has backed manager Frank Dawson to continue as manager.

    Dawsons position was alleged-ly under threat after star players Toms McCann and Tony Scullion were controversially dropped from the squad after attending a relatives anniversary Mass on the morning

    of Antrims defeat to Monaghan - a game where Antrim were relegated to Division 4 of the Allianz Football League.

    Antrim chiefs held a meeting on Tuesday 9th April, but the meeting wasnt about the duos axings.

    As far as Im aware, the players are still in the Antrim frame. They are definitely part of the Antrim

    frame. Frank indicated its still being resolved and the management team just have to move on.

    Frank is there for the long haul. Everything is fine here and cant be blown out of proportion. There was a review planned before the championship and it just happened to fall after the two players have left. Unfortunate timing, thats all.

    Private Fogarty treks to Leinster success

  • Former Antrim sensation Kevin McGourty has rubbished reports that he is scheduled to return to his countys senior football squad.

    Rumours began to circulate this week, suggesting the St Galls marksman has been selected by Frank Dawson, but the Sigerson Cup winner has poured cold water on the news, labeling it as nonsense.

    I do wonder where these stories come from. Theres no truth in these rumours at all. The Antrim panel started back last night and a number of boys have returned to the county setup but I can confirm that I am not one of them. Its all nonsense.

    I have had no contact from Frank (Dawson) about playing football this year and you can speak to my club-mates and they will confirm that I was training with them last night.

    However, McGourty admitted that if Frank Dawson was to give him a call, he is in no doubt about what his answer would be.

    Of course Id go back.

    Definitely. he said.I am 30 now and Im in the

    same boat as Sean Kelly (who has returned). Im not happy about how I ended my Antrim career. A series of injuries and arguments really overshadowed the excellent time I had representing my county. But if I was to be realistic, this would be my last chance. If you look at the way football is going, it is a

    young mans game and Id need to be in better shape if I was to go back.

    If I was honest, Id have to say that in my heart of hearts, I do want to give it one last hooray. It is sad to watch Antrim drop down to Division Four and theres little you can do from the supporters end or when you are watching it in your living room. I would have to look at

    my own form and conditioning and make a decision. If I can help the Antrim cause in any way whatsoever then I would definitely be up for a return.

    Antrim are training hard for the Ulster Championship at the minute. That game is only about 7 or 8 weeks away so if I was to receive a call in the next fortnight that would give me enough time to get up to speed and bed in with the team again.

    But the ball is in Franks court. Hes the man who has to make the decision. Id be happy to be involved. Well just wait and see what happens in the next few weeks and take it from there.

    McGourty dismisses rumours of return to

    Antrim senior football

    Kevin Dyas finally looks at homeOn a day of positives for Armagh yester-day, one of the posi-tives for the Orchard County was that Kevin Dyas looked like he owned a position.

    It is fair to say that the Dro-mintee man failed to scale the heights that were expected of him since his return from the AFL, performing well without being dominating games. It is also fair to say that circum-stances have played a big part in this.

    A string of injuries played their part in this. The other

    was his versatility. Since return-ing to these shores, for club and county, Kevin Dyas has appeared on all five lines of the pitch and the 26-year-old hasnt been able to call a position his own.

    Paul Grimley, however, has kept him at half-forward for the entire National Leage and the Armagh boss has been rewarded with fine performances.

    Grimley and Dyas seem tailor made for each other as Grimley de-mands accurate kicking and Dyas is one of the best in Ulster at passing.

    Dyas isnt the finished article yet, though. He managed five points

    from five shots against Galway yes-terday, but prior to that he has been reluctant to shoot. He will now be a marked man when Armagh face Ca-van in the Ulster Championship and will have less space against Cavan after the Galway display.

    But the outlook is good, and he should be chomping at the bit ahead of the May 19 meeting with the Breffnimen.

    Armagh manager Paul Grimley is likely to be without midfielder Charlie Vernon, defensive duo Aaron Kernan and Tony Duffy, as well as fellow clubman Ronan Clarke for the tie against Cavan.

    Left: Kevin McGourty in action for St Galls, Belfast

    McGourtys career highlight:

    Although McGourty has rarely shown his brilliance in an Antrim jersey, his role in St Galls All-Ireland club victory highlights his quality and undoubted pedigree.

    4

  • 5GAA senior officials to probe McBrearty bite incidentDubs chairman Kettle lashes lack of contact over allegation

    The GAAs Central Competition Controls Committee have opened an investigation into allegations made by Donegals All-star corner-forward Patrick McBrearty that he was bitten in last Sundays National Foot-ball League Division 1 clash with Dublin in Ballybofey.

    The CCCC have already contacted the Donegal county board and have requested for any evidence or notable information to be passed on to the GAA authorities in order to resolve the issue, that was raised at half-time, as soon as possible. The original complaint was made by a member of the Donegal medical team when Dr Mark Woods made the referee aware that Patrick McBreaty has a bite mark and laceration on his right shoulder. McBrearty was later taken to hospital for routine examination and tests that are a legal requirement by the GAA when a player has sustained an injury of this kind.

    It is believed that members of the Donegal medical team and management took photos of the incident at half time and full-time in the presence of the referee to ensure no argument could be made about when the photos were taken yet the most reliable documents that will be issued to the GAA CCCC will come from medical professionals who examined McBrearty at the ground in Ballobofey and also in the hospital after the game.

    McBrearty had a number of precautionary injections on Sunday night.

    Donegal officials had to report the incident to two different referees. Michael Duffy was informed at the interval, but a calf strain meant that the Fermanagh man was replaced by Padraig Hughes, so Jim McGuinness deemed it neceassary to inform all the officials

    of the incident.That detail subsequently made

    its way into the official compulsary post-match report and from there, GAA officials felt obliged to undertake a formal investigation.

    Patrick McBrearty, however, has admitted that he doesnt want the investigation to cause disruption to Donegals Ulster and All-Ireland preparation. The Buncrana native also captains Donegals U-21 side and faces Cavan in the Ulster U-21 final in Enniskillen on Saturday night..

    I havent really got an idea who it was, because it took place just after a takle and a few of us got tangled up and ended up on the ground. Its not really something that happens in GAA, in fact, its the first instance I have ever heard of this kind.

    But I dont really want it to be blown up into something its not. It was a dirty act, thats for sure, but there are more important things to worry aboiut and at the minute the only thing I am focusing on is the year ahead with Donegal.

    I wouldnt even like to hazard a guess and say who I think it was because I think that would be disrespectful, particularly if I was wrong. Ill let the GAA sort it out and they can throw the book at the culprit if needs be. Its in their hands now.

    Dublin chairman Andy Kettle confirmed yesterday that a member of their medical staff was invited into the Donegal dressing-room to examine McBrearty. Kettle said the medic had suggested that, in his estimation, it was a

    bruise, not a laceration.Kettle also admitted that he was very upset

    that Donegal officials did not contact the Dublin County Board in relation to the inci-dent and Dublin manager Jim Gavin wasnt even approached and informed at the game.

    I have spoken to Jim Gavin and he was not made aware of it by his counterpart or any of the Donegal management team, said Kettle.

    That is the point I would take issue with in radio reports at the moment that the Dublin management team were informed.

    The Dublin management team, to my knowledge, were not informed., which isnt right because we could have helped with this.

    Donegals Patrick McBrearty (right)

  • 6A leading sports psychologist has warned GAA officials that unless fur-ther action is taken to erradicate bad and cynical behaviour in the GAA, theres a risk that such actions will degenerate further, and affect young players up and down the country.

    Tadhg MacIntyre, a lecturer at the Universi-ty of Limerick, said that the more frequently bad behaviour appears in the press and on television, the more likely it would be that such actions would become contagious. He is adamant that an increase in sledging is paramount to the GAAs growing problem, having interfered with the moral compass by which players operate.

    If sledging is accepted as part of the game and it appears to be then we will edge closer to a scenario whereby there is a greater acceptance and tolerance of negative behav-iour, including violence. The danger then is that it will just be a matter of time before we have our first major incident of violence or injury or things like kicking an opponent when he goes to ground, becomes common, he said.

    His remarks come in a week when the GAA has made national headlines after Donegals All-star forward Patrick McBrearty showed injuries to his shoulder, where he had alleg-edly been bitten by a Dublin player in last Sundays league game in Ballybofey.

    Its just the latest controversy to rock the GAA in recent months after Crossmaglens Aaron Cunningham was subjected to racial abuse in an Ulster semi-final clash against Down outfit An Rocht. Armaghs Ciaran McKeever was also subjected to sectarian abuse in a cross-border game against Louth where the Orchard County captain was called a British ba****d by sections of the crowd.Kildar native MacIntyre, a vastly experi-enced psychologist across several sporting codes, including Gaelic games, blames the win-at-all costs attitude that has developed up and down the country and a culture of ac-

    ceptance to such incidents that bring huge embarrassment to the GAA.

    He believes that the axe must fall on man-agers as much as players as they are often the catalysts in shaping the aggressive styles and temperaments of their team.

    In many ways, you could say that managers are in possession to the key that will solve this problem and stomp it out immediately. They are aware of what is going on and could even be the ones putting pressure on players to become more aggressive in order to stop a talented opponent.

    The GAAs leaders have to take a pro-active stand on issues of this kind (McBrearty bite) because if they dont, they are sending out a message to young boys and girls that this sort of thing is acceptable and you wont be punished for it.

    There are sins of commission as well as omission and its definitely a sin of omission for a manager not to deal with a player who has blatantly applied his own ethical code. Nobody should be rewarded or congratulated for this sort of behaviour if they have cheated or attempted to injure a player on route to victory. Nip it in the bud early, send out a message to players of all ages and all levels, and our game will definitely go from strength to strength.

    GAA officials

    must take stand on bite issue

    Donegals Patrick McBrearty (right) moments before the incident occured

  • 7Derry legend launches transplant initiativeFormer Derry All-star and fans favourite Joe Brolly won the admiration of the entire nation after his act of exceptional kindness in donat-ing his kidney to friend Shane Finnegan.

    The Dungiven native, who is a barrister in Belfast, was hailed as an inspiration last year, and rightly so.

    It was devastating for everyone involved when the liver trans-plant failed but Joe has not let such heart-breaking news get the

    better of him. The unsuccessful operation has been the catalyst for motivating Joe, who is in charge of a nationwide campaign aimed at shaking up the law and organ transplant system in gener-al in Northern Ireland.

    At the minute, by law, anyone who wishes to donate an organ when they die must have signed up in advance.

    Joe however, has told GAA World that the new proposals will change the current law signif-icantly and people would have

    been presumed to have given consent for organ donation unless they actively opt out and indicate such wishes before their death.

    The soft opt out initia-tive will hopefully change everything that currently ex-ists in the north. Put simply, it means that even if you dont opt out during your lifetime, then your next of kin will still have the final say on whether to permit your organs to be used, and that way, no one is taking liberties, it just means that the appropriate people will be consulted and theres a

    chance that we could make a real difference to the system says Joe.

    Joe, who is also a columnist with the Derry Journal, has won support on both sides of the bor-der, and the former GAA All-star is confident the initiative will be a success.

    Its a strange situation at the minute, because its not that people dont want to donate and help with the transplant list. Its just that they dont have the right information made available to them and the current system doesnt properly reflect peoples views on donation,

    People are clear in their opinions about organ donation. Everyone thinks it is a good thing so it is our responsibility to give them a system that makes the most of that.

    On Friday night, Joe visited his hometown of Dungiven, but on this occasion, it was his turn to be inspired.

    The dad-of-five rushed down he M1 from Belfast with two of his children in order to be guest of honour at the St Canices GAC annual awards, and he met up with 18-year-old Ryan OConnor

    from the town.Ryan had a heart transplant in

    October last year, but following complications, the teenage had to have his two legs amputated in order to save his life.

    Ryan has proven to be a resilient and humble young man and admits that having no legs is not the end of the world.

    For him it is simply the begin-ning of an exciting new chapter in his life and one that will undoubt-edly teach him new things that he never imagined hed need.

    Friday was the first time the pair met despite being from the same town, and when Joe ad-dressed the St Canices crowd, he gave an emotional speech about the inspirational Ryan.

    After the awards, the pair deemed local heroes on the night chatted for an hour at their dinner table. Relaxed and in good form, the pair sat down with their lemonades and Joe explained exactly why he holds Ryan in such high regard.

    He is a very level-headed young man and he has a good head on his shoulders so he is well aware of the challenges he

    Joe Brolly with friend Shane Finnegan before

    Joe and Shane four days after their October operation

  • 8will face and he is under no illu-sions that this will be easy at any stage. He comes from a seriously good stock of peple and he has a loving community around him. That will only take the young man so far, hell have to do a lot of this on his own but it will make him a fighter. said the RT GAA pundit.

    Ryan still has a lot of inde-pendence because he still has his arms. You have to look at the standard of prostethic limbs that are available and it really is superb. We all know top class athletes with prosthetic legs more than any other amputees so we can take solace from that point.

    I mean when we watched The Bionic Man, that was beyond our imaginations, and now we have these blade-runners who are competing in able-bodied cham-pionships and they are competing for world championships.

    Joe comments that young peo-ple in general are more equipped at coping with diversity.

    I know this first hand because my niece came to live with us after her mum died, and not long after that the young girls was diagnosed with leukaemia, but

    she is the toughest person I know now. Calling her mentally tough doesnt even do her justice.

    Life is no bother to her, no matter what it throws in her direction and there is defi-nitely an element of that with Ryan. I can see real compari-sons with their attitudes and outlooks on life, said Joe.

    Hes very philosophical, and for a brief period, I got a glimpse of that sort of mentality - of people who are very ill and are struggling.

    Once Ryan gets the rehab under his belt, hell be fine. I just know he will. Hell get a brilliant set of legs and it will be an adventure, thats for sure.

    At the end of the day, my transplant has told me that life is just an adventure. Thats all it is. And later on down the line, Ryan will look back on his life and he will have a better and more interesting story to tell than you and me. He will be a real character and his story will inspire others.

    Joe says that it took his own transplant to really send home the message about the importance of an effective donor system in Northern Ireland and it was the start-

    ing gun for something that was really obvious for years.

    Its very difficult when you give up a kidney for a friend and you have to watch as both worlds come crashing down when the body rejects the organ.

    And of course, I still feel heart-broken every day because Shane isnt transplantable now unless he can get a living donor. Having Shane on board is magical. Every day he is in pain and he is work-ing so hard to transform a system thats not even going to help him.

    The fact that we will be fight-ing to change the legislation sur-rounding deceased people really gives you an idea of the measure of the man, said Joe.

    Mines is a very small story compared to stories like Shane and Ryan and whenever people in their position are saying this is a great thing cause- keep going then you cant help but feel motivated and driven by their enthusiasm and fighting spirit.

    Joe stresses that the change in the law is straightforward, and that the families would continue to have the final say.

    Its just dead sensible and it makes organ donation the norm, rather than the uncommon thing it is probably seen as today.

    One body can save up to seven lives, and that sentence alone really shows people just how important it is and donating an organ can be such an incredible gift.

    Think of that: the joy, the effect it will have on the families and the individual, and the local community as well. It cant be put into words

    There is a massive feel-good factor with donating an organ. Everyone is on the same team, rallying together to make a life better and you can see that in Ryans family.

    RT is making a documen-tary about organ donation in light of Joe and Shanes national campaign, and the pair also have appearances on the countrys flag-ship television programme The Late Late Show and the BBCs Stephen Nolan Show.

    With all of this, what I needed to do was get speaking to the right people. I needed to turn a few heads and use contacts in order to open doors that would have otherwise remained closed. Ive got the doors open with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, as well as Edwin Poots, and it looks like all the major Irish political players will be following suit.

    Its an initiative with no draw-backs. Anything that saves lives and transforms one persons life can hardly be a negative thing.

    No one knows the importance of organisation more than Ryan.

    Ryan is back home in Dungiven after spending four months in

    hospital following his transplant and subsequent operations.

    Rather than complaining about his lack of limbs and the uphill challenges he will face ciming to terms with his amputation, Ryans only complaint is that his trademark ginger curls are gone and his hair is now growing back straight!

    Ryan also agrees that the amendment to the law is a no-brainer.

    Waiting for a heart, its just one of those things you cant imagine, said Ryan.

    But this campaign is simple and it will only improve the standard of living up and down the country. After seeing what I have gone through, my friends, family have all joined the organ donor register. People should let friends and family know how you feel because you could potentially save a life.Its heartbreaking to see people waiting for an organ and it doesnt come. In this era of med-icine and science, no one should be in that situation. What Joe is doing is makes sense and Ill be behind him every step of the way. he said.

    his kidney transplant in October

    Joe Brolly with teenager Ryan OConnor at St Canices GAC Awards in Dungiven, Derry

    Joe Brolly with friend Shane Finnegan before

  • History at odds with Jims viewTheres a high prob-ability that the 2013 All-Ireland football champions will come from next Sundays Allianz National Football League semi-finalists if the form guide since the start of the millennium holds good this season.Thats a source of en-couragement for Dublin, Mayo, Tyrone and Kil-dare, who already stand as first, fifth, sixth and seventh favourites respec-tively for the All-Ireland title, with Donegal, Kerry and Cork filling the second, third and fourth positions.Jim McGuinness (right) has recently discarded league form as an influ-ential factor in deter-mining the winner of the All-Ireland and, while his Donegal squad proved that theory to be correct when they won last years All-Ireland crown after finishing Division 1 in seventh place, statistics

    reveal that last years outcome was not in line with the general trend since 2000.Nor has any county since then won the All-Ireland title after being relegated from Division 1 earlier in the season, a fate which was served to McGuin-ness men earlier in the month.Tyrone won their third All-Ireland after a fifth-placed Division 1 finish in 2008, while Armagh secured their first ever All-Ireland tri-umph in 2002 as a promising Division 2 side.But, Donegal apart, the title has otherwise gone to counties who did well in the league. Kerry (2004-2006-2009), Cork (2010) and Tyrone (2003) completed the NFL/All-Ireland double.Galway (2001) and

    Dublin (2011) won the All-Ireland after being NFL runners-up, while Kerry finished third in Division 1A in 2007 and were beaten semi-finalists in 2000 prior to going on to take the Sam Maguire.Tyrone reached the league semi-final in 2005 before claiming All-Ireland success.Those results suggest that a progressive league cam-paign is often a precursor to a good championship season.

    Whereas, since the start of the millennium, dropping out of Division 1 has yet to be followed by an All-Ireland win later in the season.Kerry (2001) and Tyrone (2010) were the only counties to win provincial titles after being relegat-ed and Donegal face a good Tyrone side in the first round of the Ulster Championship.Kerry, though, later lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Meath by 15 points,

    while Tyrone narrowly lost a quarter-final to Dublin. That adds to the intrigue of Don-egals position heading into the championship while a positive, consistent league campaign will raise spirits among next Sundays four semi-finalists.

    How All-Ireland winners fared in the NFL from

    2000-2012:2000: Kerry (Division 1 beaten semi-finalists)2001: Galway (Division 1 beaten finalists)2002: Armagh (Promot-ed from Division 2)2003: Tyrone (Winners Division 1)2004: Kerry (Winners Division 1)2005: Tyrone (Division 1 beaten semi-finalists)2006: Kerry (Division 1 winners)2007: Kerry (3rd Divi-sion 1A)2008: Tyrone (5th Divi-sion 1)2009: Kerry (Winners Division 1)2010: Cork (Winners Division 1)2011: Dublin (Division 1 beaten finalists)2012: Donegal (6th Division 1)

    Food for thought, Jim!

    9

  • 10

    McManaman hails Dubs license to thrillKevin McManamon believes the injec-tion of fresh talent into the Dublin squad has made Jim Gavins side less predictable than in previous years.

    McManamon is one of the most talented forwards in Ireland following his consist-ent displays in the last three All-Ireland campaigns. Dublin manager Jim Gavin can also call on the star quality of new Dubllin panelists Mick Fitzsimons, Jason Whelan and Dean Rock who were introduced to the Dublin forward line in the draw with Donegal last Sunday.

    Gavin has already used 34 players in the league campaign and McManamon says the team has been told to utilise their creative talents.

    The great thing about Jim from a forward perspective is that he allows us to play our own style of attacking football and he allows us to have a bit of freedom in the final third. McManamon said.

    The young lads like Paul Mannion and Ciaran Kilkenny will absolutely love the step up this year and everyone else, the senior and more experienced players included, will be buzzing to be involved with a more attacking team. Dublin have very good footballers every year but theres just something about this

    breed of attacking talent that excites me. Time will tell what will happen in the summer as we start to get a few championship matches under our belts, but I suppose it makes you less predictable when you have young lads with raw talent coming in and playing a lot of minutes.

    Dublin have made light of the absence of multiple All-star Bernard Brogan to finish top of Division 1, having scored more than anyone else across the four divisions.

    The way (former manager) Pat (Gilroy) would have done it, he would have wanted more hard-working players, lads who can tackle and make life hard for everyone else. But Jim prefers the football approach and lads with more technical ability. That has reflected in our play because we were kicking points for fun throughout the entire league campaign. When you have six players who can all score, you automatically become a huge threat to the opposition. McManamon added.

    Im not sure if weve actually been scoring more than we have in previous years because we have been in the top three in the country for the last six years, but were getting a lot better spread of scorers up front.

    Dublins draw with current All-Ireland champions Donegal has set up a rematch with

    Mayo in the league semi-final in Croke Park on Sunday (throw-in 3.45). The Connacht champions, and last years beaten All-Ireland finalists secured their place in the last four with a win over Cork in Pairc Ui Chaoimh to set up another meeting with the Liffeysiders, the fourth in just 12 months.

    Mayo have won two of those clashes, with last Augusts All-Ireland semi-final the pick of the victories.

    It wont be about revenge, not at all, Mc-Manamon insisted. We played hard against them here in the league in what was a tight enough game. We ran away with it in the sec-ond half after the two quick goals that we got, but it could have gone either way if they took their chances before our cruel goals.

    It was hard to erase (the semi-final defeat) that kind of loss from the mind straight away. It wasnt nice to lose an All-Ireland semi-final in our own back yards (Croke Park) but we have to be professional in our approach and we have to build on last year and the memory last year. We met up as a panel at the start of December and we agreed that we wouldnt mention last year until we had to use it as mo-tivation. So thats what we have done and so far everything has been going smoothly. Well just take it one step at a time. he said.

  • 11

    Canavan enjoying role with ErnesidersFermanagh GAA boss, Tyrone legend Peter Canavan, says hes enjoying his managerial role as his side look forward to the championship in a positive frame of mind.

    Fermanagh may have been disappointed to fall just short of promotion into the countrys second tier, narrowly missing out against Meath at Pairc Tailteann, but Canavan be-lieves the future is bright for the Ernesiders.

    Preparations are well under way for their opening clash, against either Cavan or Armagh, on 16 June, depending on how that preliminary round fixture goes.

    Im getting a good kick out of the manage-rial side of the game now. In the beginning, it was difficult to make the transition after

    playing for 20 years but slowly but surely Ive found my feet. Canavan said.

    He added: This panel have come on leaps and bounds in the last 18 months or so, and we were very unlucky not to get promoted to Division 2 this year. It was a match that went right down to the wire and unfortunately for us, Meath clinched it in the last couple of minutes, so they will take the final place in that division.

    We had a number of good goal opportuni-ties that we normally would have taken and when a few decisions didnt go our way, Meath gained momentum.

    Its really is a big transition, changing from a player to a manager - but when you love gaelic football as much as I do, and as much as

    our local communities do, then its hard not to get involved and strive to be better.

    The Fermanagh manager says that his sides drastic improvements over the last number of months is down to an intense fitness regime and an increased focus on work-rate during games.

    I cant fault the effort of any man. They have been brilliant since we got together at the start of the year and nothing is too much for them.

    All we can do is get our heads down and get ourselves into the best possible shape because its a long season and we need every member of the panel at the same level and injury-free.

    And speaking generally about the state of the game, Canavan says he feels that the quality of the football is getting better - but that potential improvements should always be taken on board by the GAAs senior representatives.

    Every year, when the football stops, people take to the newspapers and county board meetings to suggest improvements for the game after things they had seen over the course of the previous year. I think out of the 18 proposals that were made this year, I agreed with the majority of them but it will never be easy to apply them all at the one time. It will take time. But if anything helps to improve our game, we should certainly be looking at that and taking the ideas on board. he said.

    He also stressed that it was important to make the game easier to referee, in a bid to address inconsistency - but added: Unfortunately, I think the one amendment that we did bring in the black card will only serve to make the game harder to referee in the future.

    There is absolutely no guarantee that any amendment will have the benefits that every-one intends for it to have because people will soon start identifying loopholes and ways to get around rule changes.

    Constant changes and more strict pun-ishments for cynical play could result in our game becoming more negative and certainly thats not what the idea should be. We need the game to be more free-flowing. So Im just not convinced that everything is a good idea. We have to protect the young players.

    Ex-Tyrone star Peter Canavan took over as Fermanagh boss at the beginning of last year and is enjoying his time with The Erne County

  • Only success will silence doubters! OConnor

    Slowly but surely, Cillian OConnor says, Mayo are getting there. There being All-Ireland cham-pions.

    Since James Horan took the Mayo job, there have been evident signs that the Connacht side are heading in the right direction. And for the second year running, Mayo pulled off a smash and grab to secure a place in the National League semi-fi-nals.

    Twelve months ago, Mayo got the draw in Tralee (no easy feat) that meant they progressed to the league semi-finals. Admittedly, Horans side drew with a Kerry side who had already qualified and were testing certain players and resting others, yet one week earlier, they hammered reining All-Ireland champions Dublin to keep their hopes alive.

    And when they left Pairc Ui Chaoimh at the weekend, they were still in the hunt for silver-ware after a day that might have ended with them dropping out of the top flight.

    Even in last years All-Ireland final, Mayo started disastrously against Jim McGuinness side, yet they recovered well and pushed Donegal right to the final whistle. In previous finals, where Mayo have been more unlucky than any other side in Ireland in the modern era, they punched their own ticket around the half-time mark and waited for the bus home.

    A gutsy one-point win away to

    league specialists Cork under-lined their potential, but OConnor agrees they wont silence the doubters until they win an All-Ireland.

    Its hard to change peoples views until you have success. Unless this Mayo outfit goes and wins an All-Ireland, then we wont be regarded as the best team in the county. Its as simple as that. We definitely have the ability and we were unlucky not to win it last year, but we must use that to our advantage in this years championship. said the Ballintubber man.

    Thats what some people say you have to do before you get real recognition and its hard to argue with it. Donegal were a minnows team for 15 years because they werent competing for honours. They hadnt won the All-Ireland for 20 years until

    they beat us in the final and all of a sudden they are being talked about as a team with an unbeata-ble system. Until you get over the final hurdle theres always going to be people doubting you.

    Its something that we try not to get bogged down on because there will be doubters no matter what. We are confident and we are a hard-working bunch so all the right things are in place.

    The accurate marksman OCon-nor, who has won back-to-back Young Footballer of the Year awards kicked two stunning side-line balls to secure last weekends win for Mayo that sets up an-other showdown with this years All-Ireland favourites Dublin.

    The sides have brought the best out in each other over the last couple of seasons. Dublin looked like they would be runaway win-ners before the fog intervened in the league last year, before Mayo won the re-fixture with a perfor-mance John Maughan described as being as good as Ive seen from a Mayo team.

    OConnor agrees that a game against Dublin is the ideal test before a grueling All-Ireland capmaign. Theres no point play-ing county football and playing for a team that can challenge for All-Ireland honours if you dont relish the big games. And theres no better game than Dublin. Playing the Dubs in their own back yard, an 85,000 seater sta-dium is an absolute dream. And they will make you work for it in Croke Park. We all know that the Dublin fans hate to see their side losing at home so its an ideal game. It will set us up well for the Connacht championship. he said.

    Theres something about

    playing Dublin that gets players and supporters riled up. We will have a genuine idea of where we are and what we need to do after that game.

    Dublin have arguably the best panel in Ireland yet it must be noted that Mayo have reached the semi-finals without the help of experienced and talented players Alan Dillon and Andy Moran, who are unlikely to be risked before their championship opener against Galway on May 19.

    Mayo were also without Keith Higgins (hamstring), Barry Moran (ankle), Tom Cunniffe (Achilles) and Cathal Freeman (collarbone) for the win over the Rebels. OConnor himself only recovered from a seri-ous shoulder injury to play in Mayos Connacht U-21 defeat to the Tribesmen last month but believes that injuries to certain players have given the Mayo boss a headache because of the standard set by the players who have come in.

    Weve played a couple of new young lads, the likes of Shane McHale in the full-back line played very well. Cathal Carolan has been a revelation at wing-half forward and young Cathal Freeman worked his socks off in the last game until he was injured. That sort of effort cant be faulted. OConnor said.

    Weve tried a couple of new players and its great to see how well they have adapted to life at senior county level.

    12

  • 13

    Tyrone fans love for Harte as strong as ever

    One of the finest demonstrations of how the GAA continues to play a vital role in communities across the country can be found when Tyrone play their last league game at home each year.

    The team and management emerge from the dressing room in their training kits and pro-vide the young fans with the chances to pose for photographs and meet their footballing heroes, strengthening the bond between team and support in the process.

    Last to leave the field every year is Mickey Harte. In his 11th year as Tyrone senior man-ager, such is the magnetism of the man that the meet and greet around the crowd see him always become the headline act.

    It is a heart-warming mutual devotion to behold between a figurehead of a county that lives and breathes gaelic football and their loyal and unrivalled support.

    In this age of three-year-plans and absolute dedication required to the job of managing an inter-county team, Hartes longevity is

    unheard of in any other footballing county in Ireland.

    Brian Cody is into his 15th year as Kilken-nys hurling manager and Sean Boylan served Meath for 23 years. Yet Hartes involvement with Tyrone didnt just begin 11 years ago when he became nationally recognisable. Harte began coaching Tyrones county minor team from 1991 to 1998, and then moved on to become the under-21 manager from 98 to 2002. Almost all of the players he had coached in the 90s and early 2000s played on his senior team. Thats now 22 years of unbroken service and such a lifelong commitment is mind-bending in an amateur sport where managers arent allowed to receive payment for their services because of the traditional laws of the game.

    The queue to greet Harte on this Sunday has almost as many adults as children in it. He carries an aura that people are fascinated with.

    During Tyrones sorrowful mysteries over the last 15 years, he has always represented a

    dignified figure, doing the simple things right.

    While he gave assis-tance to many, his own sufferings in the last couple of years have been deeply person-al and in the media spotlight. When Hartes daughter Micheala was murdered on her honeymoon in 2011, the Tyrone manager stepped down from the Tyrone post temporarily so he could grieve, but when he realized his daughter was immense-ly proud that her father was a multi-All-Ireland winning manager, he quickly realized he

    must return to the position. It is for this that people want to reach out and speak to one of the most dignified and wisest footballing men Ireland has seen.

    When you see Harte speak to members of the crowd and watch how he behaves with kids and the elderly, it is hard to believe that Harte was regarded as a radical figure in Tyrone GAA for many years, determined and dedicated to the cause of gaining entry to county competitions for the Gaels of his native Glencull.

    In the end, a suitable compromise was found that shows no matter how entrenched people are in their positions, there is no strength without unity; N neart go cur le chile (In Gaelic).

    Harte could yet be proven right in his asser-tions over the introduction of the black card, the recent amendment that allows players to be sin-binned with a black card, banned for a yellow after the game and sent off for a red, as he has stated the new rule should be consid-ered a work in progress and not implemented immediately.

    As a voice in opposition, Harte deserved to be heard arguably over any other man in Ireland, and he had ample opportunity. Not all of the media shared his opinion, but then he was wrong to assert that every media voice disagreed with him.

    But Harte keeps working hard, a figure as everlasting and inscrutable as Mount Rush-more, heading into perhaps the biggest test of his career. His Tyrone side have are All-Ire-land under-dogs this year with bookies plac-ing them as 20/1 outsiders. I have a sneaky suspicion Harte could lift the Sam Maguire this year, his fourth senior All-Ireland and his eitgth altogether including the minour and U-21 titles he amassed in the 90s and early 2000s.

    Never underestimate a Mickey Harte.Mickey Harte with daughter Micheala after the 2003 All-Ire-land triumph.

    22 years and still going strong

  • Kilkenny ready to shine for DubsA dual star and potentially the man to kick Dublin to the All-Ireland this summer; 19-year-old Ciarn Kilkenny is all set to have a massive year.

    No matter where you are from in the coun-try, you have to be excited by the raw talent and potential of Ciarn Kilkenny, who will be starring for Dublin in this years All-Ire-land championship. If youre a Dub, then you have extra reason for celebration after the young Castleknock forward turned down a

    professional contract with Australian Football League side Hawthorn in order to line out in sky blue and navy this year.

    Kilkenny isnt a rookie by any means, how-ever. The Dublin minor hurler and footballer featured for Dublin in last years campaign, and started corner-forward in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat at the hands of Mayo,.

    But 2013 looks to be the year he becomes a star, partly because we thought he was lost to us forever.

    Shortly after the All-Ire-land final, it was confirmed that the long-standing rumour about Kilkenny trying his hand at the AFL was factual and offers were flooding in. On September 29, Dublin County Board and Castleknock GAC announced that the athletic Kilkenny had signed with Melbourne club Hawthorn and with his repertoire of skills and talents, it was widely anticipated that he would follow the likes of Zach Tuohy, Pearce Hanley, Tommy Walsh and many more and become an Aussie Rules star. Kilkennys ability meant that there were no doubts over whether or not he could adopt to the Aus-tralian code given that less talented players have gone to Australia and excelled seemingly effortlessly.

    But after just four months, the pull of home was too great for the Castleknock native and he returned from Oz with the intention of staying at home and winning All-Ireland medals with Dublin. I imagine new Dublin boss Jim Gavin couldnt have dreamt of a

    better New Years gift.Kilkenny announced his return to GAA

    for the Under 21s when he scored 2-10 (16 points) against Carlow in mid-February.

    Kilkenny was once again on duty for the senior team and showed his undoubted brilliance when he set off on a mazy run and left the experienced Kildare defence choking on his dust before slotting over the point of the game. Kilkennys Allianz National League campaign was cut short later in that game when he went over in a challenge and twisted his knee, although he is expected to return to action in the middle of May.

    Dublin chiefs have assured fans that Kilken-nys medial ligament isnt serious and he will definitely be fit to feature in Dublins Leinster Championship opener aginst Westmeath or Carlow on June 1.

    Kilkenny is equally as gifted at hurling (Ire-lands other national sport), yet hurling boss Anthony Daly has so far been unable to avail of his services. Many experts in Ireland have voiced concerns over Kilkennys interest in pursuing both codes at senior level, because the burden of two inter-county campaigns may take their toll and cause burnout to one of the countrys most gifted athletes.

    So for now we will just have to revel in his wondrous football skills. Comfortable off either foot, Kilkenny is very physically impos-ing for someone his age. His spell in Australia, albeit brief, has definitely provided him with an increased awareness for physicality and athleticism.

    Dublin, of all counties, arent stuck for talented forwards but Kilkenny has the extra little spark of brilliance which could make all the difference in the white-hot heat of Septembers Championship finale.

    When you grow up you dream about win-ning All-Irelands with your club and county and playing in Croke Park. he said, upon rejecting the contract with Hawthorn.

    I wouldnt be surprised if Ciarn gets his wish sooner than he expects and hes among the Dublin players lifting the Sam Maguire at the end of the year. Stranger things have happened.

    14

  • 15

    Croke Park on September 28, 2002: Armagh defeated Kerry to win their first and only All-Ireland. Armagh fans have been on a decline since that year

    Grimley in for the long haulOver 36 years ago, Tony Hanahoe the Dublin captain in his accept-ance speech following the teams All-Ireland success over Armagh, commented that the Ulster players deserved great credit for reaching the final, which is quite an achievement for a Division Three team.

    In the interim period since Ger-ry ONeills players heroics, Armaghs fortunes have gone from the sublime to the outra-geous.

    In the 1990s, when Championship victories proved so rare, there was little hope in the Orchard County. Towards the end of the decade, Armagh

    began to breed a few outstanding footballers and the negativity that surrounded Ulster football was replaced by the highs of a glitter-ing All-Ireland success in 2002.

    This summer, Paul Grimleys side face a similar task as that faced by the Armagh men in 1977, when they begin their Championship off the back of a disappointing Third Division campaign, and perhaps even more unlikely in 1977, the chanc-es of landing the greatest prize in gaelic football will be slim.

    The writing, as they say, will be on the wall this Sunday following Armaghs crunch National Foot-ball League game against Galway. The Tribesmen scored 21 points

    when they last visited Armaghs Athletic Grounds, a win which came in total isolation on the back of an unsuccessful league campaign.

    The Orchard County men, in their prime, went on a 14-game unbeaten run during the 2005 season before Tyrones Peter Canavan ended the dream in the All-Ireland semi-finals from a 15-yard set-piece.

    Over the past number of years, particularly under Paddy ORourke and now Paul Grimley, Armagh have underwent a transi-tional period and putting togeth-er a string of successive victories has been a struggle regardless of the opposition.

    Armagh have continually worsened since their solitary

    All-Ireland triumph in 2002, and despite the minor team winning the All-Ireland title in 2009, very few players from that team have made the step up. Armagh football has hit a low ebb and reached its lowest point when Wexford, deemed a minnows footballing county in Ireland, embarrassed Joe Kernans men in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final in Croke Park.

    Grimley indicated that hes here for the long haul, irrespective of Sundays result against Galway. If the worst comes to the worst, I will hold my hands up and keep trying to do what is right for this country. I will not run away from this, said Grimley.

    I will stay and see it through.With some fans suggesting that

    Grimley will have a huge task to pull the current county team around, others regard the Pease Ogs man as the ideal candidate to sit in the Armagh hot-seat for the next number of years.

    But even a win on Sunday would not guarantee the Ulster men Division Two football next season. Should Armagh win and finish on six points, if Louth beat Longford who are already rele-gated and Wexford defeat Laois, Grimleys outfit will still go down.

    Supporters will be hoping that Armagh can overcome the Gal-way challenge otherwise the Ar-magh men, once a superpower in gaelic football, will definitely be traveling to places like Tipperary, Limerick and Roscommon, all predominately hurling counties.

    So, has Grimley inherited a team in fatal decline, or can the former Armagh player inject much-needed urgency and commitment into his side in time for the championship clash with Cavan?

    Our performances have been solid all year. We havent played our best football but we certainly havent been poor. Im confident of getting a result against Galway on Sunday and we will just take it from there. That game is our focal point of the season so its the big game to play for. he said.

    Many Armagh fans are still nervous about the Galway clash.

  • 16

    Migration and injury creating worrying trends

    Some time in the late spring of 2010, the Leitrim team assembled at Pairc Sean MacDiarmada to have their photograph taken as the Championship squad.

    Two years later, that photo suddenly went viral across GAA websites. The 32 men in Carrick-on-Shannon that night were either in black and white or colour after a bit of Photoshop wizardry. Those in colour were still involved in the county panel. There were only ten.

    Many Young Men of Twenty was both a play and a song written by John B. Keane on the imposed emigration of young, energetic males from Ireland. The song was originally sang about the customs of the 1960s but it could be argued that the same problems are returning to Irish shores in the modern era. It used to be thought that the 22 men that departed Leitrim were a mixture of average players, and their low profiles meant that they stood little chance of winning any silverware in Connacht, particularly during Mayos period of dom-inance.

    Compare Leitrims situation sith the three

    Down players who emigrated to Australia. The Ulster sides lost players who recently contested an All-Ireland final, were last years beaten Ulster finalists, (losing to eventual All-Ireland champions Donegal) and had bright futures in the game.

    A Down example of the Leitrim-style photograph would be hard to look at for Down supporters, but it would unearth the facts about managing Down and the challenges that manager James McCar-tan has faced in his time managing the Mournemen. Perhaps the emigration could explain Downs decline since contesting the All-Ireland Final in 2010.

    Before the 2010 All-Ireland final, which they lost by a point to Cork, the starting 15 linked arms for the playing of the anthem. From left to right on that line, Declan Rooney has been injured this season. Kevin McKernan has been moved from half-back to plug a hole in midfield, Paul McComi-skey, who was a star forward in that year, is taking a break from gaelic football to trabel. Then you have the enigmatic Martin Clarke, who left in 2011 to resume his Aus-tralian Rules career- a man that was one of

    the best players in the All-Ireland Champi-onship in 2010.

    Skip Dan McCartan and John Clarke is next, who has since hung up his boots. Skip Mark Poland and arrive at Dan Gordon, the once ever-reliable full-back who has been struggling with niggly injuries for the past couple of years. The retired Damian Rafferty came next, beside Danny Hughes who has spent the last two years wondering if the injuries will ever stop and if hell get to play again. Conor Garvey is in a similar boat. Peter Fitzpatrick was one of the many young Irishmen who emigrated last year for a new life and work, settling in Australia.

    The Down team were led that day by their captain, the charismatic Ambrose Rogers, who could not play due to injury. After an impressive return last year, he has spent this season laid up again and has played nothing more than the role of a spectator. They have also lost the promising Caolan Mooney to Australian Rules, a footballer who promised to be as good as Marty Clarke.

    Last week, McCartan stated that you cant hold it against any young man that wishes to travel. You have to admire his patience.

    Downs Caolan

    Mooney who joined

    AFL side

    Injured: skipper Ambrose Rodgers

    Marty Clarke joined Collingwood in 2008 and rejoined the AFL side in 2011

  • j n c s k n d j k aDOWN Under From left to right:

    Down sensation Caolan Mooney, Downs established AFL export Marty Clarke, and Paul

    Cribbin.

    17

  • 18

    Teen Mooney stuns Pies

    It was routine training session almost three years ago that was so phenomenal its surprising it is only being spoken about now.

    The then Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse had set up a tackle bag as part of a marking improvement drill when the 17-year-old Mooney, who had just traveled to Australia for a 4 week trial and was still doing his A-Levels, stepped up.

    Mooneys visit to Westpac Centre was to make him familiar with the oval ball, but when he ran towards the takle bag, Malthouse was left stunned. Mooney thought he had to jump over the bag. So he did.

    Malthouse thought it was perhaps a fluke or that Mooneys jump was all he had in the locker. There were more double-takes when testing moved indoors.

    Mooney, from Rostrevor in County Down, underwent speed, agility and vertical jump tests as part of the Pies routine.

    Magpies officials admitted that they were left in awe of the results, which ranked the 17-year-old Irishman at the very high end of all three disciplines.

    Two weeks later, 184cm, 76kg Mooney signed a two-year international contract that would see him stay at the club on a training basis until July 2012 at least. It was later said that the jump over a 6 foot 4 teammate hold-ing a tackle bag was all they had to see.

    Having finished school in 2010, the teen skipped the Gaelic club championship so he could make an early start to training with the Pies.

    Mooneys modesty is evident but the Collingwood coaches are well aware of his physical attributes.

    Countryman Marty Clarke, a former Gaelic teammate for Down who became Mooneys mentor, didnt hesitate to talk up Mooneys speed.

    I used to be very quick when I was in Ireland but since coming here, Ive had to bulk up. When Caolan came here I think he was pretty confident he was the fastest man in Australia at that time, Clarke said.

    The strange thing about him is that he is faster carrying the ball than he is without it, which makes him a nightmare for everyone to get close to. Usain Bolt may catch him if he were in a Ferrari, but I think that would be the only chance hed have. Marty jokes.

    Fellow Irishman Paul Cribbin chipped in: I wouldnt like to have been marking him when he first came over to Oz. Once hes gone, hes gone.

    Mooney suffers asthma, which he admitted could be pretty bad, adding that it could come on for about five minutes, and you think I cant go on, but then you just forget about it and it goes away.

    Nearly three years on, and Clarke, who trained with Mooney in Ireland before he returned to Australia himself, believes it was only a matter of time be-fore his mate broke into the first team.

    Believe me, he is a talent, and it wasnt surprising that he got into the first team so quick-ly Clarke said.

    He has unbeliev-

    able speed and agility and has picked up his kicking quickly. He could go on to become the best ever Irish export when he bulks up because the Australian game focuses a lot on leaping and high catches. Ireland focuses on the kicking aspect but Caolan had the best and most natural leap in the country when he was only 17 so hes a natural for this sport.

    But Mooney, however, isnt getting carried away with his progress and says his ambition is to learn the game as quick as I can and see where I go from there.

    Being in Ireland, in an amateur sport, we train maybe four or five nights a week for nothing. Here youre getting paid, youre

    giving up your days ... youre out in the sun and its just a great lifestyle.

    Collingwood recruit-ing manager Derek Hine first saw Mooney in the MacRory Cup semi-final in Belfasts Casement Park - the same venue the Pies noticed Clarke. Mooney was playing for St Cole-mans College and Mooney played an instrumental part in the teams Ulster success.

    Hes definitely got the scope to play senior foot-ball next year, Hine said shortly after Mooney had signed his rookie contract.

    Hes got to learn the game and theres a lot of water to go under the bridge, but he could seri-ously be anything. A real talent. We are so excited. to have someone with so many attributes.

    It was a display of athleticism that left Collingwood boss Mick Malthouse speechless

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    Carlow star and former AFL recruit Brendan Murphy believes Ciarn Kilkenny did the right thing in de-ciding not to return to Australia and an AFL career with Hawthorn.

    Murphy spent two years on the books of the Sydney Swans before refusing the offer of a contract extension and returned to Ireland in 2009.

    Although he didnt make a first team appear-ance for The Swans, Murphy impressed in the reserves even at a time when he was experenc-ing numerous injuries, and the former Swans coach Paul Roos publicly expressed his disap-pointment when he found out Murphy would be returning to Ireland.The Rathvilly man said he fully understood Kilkenny;s decision and why he rejected the lures of professional football in Australia.

    I was surprised when I read the statement from the Dublin County Board and Ciarn. Id heard people saying he was flying in Aus-tralia, but at the end of the day if he was not happy, and his heart was dragging him back to Ireland, then its hard to think why he would stay. said Murphy.

    Ciarn said in his statement, and I suppose I can relate to it, that its great to be a profes-sional and earn money, but for me, pulling on the Sydney Swans jumper was just not the same as pulling on a Rathvilly or Carlow jersey.

    There is a lot to be said for lining out beside your brothers, friends and people in the community youve grown up with. For me it was just not the same in Australia and Ciarn must have experienced similar feelings to me.

    Questioned as to whether the respective contrasting states of the Australian and Irish economies would influence the decision to re-turn to Ireland, Murphy was dismissive in his assessment of the financial factors involved.

    If the heart soesnt want to be there then there wont be any amount of money in the world that could keep you so far from home.When I first came home people were saying to me that, with the way things are, would I not be better off staying in Australia.

    Its clich but money doesnt guarantee happiness.

    Homesickness is often alluded to as one of the big issues facing young Irish GAA recruits in the AFL, and Murphy admitted he experi-enced loneliness and longed for home, despite the support of everyone at the Swans.

    The staff done everything they could but at the start the homesickness was a big thing.

    I remember flying back to Australia after my first Christmas and I found it very difficult to settle again.

    You are constantly thinking of home and friends, youd almost feel physically sick. Al-though people helped, theres just no place like home.

    Its not like playing for your club, and Ciarn obviously has a strong feeling about playing for his club (Castle-knock) and loves it, and loves playing for Dublin and the

    All-Ireland prospects at county and club level probably couldnt have been ignored for him.

    Murphy has no doubt that Kilkenny would have made it in the AFL, and dismissed notions that Kilkennys contrasting profile in Ireland and Australia was an issue.

    I have no doubt that Ciarn would have made the grade in AFL because players with half his talent have gone to Australia and made an impact. He is the hottest property in the GAA at the minute.

    Some people might say that (he was a small fish in a big pond in Australia) but you would not worry about people like that. Ciarn has a massive opportunity now with his club in an All-Ireland semi-final and, of course, with Dublin, probaly the best county in Ireland.

    Dublin are one of the best teams in the country so coming home, for him, gives him the chance to fulfil every dream he ever had as a child. And good luck to the young man as well.

    Kilkenny did the right thing

    Brendan Murphy in action for his native Carlow after returning from Australia

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    11 other GAA stars who returned to Ireland after

    spells Down Under11- Brendan Quigley

    (Laois)In the autumn of 2005, Quigley joined the Brisbane Lions along with teammate Colm Begley before homesickness saw him return after a couple of months. He was in talks at the end of 2007 with Carlton but opted not

    to join them and decided to stay with Laois.For Laois, Quigley either plays at midfield or wing-half forward.The towering midfielder was part of Laois 2003 All-Ireland Minor Football Championship winning team. Quig-ley plays his club football for Timahoe and helped them win the Laois Intermediate foot-ball championships in 2004 and 2010. Quigley has captained his county since 2008.

    10- Chrissy McKaigue (Derry)

    McKaigue came to national prominence with the Derry minor team in 2007 and after being initially approached by AFL superpower Carlton, he joined their rivals Sydney Swans in 2009. He was released by them at the end of 2011 and immediately returned to Ireland. The current UUJ student lined out for Derry in last years championship and is expected to be a star for the side for the next 10 years.

    McKaigue is a dual GAA star and plays football and hurling for his club side Robert Emmets Slaughtneil. In football, McKaigue is equally as good as a forward and defender, yet in hurling, he plays solely as a wing half- forward. McKaigue was vice-captain of the Derry Minor team that were runners-up in both the Ulster Minor Championship and All-Ireland Minor Championship in 2007. Earlier that year he won the Ulster Minor Football League with the county, and lifted the cup as captain.

    9- Ciaran Sheehan (Cork)

    The 21 year-old, who is currently studying at Cork IT, had a four-week trial with Carlton during the summer of 2009. But he turned down the offer of a contract to pursue a Gaelic football career, justifying his decision by winning an All-Ireland senior medal the following year in a dramatic one-point game against Down. He plays Gaelic football and hurling with his local club ire g, his divi-sional side Muskerry and has been a member of the Cork senior football team since 2010

    Sheehan first played for Cork with the coun-tys minor football team in 2007. That year he won a Munster title following a 1-16 to 2-8 defeat of Kerry.By 2008 Sheehan had made it onto the Cork minor hurling team. He quickly added a Munster title in that code to his collection following a one-point defeat of Tipperary.

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    8- Brendan Murphy (Carlow)

    Murphy was an extremely promising minor player who signed up with the Sydney Swans in November 2007. He spent two years with the club, only featuring for the clubs reserve side, before returning home. The Rathvilly player has since become a leading light for his county.

    6- John Heslin (Westmeath)

    Heslin joined up with the Richmond Tigers as a rookie in the 2012 pre-sea-son draft. He only spent three months with the club before homesickness compelled him to return to Ireland. He now features for Westmeath and the UCD Sigerson Cup team, winning Irelands most prestigious college competition, in 2012.

    5- Kyle Coney (Tyrone)A 2008 All-Ireland minor medal winner in 2008, Coney joined the Sydney Swans later that year. He returned to Ireland for Christmas that year but in January 2009 opted not to return to Australia. Injuries have affected his subsequent career with Tyrone.Ulster Minor Championships with the county in 2007 and 2008. Coney plays his club football for Ardboe ODonovan Rossa and won the Tyrone Minor Championship with the club in 2008. He attended a sports and English specialist school called Holy Trinity College in Cookstown

    7- Kevin Dyas (Armagh)In late 2007, Dyas joined Collingwood after being a senior panellist with Armagh. He stayed with the club until the end of 2009 when after injuries and homesickness had affected his progress, he returned home.

    4- Colm Begley (Laois)Begley moved to Australia in 2006 where he joined the Brisbane Lions. He spent three years with the club, being named club Rookie of the Year in 2007, but left at the end of 2008 after injury travails. He joined St Kilda in 2009 before returning home later that year.

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    2- Marty Clarke (Down)Clarke signed for Collingwood in August 2006 and excellent for the club that he lined out for 46 times. In 2010 he returned to play for Down and won an Allstar as they reached the All-Ireland final. In October 2011, Clarke rejoined Collingwood.

    3- Shields Michael Shields (Cork)The St Finbarrs player joined Carlton in November 2007 on a two-year rookie contract. But he returned to Cork in the summer of 2008. Since then with Cork he has won an All-Ireland senior medal in 2010 as well as two Allstar awards.

    1- Tadhg Kennelly (Kerry)Tadhg Kennelly is regarded as The Master of combin-ing GAA and AFL, and is undoubtedly the best-known GAA players to have featured in Australian Rules. Kennelly holds the record of being the only person to have an AFL Premiership medal (2005) and an All-Ire-land senior football medal (2009). He signed a rookie contract with the Sydney Swans in 1999, going on to play 197 AFL games,. Kennelly left Ireland at a very young age and watched his native Kerry life a number of All-Ireland titles during his spell Down Under.

    Kennelly announced to the Swans that he intended to return to Ireland for the 2009 All-Ireland season, and the Listowel nativejustified his decision by fulfilling a childhood dream and lifting the Sam Maguire Cup after an intense final against fierce rivals Cork.

    On 12 November 2009, Kennelly signed a two year deal with the Sydney Swans, marking his return to the AFL. In addition to his playing role, he took up a coaching role and combined it with his playing duties. After just one year back in the AFL, the Kerry legend retired from the sport after the 2011 campaign.

    His underage achievements include being on the Kerry underage squads that won the Munster Minor Foot-ball Championships in 1997 & 1998 and Munster U21 Championship in 1999.