GALLERY: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: CLG Malainn

‘Around Malin, everybody is doing their best to keep each other’s spirits up. We are looking out for one another.’

Ireland’s most northerly Gaels are doing what the black and ambers do best, fundraising for good causes close to the heart of the Parish.

Speaking to Gaelscéalaí Inis Eoghain, Pat McLaughlin, Chairperson of CLG Malainn, summed it up perfectly.

“Around Malin,” said Pat, “everybody is doing their best to keep each other’s spirits up. We are looking out for one another. We have come through some tough times in the past and we will come through this too.”

This month CLG Malainn is getting behind Eilish Bell and Sharon Ward who are determined to run 1,000 kilometres by the end of June, as part of the Wild Atlantic 500km virtual challenge.

Effectively, Eilish and Sharon will be undertaking almost six full marathons a week. They are aiming to raise €1 per kilometre for Ronald McDonald House Ireland, in appreciation of the support and help the organisation gave to Danai Ward and his family. Eilish and Sharon said: “Every single donation matters no matter how small.” 

The Ronald McDonald House Charity provides accommodation and a caring and supportive environment for 20 families every night while their children are seriously ill and are hospitalised or undergoing medical treatment at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.

Donations can be made to Eilish and Sharon at: https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/11385506_eilish--amp--sharon-s-fundraising-page.html.

Gaelscéalaí Inis Eoghain is confident Eilish and Sharon will smash their fundraising target, based on CLG Malainn’s track record.

In 2015, Danny Lafferty, then the Secretary of Malin’s Minor Board said the club had raised an amazing €35,000 for charity in the previous three years.

In that interview, Danny said: “CLG Malainn is embedded in this community, so we organise fundraisers for the charities which are dear to the hearts of our members. These included: St Luke’s, Letterkenny General Hospital’s Oncology Ward, Crumlin Hospital, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and the Letterkenny cancer bus.

“We recently held an incredibly successful Malin Does Strictly Come Dancing event as an under-age fundraiser. The Plaza was the only venue in Inishowen capable of accommodating all of those who wanted to attend! We also run an extremely hotly contested, annual Know Your Parish Quiz.”

At the minute, like GAA clubs and other sporting organisations the length and breadth of Ireland, CLG Malainn, is playing its part in Donegal County Council’s Covid-19 Community Support Helpline:1800 928 982, which can be contacted from 9am to 9pm, seven days per week, by anyone needing assistance during the pandemic.

According to Pat: “We are also doing wee skills and drills videos with our younger players. We are trying to keep the children involved and connected with the club during the lockdown. We have had great uptake with those, and the senior team have been very involved too which is great.

“Otherwise, in terms of football, CLG Malainn has been fairly dormant. Covid-19 and the closure of clubs is unprecedented. It can sometimes be hard to keep motivated, but the good weather is encouraging and in a rural area like ours, with a lot of the young people live on wee farms, they have a lot to keep them busy,” said Pat.

CLG Malainn was to play at Intermediate level this year.

A slightly rueful Pat said: “We had a Ladies team, for the first time in five or six years, starting up this year and they were going great. They were ready for their first league matches, even though the bad weather in February had help up things a bit. So, our whole underage set up and our Ladies team were ready to go before lockdown!

“We were going great guns here. There was great enthusiasm. A lot of the teams were going to be locally based as well. The Senior Men were going well. They were back training, a few players were back in action and we had gained a few players.

“We were very young. We had a young side. They were all based at home. We were looking forward to getting the season going.

“Looking at the current situation, it is hard to speculate what the Government regulations will be as regards GAA or sport in general going forward. Will the senior teams get game priority? It’s impossible to say. The county board is exploring a few different scenarios. Will the Club Championships get going in August or September? No-one really knows,” said Pat

With great good humour, Pat said crowds of more than 5,000 would be a regular occurrence at CLG Malainn games.

He also mooted the possibility of leagues not going ahead as normal this year but maybe matches being played within regionalised groups.

Putting on his Bord Inis Eoghain Underage Secretary hat, Pat said discussions were also ongoing about how to progress those tournaments and games.

He added: “Since 2011, young people in Inishowen have had the opportunity to play more matches, thanks to Bord Inis Eoghain’s decision to organise new competitions for our U8, U10 and U12 Gaels.

“This initiative is now beginning to bear fruit. The amount of work which the GAA clubs and coaches throughout Inishowen have put into their underage teams over the last few years has been phenomenal.

“Speaking as a member of Bord Inis Eoghain, I am so proud every time I attend one of our underage competition finals. Whether it is the Maurice McMenamin Memorial Cup, Joe McGeady, Gerry O’Neill or the Darren Downey/ Gary McLaughlin Memorial Cups, our clubs host the biggest and best supported finals in Donegal. They are the envy of many other Regional Board’s.

“It is important that we start thinking about the various underage competitions again. In March, when the lockdown came in so suddenly, we thought nothing was going to happen this year at all. However, as time went on, we started thinking about how Bord Inis Eoghain might progress our competitions again,” said Pat.

The Malin man recognised the “important part” sport played part in young people’s lives.

He said: “It was central, especially in a place like Malin head. It is sad driving past the ground on these good summer’s evenings. You walk around the pitch and there’s not a being about.

“Ordinarily, CLG Malainn would have been flying now. This would have been one of our peak times. April into May would be the peak. You would have had a lot of teams out in this fantastic weather.

“‘Around Malin, everybody is doing their best to keep each other’s spirits up. We are looking out for one another. We have had a few people with bits of sickness, and we had a great bit of fundraising there. It has been a tough year in those terms for the club. But it will be alright. We’ve come through tougher. We’ve had plenty of tragedy. But we have survived together,” said Pat proudly.

In Pat McLaughlin’s eyes, it’s a dark cloud that doesn’t have a silver lining, smiling he concluded: “At least with all of this good weather we have been enjoying, being in a country area like Malin, there will be plenty of turf ready for the winter. They love their turf round here.”

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