To have played Football or Hurling at almost any level is a social passport. The GAA has a pull as definite and as constant as gravity. It is a constant in life, even in the off season when interest is low, but we all know that there is not much of an off season in our games today.
In Donegal the talk last weekend was of the decision to pull out of the Dr. Mc Kenna Cup semi-final with Monaghan,because of the unavailability of several players because of injury, illness and a fixture clash with the universities’ Sigerson Cup.
In Donegal’s correspondence to the Ulster Council confirming their decision to withdraw from the semi-final because of their problem with fielding a team, they stated that they had great respect for the Mc Kenna Cup. I believe that not playing the semi-final went a long way to diluting that respect.
I don’t think that a depleted Donegal team would have got a tutorial from Monaghan in the business of county football. As a player you dreamed your dreams and trained your guts out, you played until you dropped in the hope that you would get a call to county training.
The big prize was a green and gold jersey. You bought your own boots, paid your own way, and you or your mother washed your own gear. Why? Because you played a game you loved at whatever level you were selected, and if, or when, the ultimate call came to beckon you to play for Donegal, you were ten feet tall, and there was nothing you wouldn’t do honour your county and the people and place you came from.
You were proud to represent yourself and honour those who depended on you. You played for your county because you loved to get the opportunity to do so. I well remember the time when Donegal saw winning a Mc Kenna Cup medal as a significant achievement, a time when great players like Sean Ferriter, Frankie Mc Feeley. J,Flood, Brian Mc Eniff and Michael McLoone travelled from all parts of the country to play McKenna Cup football.
While I am aware that fixtures are a major issue in modern day sport, it is my opinion that there were 20 to 25 quality footballers in Donegal who are not regular members of the county squad who would have cherished a call up last Sunday to represent their county, and it is a pity that that did not happen.
Every county in Ulster has had a difficulty with player availability at this time, but the other eight counties did not pull the plug regarding fulfilling their fixtures.
It is a pity that Donegal decided to make this call.
While I do admit and understand that the present structure of fixtures is difficult, unacceptable and is in serious need of refinement, pulling out of a competition when half-way there is not the way to conduct one's business, and it does smack of a lack of respect for the team or teams still in the competition.
That is simply wrong and while no one would like to see any sanction as a result of this decision, it is a distinct possibility that there will be some correspondence from the administrators in Armagh who look after Ulster football.
The news in recent days that the Ballybofey based league of Ireland Club were excluded from the Donegal Community Stadium Project, which was announced by the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport, is not only a serious disappointment but also a very wrong decision.
The financial fiasco at F A I headquarters which was well documented in recent times no doubt did not help the Harps case, but suddenly the decision has generated a real game of “pass the monkey” with some politicians running for cover on the cusp of a general election.
To make this decision even harder to accept, 25 individual projects are to receive varying amounts of grant aid totalling a massive £77.4 million euros.
The Harps development was believed to be a €6.7 million project and it seems that there were some false promises made in relation to the development in recent years.
To the many genuine soccer people who have given of their time on a voluntary basis to keep the club on the road through good times and tough times this news is a massive disappointment.
Talking about politicians I recently read a quote by the current editor of the Donegal Post Michael McHugh after Donegal’s maiden All Ireland victory in 1992 ,which I believe is worth sharing. Writing in the Donegal Democrat the week after that famous final Michael wrote “By their heroic deeds in Croke Park, the Donegal senior football team have done more for the morale of the people of Tir Conaill in 70 minutes than the total efforts of governments and politicians since the founding of the State in 1922.”
That was the mood that prevailed in the county for months after that wonderful victory and Michael captured it perfectly.
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