In early February, before the Covid 19 made such an impact on our way of life, I went to Tullamore for an evening of sport.
I was joined on a panel by former footballers Seamus Darby from Offaly, Pat O Neill from Dublin and Johnny Hughes from Galway. The event had a twofold objective: 1, to pay tribute to Paddy Fenning an All-Ireland winner with Offaly in 1971 and 1972, and, 2, to raise funds for motor neurone disease, a progressive neurological condition that attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
The event was expected to attract an attendance of 300 people but 750 people turned up. It was a typical GAA evening with a wonderful atmosphere, lots of laughter, great stories and lots of fun.
Although suffering from the advanced stages of motor neurone Paddy Fenning was in great form and was simply an inspiration in how he was dealing with his illness.
On the pitch Paddy was a key member of that great Offaly team.
He was an industrious forward who was unflinching in the robust physical exchanges that typified the game in the era that he played in.
His determination on the pitch was matched by his can do attitude off the pitch.
As yet there is no cure for motor neurone, but Paddy Fenning decided to play his part in advancing the cause by assembling a group of friends with the objective of raising £150.000 to research the condition and support those who suffer from it.
Paddy was delighted to learn that the £50,000 mark had been passed despite fundraising activity grinding to a halt in recent months because of the Covid 19 crisis.
Paddy died last weekend.
There does tend to be a stock of trite phases that we instinctively use at a time like this, perhaps diminishing their meaning and impact somewhat as a result, but Paddy Fenning added an extra layer of definition to many of the words that people used as they reflected on the remarkable life that he had.
(Above: Paddy Fenning was on the great Offaly side that won the All-Ireland SFC Final in 1972, having beaten Donegal in the semi-final).
He was selfless and driven. He exuded class in many different ways, but most of all he was brave-from the fearless manner in which he played his football, right through to the manner in which he bore his illness over the past year.
Paddy who was an exceptional character who made a deep imprint on all those who were lucky enough to have known him and he will be an incredible loss to his wife Kathryn, his daughter Amy and son Barry to whom I extend my deepest sympathy.
Donegal and Kerry
Looking at the Sunday Game last Sunday night which featured Donegal’s match with Kerry in Croke Park last year was a bit of a tonic.
This game epitomised all that is good about present day football, and both teams displayed all the ingredients necessary to put a dent in Dublin’s superiority in the next few years.
I remember coming out of Croke Park after that game and feeling more than a little optimistic regarding Donegal’s championship prospects this year.
Kerry players who are born into a winning tradition can be propelled by that tradition to ongoing success while so often in the past teams who have battled from years of failure take a particular pleasure in defeating more storied opponents.
Since Donegal became a team to be reckoned with back in 1972 the inferiority complex that prevailed was buried once and for all.
In the past the colour of a Kerry jersey was enough to unravel many teams prospects of victory against them but to their credit Declan Bonner and his predecessors in the managers chair have seen
Donegal become serious contenders at the top table in the quest for honours in recent times, and that game against Kerry was a clear example of the quality of the current Donegal side.
When “live” football returns we in Donegal have much to look forward to.
Pauric McShea is a former Donegal captain, and is a regular contributor to the Donegal Post newspaper.
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