It was a watershed day in O'Donnell Park, Letterkenny on Saturday last - the final of the second most important championship in the county, the Intermediate Championship decider.
But while the competition on the field was fair and fiercely contested, the contest to get a place in the press box was one-sided and grossly unfair. The written press, who have been covering Gaelic Games since its inception, were excluded with radio and streaming given all 17 places.
I was one of a number of written press who turned up early on Saturday to be told that I didn't have a place in the press box. Representing the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press and Donegal Post, I was hoping to have a report for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions as well as an online report on the final whistle.
To do so I needed a bench and a power point, something that is normally available. When places are tight, one journalist from each of the main newspapers is given a seat with the rest in the overflow. That would have been sufficient also on Saturday.
But the powers that be decided that the press box would be the sole domain of the radios - some of which had three and four representatives on the 'list of 17'.
It was time to take a stand and I waited until the Co PRO arrived to put my case. I was asked to wait a moment and he came back and said that there was no room. I immediately informed him that I would be leaving. It was a difficult decision to make, but one that hopefully will put down a marker for the future.
I don't have that much time left in this profession but for the younger members of the written press, hopefully they will not be treated in the same manner.
It is important to point out that I don't have any issue with local radio getting places in the press box; my issue is that we should be all treated on an equal basis for those places.
My relationship with various Co PROs over the years has been very good and I have supplied all types of material, articles, photos, etc., when needed. Indeed, only last week I supplied the photos needed for the Intermediate and Senior final programmes, as well as using our archives to supply reports and photos from the Jubilee team of 1995.
Alongside that co-operation, the amount of Gaelic Games coverage provided by our group of newspapers from January 1 to December 31 each year would sit well in any audit of coverage. When put alongside the lop-sided approach for the use of facilities on Saturday last, it begs the question: Do we matter any more?
I had considered writing to the Co Board and asking many questions but I found that by Tuesday I didn't have the energy.
As it turned out I was back home in time to watch the stream of the final, missing the first 15 minutes. And it was a very good contest with the rub of the green going with Aodh Ruadh. And when they got the chance they took it with both hands.
It was frustrating not to be there as I'm a paid-up member of the Aodh Ruadh club and have covered many of their matches. They have added a bit of grit this year and in the end that's what got them over the line in both the semi-final and final.
They will have to improve again to play senior championship, but the club needed the win. They are a big club with many branches but they need their flagship team doing well.
I really felt for Shaun McClafferty, the Cloughaneely 'keeper. My thoughts went back to Paul Durcan and Donegal in 2014 against Kerry and Brendan McDyer of Naomh Conaill against St Eunan's in the 2012 county final. When a kick goes astray outfield, there is every chance that it can be rectified but goalkeepers are in that rare position, a mistake can be so costly. I know Cloughaneely were losing for the second year in-a-row but even at this early stage I feel Shaun and his team will not be far away in 2021.
FOOTNOTE: It's not hard to know what my footnote is this week, and it a harsh word of criticism for my own club Aodh Ruadh. In the past I have hit out at other clubs for using the match programme on final day for tactical purposes, mixing up the jersey numbers. Aodh Ruadh took it to a new level on Saturday that was ridiculous and disrespectful. Having just three or four players with the correct numbers, they may have got an advantage early on as Cloughaneely came to terms with the various changes. But the tactic brings the game into disrepute. It was disrespectful to the press and to those paying to watch the game online. And what really worries me is that because they won the game, some team mentors will feel that it is the way to go. It needs to be nipped in the bud. There has to be a severe penalty, one that will make sure that this does not happen again.
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