BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Sadness in the air this week with loss of two great friends

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Sadness in the air this week with loss of two great friends

It is with great sadness I begin this week and the passing of two men very dear to me in different ways.

One was my brother Pat, in Belleek, and the other was Michael Gillespie, or Michaél  Mac Giolla Easpuic, as he was known by others. 

They were two men very dear to me and they both passed on to their eternal reward last week. 

Pat was a few years older than me. But I used to call him my big brother. We were very close and Pat, as well as being my brother, was also a good friend.

We played football together before I emigrated to Canada, and we won a Donegal junior league and championship with Bundoran in 1960 and ‘61. 

We also played intermediate football in Dublin, with the Clan Na Gael club, the great Mickey Whelan’s club, who played with Dublin and managed them in later years and was involved with Dublin teams in recent years. 

Pat was a tough, hard defender who took no prisoners. Unfortunately injury cut his career short at a young age.

But he never lost his love for Gaelic football and was a great follower of Donegal and really enjoyed watching football. Gaelic football was his game, he had no interest in soccer.

He was a good character and always good company and he was one of those people that always wore a smile and I’m really going to miss him, as are all his family.

Pat McEniff and Micheál Mac Giolla Easbuic

Naturally my friendship with Michael Gillespie, the Chief, as he was commonly known, was a different kind of friendship. It was one that developed over time.

I first met Michael in 1970. It was at the Southern Division Scór final in Dorrian’s Hotel in Ballyshannon. Michael and Phonsie Ward, Finian’s father, were the judges. 

I was a member of the Bundoran ballad group. I played the tin whistle on the night.

Michael and Phonsie decided they were not up to judging the Irish dancing. Someone must have told them I did Irish dancing as a young lad so I was asked to do the necessary.   

It was no big deal really because May Kelly from Ballyshannon was a champion Irish dancer and she was representing Aodh Ruadh. 

So May won the dancing and there were no complaints afterwards, she was by far the best dancer on the night. We (Bundoran) won the ballad group.   

I saw Michael play a few times for Kilcar after that. He was a goalkeeper and his younger brother Danny played on the county minor team.

It was during my stint as manager in the 1980s that I got to know him really well. I was the team manager and he was the county chairman. 

It was lean times. Money was scarce and we crossed swords a few times. It wasn’t always plain sailing between us.

Michael was very much a letter of the law man and everything had to be by the book. He was rigid in applying the rules and following regulations.

You know me, it was all about the team and winning at all costs and so what if a few rules and regulations were flouted. It was all for the good of Donegal football. 

But we never had a serious fallout and the friendship grew and respect between us grew as well. We soon learned we both had the one goal and the one objective to progress Donegal football. 

He worked with me for a year or two as a physio/rub man when I returned as manager in 1990. He enjoyed that role too and he was very popular with the players. 

I replaced Michael on the Central Council when he was elected trustee. He was a great help when I first joined Central Council and marked my card. He used to phone before meetings and mark my card on issues that were coming up.

He really enjoyed his time in Croke Park and he made many good friends there and was highly respected. He became good friends with Joe McDonagh from Galway, later to become President. The great John Doyle, the legendary hurler from Tipperary, was another good friend. 

I got to know Bernadette, his wife and son Gregory  down the years too. 

Gregory is an accountant and lives and works in Cork.  And it is rather ironic he lives in a place called Ballinhassig where my wife Cautie’s people hail from and a niece of Cautie’s also works with him.

So the ties remain. I have great and fond memories from my relationships with both Pat and Michael and it just makes we sad to think they are no longer with us. 

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.

All-Ireland final

It may be less that two weeks to Christmas, but next weekend is All-Ireland football final weekend. 

Last weekend we had the hurling final. Limerick won their second All-Ireland in three years. They were much the better side though Waterford against all the odds battled to the end.   

But there was an air of inevitability about the outcome from very early that the physically bigger and stronger Limerick men were going to win. I was so taken with the side and physicality of Limerick. I looked up their stats. 

The wing-back Kyle Hayes is 6’6” and the right half-forward Gearóid Hegarty is 6’5’’. They are just two examples but they had big men all over the field. Waterford did not stand a chance.

I know we harboured notions earlier in the year about making the football final. But Cavan and possibly our own complacency put an end to those notions. 

The reality with Dublin standing in our in the semi-final it was always going to be a tall order. Dublin chasing six in-a-row are there again and their old foes Mayo are back to face them again.

I have been impressed with Mayo this season from what I have seen of them. And from early in the season I got the feeling they were likely candidates to make the final.

James Horan has freshened the team up. He was brought in five young lads. He has a new young player on every line and the rest of the team had responded.

Now, it remains to be seen if they are good enough to topple Dublin. I doubt not. If they get their kickouts and midfield sorted out they certainly have the forwards to ask questions off the Dubs. 

Will they win when it comes down to it? It is hard to look past Dublin winning a sixth in-a-row. 

Finally this week good luck to Luke Barrett and the Donegal minors who play Tyrone on Sunday in the first round of the delayed Ulster Minor Championship. A win would be sweet.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack

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