Match between Creggs and Michael Glavey’s revives local memories

Our columnist Frank Brandon muses on Creggs versus Michael Glavey’s, young footballers (their exceptionalism and the expectations on them), the Creggs Harvest Festival, and family baptisms… 

It’s a beautiful Friday evening as I write, and after what seems like an eternity of non-stop wind and rain, the sun is finally shining as our Creggs footballers head for Ballinlough where we are due to play Michael Glavey’s in a game that is doubling up as an O’Gara Cup and Michael Keane memorial cup match.

The Keane brothers, Peter and Mick, who originally came from Coalpits outside Creggs, were the proprietors of the iconic business that was Keane’s of Cloonfad.

For many years their fabulous pub was a favourite watering hole for any Creggs person who might be passing that way. As a very young lad, I can remember spending many an hour sitting outside Keane’s eating copious amounts of chocolate and sweets and drinking minerals, while my father and what seemed like all of Creggs discussed the happenings in MacHale Park earlier that day.

The Keanes never forgot their Creggs roots, and no matter where we played back in those days you would see one or other (or both) in attendance, unashamedly supporting the Creggs team, and also (obviously enough, being Cloonfad businessmen) staying deeply involved in the affairs of the Michael Glavey’s club.

And so, way back in 1983, American-based Creggs men Christy Keegan, Jimmy Kenny, and Cloonfad’s Michael Walsh decided to put up the Mick Keane Cup in honour of the great Creggs supporter. The first time the cup was played for was in the legendary Gaelic Park in New York, when the touring Creggs football team played St Barnabas from New York, who defeated a very jet-lagged, weary, and hungover Creggs outfit. In the end however, they gave the cup to the Creggs men – even though, as Marty Hegarty said at the time, “we didn’t win on the scoreboard”.

In the forty years since that memorable first game, which was played in front of almost a thousand supporters, the Mick Keane Cup has evolved in a number of different ways. But now, thanks to Mick’s son Francie, who is a respected GAA man and a well-known referee, the cup is played for whenever the two clubs meet. Unfortunately though, the balance is hugely in Glavey’s favour – and Friday night was no different.

The local team won decisively, and captain Caoilfinn Fitzmaurice, who also received the Francie Keane-sponsored Glavey’s Player of the Game award, accepted the cup on behalf of his team. On our side, Shane Dowd got the award as the Creggs Player of the Match.

As I walked across the pitch, which was in remarkable condition considering the recent rainfall, I cast a glance over at the Dermot Earley stand, and my mind went back 50 years to a memorable three-game battle we had with the Earley-inspired Glavey’s team in the quarter-final of the senior championship of 1974. After three fabulous games, we got through to the semi-final, where we managed to beat St Brigid’s and qualified for our only ever appearance in a senior final, where a very strong Roscommon Gaels beat us by three or four points.

Anyway, while over there Friday, I met another legend of Roscommon football, Gerry Fitzmaurice. In our little chat, I told him that I can never remember beating Glavey’s in Ballinlough in my lifetime. Maybe I’m wrong, but on Friday there was no doubt as to where the Mick Keane Cup was going to reside at least for another twelve months.

Thanks to the very kind ladies of the Glavey’s ladies committee, there was lovely tea, sandwiches and buns upstairs in the clubhouse after the game; if our lads were second best on the field, they performed more than adequately when it came to sampling the very welcome grub, and all were very complimentary to hospitality provided by the Glavey’s club.

Pub punditry on promising (and punishing) players

After coming back from Ballinlough (see separate item), a few of us adjourned to Mikeen’s, where, with all of the GAA matters that were coming our way over the next two days, the chat (not unusually) was mostly about upcoming matches – both hurling and football.

However, before I go onto the senior games… a good bit of the early chat was about the minor hurling match that was to be played on Saturday afternoon between Galway and Kilkenny, and about the fact that a young lad from Mount Mary was playing corner-back for Galway.

Cathal Maloney, son of Tommy and Edel, plays his hurling with Ballygar, and I had heard that he was a special talent. However, a video that was put together of his performances for the school in Ballygar showed him to be simply amazing, and no words of mine could describe the outrageous brilliance of his play. Some of the scores he got, both goals and points, bordered on the miraculous, and would have been worthy of the great Joe Canning or Henry Shefflin at their best.

As it happened, Kilkenny beat Galway on Saturday, but apparently young Maloney was a stand-out performer. The local hurling pundits wondered why such a talent was played at corner-back, when apparently the Galway forwards were pretty poor.

Anyway, keep an eye out for him – let’s hope he makes the most of his undoubted talent and some day graces Croke Park with the Galway senior team!

However, back to the pub chat: as a renowned pundit, I told the assembled audience that Sligo would put it up to Galway (which I got right), but I also told them that I wouldn’t have a certain Robert Finnerty on our Junior B team… I was only joking of course, but for some reason I didn’t rate the Galway forward very highly.

Twenty-four hours later and I was glad to eat humble pie as Finnerty, with one goal and five points, almost single-handedly kept Galway in the race for a Connacht title.

I am more than happy to admit I got it wrong, but as a Galway supporter I wouldn’t have a huge lot of belief in our ability to either beat Mayo and win the Connacht title, or mount any type of serious challenge for Sam Maguire.

As we talked about the effort that an inter-county player has to put in to pursue a county career, I was flabbergasted to hear that even at the U-16 level, lads are expected to toe the line, so much so that lads on a Connacht County U-16 development squad were allegedly told that if they went on their school TY three-day trip to some place in Europe, they would be dropped off the county panel! In one case a father had already paid €600 for his son’s trip, but as the lad wanted to stay on the panel, the father had to forfeit the money.

I make no secret of my feelings about the issue of drinking bans and other such restrictions that are imposed on county players (in case you don’t know, I think they are ridiculous), but surely we can all agree stopping young people from going on supervised educational trips with their school friends is definitely going too far.

Anyway, it was a fantastic sporting weekend. Jim McGuinness made a spectacular return to inter-county management with Donegal, but for someone who still longs for the cut and thrust of the old knockout championship, I have to say that the sad truth is that Derry are still there and will definitely come back even better than before. And in case you think I am anti-Derry, I am not!

I just wish all the teams who lost their games would be out of the championship, and not have a second chance. It’s just not the same feeling when you beat one of your big rivals, but know you could well see them again later on in the year.

Sowing further success for Harvest Festival

Out here in Creggs, we are very proud that our local Harvest Festival has been running for over forty years, and that the 2023 one was as successful as ever!

However, there is a feeling abroad that new blood is needed to guide the ship forward – in the words of a well-known local activist, “too many of the volunteers have the free travel”.

Accordingly, from 9 pm on Thursday, May 9th, a meeting will be held in the Heritage Centre to try to figure out how to proceed into the future, and it’s to be hoped that new blood will show up and express an interest in getting involved.

The festival is part of the heritage of Creggs, and having survived Covid and lots of other difficulties over the years, I sincerely hope this appeal will not fall on deaf ears – and that new, enthusiastic members will come on board and ensure the survival of the festival well into the future.

So don’t forget: 9 pm at the Heritage Centre on May 9th – please be there!

And finally….

On Sunday afternoon, after Mass, a number of us arrived at our local Catholic Church, where our parish priest Fr Donal Morris was due to baptise little Hayley, second child of our daughter Lisa and her husband Brian.

It goes without saying that Hayley didn’t want to have anything to do with the Baptismal ceremony, and protested at the top of her very healthy lungs. To his credit, Fr Donal had seen it all before and wasn’t the slightest bit perturbed, and got the job done without any fuss at all.

Afterwards we adjourned to the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon, where thirteen adults and four children sat down to a lovely four-course meal, and as it very seldom happens that all our immediate and extended family get to meet, it was a really lovely day.

Once upon a time a christening would be a recipe for a good old-fashioned session, but times have changed, and we all headed off on our separate ways without ever visiting the bar… or any other bar!