Like most of the country – except our friends in Cork and Donegal – I enjoyed today’s GAA action immensely.
Due to work commitments, I didn’t see the Munster Final, and wasn’t overly surprised at Tipperary’s victory. That they should win the Munster Football Final one hundred years on from Bloody Sunday is very poignant. On a purely footballing level – away from the emotion of the centenary – it is a remarkable achievement. A penny/cent (or more) for what people are thinking in Kerry…
I was back home for the big match, and I’m not referring to Leeds v Arsenal. I held out little hope for Cavan in the Ulster Football Final. They’d had a great campaign up to this point, but the presumption was that streetwise Donegal would suffocate them and win by as much as eight, ten or more points.
We of little faith. Mickey Graham, a contender for man of the year, wasn’t finished yet. His players were superb. What a performance! They took great scores, defended/tackled with a Donegal/Tyrone-like ferocity, withstood those two black card decisions, and held their composure to achieve a historic victory. I know from personal experience that the Cavan fans are amongst the most passionate in the country. It is so sad that they can’t travel to the semi-final. What a wonderful win.
It was a remarkable afternoon of football. Why did ‘we’ ever abandon the knockout format?
At Louth County Board meetings in recent years (with respect to all previous managers of their senior football team), delegates might have daydreamed…‘ah, if we only had a Jim Gavin or a Jim McGuinness or a Mickey H…’
Fantasy football really. Still, maybe it’s good to dream big. Now, in a shock development not unlike when Leeds acquired the services of the great Marcelo Bielsa, or when Rafael Benítez joined Newcastle – and actually stayed with them when they were relegated – Louth have made a daring cross-border raid and landed one Mickey Harte. They pounced quickly, before he even got a chance to buy slippers, commit more time to golf or sample the delights of afternoon TV.
It reminds me of when Westmeath poached the irrepressible Páidí Ó Sé, leading to memorable scenes as the charismatic Kerry man (with RTE reporter Ciaran Mullooly in hot pursuit) arrived to banner-waving, foot-stomping, yahooing scenes of delight.
So, Louth thought big. When Mickey Harte’s Tyrone reign ended, they put in an audacious call. Louth secretary Bob Doheny admits they weren’t really expecting a get a yes. But fortune has favoured the brave. Just last week, I predicted that Mickey – who was all grins when he appeared in a BBC studio on his first weekend out of the dugout – would be back in management very soon.
It’s a fascinating appointment. Ó Sé, unbelievably, won Leinster with Westmeath. Harte dips his toes into the province in a more sobering era, with Dublin rewriting the history books. For Louth, it turns out that a good Harte was not so hard to find.
The official opening of a beautiful new astroturf facility in Kilbride last March was a notably happy occasion, the local community coming together to celebrate the completion of another very worthy project.
There was a large crowd in attendance, people mingling and chatting, the pride of the parish much in evidence. It was a bitterly cold (but nice) day, and besides, hearts were glowing warmly. Within a week, such mingling was no longer possible, as Covid-19 bared its teeth here and a lockdown was quickly implemented.
Fr. Raymond Browne was beaming that day, his passion and enthusiasm at inspirational as ever. By then in his early 90s, he made little of the cutting wind and biting cold, and was in his element, amongst his own.
When he addressed guests, Fr. Browne quoted Pope John Paul II and Dermot Earley. His message was both simple and striking. Love your parish. Become involved in the life of your community. Give your time. Follow this maxim: “Give back to my community”.
I was very saddened to hear the news that Fr. Browne died earlier today. I got to know him in the late 1980s and met him on and off over the years, including just last month. Only recently hospitalised, he was still going strong up to a few weeks ago, his energy boundless, his generosity of spirit humbling and inspirational.
He was an absolute one-off, a man who made an enormous contribution to pastoral and community life in County Roscommon over several decades.
A highly intelligent and very well travelled man, he was the ultimate people person, while devoid of ego. His energy was remarkable. A man of great vision, he was, without question, one of the most civic-minded people this county has ever had the good fortune to count amongst its own.
As an advocate for his parishioners, for Kilbride, for Roscommon, for everywhere he served, he had no equal. And everything he did, he did with an easy humility. He leaves an immense legacy. I know that hearts will be heavy in Kilbride this week, as an era ends with the passing of Fr. Raymond Browne. May he rest in peace. (We will have more tributes next week).