Leitrim’s win caps off a week that put a spring in this Gael’s step

The lads served up the perfect response to their poor showing against Clare with a performance all Leitrim fans would like to become familiar with. Any time a Leitrim team hits 1-16 you know they were moving well.

The lads served up the perfect response to their poor showing against Clare with a performance all Leitrim fans would like to become familiar with. Any time a Leitrim team hits 1-16 you know they were moving well.

With both teams reduced to 14 men before half time the game was going to be an open affair. Carlow kicked hard after their sending off and twice pulled the game back to a point shortly after the restart but some fantastic scores – not to mention a great save from Brendan Flynn, deputising for the injured Cathal McCrann – allowed us the space on the scoreboard to make the available space on the field count in the final ten minutes. While Emlyn once again highlighted his class, the spread of scores was also very welcome, especially James Glancy’s fantastic return to form in front of goals. His 1-1 from play, Leitrim’s first two scores, was the foundation on which the win was built.

We may still rue the home loss to Clare but with Limerick continuing their unbeaten run we remain very much in with a shout for promotion. Coming back with a seriously improved performance after the three-week league break shows the Leitrim management can have an impact when they have time to work with the lads. They proved as much last year when they turned the championship year around following the mauling at the hands of Mayo. The challenge now is to drill some more consistency into their play.

Another run like the FBD – with four wins on the trot –and we could be playing our last game with promotion as the prize. We’re a long way off that yet, but Sunday’s game showed some real Spring shoots that should be nurtured and encouraged to grow.

All in all, the trip to Dr Cullen Park provided a suitably sun-kissed conclusion to what was a great week. It started off on Monday with a pitch-side photocall in Croke Park with an tUachtarán CLG, Liam O’Neill, and Michéal O’Muircheartaigh. We were launching a new partnership between the Irish Greyhound Board and the GAA Social Initiative, one of the programmes I have responsibility for in HQ. It was started up in 2009 at the behest of then President Mary McAleese who noticed a dearth of older men attending the many functions she hosted or visited across the 32 counties.

A task force set up to examine the issue identified the GAA as a potential vehicle to tackle the isolation and loneliness that was deemed to be at the heart of the problem. The initiative started out as a pilot in four counties and has since grown to include approximately 200 clubs across the 32 counties. It has also evolved into providing activities and events for any interested senior citizens in our communities – both men and women – but all active clubs are asked to make a concerted effort to reach out to that often hard to reach cohort of isolated older men in particular.

While it is the high profile trips to the GAA museum in Croke Park or the Titanic Centre in Belfast that often captures the media’s imagination around the GAA Social Initiative, the most important work is often done by club members simply visiting those who have become cut off from their communities due to an array of possible circumstances. Bringing an elderly neighbour to a local league match could be the highlight of their week if other social opportunities are limited or non-existent.

Of course, GAA members have been doing this for years before the GAA Social Initiative was ever heard of, but the structure now in place can offer clubs assistance and support in this important community outreach work if they identify a need in their particular area. Clubs like Sean O’Heslin’s Ballinmore and Drumreilly has done great work in the sphere and in the past teamed up with some counterpart clubs in Cavan for some interesting projects. The one and only Tommy Moran is the Leitrim GAA Social Initiative Coordinator.

Anyway, Michéal O’Muircheartaigh is a great supporter of the Initiative and a huge greyhound enthusiast and was the natural choice to launch this particular partnership. The IGB is offering all participating GAA clubs free entry to their venues on selected days for their Social Initiative members. It’s just another way a club can offer a fun night out to some of their more senior members. (If your club is interested in getting involved, email emmet.haughian@gaa.ie or call 01-86582393).

Michéal, as ever, regaled us with tales from across the generations, with one in particular about our very own 1927 Connacht winning captain, the late Tom Gannon, leaving everyone amazed and enthralled. It’ll take me too long to fill you in on it here as I’ve nearly run out of space but I promise to come back to it next week.

I concluded my Monday by chairing a forum in the Kilglass Gaels club outside Rooskey that touched on all aspects related to sport and modern life. Contributors included Roscommon captain Cathal Cregg, the new Connacht GAA Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, former Leitrim manager John O’Mahoney, Cliodhna O’Connor, Dublin Ladies goalkeeper and development worker with Ladies GAA, Melvin Gael’s own Gareth Foley, and probably the most decorated player in club GAA history, Oisin McConville. Oisin had just announced his retirement from the game the day before and everyone in attendance was engrossed by his sporting and personal testimonies. (Niall Kilcrann, former Leitrim Ladies manager, deserves great kudos for pulling the night together.)

It was an honour to share the stage with Oisin, someone I have worked with on a number of occasions over the past 18 months as we often cross paths through our similar work in the realm of raising awareness around the pitfalls of addiction, be it through substance misuse or gambling. If ever anyone deserved to enjoy his retirement from the game, it’s Oisin. Something I’m sure his wife and young son will testify to. A word of warning though, he revealed he’s gone straight into management with Crossmaglen – with the U8s. They’re already rebuilding!

Liatroim abú.