It’s going to be a tough few weeks for non sport lovers. Not only did the biggest sporting event of the year kick off last weekend, but the Olympics also started. But let’s start with the big one.
The Leitrim football championship took centre stage across the county with a full weekend of matches in the senior and intermediate competitions. Due to a change in the format this year’s championship features an increased number of games with three groups of four teams now playing a round-robin format to reach the quarter-finals.
The big one of the weekend featured my own club Melvin Gaels against the team that has set the standard for every other side in the competition – reigning champions Glencar Manorhamilton. Nobody needs reminding that our north Leitrim neighbours are chasing a record breaking five-in-a-row this year and a quick look at the Division 1 league table show they are maintaining their remarkable form of recent years with just one defeat in eight games in 2012 placing them firmly on top of the pile (their scoring difference is a breathtaking 129 points for and 66 against).
After Saturday’s game I was chatting to a Melvin Gaels man who described the first half as an intriguing, tactical battle. I think he was being a little too generous. It was a dull affair littered with plenty of good endeavour but some very poor finishing resulting in a half-time score of 0-3 to 0-1 to Manor.
Thankfully the second half turned into a real ding-dong battle with some fine scores (with both sides hitting some great efforts from distance), real intensity, numerous changes of the lead, and a grandstand finale. The Gaels looked like they might have done enough to sneak the win when they edged two points ahead with as many minutes left, but Manor displayed a wealth of experience and resolve to pull level calmly taking advantage of the four minutes injury time at their disposal.
Indeed, they could have won it with the last kick of the game but their ’45 that tailed just to the right and wide. But all in all a draw was the fairest result and both sides will be happy to have come through the local derby with something to show for it.
Mohill took full advantage of the draw to take pole position in Group 1 with a comprehensive win over a Carrigallen side that has lost much of the talent that helped them contest the senior championship final just three years ago. Again, looking at the league positions of these two teams, this result shouldn’t have come as any surprise. This group has been named the group of death, but I would look at it as being the group of opportunity. Whoever comes out of it should be the favourites to push on in this year’s championship and the stern tests they will have encountered early on should stand to them.
Elsewhere in this paper you will get comprehensive reports on all the senior and intermediate games so I won’t deal with them individually, other than to note Allen Gaels first win in the group stages in six years. The Drumshanbo men managed to retain senior status with remarkable resolve in the relegation playoffs during that time, and their delight at returning to winnings ways was palpable when I stopped off in Joe Gunning’s on the way back to Kinlough on Saturday night.
The reason for the detour was to say cheerio to one of Allen Gaels greatest servants of the past decade, Donncha Lynch.
Last week I mentioned some of the team mates I was lucky enough to share a pitch with them I first started playing with Leitrim at U16 grade. Donncha was another of them, and since those halcyon days we have become great, lifelong friends. On Saturday night Donncha’s family and friends gathered to bid adieu for now to a son, brother, cousin, uncle and friend who has been forced to seek out a new life on the distant shores of west Australia due to the economic recession we are currently working (or not as the case may be) our way through.
It was an emotional night – one so many families have experienced since the recession hit – but the love and best wishes that flowed to Donncha and his wife Oihiana will stand them in good stead as they set up their new home in Perth. Donncha has given great service to his club and county throughout his playing career and I have no doubt sport will offer him a great ‘in’ to his new community, as so many of our ex-pats have found as they have travelled the world, either through choice or necessity.
No doubt Donncha and all our other global Leitrimites will be watching closely from afar next weekend as the second round of the championship paints a more accurate picture on who will progress to the quarter-finals.
The entire world, it would appear, has its eyes firmly fixed on London and the Olympic Games. Leitrim’s Olympians Colin Griffins and Laura Reynolds have another week to wait until their chance to shine arrives (both are competing on August 11) so I’ll touch on what that means to the county in greater details next Wednesday. In the meantime I want to mention two events taking place in Leitrim for two great causes.
From the 24th of July to the 28th of July, a group of seven Tyrone Gaels travelled the country to take a penalty in a club in every County in Ireland as part of their ‘32-32-32’ fundraiser for the Simon Community homeless charity. The Aughawillan club hosted the Leitrim spot-kick last Friday.
Having worked for the North West Simon Community (which covers Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal) for a very rewarding 12 months I would encourage all clubs in Leitrim to support this creative fundraiser: every club in the country has been asked to donate just €32 to support the great local services offered by Simon in their local county. Full details are available at http://www.32-32-32.com/
This weekend will see the 5th Annual South Leitrim 80k take place on Saturday. It departs from Mohill at 10am and takes in Ballinamore, Drumshanbo, Leitrim Village, Carrick-on-Shannon, Dromod and back to Mohill. It’s a great way to see some of the county while raising money for a great cause (The Northwest Hospice) with plenty of fun at the post-event barbeque back in Mohill. Contact organiser Tracy Kivlehan on 087 7511743if you have any questions or wish to take part.