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ULSTER SAYS YES BUT HAS KEATING? IT’S WALSHY ON WEDNESDAY

first_imgULSTER SAYS YES AS THE RIGHT FINALISTS AND THE RIGHT VENUE DECIDEDRyan McHughAfter sharing sixty-one points in total and 151 minutes of play, it was down to the very narrowest of margins as Donegal claimed their place in yet another Ulster Championship Final – their sixth in succession – with that semi-final replay win over Monaghan.But whether it’s one point or twenty-one, the outcome’s the same – a trip to Clones and another tilt at those fiercest of rivals, Tyrone.And Clones it will be despite the suggestion from Dublin’s Ciaran Whelan that the Ulster showdown should be switched to Croke Park.This column argued last year that H.Q. was hosting too many Championship ties. Once it just involved the All-Ireland Final and semi-finals – now it’s quarter-finals and whatever else is in the pipeline, surely taking away the gloss of playing at that most prestigious of venues.by Paddy WalshI totally agree with Martin McElhinney that an Ulster Final belongs in Ulster and nowhere else. The unique atmosphere that is St. Tiernach’s Park on big match days brings a real sense of occasion to it – and there’s no sense of occasion like an Ulster Final.“At the end of the day, we’re all from Ulster and we want to play our big games in Ulster, “ the St. Michael’s man insisted. And Ulster says yes.Due to attendance at the Mile Challenge event in Letterkenny, I didn’t get to see the Donegal match (not that there was anything to see if you were relying on ‘live’ television coverage) but from all accounts, it was, despite the sole point that separated the sides at the end, a thoroughly deserved win for Rory Gallagher’s men.They should, of course, have had it wrapped up in the initial game even with the disadvantage of finishing with fourteen men but on Saturday evening last they were on the ball in every sense.Unlike the drawn game, Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty were back with targets in sight – sharing nine points between them in Donegal’s total of seventeen.And it’s in that area of the field where Jim McGuinness, believes his former team can dictate matters against Tyrone.Should be a Clones cracker with an atmosphere to match. LEE CLOCKS ANOTHER SUB-4 MINUTE MILE AND EYES A MOVE TO DONEGALCould Letterkenny A.C. soon have their very own sub four-minute miler on board? As those of you who attended last weekend’s big athletics meeting – sadly, not big enough for far too many of you – involving twenty different nations and a host of quality international athletes will know, the club can now boast of having hosted another successful sub four minute mile event.This time it was the turn of Englishman, Lee Emanuel, to mark the achievement at the Danny McDaid Track at the Aura Leisure Centre last Saturday evening.A silver medallist at last year’s European Indoor Championships , the Hastings born competitor was a popular winner of the mile challenge, breaking the line in a time of 3:59.66 just in front of fellow compatriot, Robbie Fitzgibbon.The following day, Lee clocked up a lot more miles as he and he Canadian girlfriend, Kendra, undertook a tour of North Donegal including a visit to Fanad Lighthouse (“very impressive”) and other scenic sights.So taken were the couple with every aspect of their three day visit, not least the reception he received after his feat on the track, that they may yet forego intentions of emigrating to Canada and instead opt for the hills of Donegal!“We have been planning to move to Canada but we could yet revise this plan. We’ve really enjoyed our short stay here and Donegal could be a serious option,” the affable middle distance runner declared.I got chatting to him the day after his mile achievement and he genuinely was impressed.“It was the most fun end to a race I’ve ever had – the crowd at trackside were very encouraging. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.”He only decided to come to Letterkenny at virtually the last minute. “Daragh [McDaid} had contacted me some time ago to extend an invitation and it was just last week when I made the decision to come and got onto him to see if the invite was still open.”Not the only event on the evening and not the only outstanding performance either. How about the 84.10 metres throw by Czech Republic athlete, Petr Frydrych, in the javelin? Incredible to watch and confirmed as the second longest throw ever recorded on this island.As my old mate, Brian McArt, put it: “We might need another field for this fellow.”Poland’s Karoline Zawila was also putting distance into her event – achieving 6.41m in the women’s long jump discipline. And a number of other track records broken by others in the star-studded field.A few quality performances, too, from some of the local athletes, not least Letterkenny A.C.’s, Ciaran Doherty, who came home in fourth place in the 3,000 metres. And there was a second and third placings respectively for local club athletes, Donal Farren and Matthew Johnston in the junior 1,500 metres.A memorable event overall and the greatest of credit to those involved with Letterkenny A.C. who put it together – the fourth Sub 4 Minute Mile Challenge hosted by the club. There is some organisation involved particularly when you have eighty athletes representing twenty countries from all over the globe competing.“I wish the weather was a bit better, it was a little cold but it was fun to take part,” Ari Bragi Karason, who competed in the 100 metres for men, declared afterwards. He came from Iceland for the event and had, as you might have expected, one eye on proceedings at Euro 2016.So where were you all? I know the footballers of Monaghan had a part to play in your failure to show – that late point at Breffni Park the weekend before last ensuring a replay that, unfortunately, coincided precisely with Saturday evening’s international track and field show.But sadly, it’s true what they say – athletics is very much the poorer relation when it comes to drawing the crowds. And yet some of the athletes who participated will be lining up at the European Championships – Lee Emanuel included – which start in Amsterdam today and will also be competing in the little matter of the Olympic Games in Rio next month.It’s unlikely that Lee will have donned a Letterkenny A.C. vest by then but don’t rule it out in the foreseeable future. “If we come to settle in Donegal, that will be my club,” he pledged.There you are, straight from the Sub-4 Minute Miler’s mouth.JUST THE TICKET FOR DIARMUID Should also mention another great performance at last weekend’s event at the Aura. You’ll be more used to hearing him on radio but now you’ll get a chance to eye him on the big screen. Or, I should say, with the big screen.For didn’t my former newspaper colleague, Diarmaid Doherty, achieve a personal best by tracking the winning ticket in the prize draw that coincided with the event. Cue a 42” television set arriving at the Doherty household.That’s an additional screen for him now to watch Spurs blowing another title bid…!McCLEAN COMES TO TOWN AND SHOWS HIS TRUE COLOURSSeamus Coleman and James McCleanSeamus Coleman, a true leader on the pitch. And a player who can captain Ireland for many years to come.Not my words – though I’d whole-heartedly endorse them – but those of fellow international, James McClean during a visit to Letterkenny last Saturday afternoon.There’s a great image of the Derryman immediately following Robbie Brady’s winning goal against Italy in that pulsating Euro 16 clash. He’s chasing down the goalscorer with a smile that’s as broad as the widest stretch of the Foyle. The other side of a player who has been involved in some controversial incidents during his career.That other side was again there for all to see when the West Bromwich Albion and former Derry City winger sat at a tricolour bedecked table in Brian McCormick’s sports shop on Letterkenny’s Main Street and patiently posed for photographs and signed countless autographs for a legion of fans, young and old.Thanks to the ever obliging Brian himself, I got an opportunity to have a quick word with McClean afterwards but before that he was accommodating as possible to every fan, young and old, who approached him. If there was a group assembled for a picture with him, he made sure everybody was included. And he took time to talk to all with none of the signs of a prima donna footballer wanting to get away as speedily as he could.The queue stretched out on to the street and his visit lasted a lot longer than intended but there was no grimaces of impatience from him. In short, a credit to the shirt he wore with such undisguised pride in France.He’s a good friend with Letterkenny Rovers goalkeeper, Rory Kelly, who was present on the day to help ensure the smooth running of the appearance.Another well known local ‘keeper, Tony Blake, complete with arm in a sling, was, along with his family, among those who queued up to meet the man of the moment.Tony, apparently, had turned out for the Donegal Masters team in a friendly against Four Masters in Donegal Town a few days previously and suffered a dislocation after diving to keep out a shot. “A world class save – allegedly!,” his good wife, Rhona, smiled.The popular netminder had an operation five years ago to stabilise his shoulder but was back with arm in a sling and may not be available for duty for some time to come.“What is it about everybody up here, I must have met ten people today with their arms in a sling”,” McClean demanded when the Blake family approached him.The family included young Tony, Cian and Davin, and nephew and niece, Jack and Megan McDaid.Also looking for a snap with the Irish international, Cathal Flood, who reminded McClean that his, Cathal’s, granny, Annie Kelly, was a sister of the player’s grand-aunt. “He didn’t know it until I told him.”But he did know “Nunga”. Fellow Creggan man and Letterkenny councillor, Gerry McMonagle, was another to join the queue and introduced himself and his background. “Ah, your Nunga’s brother….”, McClean voiced recognition.Yet another impressed trio had come from Ballybofey to meet and greet the international. John McGee, Chrissie Kelly and son, Liam, going away as other satisfied customers.And so it went on. Signing everything from footballs to posters (even a Milford United one), shirts and programmes. And always with that genuine smile on his face.And afterwards, upstairs in the stock room in the McCormick emporium, he spoke of his experiences in France and how it had compared with the ill-fated European Championships of four years previously.“Night and day, I’d have to say. I was a fringe player then and I hardly knew any of the lads in the squad but this time, I was an integral part of the team and what an experience.“We put in a huge effort and that match against Italy will live long in my memory,” said McClean who agreed that had Ireland a greater turnaround than three days they could well have advanced further at the expense of the hosts France. “Even an extra day or two might have made the difference.”And the Irish fans? “Brilliant. They were a credit to their country, there wasn’t one negative sounding about them throughout the tournament.”And then we came to the local lads in the team. “Seamie Coleman? One of my best mates and while he’s quiet off the pitch, he was a true leader on it with the heart and passion to go with it.“I think he’ll be Ireland captain for many years to come,” the Derryman predicted.Shay Given? “A legend. What a servant he has been to his country. And while he didn’t get playing in France, he was still an inspiration to the rest of us.”At that point, I tried to claim central defender, Shane Duffy, as a Donegalman, given that the Burmah Apache’s father, Brian, hailed from Ard O’Donnell not a thumping good goal kick away from where we were.“Nah, he’s one of ours, a Derryman through and through!,”, McClean insisted.And no surprise either that the latter declined my offer to don the Finn Harps jacket I had on for a photograph…..!GALWAY SET FOR FINN PARK (BUT WHAT ABOUT KEATING?)Could Ruairi Keating return to Finn Park?After over a month without seeing any senior action, Finn Park will host three out of Harps next four fixtures, starting this Friday night when Galway United arrive in town.Two of their next matches will involve crucial outings against two teams who will be fighting against the drop, Bray Wanderers (away) and Wexford Youths and while Ollie Horgan’s men currently sit nicely on twenty points, they won’t need reminding that any slip-ups could prove costly in the run-in.Not that you’d believe that the Harps boss will be on cruise mode given that he has rarely lauded any of the winning performances that have earned them that score of points.Galway will arrive in Ballybofey three points clear of the Donegal side with indeed little to choose between Harps and the sides occupying the four rungs above them.The big question is will ex-Harps favourite, Ruairi Keating, who has quit Galway, arrive to play a role for Horgan’s team? Now that would be a welcome boost for a side that does occasionally find it difficult to find the net even if their last two league results (an aggregate of 5-0 from the games with Sligo Rovers and Longford Town) may suggest differently.MOVE OVER PELE AND BECKHAM! And speaking of Harps and goals, how about young Declan Sharkey’s effort for the club in that under-19 L.O.I. Northern Division fixture against St. Patrick’s Athletic?Spotting the opposition goalkeeper off his line at the kick-off, the Falcarragh player directed the ball into the bottom corner of the net from the half-way line with what manager, Joe Boyle, described as a daisy-cutter.You’ll not see that in Euro 16 even from Messrs Bale or Ronaldo tonight.GARRY ARRIVES TO THE WARMEST OF RECEPTIONSGarry Jennings was back in Donegal at the weekend, scene of his enforced retirement from the Joule Donegal International rally last month. And while his vehicle held out this time, he still went close to suffering a breakdown!The Fermanagh man – who has Letterkenny’s Rory Kennedy regularly partnering him in the navigator’s seat – was competing in the Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally on Saturday and despite a few problems with his revamped Subaru Impreza (the blown engine of which had forced him into that early retirement from the Donegal event), he managed to win the event in Lurgan for the fourth year in a row.No time to hang around celebrating, however, as he had another little matter to attend to in Donegal – namely the wedding of his good friend and rallying rival, Alastair Fisher.No doubt Alastair and his new bride, Fiona Teague, might have forgiven him for missing the actual wedding ceremony but the reception might, nevertheless, have been pretty hot for him when he did eventually arrive after his insistence on retaining his title in Lurgan. Namely from his own spouse, Kerry…!“She wasn’t happy about it, and I was sorry to miss the wedding, but I really wanted to be here,” Jennings declared.Another gasket or two blown in Donegal, I’d hazard a guess.ULSTER SAYS YES BUT HAS KEATING? IT’S WALSHY ON WEDNESDAY was last modified: July 6th, 2016 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more