ULSTER GAA PRESIDENT

Martin McAviney

Martin McAviney

It’s been an important weekend for the GAA in County Monaghan. First there was confirmation that the new Uachtarán Chomairle Uladh (President of the Ulster Council) is Ballybay man Martin McAviney. Many in the border area and the Press Golf Society will remember the great work done by his late brother John, a photographer.

At the same time, the GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Paraic Duffy was back in Monaghan to attend a gala ball organised by his alma mater, St Macartan’s College, where he was also the Principal for many years. It was celebrating the 100-year history of the GAA in the College, which includes winning the MacRory Cup on nine occasions, but not since 1956 although they have appeared in two finals in the past decade. On Wednesday week (27th February) the “Sem” will take on St Paul’s Bessbrook (Armagh) in the semi-final of the competition under lights in Armagh (7:30pm).

Martin McAviney is a member of the Pearse Brothers club in Ballybay. He is a member of the Club Committee and a Club Trustee. He has previously served as Club Secretary and Club Chairman and received the Coiste Chontae Mhuineachain Senior Official of the year 1984. He joined the Monaghan County Board as Ulster Representative in 1987 and held the position until being elected as P.R.O. of Comhairle Uladh in 2004, a role he carried out very effectively.

During his term as P.R.O., Martin was awarded the Ulster GAA Writers Communications Award in 2005. Martin took up a position of Cisteoir (Treasurer) of the Ulster Council in 2007, and in March 2010, he was elected as Leas-Uachtarán (Vice President). On his first full day in the new job, Martin was at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh to watch the interprovincial hurling and football semi-finals, previously known as the Railway Cup.

The competition was reinstated to the GAA calendar last year, but has failed to attract the support it used to get in the 1950s and 60s when large crowds would turn up at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day for the finals. The club finals have taken over the slot and continue to bring in the numbers, but it seems the appetite for interprovincial competitions has faded, judging by the attendances at the semis. So the final of the football competition at Croke Park next Sunday has now been fixed to coincide with AIB Club junior final. The hurling final will be a week later.

Joe Kernan

Joe Kernan

HURLING:  MUNSTER 3-20 ULSTER 1-14 

FOOTBALL: ULSTER 1-14 MUNSTER 1-13

Nice to see former Armagh boss Joe Kernan back in action as coach of the Ulster football side. He expressed his concern at the low attendance, given the quality of football on display. Monaghan made an important contribution to the Ulster side with Conor McManus scoring four points. The team was captained by Scotstown’s Darren Hughes, whose brother Kieran came on as a substitute.

Darren Hughes, Ulster

Darren Hughes, Ulster

FRANCIE MCCARRON RIP

Francie McCarron (picture: Northern Standard)

Francie McCarron (picture: Northern Standard)

OBITUARY: FRANCIE MCCARRON             Old Cross Square, Monaghan             Northern Standard Feb.14th 2013

A politician who was dedicated to the service of the local community. Those qualities of Francie were apparent to all who knew him. He died at Cavan hospital on February 5th, a few hours short of his 87th birthday. Francie was the last of a family steeped in Monaghan politics for three generations, covering almost 100 years: his grandfather, his father Andy and himself.

Francie was born on 6th February1927, the son of Andrew (died June 1964) and Mary Catherine (died October 1944) of 17 Old Cross Square. He was their youngest child. The eldest, Anne, died aged 7 of a measles related illness in 1924. Billy died in 1996, and Andy in 1988. Another brother Jimmy emigrated to the United States and died there. He was represented at the funeral by his children Mary and Andy from San Francisco.

In his later years Francie would be a familiar figure as he walked around the town or sat on the bench at the entrance to the Pound Hill, watching all the comings and goings and chatting to passers-by. But he succumbed to poor health by which his sparkle and wit was dimmed by dementia. He was admitted to Blackwater House where he received excellent care.

Francie was always prepared to take on a cause if he believed in it. When Bishop Duffy reordered the McCarthy-designed interior of St Macartan’s Cathedral in line with liturgical recommendations of Vatican II, this forthright councillor took strong exception to the way fittings such as the altar, the reredos (screen) and the pulpit were being removed. In response, he urged a boycott of the Sunday collections at Mass.

The work went ahead and in a final twist to the story, it was at the Cathedral that the remains of Francie were received on Friday evening. The Cathaoirleach Cllr Seamus Treanor, Cllr Seán Conlon and Town Clerk Marie Deighan along with one of her predecessors Paudge McKenna were among the mourners. Former councillors including Lorcan Ronaghan were also in attendance, along with Caoimghin Ó Caolain TD, former TD Seymour Crawford, Cllr Paudge Connolly and other local representatives.

The Mayor of Co. Monaghan Councillor Hugh McElvaney attended the funeral Mass, along with many former colleagues and friends of Francie as well as his relatives. In his homily, Fr John Chester said Francie’s political career as an independent councillor had been marked by his dedication to the elderly population of Monaghan: the hours he spent with people in their homes doing small electrical jobs, explaining and writing out forms, and telling people about their rights. Fr Chester said Francie, who worked for the ESB and served for a time as UDC Chair, had been passionate about the retention of Monaghan General Hospital as far back as the 1970’s. He had warned that its scaling down or closure could happen much sooner than they thought. He was ahead of his time.

Fr Chester referred to an old copy of the Northern Standard from the ‘70s which he had found under an old carpet in the Priests’ House. Fears about the possible closure of the hospital were expressed on the front page. The hospital finally lost its general status and was scaled down to a set-down unit around 2007, unit realising Francie’s fears.

Charles J Haughey, when he spoke for the last time in Leinster House on the occasion of his resignation, said about himself, “he served the people, all the people, to the best of his ability.” Francie was deserving of the same accolade, in Fr Chester’s view.

Then there was the other side of Francie: he could also irritate. One person’s cause is sometimes another person’s irritation. Fr Chester said he discovered that 25 years ago, soon after his ordination and appointment to Monaghan town. In a confrontation that was featured on RTÉ News, Francie took on the then Cathedral Administrator  Fr. Sean Nolan over work being done in the Old Grave Yard at Lathlurcan. But it was perhaps better to let sleeping dogs lie, Fr Chester added. It was in the same graveyard that Francie’s remains were laid to rest alongside other family members, following the Mass.

Problems about the reception of RTÉ television in Monaghan town were one of the many local causes Francie took up on behalf of the public. Other elements featuring in his long life that were spoken about by his nieces and nephews included his creative side: sketching, drawing and cartoons. Sometimes he drew a cartoon when discussions at Town Council sittings reached an impasse. He would see the funny side of things and expressed the humour in cartoon form.

Francie loved to be photographed and was not at all camera shy. He was good with timber and electrical engineering. Fr Chester said he had learned that he used to make boats with his father and that an unfinished boat still sits in the shed since 1964, the year his father died.

Francie was the first man in the town to own a television set and people from the Square would call in to watch it. They also gathered to an open front window at no. 17 to listen to the radio; football matches, other important events and news items. He could also wire the radio to pick up signals in New York. He was athletic, loved to cycle with Dr. O’Gorman and he also loved to play golf.  One story, which was only mentioned afterwards, was that on a visit to England with his brother, their code of dress on the golf course (trousers tucked into their socks) did not go down too well with some lady members at a club outside London and they were ticked off!

Francie enjoyed the company of family, including his brother James in San Francisco, where he had nieces and nephews. He travelled also to Spain and annually to Lourdes. Francie liked poetry and it was appropriate that in conclusion Fr Chester referred to Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “Epic”, which is about the significance of local events being more important than national or international happenings:-

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided……..

I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance”.

[Extract from Collected Poems, Penguin 2005]

MICHAEL FISHER

P1100203 (2) (463x640)

 

 

TRIBESMEN ADVANCE

Conor Cooney

Conor Cooney

 I wrote the other day about Monaghan hurling: it’s the Cinderella sport in a footballing county. So it was nice to be able to see a top class game of hurling in Clones. The All-Ireland club championship semi-final replay between St Thomas’ from the Kilchreest and Peterswell area of County Galway and the Loughgiel Shamrocks from the Glens of Antrim, one of the cradles of hurling. The long and wide dimensions of the pitch at St Tiarnach’s Park make it very suitable for hurling and watching the highlights now on TG4 it loohs really well on television. On the other side of the coin, I noticed that one of the All-Ireland club football semi-finals between sides from Kerry and Dublin was played at Semple Stadium in Thurles, a very important place for the GAA and a ground that is more associated with hurling!

St Thomas's supporters

St Thomas’s supporters

ST THOMAS’ (Galway) 0-15 LOUGHGIEL SHAMROCKS 0-07

Conor Cooney was the top scorer for the Galwaymen, with a series of frees in the second half that helped to see off the challenge of the men from the Glens of Antrim. Loughgiel for whom Liam Watson put six frees between the posts were trailing by a single point at the break, 0-6 to 0-5. Two Watson frees in the second half were all the Shamrocks could manage. Eddie McCloskey scored their only point from play just before the break, to keep his side in the contest after the first thirty minutes.  But it could have been a very different result if a beautifully struck shot from Benny McCarry had found the net instead of glancing off the post in the first five minutes.

Bernard Burke is congratulated

Bernard Burke is congratulated

St Thomas’ must be fairly unique as it has three sets of brothers on the team, six of them from the Burke family. The club concentrates only on hurling and won their first Galway senior championship last year. Precedent was on their side as no Galway club had ever lost in a club semi-final replay. Likewise, no Antrim side had ever won a replay at this stage. So congratulations to the tribesmen, who go on to meet Kilcormac-Killoughey from County Offaly in the final at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day as part of a double bill in which Ballymun Kickhams are up against Roscommon and Connacht champions St Brigid’s in the club football final. So no Ulster involvement in the finals this year.

St Thomas's players wind down

St Thomas’s players wind down

UNIONIST DIS-UNITY

Mike Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt

What happens next is what happens next”   That’s my nomination for quote of the week. You can now see why ex media star Mike Nesbitt is leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. His ability to state the obvious with ease and not answer any difficult questions from interviewers, now that he is on the other side of the microphone or the camera. Mike had been asked on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster (1:58:00) about the future direction of the UUP and whether there would be other agreed unionist candidiates in future elections. The question arose following the resignation from the party last night of former deputy leader John McCallister MLA, over the UUP/DUP decision to run an agreed unionist candidate in the Mid-Ulster by-election, which I wrote about yesterday. Mr Nesbitt described the move as a “one-off”, but some wondered if it would just be the start of the end for the UUP and its amalgamation with the larger party led by Peter Robinson.

Then came a second bombshell for the UUP. Lagan Valley Basil McCrea MLA did an interview with the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster in which he announced his resignation. He hinted that plans were underway for the formation of a new “opposition” party along with Mr McCallister and the East Londonderry independent MLA David McClarty (formerly UUP).

Mr McClarty told the same programme on the BBC anybody who was a betting person would have put their money on John and Basil going at some stage. It happened extremely quickly, and it wrong-footed an awful lot of people, he said.  Mr McClarty said the UUP had lost its way. The Ulster Unionist Party is sending out mixed messages; they want to be progressive and pluralist, he said, yet they really have now turned this bye-election into a sectarian head count and we’re back to tribal politics. The three will be keeping in contact over the next few weeks and it remains to be seen what plans they will come up with.

One of the criticisms made by Basil McCrea was that the choice of one candidate on the unionist side (who is unlikely to win the seat anyway, given the current level of support for nationalist parties) would lead to a sectarian dogfight on the campaign trail. DUP leader Peter Robinson rejected this and said unionism was not sectarian.

The agreed unionist representative is Nigel Lutton, an orangeman who has worked with Protestant victims’ groups and whose father was shot dead by the IRA in 1979, shortly after he had left the RUC Reserve. Sinn Féin are putting forward Francie Molloy and the SDLP candidate is deputy party leader Patsy McGlone.

Patsy McGlone

Patsy McGlone

He hit out at the decision by the two unionist party leaders to back Mr Lutton and said it had the potential to reduce the by-election into a bitter sectarian struggle, echoing the views of Basil McCrea. He felt it would only create deeper tribalism. He claimed that Mike Nesbitt was leading the Ulster Unionist Party into electoral oblivion and was denying the electorate a choice. Eric Bullick will run for the Alliance party.

UNIONIST UNITY?

ToryUUPAnyone remember UCUNF? An electoral pact reuniting the Conservative and Ulster Unionist parties in 2009 for the European Parliament election. Jim Nicholson was elected an MEP under this banner of Ulster Conservatives and Unionists — New Force. Although he is a member of the ECR group, his personal website now lists him as a UUP member, following the demise of the arrangement in June 2012.  The UCUNF banner was also used in the Westminster general election in 2010, but the alliance failed to deliver even one MP.

Reg Empey resigned as UUP leader and is now  on the Conservative benches in the House of Lords along with a predecessor, David Trimble. Sir Reg was replaced by Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Tom Elliott, who stood down in 2012. The UUP elected former UTV presenter Mike Nesbitt as leader. He has had a difficult job to keep the party together. An ongoing row with Basil McCrea that resulted in the Lagan Valley MLA being ticked off after an internal disciplinary hearing.

Basil McCrea MLA

Basil McCrea

Then there was the loss of moderate unionist David McClarty, who was deselected by the party for the Assembly election in May 2011. David McNarry resigned from the party in January 2012 and now sits in the Assembly as a member of UKIP. Tonight comes the news that South Down MLA John McCallister has resigned from the UUP and will sit as an independent unionist. He told the party leader:

“Your determination to act in concert with the DUP – over parades, flags and Forum – has significantly contributed to forcing Northern Ireland politics back into the sectarian trenches”.

Mr McCallister made a very interesting speech last month to a heritage group across the border in Killanny, Co.Louth (near Carrickmacross, Co.Monaghan) in which he hit out at plans for a unionist forum to deal with the flags issue. He described it as a “cul-de-sac” for unionism.

At the same time as this leakage from the Ulster Unionist Assembly mainstream, the UUP leader is talking to the DUP leader Peter Robinson, first of all in the context of the Forum and now in a move towards electoral unity in a constituency west of the Bann. The two leaders announced their selection of a joint unionist candidate for the Mid-Ulster bye-election. This is the Westminster “seat” held, but not taken up by, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the deputy First Minister. The man who has the backing of Mr Robinson and Mr Nesbitt is Nigel Lutton, whose father, a 39 year-old RUC Reservist, was shot dead by the IRA in 1979.

Nigel Lutton (centre) -- DUP picture

Nigel Lutton (centre) — DUP picture

Francie Molloy has been chosen by Sinn Féin to contest the election.  I look forward to reading some of the analysis in the morning about the implications of the latest developments within unionist politics.

POPE’S RESIGNATION

HPBenedictPapalpageaThe courageous decision by Pope Benedict XVI to step down from the See of Peter came as a shock not only to Roman Catholics throughout the world, but to those of other faiths as well. This was mainly because it has been 600 years since a pontiff resigned. The last time it was under duress; this time it is a voluntary act. The 85 year-old Pope celebrated a Mass for Ash Wednesday at the Vatican and held an audience with visitors from different countries. His final public appearance is expected to be in a fortnight’s time on February 27th.

His resignation has been the subject of much comment in the media and has also produced a rash of posts in social media, some of them dispraging but others quite humorous. One of the best ones I noticed was this one showing a picture of a possible (but unlikely!) successor, the Reverend Ian Paisley, who retired from his job as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church in 2008 and from ministry a year ago.IanPThere is a saying “all news is local”. But I thought the Birmingham Post headline for their newspaper stands was stretching it a bit. It was noticed and posted on facebook by a former RTÉ colleague, Eugene McVeigh…….  popeheadline

One comment on it was “Pope Brummidictus!!” whereas my own offering was on the lines of “Always find a local angle! Pope has had enough after visiting Lozells, Nechells, Perry Barr, Acock’s Green & Balti land“.

Pope Benedict steps down at the end of the month. The conclave at the Vatican to elect his successor will start as early as March 15th, according to a papal spokesman. This means whoever is chosen by the Cardinals should be in place by Easter.

BAFTA GAMES AWARDS

BAFTA Game Awards 2013

BAFTA Games Awards

You might think that BAFTAs were just for films. But that’s not the case. The British Academy also has its own “Oscars” for video games. So congratulations go to County Monaghan man Terry Cavanagh on his latest success (with potentially more to come!).

Terry Cavanagh

Terry Cavanagh

His parents from Tydavnet who are over in Cambridge at the moment tell us he is in the running for a BAFTA award for his Super Hexagon game. It’s one of six nominations in the “British game” category, which has been added for the first time this year.

Dara O Briain

Dara O Briain

The host for the gala evening at the London Hilton hotel on Tuesday 5th March is another Irishman, Dara O Briain. It will be shown on the UK’s Challenge television channel (Sky 125, Freeview 46, Virgin 139).  Another of Terry’s game creations, VVVVV, won an award for being the most fun and compelling game at the Indiecade showcase for games developers in Los Angeles in October 2010. So let’s wait and see if he gets another “Oscar” under his belt!   gamegames-awards-logo-2926

BRITISH GAME:

1. Dear Esther

Daniel Pinchbeck, Robert Briscoe, Jessica Curry

Thechineseroom/thechineseroom

2. Forza Horizon

Development Team

Playground Games/Turn 10 Studios/Microsoft Studios

3. LEGO: The Lord of the Rings

Development Team

TT Games/Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment

4. Need for Speed Most Wanted

Development Team

Criterion Games/EA

5. The Room

Mark Hamilton, Rob Dodd, Barry Meade

Fireproof Games/Fireproof Games

6. SUPER HEXAGON

Terry Cavanagh, Niamh Houston, Jenn Frank

Terry Cavanagh/Terry Cavanagh

SETANTA CUP

Shamrock Rovers v Coleraine

Shamrock Rovers v Coleraine

SHAMROCK ROVERS 0 COLERAINE 1

Back in the days of my youth, I remember seeing one of the matches in a cross-border competition, the Blaxnit Cup. It might have been the second leg of the final at Dalymount Park in May 1968, when Shamrock Rovers lost 2-1 to Crusaders from Belfast, but took the first trophy 3-2 on aggregate. The following season, Rovers were again in the final but lost 4-3 to Coleraine, who went on to retain the trophy the following year by defeating Sligo Rovers in 1970. The Irish League side re-appeared in the 1972 final but went down to Cork Hibernians over two legs. The competition featured four clubs from the League of Ireland and four from the Irish League and it ran until 1974, when it was replaced by the Texaco Cup and then after a break, the Tyler Cup until 1980.

For that reminder about Coleraine’s previous Blaxnit success. I am grateful to David McClarty MLA, who was following my tweets from the ground on facebook. In one of my tweets I mentioned that one of Coleraine FC’s stalwart fans is the actor James Nesbitt, Chancellor of the University of Ulster, who was in Dublin on Saturday for the IFTA awards ceremony.

Since 2005 the all-island club competition has been known as the Setanta Sports Cup. This evening at Tallaght, the Hoops and the Bannsiders renewed their rivalry in the first leg of a first round match. I have been following Rovers at their new stadium over the last two seasons, but I don’t think I have ever seen Coleraine in “live” action.  I was impressed by the visitors and their vocal bunch of around 200 supporters who made the long trip to Dublin from the North-West.

Full Time

Full Time

The new-look home side were playing their first competitive senior game this year, because of the difference in soccer seasons in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. Before the game, one minute’s silence was strictlly observed by the teams and the crowd in memory of Tony Clare, a Rovers supporter who passed away recently. Then it was into action, but I missed the usual roar of the home fans and only one stand was in use. I also noticed that one of the banners behind the goalmouth had a picture of Rovers’ former striker Gary Twigg on it. He is now playing for Portadown in the Irish League, who lost 3-2 at Drogheda in the same competition.

Shamrock Rovers had most of the goal opportunities in the first half, with Mark Quigley unsuccessful on at least three occasions. Five minutes before the break, an injury to Ruairi Harkin forced him to retire and he was replaced by David Scullion. In what was to prove the decisive move of the whole match, in the third minute of first-half injury time, Scullion picked up the ball from Paul Owens and coolly lifted it over the top of the advancing Rovers’ keeper Barry Murphy.  Coleraine had taken the lead against the run of play.

Scullion nearly managed to double his side’s lead ten minutes into the second half. Quigley was replaced in the Hoops attack by Gary McCabe, who was involved in a few good moves along with Sean O’Connor. O’Connor came close with a free kick and McCabe likewise in the dying seconds of the game, when Coleraine had their goalie Michael Doherty to thank for keeping their advantage.

Coleraine fans at Tallaght

Coleraine fans at Tallaght

So the 200 or so Coleraine fans left Tallaght in a very orderly fashion and singing the praises of their team. The two sides will meet again next Monday at The Showgrounds, Ballycastle Road. There were three other cup games (first leg) tonight:-

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC 0 GLENTORAN 0

CORK CITY 4 Morrissey 16, Turner pen 26, 45+1, Kavanagh 69 CLIFTONVILLE 0

DROGHEDA UTD 3 R Brennan 8, O’Connor 14, G Brennan 60 PORTADOWN 2 A Burns 25, Braniff 43

SHAMROCK ROVERS 0 COLERAINE 1 Scullion 45+3

CARLETON AND IRISH

William Carleton

William Carleton

The historian John Paul McCarthy immediately caught my attention in his column in the Sunday Independent p.16 10/02/13 with his mention of William Carleton in the sub-heading. He is writing about the poet Liam O Muirthile from Cork. Under the heading “Language of love and friendship”, he says that Liam’s latest collection of peoms is in the humane Carleton tradition. He goes on to make a very interesting comparison of the works of both men.  I am therefore publishing his comments here because of my interest in Carleton.

It is good to see the work of Liam O Muirthile getting recognition. I worked with him in the RTÉ newsroom in Dublin, where he was part of the Nuacht team. After he left RTÉ, he devoted his time to literature and he used to have a regular column in The Irish Times.

Liam O Muirthile, file (poet)

Liam O Muirthile, file (poet)

Liam’s latest work is called An Fuíoll Feá – Rogha Dánta or Wood Cuttings, new and selected poems, published by Cois Life and there’s more about it on their blog. Gabriel Rosenstock has translated the poems. The book is available in harback and softback (€30/€20). It also comes with a CD of O Muirthile reading some of his work.Fuíoll Feá - Rogha Dánta

Here is an edited version of what John Paul McCarthy has to say on the subject:-

In his essay on Irish swearing, the great Victorian chronicler of Gaelic Ireland, William Carleton, said “the Irish language actually flows with the milk and honey of love and friendship”. Irish for him was the medium of prayer and domestic tranquility. That aspect of Irish has struggled to get a hearing in our time, if only because of the relentlessly political focus that has disfigured large parts of modern Irish letters. The introspection of the Gaeltachtai has not helped matters either. Liam O Muirthile’s latest collection of poems, An Fuioll Fea-Wood Cuttings (Cois Life), is very much in the humane Carleton tradition though.

O Muirthile’s Irish is the Irish of the city street, the factory floor and the urban tavern. His focus is on what Patrick Kavanagh once called “ordinary plenty”….

Like Carleton again, O Muirthile found politics to be inescapable. He translates parts of Wolfe Tone’s diaries in a series of poems before tending to the Guildford Four. The Firing Squad suggests some fundamental ambivalence about revolutionary aristocrats, especially the ones who plague people with their consciences in pubs.

The last poem of this collection then, Thuaidh (or North) draws these disparate threads together. The poet is commemorating an ancient IRA ambush, and proceedings are rather hijacked by an abrasive northerner. “‘Daoine boga sibhse theas,’ arsa cara. ‘Muidne thuaidh cruaidh.'” (You lot are soft down south, we’re hard in the north)”.

MONAGHAN HURLING

Dr Croke Cup

Dr Croke Cup

The words “Monaghan” and “hurling” don’t sit naturally together. Monaghan is a footballing county, although the Farney men have never succeeded in winning the Sam Maguire Cup. But after this evening’s result in the Allianz National League, when Monaghan were defeated by neighbours Cavan at Breffni Park, perhaps the time has come for a change! If you look closely enough at the reflection in the silver of the cup, you can see how I managed to include the Tipperary colours of my tie in the picture!

This afternoon during a visit to my mother-in-law in Castleblayney, which is also my mother’s home town, I was pleased to get an opportunity to see the spoils of Kilkenny’s hurling victories. There was the Liam McCarthy Cup, presented to the All-Ireland senior champions. Alongside it was the Dr Croke Cup, the trophy for the National Hurling League champions of 2012, having defeated Cork in the final (www.gaa.ie report).

National League Champions Kilkenny

National Hurling League Champions 2012 Kilkenny (gaa.ie photo)

The trophies came to Castleblayney in the custody of Kilkenny kit manager Denis “Rackard” Cody, an important member of the county’s backroom team. I did not get a chance to ask him if his nickname came from the famous Wexford hurlers! The cups were brought to Ulster with a purpose: to encourage the development of hurling at secondary school level. The under-12s and under-14s from Our Lady’s secondary school and their counterparts from East Cavan Gaels took part in a match and coaching session run by Cody.

Kilkenny GAA

Kilkenny GAA

He joined the Kilkenny set-up in 1977 and has served as kit manager for the past ten  years. He refereed 15 county finals in all grades, and officiated also at National League level. He was elected the first Mayor of Graignamanagh in 1982 (Kilkenny People). He brings his knowledge and passion for hurling around the country. In November he visited one of the cradles of hurling, the Glens of Antrim, as a guest of the Robert Emmet club in Cushendun and helped run an underage competition.

Hurling can continue to be successful in Ulster and can only benefit from the expertise of the Noresiders. Title holders Loughgiel Shamrocks from the Glens were playing this afternoon in an All-Ireland club semi-final, which ended in a draw after extra time and will have to go to a replay. I also recall walking through the grounds of UCD in Belfield, near the sports centre, when I spotted a young lad with a Monaghan GAA top…..carrying a hurley. Such a rare sight that I felt it necessary to go up to him and congratulate him on his perseverance!