It was a torrid week of questions. Was the Donegal team fatigued? Were they over trained? Were the tactics wrong on the day? Will McGuinness go or will he stay? What would you like for dinner?
These were just some of the questions posed to me . . . . by my wife during the week. It was a change from the “What time will you be home at” question fired at me as I nonchalantly packed my car with the phyiso equipment in preparation for that evening’s Donegal training session.
Indeed she has been asking that question for 27 years now. I gave the same answer for 27 years “I don’t know”!
In respect of Donegal’s unforeseen collapse against Mayo almost two weeks ago, I still don’t know why or how we were so flat on the day. Most Donegal supporters have been philosophical in their opinions. “We can be thankful for everything that Donegal have given us this past three years”.
Like Mrs. D. Reid they are so proud of the county and grateful for what they delivered for us.
Reality though, in a sportsman’s mind recovers quickly. It has to. No one will have posed more questions than Jim McGuinness himself.
I walked into a comfortable little snug last weekend which served alcoholic beverages. A huge framed man with a weather beaten face asked me in a slurred but rude tone “What the …. ( anagram kucf) happened yous against Mayo”?
For once, I was stuck for an answer. What the kucf did happen to us against Mayo? I afforded this unruly man a long empty but solemn glance. I sat down and pondered his question. There has been a litany of reasons offered.
There is no one particular answer. It was a multitude of factors. Jim and Rory Gallagher will have spent countless hours mulling over the insidious demise of their team. It is my opinion that both men will lead Donegal with even greater enthusiasm and wisdom next year. There will be no retirements. The majority of the present Donegal players experienced the joy of winning the ultimate prize last year.
Like me, they will watch the rest of the championship with envy. We will watch the winners parade the Sam Maguire Cup. The harsh winter evenings of solitary conditioning sessions will strengthen their resolve. That rude man whom I didn’t engage with in that pub will still be there. I have no doubt whatsoever that Donegal will bounce back. As in sport and in life, my only outlook is positive.
One of the most positive people whom I’ve ever encountered in life was John Carlin of The Cross, Killygordon. Sadly, John passed away recently He left a great and lengthy legacy. Forty-something years ago, The Cross was a lively and buzzing little rural village.
John was a rate collector. I’m sure it wasn’t the most pleasant of tasks. Yet, John’s jovial personality was endearing to everyone. He was involved heavily in community welfare. John’s sporting passion was undoubtedly athletics. He instilled a great love for the sport of athletics in me when I was about nine years old. During the summer holidays from primary school, a group of us would spend endless days in John’s back garden practising the high jump. We would pile up the landing area with fresh garden cuttings.
The long jump pit which was located in the adjacent field is now his resting place. It forms the part of the new graveyard at our local St. Patrick’s Chapel. We then progressed to a foam landing area in the Elm Bank (for those who remember) in Lifford. There was no Finn Valley Athletic Club back then. Lifford A.C. was our closest club. The late Ben O’Donnell and John developed our talents to a point where a number of those wanes from The Cross prospered at national level. John was a founding member of the Finn Valley Athletic Club. It was a vision that he and Patsy McGonagle shared for many years. John was a mild character with a hearty laugh and a great sense of humour. He was of the same generation as my late father Frank and the pair of them was great friends. John’s passing deprives our little village of yet another colourful character. His family’s loss is also our loss. He treated us as his own. As a child growing up I spent as much time in Carlin’s house as I did in my own. I am sincerely grateful for John and the knowledge he shared with me throughout his years. To Eileen his wife and to his family Sean, Eugene, Deirdre, Marty, Bernie, Joseph and Declan I offer you my deepest sympathy. May he rest in peace.