GAA journalist on his ‘Mandela moment’ at O’Donnell Park

GAA journalist on his ‘Mandela moment’ at O’Donnell Park
GAA journalist Paddy Heaney last week shared his thoughts on his accidental incarceration at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny.

GAA journalist Paddy Heaney last week shared his thoughts on his accidental incarceration at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny.

Heaney had just finished filing his copy from the Dr McKenna Cup section A opener between Donegal and Tyrone when he tried to leave a room that had been used by the media at St Eunan’s ground. However, as he was about to head for home, he got an unpleasant surprise, which he explained in his column ‘Against The Breeze’in The Irish News and Irish Examiner:

“Before my imprisonment, everything was going to plan. After interviewing Mickey Harte and Jim McGuinness, myself and two other journalists were escorted to a changing room where we were allowed to write our reports.

“I was the last to leave. And by the time I emailed my copy I was cold and hungry. I was really looking forward to turning my car into a mobile sauna and buying a cup of coffee at the first petrol station I could find.

“Unfortunately for me, I had to stall that plan. When I turned the handle of the changing room door, the gold lever came off in my hand.

‘No problem,’ I thought. If I can re-fix the handle, the door will open. So I reinserted the handle. But the door still didn’t open.

“I didn’t panic. I knew there would be other options. First, I checked the windows. But they were too small. An overfed cat couldn’t get through them.

“Then I stood on the bench and peered out the window. But it was just me, the howling wind, and the great black beyond. I was obviously on my lonesome. ‘Hello’. ‘Hello’. ‘HELLO’. The sound of litter skirting across the tarmac rammed home the message that I was all alone.

“Then I tried what always works in the movies. In Hollywood, the door always succumbs to a hefty shoulder charge. But that’s Hollywood, California. In Letterkenny, Co Donegal, they hang doors differently. I bounced off the frame.

“Then I started kicking the door. I knew that wasn’t going to work but I had lost my temper by that stage and I needed to kick something.

“Having exhausted all the physical options, I knew I was going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers. It was time to make a phone call.

“I rang someone who rang John Haran, the former Donegal player and Letterkenny club stalwart who is my new personal hero. John rang the caretaker [Vincent McGlynn]. In a relatively short space of time, I experienced my very own Nelson Mandela moment. Mandela was held captive for 27 years. I did about 27 minutes. It was long enough.

“Following a pleasant chat with the caretaker, I was informed that there was a problem with the door. When the journalist who left before me slammed the door shut, the handle on the outside came off. For some mechanical reason, of which I remain ignorant, I was unable to make my exit.

“Sunday’s trip to Letterkenny was the first time I had ever covered a game in O’Donnell Park. Despite the brief period of solitary confinement, I still couldn’t criticise the ground.”