On St. Stephen’s Day, 2006, Mo Farah graced the streets in and around Ballybofey and Stranorlar when he competed in the annual Finn Valley 5k St. Stephens Day charity run.
He has since become an Olympic champion in both the 5,000m and 10,000m events. Mo Farah is one of the most friendly and unassuming stars in the athletics world.
It was distressing to watch his heartfelt press conference last Saturday when he denied that he had any knowledge of doping in relation to his coach Alberto Salazar. There is no suggestion that Farah has broken any rules and Salazar vehemently denies the claims. Farah is not being accused of taking drugs to enhance performance but by association with Salazar his reputation has been tarnished somewhat.
The scandal of doping has featured prominently in recent years in all sports. Indeed, our own sport of GAA games has not escaped this malaise either. In fairness it cannot be paralleled with what is taking place in many professional sports. A Monaghan fringe player was caught up in doping controversy last month. The Sunday Independent reported the player, who is not a current member of the senior panel, had tested positive for a steroid during a recent test and he is being investigated by the Irish Sports Council’s Anti-Doping unit. In July 2001, the GAA agreed to begin drug testing senior inter-county players as part of an agreement with the Irish Sports Council (ISC) and their policy to cooperate with the international anti-doping campaign administered by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA). Unfortunately, this is the reality of the world we live in today. The will and desire to be the best can force individuals to cheat and be dishonest.
Let’s jump to another scandal that has rocked not only sport but world politics as a whole. FIFA is an abbreviation for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, which in English translates to International Federation of Association Football. This international governing body of association football (soccer) is responsible for both the organisation of a number of tournaments and their promotion, which generate revenue from sponsorship.
Reports by investigative journalists have linked FIFA leadership with rapaciousness, corruption, bribery, and alleged vote-rigging pursuant to the election of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the organization’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. And our wee progressive country Ireland has not escaped controversy in relation to FIFA either. The Football Association of Ireland accepted a secret payment in 2010 of €5m from FIFA to appease them for an incorrect referee decision during a world cup qualifying match against France. This payment only came to light last week during the collapse Blatter’s reign as chief.
It must be stressed that not all athletes are doping and not all soccer officials are corrupt. It is just a few, but they are the stars to whom we look for direction and model our own principles upon.
These controversies in our sporting world are very disconcerting for ordinary pundits like you and I. It affects the very grassroots of our chosen sporting disciplines whether at a pastime, serious or elite level. I witnessed Donegal players being drug tested after games in recent years and I have confidence in the system.
As long as the GAA can stay within the parameters of amateurism on the playing field, we should have nothing to worry about in respect of doping. We look to sport to escape from the realities and daily trials of life.
Donegal people will travel to Armagh this Sunday to do just this and in the process support our team to what will hopefully be a victory. Armagh will undoubtedly try to discourage our players from playing, especially our more prolific ones. It will be a robust affair and whatever football will be played will be played by us. Armagh do not possess the talent that could seriously threaten this gifted and experienced Donegal outfit. After watching Derry beat Down last Sunday, I cannot envisage Donegal having much to bother them in the Ulster semi-final either.
It was an exciting enough game but it was very scrappy throughout. The game never had any fluency and this was not helped by referee Eddie Kinsella. He was consistently inconsistent and was often calling fouls when he was some distance from play.
At this stage of the championship all of the Ulster teams (bar Armagh) have played and one does not have to be an expert to recognise that Donegal hold all the aces. We are physically stronger than the other teams. Donegal are also technically the best team on show in Ulster right now. Experience is another major contributing factor.
For now we must focus on Armagh. Let’s hope that by this time next week we will be looking forward to a semi-final meeting with Derry.