A chance meeting between Sean O’Rourke and Paul McDaid led to the RTE broadcaster ending up as the special guest at the Donegal Sports Star Awards.
That meeting happened outside Michael Murphy’s Sports Shop in Letterkenny, last November and after the RTE man had watched Neil Gallagher ping six irons to three feet on the shop’s golf simulator.
“Paul just approached me and introduced himself from the Donegal Sports Star committee and he told me they were looking for a guest speaker at the Donegal Sports Star Awards and would I be interested. I told it him that I would be honoured. So that is how it has come about,” said Sean, the presenter of RTE Radio One’s daily Today with Sean O’Rourke programme.
Sean, a keen golfer who plays off 13, has a holiday home in Downings and is a regular visitor to the county.
“I don’t get up as much this time of the year, probably once a month, but I would spend a lot of time up in Donegal during the summer and I play a lot of golf at Rosapenna.
“I have been going up to Donegal for the last 30 years and would you believe it I spent my honeymoon in Downings. My wife Caroline was very friendly with Hilary Casey of the Rosapenna Hotel.
“Strangely enough we didn’t go back up for another ten years and then we started going up regularly again in the mid 90s. I used to go up for golf lessons from Don Patterson, the renowned golf coach, who boasts among his star pupils the great Irish professional Ronan Rafferty.
Just a little over ten years ago Sean purchased a holiday home in Downings, and most all of his holiday time is now spent in Rosguill.
Sean plays the Sandy Hills and Old Tom Morris courses at Rosapenna and proclaims winning the men’s section of the Rosapenna Ladies President’s prize seven or eight years ago as his greatest sporting achievement.
“I play both courses as much as I can when I’m up and I have also played Ballyliffin and Narin and Portnoo, two fine courses too. I really enjoy the Sandy Hills at Rosapenna, some of the scenery from the course is truly spectacular and breathtaking.
“Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher seem to play Rossapenna fairly regularily. They are both keen golfers. The day I was chatting to Paul McDaid, I was in the shop and Neil was pinging six irons to three feet on the simulator. I haven’t played with them but I would love to some day.”
Sean, who would not claim to be a great sportsman himself, is a keen follower of all sports.
“Rowing, strangely enough, was my sport growing up in Galway but I never showed great prowess in sport though my first job was as a sports journalist in the Irish Press.
“It was the only job that was going in journalism when I came out of college and I gave it a go though it was never my intention to stay in sports journalism.”
Like many from outside the county Sean is fascinated with the range of sports and the national and international sports people that Donegal produces.
“Donegal is a sports mad county and Donegal people know their sport and I have to admit that I’m fascinated with the range of sports catered for in the county.
“I must have travelled through Ramelton 100 times in the last ten years and I only discovered last year that they have two of the most fabulous tennis courts I have seen anywhere. I haven’t played them but my daughters have made good use of them.
“And of course Ramelton is the birthplace of Dave Gallaher, the man that founded the All-Blacks.”
In all there are 40 awards to be handed out at the Donegal Sports Star Awards in the Mount Errigal Hotel on Friday night of next week.
The awards are across a broad range of sports from individual to team and to schools both primary and post primary.
“I’m really looking forward to the night and meeting all the award winnners and their coaches and mentors - the unsung heroes that make Donegal such a successful sporting county.”