The first inter-county match that I remember attending was the Ulster Final in 1972 when Donegal beat Tyrone.
I don’t remember too much about it but I know that I was wearing shorts trousers (obsolete now) that were a bit loose on me.
Two years later I was back in Clones in the short trousers except this time Donegal was playing Down.
My father bought me a paper and cardboard Donegal hat. Those tacky hats were synonymous with inter county games. Still, I was as proud as punch of my green and gold paper hat.
Two years earlier I was oblivious to the football. I was wholly amused by the behaviour of grown men and women. They were boiling with excitement and roared on every play on the field.
My standout memory was that when I got home, I took out the heavy brown laced leather football from the garage for a kick-about. I was pretending that I was some Donegal footballer or other who had played that day. I was hitting the ball against the back wall of the house and was doing a Meithel O Hehir commentary on the game.
I was straight through on the Down keeper, banged the ball as hard as I could . . . . . . . . through my parents’ bedroom window.
Without hesitation, I ran like Usain Bolt through briars in a hedge and a cow dung covered field for safety. My father Frank would not be pleased. I returned to face the music with trepidation after half an hour.
He wasn’t pleased but he didn’t reprimand me either. Donegal’s Ulster title saved my skin.
This was also the first time that I ever saw the Down senior team playing. I had heard of them because they were one of the finest teams of that era and before. I had always liked Down because they had a team of great players.
After Donegal, they were my next favourite team until I started to wear long trousers.
The next time I saw Down playing was aeons later when I was back in the shorts in the form of an inter-county footballer where I could be found in hot pursuit of Mickey Linden, Brendan Mason or even James McCartan, although that would also have been a mismatch.
This was as close to the action as I could get. Sometimes it wasn’t close enough. This was another exceptional Down team. They were the first of a trio of Ulster teams to win All-Ireland titles in the nineties.
They would go on and win Ulster and the All-Irland again three years later in 1994
In 1991, Down gave Donegal a right old hammering in the Ulster Final. They went on to win the All-Ireland title, a success which inspired us to our breakthrough the following year.
That was ‘Once Upon A Time’ though and that’s where the fairytale ends. Down is a far cry from those days of Ulster domination.
They still possess some quality players but, are a step away from the intensity, power and skill to compete with Donegal. Indeed, they will be well bolstered morally by their second half performance against a much fancied Derry outfit in their last outing.
Anyway, let’s see what they bring to the party in Breffni Park.
Can I please entertain your thoughts on getting into a fight?
This is a fight with a difference. In hard times known now by the term ‘recessionary times,’ people in general are suffering in every conceivable aspect of life.
Always, there are people worse off than us. Mary’s Meals is an international voluntary charity that feeds and educates very poor children all over the world. There are 300 million chronically hungry children worldwide and 67 million of the world’s hungriest children do not attend school.
The Letterkenny branch of Mary’s Meals invites you to the launch of ‘Step by Step to Feed a Child’ in St.Mary’s Parish Community Centre, Stranorlar on Monday 24th June at 8pm.
This is an information night. You can get involved in the fight to save these children by partaking in a sponsored walk(or in part of it - 5k 10k etc) from Malin to Knock on August 24th. .
For further details, please contact Marcus on 0868214024.