Most inter-county football teams will commence collective training in Ireland shortly. I understand that Donegal will begin on December 8th. I use “collective” because many players have been doing conditioning work on their own since late summer. Inter-county football doesn’t have a closed season nowadays. It’s the modern way. Every team is looking for a head-start and want to be in good stead for the McKenna Cup and National League which start on January 8th and February 4th respectively. I’m sure that the players, management and coaches are all looking forward to the campaign ahead. Christmas will provide an opportunity for teams to assemble as a unit and focus on the upcoming season.
For the rest of us, Christmas will not entail hard graft or tedious team meetings. Hopefully it will signal a period of time-out; feet up and cozied up at the fire. If I had the choice and was thirty years younger, I would prefer the tough training and boring assemblies! I don’t though. So, I’m like the rest of you, I too absorb myself in Christmas fayre. As the Western world becomes more secularised, the word “Christmas” is used less and less. Instead, the Christmas season has been replaced with the “festive” or “holiday” season. People can call it whatever they like but, it is still a Christian season. Even the period leading into Christmas, known as Advent is lost in the commerce and economics of pre-Christmas activity. Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus starting from the fourth Sunday from Christmas Day.
I agree that some people can go over the top in respect of celebrating Christmas while others simply don’t like this time of year. For the most part, people do become more charitable and tolerant of each other. Close family and friends exchange gifts and people will donate to charities. One popular gift seems to be my autobiography which has basically sold out. Don’t panic; a reprint is under way! I genuinely didn’t expect such a response but as a caller said to me “there’s something in it for everyone”. There is. You certainly won’t be bored with the detail. Again, I would to thank those of you have already read ‘Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer’ and extended your generous comments.
About two years ago, I was attending midweek mass in a local chapel. The priest asked for prayers for a ten-week old baby called Caolan Melaugh. I knew that this was Gerard and Stacey Melaugh’s son.
When I managed my local club Red Hugh’s in 2010, I barely knew any of the players. I knew most of them through their parents. Once such lad was Gerard, who’s dad sat beside me at primary school. Caolan was gravely ill. I spoke to Gerard a short time later and he confirmed that Caolan was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a common cancer in babies. You may have read about Caolan in the local press or on social media. When it comes to charity, Irish people are very generous and the support which the Melaugh family has received has been fantastic, especially in our local area. I keep abreast with Caolan’s progress on Facebook. Recently, Caolan suffered a setback.
Gerard and Stacey are unassuming and private people. They were gifted Caolan in their young married life. A human life is precious, especially a baby and I know that the Melaughs were thrilled to have been so blessed.
Caolan’s illness has obviously added a different dimension to their lifestyle where the baby’s welfare is their only concern. We can only imagine the trials that this family has to endure, not to mention Caolan who is fighting to survive. “Sometimes, real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles” reads the slogan used on the caolanmelaughfund.com website.
This puts life into perspective for the rest of us. I appreciate that we all have our battles to fight but, surely Caolan’s surpasses most.
Gerard or Stacey did not ask me to write about Caolan or about their plight. I am obliged to share their story. We live in a small community and the Melaughs’ resources to exposure are limited. They are ordinary people who now have to live abnormal lives. Their son deserves a chance at life. To date, many fundraising events have been held countywide but mostly here in the Finn Valley area. There will be many more since Caolan has a long and hard battle ahead.
As we enter the season of goodwill, I hope that you can contribute to Caolan’s fund. Details about Caolan and his story can be found on Facebook and on www.caolanmelaughfund.com website.
There’s another beautiful header on the Facebook page which reads “Let go of what was, and have faith in what will be”. It’s like something that I would say.
Keep the faith!