Superintendent David Kelly and the captain of the winning team Carolann Cassidy present a cheque for €1,000 to Breda Ward for Bumbleance Donegal.
Happier to use whatever sporting ability I have left, elbowing someone out of my way at a busy bar, or away from a sale rack, I was gobsmacked when I was told by Garda Ronán Steede that he was considering the prospect of signing me up to take part in a six-week football tournament.
The competition involves members of the gardaí and the local community, with a host of local charities being the real winners.
Text messages went back and forth. Ronán used a more definite tone in his texts with no apparent sign of weakness in that tone. No manner of pleading texts would get me an ‘out.’ I decided to appeal to him on a deeper emotional level and texted: “I’m way too unfit and believe it or not, honestly too shy.”
I sat and waited for the bamboo-like noise my phone makes notifying me of a text. Within seconds I heard the noise and there it was, he didn’t believe me, he was putting my name down and I wasn’t to worry.
I cast a quick glance at my mother’s medical cabinet wondering if there was any Rescue Remedy left. Decided to make a cup of tea instead and tried a different tactic, I sent a text asking about having a defibrillator on site but that didn’t budge him either. Images of getting a doctor’s line went through my mind but I eventually decided to humour him. How bad could it be?
Driving towards the football field on a cold Sunday night I could feel elephants in my stomach. I met my captain Maureen Doherty as I came out of my car and she tried to reassure me, telling me that ‘the game was good craic.’
Running onto the pitch, two players dressed with orange bibs were stretching under the floodlights. The air was crisp and I could hear the sound of children’s laughter and a ball being kicked brought me straight back to my childhood.
I stood at the side and the whistle blew. The pitch became awash of players. Everyone knew each other. ‘Michelle, you’re on…’
I looked across and recognised Séamus, I hadn’t met Séamus since I was a teenager. His recollection of my name brought a smile to my face. There was fun and laughter as the ball was kicked from player to player.
People stood on the side of the pitch, they could play for whatever amount of time they liked and as their teeth chattered they were talking and laughing.
The first night melted into five nights, and the feeling of community became stronger and stronger among those who played. Joe McGee really did take the game in true spirit. His smile lit the pitch and his sense of fun and dedication is testament to the success of the tournament.
Members of the gardaí and the community played in one team, towards one objective, with money being raised for charity. It was a real success and I can actually say with true conviction (not the type that gives you a criminal record) that I enjoyed every single second.
On the final night, I drove towards the pitch and I have to admit I was sad that the tournament was drawing to an end for another year. It isn’t about the game, it’s about community and craic.
Hopefully the tournament will be held again next year, and hopefully too, a few more people like me will dust down the football boots and take part.