The Donegal Sporting Diary

with Peter Campbell

The Donegal Sporting Diary

Community Games celebrate

Donegal, along with all the other counties, celebrated success at the National Community Games Volunteer and Media Awards in Galway at the weekend. Donegal had their fair share of the success and when it comes to partying, the Donegal gang can take their place at the top table too.

The Salthill Hotel was a fine venue for the event (although the ‘phone signal was very poor for such a strategic location looking over the promenade). The event was also blessed with a relaxed MC in RTE’s soccer correspondent Tony O’Donoghue. With over 100 awards out on the night, it took someone with O’Donoghue’s personality to keep the evening interesting (as well as keeping us all up to date with the second half of Ireland v Australia; Chelsea v Spurs and, later on, Katie Taylor’s progress!)

Apart from the awards which were already predetermined, Letterkenny celebrated winning the Ulster Area award, while PRO, Michael Crossan, was rewarded for his efforts by winning the award for Best Article on Community Games.

After winning the overall media award last year, the Donegal Democrat were happy to receive the runner-up award this year, behind the Carlow Nationalist.

It was our fourth media award in 11 years and one of those four came ten years earlier also at a Galway venue, the Great Southern Hotel, which has since closed its doors.

There is a strong rivalry between the counties for the different overall awards and that is likely to increase next year as Community Games celebrate their golden jubilee.

McHugh back again

It’s not the easiest post, the Kilcar management job. Winning the league and losing out at the final hurdle in the county final would normally be regarded as a successful year. But then in Kilcar, the Dr. Maguire is the one they have been craving for a long time now. The expectation will hardly diminish in 2017. They will probably be installed as short odds favourites before a ball is kicked. That is a tough load to carry.

That load of expectation, more than anything, is the task that Martin McHugh will have to deal with again next year. But it is impossible to write the script for any season. There will be a few more young stars available to the team (if the Donegal minors exit the championship), but what will probably be even more important will be that the likes of Patrick McBrearty, Ryan McHugh, Michael Hegarty, etc., remain injury free. If Kilcar have the full deck, then they will rightfully be contenders again next year.

But will 2017 also bring new contenders? Glenswilly, as long as Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher are healthy, will be thereabouts; Naomh Conaill will go through some soul-searching while St. Eunan’s just need to get their act together. Could Gaoth Dobhair, after winning the U-21 Championship, get back in the race?

It should be a year to look forward to.

GAA Anthem and Flag bombshell

The current President of the GAA, Aogán Ó Fearghail, is not someone you would have expected to create controversy, but he certainly has disturbed a hornet's nest with hints that the National Anthem and National Flag could be dropped from GAA games.

The Cavan native was speaking about the possibilities that could affect the Association in the aftermath of Brexit, but asking the GAA to drop something that is integral to their games is going too far.

Even at the moment, the Irish flag is flown at games in the Six Counties, and the Irish National Anthem is played at those grounds when games are played. Even if Brexit introduced a hard border, it is not likely that any of that would change. It is just part of the GAA ethos.

Rugby, the other all-Ireland team sport, did introduce a compromise with Ireland's Call, but was it necessary? It is very hard to warm to Ireland's Call and when both anthems are played at home games, it just doesn't seem right.

Maybe Ó Fearghail was just flying a kite to initiate a conversation, but by all accounts, even at this early stage, very few in the GAA want to be part of that conversation. They want things to remain as they are.

Best man

It would be good to get the reaction of Irish rugby captain, Rory Best. The Poyntz Pass farmer won his 100th cap for Ireland on Saturday as Ireland defeated Australia under his captaincy.

If sport in Ireland was looking for a role model, then Best would fit the bill. A modest player who has the respect of his colleagues and the humility to appreciate that he has been lucky. He may be in the twilight of his career, but he will remember 2016 for a long time - captaining Ireland to wins over South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

When he looks back after retirement, I'm sure flags and anthems will not be important. Just pulling on the green shirt and winning will be the greatest memories.