DONAL REID COLUMN: When the battery runs flat and the fun evaporates

DONAL REID COLUMN: When the battery runs flat and the fun evaporates

It was a busy weekend on the Donegal GAA front last weekend with the semi-finals in the Junior, Intermediate and Senior club championships taking place.

There were no shocks but some very keenly contested encounters.

Red Hugh’s and Urris will contest the Junior final, while Aodh Ruadh, Ballyshannon will meet Glenfin in the Intermediate decider. The Senior final sees Naomh Conaill back in the final to play firm favourites Gaoth Dobhair.

I was unable to attend any of these games however, I understand that Naomh Conaill and Glenswilly played out a “cracker” last Saturday evening in Ballybofey. It was no surprise that Gaoth Dobhair beat MacCumhaill’s in Letterkenny but it was a surprise that the Twin Towns team got to a semi-final.

As stated previously, they have been making steady progress this past few years and I must commend them on their work with underage teams for a number of years. MacCumhaill’s are beginning to bear the fruits from their efforts.

Also, it’s great to see Glenfin in the mix in the Intermediate championship. For a small rural area, it is a credit to the club and the team to be able to compete at such a high standard.

Again, from a local perspective in the Finn Valley, I’m delighted to see my own club Red Hugh’s back in yet another Junior final. It has been heartbreak after heartbreak for the club in recent years, but the team will surely take the title this Saturday in O’Donnell Park.

Childhood hero

I was in Derry recently and I saw a childhood hero, “six foot two eyes of blue” Brendan Bradley walking through the Richmond Shopping Centre.

For readers too young to remember, or people who simply haven’t heard of him, Brendan Bradley was a prolific centre-forward for Finn Harps. He holds the record for the highest number of goals, 235, scored by an individual in the League of Ireland. He also holds Harps’ club record of 181 goals.

As a boy, I sold match programmes for Harps when attendances of up to 5,000 were not unusual. Ballybofey and Stranorlar were lined with cars going way out the Glenfin Road and down out the road to The Cross almost as far as the Iron Bridge. The Iron Bridge has been replaced in recent times with a new bridge adjacent to the Finn Valley Centre.

Seeing Brendan Bradley brought many great memories to me that day. I used to be in and around the Harps dressing room then and I was familiar with all of the players: Bradley, Charlie Ferry, Jim Sheridan, Gerry Murray, Paddy McGrory, Jim McDermott, Peter Hutton, Tony O’Doherty, Terry Harkin, Paul McGee and others whose names escape me just now.

They won the FAI Cup in 1974. Former Donegal Democrat columnist Patsy McGowan was the manager then.

I’ve become somewhat detached from the Harps scene but still keep an eye out for their results from time to time. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they are in the play-offs for promotion back into the Premier Division.

I sincerely hope that they return to the top tier of League of Ireland football and perhaps recapture those glorious days of years ago.

If I have become a bit disengaged with Finn Harps, I have to admit that I have become somewhat disconnected with GAA football in recent years too. This happens to many of us for varying reasons.

However, for me, I disconnected myself, especially from club football, because my battery basically ran flat. The fun, joy and excitement evaporated.

Football was my life. I had little interest in anything else.

I suppose my life changed dramatically when I met the late Fr. Paul Gallagher. I mention Fr. Paul because I was back in Medjugorje two weeks ago. I went alone and one day while I was at the foot of Apparition Hill, my dear friend came to mind.

A few years back we sat together on the large stones, at that very spot, polished by pilgrims’ feet over the years. His cancer may have been in its infancy then. He wasn’t feeling well on that bright, blue late October morning.

He was as meek and mild as ever though, never complaining and always trying to help. He talked to me later that day about death. He said that it wasn’t the end but the beginning.

That morning two weeks ago, I thought about what he said. I talked to Fr. Paul’s mother Celine few months ago and she said that she always feels his presence. I do too.

I went back from Apparition Hill to St. James’s Church for Mass at 10 a.m. I couldn’t find a seat in the chapel. It was jammed. I sat outside in the pleasant autumn warm sun and listened to a homily given by Fr. Brian McKevitt.

I didn’t know this priest but, he spoke with a soft Irish, yet powerful, brogue.

He talked about the “modern, secular, liberal world looking so bright and shiny”.

He spoke about the perversion of the teachings of the Catholic Church and “fake gospel” and about “facing judgement when we die”.

Yes, Fr. Paul was correct.

Keep the faith!