Whittling away the time prior to a dreaded hospital appointment may seem a curious time to be ruminating on matters GAA. Then again, said organisation is one of the mainstays which makes some of life’s more trying travails more negotiable. A while back, a video was encountered on YouTube of the potato harvest in Co #Meath. Interest was spiked for a few reasons. Firstly because the potato sector is one agricultural area about which it is desired to increase knowledge. Also, however, as the contractors in the piece of film were the Finnegan family – long associated with Seneschalstown GFC.
The late Eddie Finnegan was one of the first of many special people befriended within the Yellow Furze community. Primarily due to their club’s run in the Leinster Club SFC of 1994. Many years thereafter, even further treasured acquaintances with the area were fostered. Connections which proved invaluable when encountering gale force winds in life. And though paths don’t cross that often anymore one hopes ties of some sort will forever remain.
Apart from those weekends in Newbridge, other prominent memories of football at the back end of the year centre on attending games involving Dunshaughlin sides powered by the Kealy family, Niall Kelly, David Crimmins et al during their spell of dominance within Meath football. The pinnacle of which was their annexation of the Leinster Club Championship at Christmas 2002.
Great as those memories are, there’s always a longing for your own to be adorning such stages. Of course, that has happened previously. Once ended in utter heartbreak, the other occasion less favourably. That doesn’t lessen the desire to get back there again though. Personally speaking, the void felt always strikes most acutely at this time of year.
Eamonn Sweeney in the Sunday Independent recently observed “When you never win anything yourself anymore you have to claim other people’s victories”. Was that the mindset whilst following other clubs representing Meath? To an extent, definitely. At the cost of much flack dispensed in the locality.
Attaching oneself to the glory of others, however, facilitates a loss of identity. Something which has been upsettingly prevalent in some places lately. That is not, in any way, to detract from or disrespect the success enjoyed by other entities. Rather, a yearning that ambition to at least strive for equivalent levels would dominate thoughts. Coupled with an earnest wish that relevant parties would realise how well stocked they are with talented resources and how close desired outcomes really are.
Pursuit of winter glory should be defining. For a club and maybe for an area. Aspiring to the heights scaled by Crossmaglen Rangers might be fanciful. Knowing what the storied Armagh club encountered on their journey to greatness should be motivation enough for anybody that they can be the best they can be in their own right without latching on admiringly to anybody else. Granted, everybody – in or out of sport – needs a bit of inspiration. In particular, young players need heroes to strive to emulate. And the greatest heroes are always closest to home. Examples of this are innumerable. Again, I think of Crossmaglen. Note, in Thomas Niblock’s excellent documentary, the sense of community spirit. Businesses in the area rowing in behind the club’s journey. Members of the club – including Oisin McConville’s mother – providing catering after training sessions.
Success on the field isn’t defined by tea and biscuits, but the idea of a collective togetherness is what makes these things take off. Everybody pulling in the same direction. Which, in an overly commercialised world, is crucial to keeping sight of what really matters. Supporters are cheered up and inspired by the achievements of their own. Players, in turn, are driven to do it for their people.
Were Clonmel Commercials inspired by the progress made with Tipperary county teams or was it the other way around? It scarcely matters. What is certain though is that these things feed off each other. Good vibrations and all that. To even begin an ascent to desired peaks, however, there has to be a unity of purpose.
From a Meath perspective, Dunshaughlin – and prior to them Walterstown and Summerhill – have proven it can be done.A GAA club – or any sporting organisation – can go a long way in shaping the identity of a place. Success brings joy to the masses. Winning a county title can be the moment of a several lifetimes. Dunboyne’s pair of Keegan Cup successes still rank as the two greatest days of my life, sporting or otherwise.