first_imgMark McHugh: Remember O’Donnell Park?BY PADDY WALSH: ROWING TO RIO – SINEAD GETS HER OAR IN FOR THE OLYMPICSClose to every day around the streets of Letterkenny, I’ll spot either Teresa or Michael Jennings out for their constitutionals. Not for them a short walk to the shop for the morning paper – they usually put in a lot more mileage than that – in their never ceasing fitness regime.But there’ll be an extra spring in their step these days as they reflect on the outstanding  achievement of daughter, Sinead, who, at the age of 38, will be competing for Ireland in the Olympic Games in Rio next year. After missing out on making the ‘A’ Final at the World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette in France, Sinead and her Dublin team-mate, Claire Lambe, finished third in the Lightweight Women’s Double Skulls ‘B’ Final to ensure qualification for Brazil. Party time, though knowing the Jennings family, the celebrations will have been low-key and the focus will continue to be on training. It has been a long road for the affable Letterkenny woman and one that saw her change sports back in the build-up to the London Olympics as she bid to qualify for the 2012 Games in cycling.Her blog from the time highlighted the sacrifices made – her daughter, Clodagh, had only recently come into the world – and the doubts that existed. “The question of whether I was good enough loomed large. Am I going to make it, is this all wasted effort?,” she wrote in August 2011. With time the doubts evaporated but she admitted it had been a gradual process.Sinead finished a mere 0.32 seconds outside the four minute mark in the National Track Championships which was, she pointed out, a watershed on the outdoor track. “It is by these small margins that Olympics are won and lost and from now to London I will be fighting to shave off every millisecond,” she blogged in September of that year.She recalled doing three to four hours around the hills of Letterkenny – no better place for demanding hill climbs and descents  – and the efforts that had left her spent. London, as it happened, didn’t materialise for her but it is now all systems go for Rio after reverting back to the sport in which she had excelled earlier in her sporting career. Excelled? Gold at the World Championships in Lucerne in 2001; bronze in Zagreb the previous year; and silver in Linz in 2008 – much more than excelled obviously. Her sister, Catriona, did compete in the marathon in London 2012 while Sinead’s husband, Sam, has been a participant on two occasions at Olympic level.A family that continues to go places – generally to the Olympic Games by the sound of it.Give a congratulatory nod to Teresa and Michael if you see them out on the road one of these days. As I say, you’ll know them easily as they’ll be the ones with a definite extra spring in their steps.RUB OF THE BLUE?Were I in Ollie Horgan’s size whatevers, I’m not sure if I’d be as calm or as reasoned in summing up the disallowed goal that denied Finn Harps the full quota of points and allowed bottom of the table, Waterford United, take one away from Ballybofey on Saturday night. Insisting that these things tended to balance themselves out in a season, the Harps boss maintained after the game: “Maybe you get those decisions in other games and they even out. Hopefully we might get the rub of the green between now and the end of the season to make up for that.”All well and good if you DO get such a decision going in your favour but what if you don’t and you end up losing out on automatic promotion by a point when had Damian McNulty’s headed “goal” (linesman, Alan Dunne’s inverted commas, not mine) gone in you would have been oiling the wheels for a crack at the Premier League next season?I’ve watched the video play-back half a dozen times and it’s clear that McNulty came in from an ONSIDE position when he powered his header to the net. And not long afterwards, Raymond Foy was clearly taken down on the edge of the box but was booked for a dive by referee Matthews.Two key moments that went against Harps on this occasion from a match they should have won and, let’s face it, should not have had to rely on disputed decisions to help them get there. Meanwhile, a couple of positives from the game apart from the performances of the likes of Ciaran Coll and Tony McNamee. Great to see big Stephen Parkhouse back at Finn Park as a special guest. Formed a significant partnership with Conor Gethins in the Harps front-line back in the day and was given a warm cead mile failte.And a note of praise to that small band of Harps supporters in the stand who continued to chant the team’s praises even after the full-time whistle clouding over the disappointment of the goal-less draw. It can only have impressed the familiar figure standing nearby them, one Colm McFadden. And as St. Michael’s and Donegal supporters will tell you, there is only one.THE WALTERS PERSPECTIVEJon Walters. Hero. Not simply for the goal that earned the Republic the three points against Georgia on Monday night. Or for the typically energetic performance the bustling striker put in as he invariably always do in a green shirt or that of his club side, Stoke City.You’ll have heard about West Bromwich’s Saido Berahino and his recent row with the club over the failure to allow him move on to Tottenham Hotspur during the transfer window. It got particularly nasty and has only now calmed down with the striker returning to training at The Hawthorns having insisted that he would never play for the club again.Walters also slapped in a transfer request as he attempted to force a move through to Norwich City. True, not nice to hear if you’re a Stoke fan and the twitter feed was full of some vicious reaction to the Irish striker’s demand. The transfer didn’t happen and he’ll continue to turn out for Mark Hughes team and the whole thing will probably be forgotten before long if he puts in his usual ninety-minute shift of all-out endeavour during the remainder of the season.But not for Walters a slap at Stoke and any insistence that he wouldn’t ever play for the club again. Instead a touch of humour as he tweeted: “Helicopter away for the year…sorry LVG it’s not happening.”But it was his pre-recorded interview prior to the match with Georgia that caught the ear. And indeed his post match comments.In both, Walters claimed that he was hugely fortunate to be playing football and receiving a significant wage for doing so. Hugely fortunate in all aspects of a comfortable lifestyle when, as he pointed out, the headlines in the media of recent times were all to do with people who are much less fortunate that him. Much, much less.The refugee crisis had put it all into perspective for him, he pointed out.Perspective. Not something those of us with a passion for sport and those of us who leaped out of our seats when Walters netted against Georgia always take on board.But something that Jon Walters obviously genuinely believes in – an image of the body of a three year old boy lying on a beach not easy to leave your mind even when you’re negotiating a career move.Mark EnglishMARKED MAN?Every time Mark English reaches another goal in his pursuit of greatness on the athletic tracks of the world, I cannot help but reflect on the recent claim by R.T.E. pundit, Jerry Kiernan, namely that the Letterkenny man had shown no improvement in his chosen sport over the past two years.He continued that path of no improvement by posting a time of 1:15:71 in the 600 metres at the Flame Games in Amsterdam at the weekend – finishing second behind Kenya’s Alfred Kipketer and setting a new Irish record for the distance in the process.That’s hot on the heels of attaining the qualification mark for the 2016 Olympics and helping to set a new Irish record by the men’s relay team at the World Championships in China. And no doubt when he takes out that silver medal from the European Indoor Championships and his bronze at the European Championships last year, he, too, must reflect on that lack of progress pointed to by Mr. Kiernan.Just where did it all go wrong?BOOST FOR LETTERKENNY  R.F.C. TRIOIt’s a bit early to be talking future international material for the trio of young Letterkenny rugby players who lined out with the Ulster under-18 team in their match with Connacht at the weekend but you have to say they’ve the ability to take their careers further if they can continue the progress that saw them earn that call-up.All three, Peter Scott, Daniel Faulkner and Joe Dunleavy, started for the Province in Magherafelt on Saturday and duly impressed in their respective roles in full-back, inside centre and wing forward.I’ve seen them in all action at various times and they certainly have the pedigree to add to their Ulster appearances and – well – who knows…?The Letterkenny trio were all involved in the Ulster try in the 15-9 defeat to Connacht with Scott going over for the score after being set by his two team-mates.A boost not just for the players but for the club who have produced some quality players over the years from under-age level.PUNISHMENT SHOWN THE RED CARDTime was that the Marx Brothers provided the greatest farce this side of the moon until along came the G.A.A. authorities to show them how it’s really done.Diarmuid Connolly may not have looked as if he was on the field of play on Saturday but he was and the only question to be asked is how? How was his ban overturned in the early hours of the morning of the semi-final replay when it appeared cut and dried that he would not be lining out that afternoon for Dublin following that well documented striking of Lee Keegan in the first game?That surely should have been it but the appeal process opens up all sorts of potential avenues for perpetrators, not to mention cans of worms, and at around 2 o’clock in the morning, Connolly was cleared to play and it was the punishment itself that was sidelined.And yes, there could indeed have been a number of other players from both Dublin and Mayo missing out had the entire process been given its head. But the point is that arguably Dublin’s best player – best in the country many would say – was given the green light by the Disputes Resolution Authority after the one match ban had been initially upheld by the G.A.A. Central Hearings Committee and the Central Appeals Committee.Not the first time the Dublin All-Star received clearance to play in a big game after a red card offence. Connolly was involved in an altercation with Donegal’s Marty Boyle a few years ago but on that occasion, his ban was lifted on a technicality.No such technicality this time out – only an appeals process that would appear to be flawed to the back bone.Moral of the story: a ban imposed by the G.A.A. isn’t worth the flimsy paper it’s written on.Or as Groucho Marx put it: “These are my principles and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.”GIVE US BACK THE HILLNothing, even the inclusion of Diarmuid Connolly, should or can take away from the fact that Dublin fully deserved their win on Saturday. Once Bernard Brogan rattled in their first goal with over fifty-five minutes gone to bring the scores level, there was really only going to be one team facing Kerry on Sunday week.Even when Cillian O’Connor had somehow managed to knock the ball to the net while off-balance to put Mayo four points to the good, there was still this feeling that the Dubs had a gear to go up and up it went.And so the Foxford curse continues to hang heavily over the men from Enda Kenny’s county and wouldn’t you think a man in his position would be able to pull a few strings and get the thing lifted? And you wonder do any or all of the players in those Mayo squads go into the business end of the All-Ireland Championship, as they have done over the past few years, with that old story of the angry priest imposing that curse because the returning All-Ireland winners of 1951 failed to give due respect at the funeral of a local dignitary.I know they’ve all probably dismissed it in their minds as a load of old stuff that cattle deposit but, still, lingering there in the dark recesses might just be the doubts whenever each years passes and Sam refuses to come in within an asses roar of Foxford or anywhere else in Kenny’s kingdom.Credit, though, to the Dubs who showed that they didn’t need to exert to physicality to overcome the Mayomen and as the game wore into its later stages, the chant from The Hill was becoming more confident with each passing second and ball.Ah yes, The Hill. Packed as it always is on these occasions with the familiar blue – a sight that may gladden the hearts of Dublin supporters but still ranks as a serious bone of contention to this mind. Every time the Dubs play at Croker, there they are – filling up every corner of it and consequently starting every game with a distinct psychological advantage. What kind of boost must it give to any Dublin team when they take to the field and why indeed in the first place was it designated as a Dubs only terrace (back in the nineties their supporters objected seriously to plans for an all-seater  arrangement in the old Nally stand and their views were upheld)?And there was the rest of us believing that Croke Park belonged to every footballing and hurling county in the country. Dream on, culchies, would appear to be the message from the  current occupants of The Hill.FAIR POINTMark McHugh reckons he’d have preferred watching Fair City than the Republic of Ireland game with Georgia.Not sure which of them should feel insulted more –  the R.T.E. series or Martin O’Neill’s management style but it was probably both.Believe me, Mark, I felt the same way when I was watching most of the game. Just as I did when I stood through the National League outing between Donegal and Monaghan at O’Donnell Park back in March.Hell (and it was), I would have almost watched ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ if I could have got that hour of my life back again.WAYNE’S WORLDSo Wayne Rooney has surpassed Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 international goals for his country?Only seventeen more and he’ll reach Robbie Keane’s current total….PADDY WALSH ON WEDNESDAY: ROWING TO RIO, HARPS’ BLUES AND TAKING BACK THE HILL was last modified: September 9th, 2015 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:mark englishMark McHughPaddy Walshpaddy walsjsinead jenningslast_img

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