Sunday, December 23, 2007

GAA: for the love of the game

Listening to Dessie Farrell and Donal Og Cusack talking about the "modern" players' commitment to playing GAA you would think that GAA players before their time, had simply nothing better to do, but turn-up from time to time without much training to play a game.

Leafing through some match programmes I have at home, a nice anecdote caught my eye, which shows that in those days it wasn't all that straightforward to represent your county.

In 1975 Gerry Delaney, of the legendary Stradbally clan from Laois was working as a Garda in Ashbourne county Meath, but continued to play with Stradbally and the Laois U-21 team. Having defeated Kildare in the opening round of the Leinster Championship, Laois faced Meath in the quarter-final in Newbridge.

Living in Meath Gerry had to travel down to the game and the best way of doing so was to get a lift with the Meath lads. Joey Tormey, a member of the local Donaghmore club arranged for him to travel with "Scupps" White, Phil Smyth and Eamon O'Brien. As Gerry recounts "It was faily quiet on the way down...just a small bit of banter".

Against a side which included six Meath seniors Laois played exceptionally well, defeating Meath by 5-5 to 3-9, with Gerry Delaney scoring four of Laois's goals!

Gerry recalls the aftermath "having had something to eat with the Laois team after game, my lift back to Ashbourne with the Laois management didn't materialise so I had to ask the Meath lads if they would oblige. They were happy to do so but only after threatening to leave me stranded in Naas! It wasn't the same mini-bus that I went to the game in and the craic wasn't any better...understandably!"

They dropped him in Dunshaughlin and Gerry had to thumb home to Ashbourne.

Gerry didn't feel abandonned by the GAA. Since then he's given 30 years of service, first as a player and now as a club official -serving as chairman for no fewer than three separate terms- with his adopted club of Donaghmore/Ashbourne.

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