by Adam Moynihan
As a footballing community, our happiest memories together have almost exclusively been narrated by RTÉ’s Belfast-born commentator George Hamilton.
From a nation holding its breath in Genoa to Ray Houghton doing the job for Jack in Giants Stadium, from getting no more than Ireland deserved in Kashima to Robbie Brady bringing us all to our feet in Lille. Hamilton has always been there, first to savour the moment and then to convert the pictures into words, at manic junctures when the best the rest of us can muster is a guttural, drawn-out ‘yes’.
Thankfully, and fittingly, Hamilton was on the mic in Glasgow on Tuesday night to once again lend his voice to another iconic moment in Irish football history.
“Fahey standing firm. Now it’s O’Sullivan. And there’s the run of Barrett… And Barrett’s given herself a chance here… Amber Barrett in on goal… Amber Barrett makes the breakthrough!
“That was sheer brilliance from Amber Barrett. The first touch to take her clear was absolutely terrific. And Amber Barrett kneels in celebration in honour of the Donegal folk who passed away in the disaster in Creeslough. What a moment for the Donegal girl.”
I’m not sure if anything I’ve ever written in my capacity as a sports journalist has brought a tear to someone’s eye; that transcription is probably as close as I’ll get.
The goal itself was superb. Niamh Fahey’s cushioned header scuppered a Scotland attack and regained possession for the Irish. Denise O’Sullivan’s turn and pass lit the fuse. Barrett’s first touch with her left was like something out of a video game. Inch perfect in its execution, it rapidly propelled the Potsdam striker from a threatening position into a deadly one. Amber Alert to Red Alert in an instant.
The second touch with the right improved the angle and settled things down. And then the finish… The finish was world class. An impudent toe poke that left the unsuspecting keeper flat-footed, a flash of brilliance that could easily grace any of Ronaldinho’s highlight reels.
From beginning to end, the move was perfect. Unstoppable. Unbelievable. Unforgettable.
Then came the celebration. A celebration not only of the joyous goal that preceded it, but also of the people represented by the armband around Barrett’s left bicep. The Donegal woman took a knee and bowed her head as she pointed to the black band. The 10 victims of last Friday’s tragic accident at Creeslough honoured amid the outpouring of emotion.
It took a brave defensive effort to keep the Scots at bay for the remaining 25 minutes or so. An assured display by goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan (the American-born granddaughter of a Kerryman, I hasten to add) was pivotal. Her first-half penalty save from the boot of Scotland striker Caroline Weir seemed to fill her and the players in front of her with confidence.
Beautiful scenes followed the final whistle as Vera Pauw and her players, many draped in tricolours, danced arm in arm and basked beneath the Hampden Park floodlights.
Misguided individuals would have you believe that singing an offensive-to-some pub song in the dressing room “overshadowed” what happened on the pitch. Nothing can overshadow something this big and this bright. It would be like trying to cast a shadow over the sun.
At last, Ireland’s dream of World Cup qualification has been realised. Now it’s time for another, larger dream to take its place: the World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand beckon for the girls in green.
With Katie McCabe on corners and Megan Campbell launching grenades from the sidelines, no team on Earth will fancy taking on the Irish.
More memories to be made. More moments for George to savour.
Opinion: Talk of sacrosanct jerseys and an apolitical GAA just doesn’t ring true
by Adam Moynihan
The GAA recently refused the Mayo footballers’ request to wear rainbow-coloured numbers on their jerseys in the 2023 National League. The Association reportedly told the Mayo county board that playing gear is “sacrosanct”.
Let’s be honest: that’s not strictly true. In 2021, sleeve sponsors were given the green light, to add to the chest and upper back sponsors that already appear on many counties’ shirts.
Four branded areas on a jersey. That’s more than the Premier League allow, and the Premier League is regarded as one of the most money-hungry sporting bodies on the planet. I suppose everything is sacred until there’s money on the table.
The GAA’s response to Mayo and their charity partner Mindspace Mayo, who came up with the idea, has drawn a mixed reaction. Some have claimed that it’s a missed opportunity, but the ‘keep politics out of sport’ brigade are also out in force. That’s one argument I just can’t get on board with in general and it rings especially hollow in the world of Gaelic games.
Sports and politics have always been intertwined and the GAA is no different. The very foundation of the GAA was a political statement of sorts, an act of patriotism under British imperial rule. These strong ties between our national games and our nation’s political history are regularly highlighted by the Association itself and by stakeholders within it. In recent years, several teams, including the Cork footballers and hurlers, have worn jerseys commemorating Irish political figures.
O’Neills, the GAA’s primary kit supplier, sell Michael Collins-themed GAA shirts as well as 1916 jerseys with images of the post-Rising GPO on the front and Poblacht na hÉireann on the back.
Leaving all that to one side, it’s also worth pointing out that the Mayo footballers were not trying to make a political statement anyway. The aim of such projects is to make members of LGBTQ+ community feel welcome and to raise awareness around inclusivity, diversity and discrimination. We’re talking about human rights and basic human decency here, not politics.
There are those who say discrimination isn’t a problem in the GAA, that everyone is welcome already. If that is the case then why are there no openly gay intercounty players? It’s very likely that they do exist, and it’s also very likely that they’re worried about how they will be received if they come out. One of the top teams deciding to wear rainbow numbers might seem like a small gesture – I’ve seen plenty of people claiming that it would be meaningless – but doing so might provide reassurance to a gay player or supporter who is struggling with their sexuality. Would that not make it worthwhile?
Of course, whenever someone tries to do something positive in the name of inclusion, the term “virtue signalling” is inevitably thrown out there. This week, it’s the Mayo footballers’ turn to bear the brunt of it.
Funnily enough, the people who tend to use this term are often saying more about themselves than the people they’re targeting. In their own minds, when they see a person speaking up for a group that is less privileged, the only possible explanation they can come up with is that the person in question is seeking praise.
It’s a pretty narrow way of viewing the world but unfortunately that’s just how some people’s minds are shaped.
In defence of the GAA, they have not issued a blanket ban on rainbow colours. Thankfully this isn’t the Qatar World Cup we’re talking about. In the 2020 All-Ireland semi-final, players from Mayo and Tipperary, along with referee David Gough and his officials, participated in the Rainbow Laces campaign. It is understood that the GAA don’t have an issue with laces or armbands being worn in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
The only slight problem is that the Rainbow Laces campaign tends to run towards the end of the calendar year which suits the Premier League, for example, but not the GAA as the intercounty season ends much earlier. (2020 was an exception due to the pandemic.)
Of course, there’s nothing stopping the GPA and the GAA from coming together and organising their own campaign, if they want to.
It’s one thing saying that everyone is welcome and that the GAA is where we all belong. It’s another thing showing it.
Killarney Valley AC named Club of the Year at national awards ceremony
Members of Killarney Valley Athletics Club had cause for celebration on Wednesday as they picked up the prestigious Development Club of the Year prize at the 123.ie National Athletics Awards.
The award is handed out annually to a club who have made a positive impact on behalf of the sport within their community.
Sprinter Sarah Leahy of Killarney Valley and UL was also honoured with the Female University Athlete of the Year award.
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, coach and committee member Tomás Griffin said he and his clubmates were “delighted” and “very proud” to accept the Club Development award on behalf of all their athletes, coaches and administrators. The opening of their new track alongside St Brendan’s College in 2020 has been crucial, Griffin explained.
“The facility a catalyst but the passion was always there and we had people doing their best and coaching long before there was a track. To see the momentum that came with the opening of the track being maintained is great. We now have a waiting list of people looking to join the club.
“Did we see ourselves winning an award like this, in an organisation of 53,000 members and 400 clubs? No. But was it always possible? Yes. Killarney as a town across all sports – Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, cycling, judo, rock climbing – it’s a place where people excel. The bar is already raised. But being able to reach this level and achieve what we have in just two years shows what other talent is out there.”
Killarney Valley now boast five Irish internationals, 320 registered members and 22 Athletics Ireland accredited coaches. The club won 107 provincial and national medals in 2022, and they had 155 graduates from their Couch to 5k programme. Many of these participants are now regulars in the local Park Run and are continuing their personal health and fitness journeys with the club.
Nine Killarney Valley representatives attended the awards ceremony on Wednesday: Tomás Griffin, Jerry Griffin (chairperson), Bríd Stack, Gene Courtney, Con Lynch, Karen Smith, Sarah Leahy, Jordan Lee, and Madie Wilson-Walker. Sarah’s parents Mike and Marie also made the journey.
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