Author Archives: Shay Connolly

Dublin GAA football goalkeeper and captain Stephen Cluxton

This morning.

Shay Connolly writes:

It’s 10 years today since Stephen Cluxton nailed that score. Who would have thought what was to come? A Decade of Ring a Ring a Rosies! Certainly not I. Sixteen years waiting for it, there were times I was sure that I’d never see another one before I headed for the Planet’s departure lounge.

My son asked me, as an innocent 12 year old, tears streaming down his face after we were beaten in the replay to Kerry in 2001, if he ever would see Dublin win an All Ireland (he had no real memory of the 1995 win). Ah of course you will, I said consoling him, the same way you would tell your children about Santa Claus.

My other kids were on the list for Prozac at the time also, such was the depression that overhung our household that day. At least myself and Caroline had seen Santa Clause come down the chimney on a good few occasions but you desperately wanted your kids to share those same type of emotions.

It would be 10 long years before Cluxton’s point sailed into the blue Dublin skies to bring back that emotion as utter unadulterated delirium wrapped itself around the people of Dublin. Once the drought was over, glorious salt tasting rainfall poured and poured on to our cobbled streets to heal our previous wounds. And we drank and swallowed gaily from its overflow.

As a City, with all its problems, its divisiveness, its different classes, its hussle and bustle of separation, we now gelled into one mass identity band. As success followed success it was us and them now as the country threw spears and arrows from all directions in an attempt to penetrate our gallant band. Some of the most intelligent people in the Country suggested lunar type solutions to strengthen their assault but no matter how hard they puffed and puffed they just could not blow our Dublin House down.

Our band carried themselves around the country like Paragons of Society, displaying all the humility of our ancient Celtic Warriors of old as we stepped out of the Celtic Tiger era and all its greed.

No matter how bad life was going we always had our Dubs to fall back on. A time to bury all the stresses into the waste bin of our brains and bask in the glorious football in front of our eyes. And when the battle was over we drank ourselves merry in song and dance, all the time enflaming the true ethos of our ancient Irish culture. Business people all over the country vied for our wallets and Kerry nearly had another Civil War when Tralee and Killarney gnawed at each other for our pockets.

Other counties laid out the blue carpet for us and as soon as our pockets were emptied reverted to type in disliking us again. However not all did so and cross county relations were forged through all the spears and arrows with the Tyrone Brigade standing out from the rest.

The final curtain came down four weeks ago. The cast looked somewhat tired and forlorn. We know not what the future does hold. What we do know is that it was an unforgettable journey, where the most romantic of novelists would find it hard to write the script.

Children who witnessed it will go on to tell their children and the journey wil be retold in pubs and clubs over and over again for many years to come. For this capital city, a city whose streets and laneways can tell of its many historical scenes, its tragedies and melancholies, its bravery and glory, the reign of this glorious Dublin Football team will now be added to its long and winding saga of memories.

Take a bow, brave sons of Baile Atha Cliath.. We may never see your likes again.

Mayo supporter Thomas Costello outside Croke Park on Saturday

Shay Connolly writes:

During the week I said at home here that Tyrone would win the All Ireland final. Was it the shock of Mayo beating Dublin that was influencing my opinion? Was I being biased, bitter or blinkered to not give this Mayo team the nod? I asked myself these questions umpteen times and each and every time I went back to that Dublin match… and for 50 minutes in that match I thought that Mayo were extremely poor.

Could they get over the line like the last day playing so poorly? I just couldn’t see that happening. I watched Tyrone make incremental progress in every round. To me they were all footballers, exciting footballers and were releasing the seat belts that Mickey Hart had them strapped into for quite a number of years.

I didn’t expect them to beat Kerry as I thought their transition would take a little longer.. But fortune favours the brave and brave they absolutely were.. They were very lucky to get over Monaghan in the Ulster Final but in the Kerry game they notched it up another gear and were not afraid to keep their foot on the accelerator. When your car is driving so smoothly its very hard to stop it from reaching its destination.

Mayo’s car was stuttering on its journey. Against Galway in the first half they were dire. They changed it around in the 2nd half and went on to win comfortably but I had now watched Mayo play 90 minutes of terrible football in the last two matches and I didn’t ignore it in coming to the conclusion that Tyrone would beat them on Saturday.

I have watched Mayo win All Ireland semi finals before. In fact I watched them win 11 semi finals since 1989. .

This year it peaked like never ever before. The entire country was caught up in the narrative that this was their year, especially since they dethroned the all conquering Dubs. However of the 11 All Ireland finals that they lost, only two were to Dublin. Getting over Dublin at semi final stage may make for a pleasant journey home across the Shannon but when you arrive home and check the boot of the car there’s nothing in it.

They beat Dublin in the semi final in 2006 at a time when Dublin were winning nothing but such was the euphoria that followed that it looked like they really didn’t care in the final… and Kerry went on to a facile victory with 13 points to spare. However this year the euphoria reached a crescendo never seen before by this ageing scribe. And while the entire GAA nation joined in the celebrations of Dublin’s defeat not one space was provided for a proper analysis of Mayo’s play. Nothing about the bald patches on their now lovely looking heads.

The entire Sunday Game after they beat Dublin three weeks ago was taken up with how dirty Dublin were. They couldn’t help themselves.. As the weeks passed leading up to the final and despite Tyrone knocking out the favorites Kerry, all the talk was of Mayo. Emotion ruled the day. Commentators, usually well experienced GAA pundits got caught up in it all.. There was no place for Tyrone. They were party poopers. At times it bordered on a partitionist mindset as if Tyrone belonged to another Island altogether.

I don’t like to single out individuals and all these amateur players deserve great credit for their commitment but the hyping of Aidan O’Shea has to be one of the biggest downfalls of modern Mayo final losses..In all seven finals that he has appeared he has gone missing and he might as well as have thrown a white sheet around himself and cut out the eye pieces such was the ghost like figure that moved around Croke Park in those finals.

He has failed to register a single score in any of those seven final appearances.. The fact is that different managers have failed to drop him. But it wasn’t just in All Ireland finals that he has disappeared. His Club Breaffy have never ever won the Mayo County Championship.. They have appeared in four finals in the last six years. They lost them all! I watched all of them on TG4.

He cut the same forlorn and lonely figure in those finals also.. Aidan O’Shea, for me typifies all that is wrong with Mayo football, believing all the hype yet failing to deliver. And no Manager had the balls to change this in case the emotion of such a decision might backfire on them from within the County.. Not alone were they afraid to call it out but they made him captain also. A popular choice in the County, no doubt. but a man to lead you to the Holy Grail? Hardly. In the media’s desperation to find the greatest player of the modern area during Dublin’s reign they played up the “brilliance” of Aidan and Michael Murphy because they didn’t play for Dublin.

Joanne Cantwell committed the most perfect Freudian slip on Saturday evening when she addressed him as ‘Aidan O’Shite’ when discussing him. I kid you not!! But Joanne was all chirpy .She didn’t have to burst any anti Dublin veins in her neck throughout the presentation..

In another interesting titbit of information on the Wikipedia page of Aidan is that he was born in Mullingar and in the 15 line write-up the author managed to squeeze in that he was refused entry to a Dublin Nightclub after Mayo beat Donegal in the quarter final in Croke Park in 2013. Jeez those horrible Jackeens! Do you see the rather large chip that they carry around on their very broad shoulders..

When Dublin were coming good in 2009 or so they had many fine footballers but they were lacking a warhorse in the middle. Along came Michael Darragh McAuley and the rest is history. Tyrone have had many fine footballers in the past number of years but they missed a warhorse after Brian Dooher retired. A man who could go up and down the pitch almost infinitely, harrying and carrying and controlling the game. Brian came in as Manager this year and moulded Conor Meyler into his former self and even managed to surpass his own greatness in this player.

For me, Conor has been the gem in their crown throughout this year’s All Ireland Championship and his snuffing out of the the opposition’s danger men whilst at the same time being the main playmaker has been the most singular reason that Sam Maguire went north.

For Mayo, despite novenas being said all over the Country for you to dispel the curse, despite almost every emotional sinew of the Nation’s biology being fastracked to you by Pony Express, the sad story is that none of that stuff wins you All Ireland Titles. I don’t know if you can turn around the freaky mindset of 70 years but surely beating Dublin in a semi final can never ever again be interpreted as an All Ireland win.. The three weeks since seems like an awful long time ago today.

Shay Connolly is a writer/songwriter, a Ringsend resident and a former Dublin Minor Hurler.

RollingNews


Christian Ronaldo was booked by an otherwise friendly ref Matel Jug for taking his shirt off against Ireland on Wednesday night

Shay Connolly writes:

Ah, we wuz robbed, me thinks by the Slovenian referee, Matel Jug. Before I go any further did you know that the first block in the EU was formed last year. It consists of three countries who have amalgated to share the Presidency of the EU. They are Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. You see where I’m going here?

Wednesday’s match was Ireland V Ronaldo. Portugal didn’t come into the equation at all. This man obviously commands some respect with officials. Can’t remember the last time I saw a yellow card being dished out to a player and the referee with a grin as long as a mile in the process.

He had it in his hand after Ronaldo stripped off his Ronaldo shirt to show his rib cages and that’s not allowed. Some jealous buggers in that Fifa governing body. As the Punchy Jug walked over to him with the yellow card in his hand and smiling like a Cheshire cat he put it back down again because Christ hadn’t finished celebrating yet,so he sort of joined in on the party, walking alongside him with the hand down by his side shielding the yellow card from Christy pupils just in case it might mar the festivities.

Still smiling, and with a tiny bit of froth emanating from his lips, his eyes began to bulge like Marty Feldman as he waited until the Christ of Ronaldo put his shirt back on. Then, almost apologetically he issued the yellow card to him. At one stage I thought he was going to ask Christy to sign it for him. The next act of the referee was to blow the final whistle.

Seven lousy minutes earlier, we were without doubt heading for the best ever result in a qualifying match. We were organised so well at the back that Git had been taking breaks and throwing shapes for most of the game.

In the penalty incident the ref was so sure for it that he wasn’t so sure at all. The VAR fellow must have come in on his earphone: ‘Matel, I think ze better check again’. As he went over to the gold-plated tele on the sideline he spent 90 seconds making up his mind. One wonders did Christy enter his head during those 90 seconds and that the world record was hanging on his decision, and his decision alone. Anyways he seemed to be sure again and pointed to the spot.

Twenty years into the future in some Kazakhstanian pub quiz, a quiz master might ask, just might: “What referee awarded the penalty for Ronaldo to break the world record?”.  Fame is a terrible thing at times.

Before Christy steps up to break the world record and those inevitable debates after penalties are awarded are still going on, Dara O’Shea flicks the ball away from his spot and Christy, being Christy, pushes him on the shoulder. Our guy acts the Aidan O’Shea and hits the ground like a sack of spuds, holding his face.

In the game I played most of my life, for some strange reason to go down was an act of cowardice. You were supposed to keep standing even after getting a belt on the head with a hard lump of Ash that had a band clipped to it with eight nails. Talk about the crucifixion. You could be walking around on the pitch with two robbers beside you and with blood streaming from your head. but you dare not go down The shame would be just to hard to handle. I don’t think any of the present Mayo footballers would have survived my day.

In this buggers from Fifa game. a raised hand to your opponent says a red card, according to the rules, but nah I couldn’t accept that, given my background. But one suspects that Christy could have head butted him and Juggy Punch would have ignored it.

So Christy stepped up to take it, but that Kakastanian pub quiz will have to be cancelled as our young 19 year old, former Shamrock Rovers hero, Gavin Bazuno saved it. There is a pause. The ref is checking that our hero may have moved before the kick was taken. I think the Varsman told him to go and get Christy to change loaves into fishes as it was easier to do than to award another penalty.

We go in at half time incredibly 1-0 ahead after the son of a man I cursed constantly for putting goals in the Dublin net has put the ball in Ronaldo’s net. From a corner, John Junior Egan let the ball slide in off his his new extra shiny shampooed hair and in it glides into the far corner. Christy’s not happy.

Five minutes extra time and as Ronaldo Utd are attacking he is just playing the last piece of play. Oh no he’s not, he let’s them set up another attack and yet another one after that, but as the Irish break out towards the half way line he blows for half time this time. Where did Juggy Punch get those extra 70 seconds from? Jeez a man could expire in those 70 seconds.

Second half starts and Christy is more out on the wing now. He does a few of his well known dribbles but if Vasco de Gamma was making as little progress as Christy, he might have jacked in the ould exploring job and became a house painter.

Christy was getting hot tempered now, and that famous right hand that he waves at the referee like he his shuttling wasps away from his beautiful face is used umpteen times. He is arguing with Seamus Coleman, but there’s no pointing in arguing with our Seamus while he has the teeth braces in.

We are doing well on the break and as my cousin Aaron Connolly is about to pull the trigger after a terrific knock down by Egan one of Ronaldo’s friends bulldozes him in the back as he is shooting and the ball goes narrowly wide.

Was it a penalty for Ireland? Yes in my opinion but I thought my Cuz should have scored it anyway. He is only back from injury and he was a yard short from previous fitness levels. Anyway Var should have looked into but no, says Juggy Punch.

We are two minutes from full time and glory when James McLean falls for the old pretend to cross trick and James committed fully to block it. But Ronaldo’s friend killed the ball and with James left leg firmly stuck to the ground the cross came in easily and Christy buried it with a header. Ah to Calvary with all that!

And they are attacking again and win a corner but the ball is cleared out over the sideline. But the Almighty Christy says to the ref that there was a foul in the box and low and behold the Juggy Punch goes to Var to check, because Christy said so. No such thing happened in the box and play is ordered on. Another five minutes extra time. We are holding out and its’ 20 seconds past the five minutes when Hendricks breaks up the attack and clears his lines. At least a draw is a good result. Oh no he’s letting them go again.I thought five minutes meant five minutes.

And as we all now know that Christy got his head to the final cross and scored again. Juggy Punch seemed happy about it all as he went to get the get the autograph of Saint Christy.

The last time we wuz robbed we got €5 million in compensation. If only we had Seán Óg Delaney still around he’d be sure to strengthen his bank account further and who knows but we could get another interest free loan from him.

For all the Irish contingent of Man U supporters who had social media plastered during the week as if Christ himself was returning to Earth, just how did you feel in those last seven lousy minutes. Did you go ‘ah fluck that’ like the rest of us, or was your patriotism wavering?. Is such your admiration for this head Christian on Earth that you were secretly happy inside? How did you manage the conflicting contentment in your heart while pretending to be enraged?

For what died the sons of Roisin, I say. Was it Christy Ronaldo?

To all those calling for Stephen Kenny’s head before this match because they still suffer from Stockholm syndrome and believe our former, and in some parts present, Colonial rulers should be ruling our Soccer team, how are you guys today?

For what died the sons of Roisin, I say. Was it the Premier League?

In the end, Ronaldo Utd swayed the day but there is no taking away from his natural ability to play football.. His hanging in the air act is almost as miraculous as if, indeed he was J.C. himself and his social justice deeds off the pitch have to be admired.

The decisions by the Jug of Punch cost us dearly as the entire Irish contingent couldn’t master Christy’s influence on him. Now as we seem to have our defensive system sorted can we do the other very important issue. and that is put the ball in the net. Saturday will tell a lot against Azarby something. As for Wednesday, the only recourse we have now is to get on to the Doh Juffy show and wash our hands of it.

Shay Connolly is a writer/songwriter, a Ringsend resident and a former Dublin Minor Hurler.

Getty

Conor Meyler (Tyrone) and Paudie Clifford (Kerry) in action during the All-Ireland football semi-final last Saturday

Shay Connolly writes:

So just what happened Kerry on Saturday? Slaughtering all before them (except Dublin, of course), the bookies made them favourites to win the All-Ireland at the start of the Championship. According to commentators and journalists alike they had found the jewel that they were previously missing. A playmaker, a man who could go up and down the pitch and make it all happen. His brother David was the man everybody knew but this was the guy that was hyped up to fill the missing link in the Kerry armour. His name? Paudie Clifford.

All year he lived up to the promise and his engine was firing up and down the pitch solving conundrums and creating gift-wrapped parcels for his well known brother and other Kerry forwards as they scored goals for fun throughout the League and Championship, including six against this same Tyrone team just two months ago.

So in desperation almost, the media created a scenario where someone else was going to win the All Ireland other than Dublin. And the hype grew and grew as more money went on the Kerry boys.

Conor Myler is a 26 year old Tyrone footballer. His father played for Tyrone in the 1980s and managed his son’s team at Omagh St Endas. His son didn’t make his team! He played on the B Team. Conor couldn’t make the school team either. He was also an athlete, a cross country and road runner, competing in events throughout the Country. Hard stuff that. At 18, not having made the first team in the club or the school team he had a choice on which sport to pursue 100%.Despite all the negative signs he chose Gaelic Football.

Conor didn’t pin down a first team place with his club until 2014. They won the County Championship that year for the first time in 26 years.. Conor played a leading role. In 2015 he had made the senior County team. He broke his leg in the quarter final win over Donegal.That would be the end of anyone’s season. Not Conor. I read what he did to get back and it was self flagulation stuff in a Tibetan moneastary. He lined out against Dublin in the final eight weeks later. That was the road map that Conor brought into Saturday’s match.

In the last number of years we have constantly heard about these sparkly new diamonds from the Kingdom coming on the scene. Five All Ireland Minor football titles in a row from 2014 to 2018 and not a word about cutting the Ring of Kerry in two. These players are now on the scene. None of them has added a senior crown to their Minor crowns and after Saturday’s display they might never do so.

Kerry came out with bells and whistles ringing from their boots and togs. Half their names were households names throughout the country, even though they have won nothing. Most households would find it hard to name two or three Tyrone players. Conor Myler was given the job of marking the Kingdom’s new jewel, Paudie Clifford. He snuffed him out completely in an amazing display of man marksmanship and ball retention. And the rest is history.

Kerry believed their own hype within their own Kingdom and the hype of others outside of it.Tyrone knew they would have to street fight to win it. Kerry thought that that the jewels in their crown would sparkle with a little polish. Tyrone stole the Kingdom’s jewels and the street fighter won the contest.

Unless Kerry can learn how to become rough diamonds rather than sparkling blue sapphires then they will have to settle for being second or third best for a long time. They can take all the plaudits from around their neighbours fireside and an ever lustful media, who in trying to create a Gaelic Kingdom outside Dublin created a bunch of false pretenders.. and Kerry themselves believed it all.

Shay Connolly is a writer/songwriter, a Ringsend resident and a former Dublin Minor Hurler.

Pic by Philip Walsh via Irish News

The Limerick squad before the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Limerick in Croke Park, Dublin last Sunday

Senior hurling.

Why are Limerick so good?

Why are Dublin not as good?

Former Dublin minor hurler Shay Connolly writes:

Limerick achieved their back to back All Ireland Hurling victories on Sunday in an awesome display of power and skill of our ancient craft and, in my opinion, the game has never ever reached such high skills since its inception. It’s hard to imagine how a higher level could be achieved.

When God created Hurling, I don’t believe that he or she expected that us mere mortal humans could create such wizardry with a stick and a hard piece of cork and leather stitched together. Big, giant-like men with no more than a 34 inch piece of Ash and with the craft of an expert lumberjack felled the Cork forest in just 35 minutes.

Years ago, big men were put in central positions such as full back, not necessarily for their skill set but to act the terrorist with their opposing players and to defend their goal like the Sioux. All types of stuff went on in games years ago to get an edge on your opponent.

Psychology was one of them as you sized up your opponent in those first 10 minutes.. I once told a full back in a team I managed to say more than a few Hail Marys into the full forward’s ear and rile him up so much that he’d hit him in front of the ref and that he as a full back was to take the belt like an ancient Celtic warrior. It worked! But never would such psychological shenanigans be required by a team such as these Shannonside artsmen.

Limerick on Sunday were like the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. No note was missed, no pluck of a string over stretched, no ivory piece over leaned on as they delivered a euphony of melodious hurling skills that left their audience spellbound. But Cork let them play away unperturbed as if they were part of the audience themselves. If they were there to disrupt the orchestra, they brought the wrong music sheets.

In last year’s final, Waterford clogged the defence and the middle to try and stop the Limerick train from getting through. But Limerick didn’t try to ram through the junction. They just picked them off from further back and while 30 points from far out in the field with no goal may not have made for pleasant viewing, it didn’t matter a hoot to Limerick if it meant collecting the Liam McCarthy cup.

For me, Cork came with a game plan to counteract Limerick from last year’s final and not let them shoot cider cans from way out the field. But they got very drunk along the way. Trying to play it out of defence through the eye of an needle in the hope of getting it over Limerick’s undauntable half back line, they crashed time and time again into Limerick’s Wall Street in their own half back line.

And there to pick up the debris was Cian Lynch. A man of six eyes, he has microscopic vision of the play around him and can see moves as good as Russian chess player, Gary Kasparov. And Queen Lynch moved around the board destroying the Cork pawns and knights in his wake, even if he did get away with throwing that ball in the pass for Limerick’s first goal.

Cian Lynch is a nephew of my favourite player of all time, Ciaran Carey. I met Ciaran in the Spar shop in Ringsend a couple of years ago on the eve of the All Ireland Hurling final and an amazing thing about hurling people is that he was as interested in me as I was in him. The appreciation for the game of hurling is king and players, no matter what standard one has achieved, can chat freely about it on a level playing ground.

I remember when I used to puck a ball on Sandymount beach most week nights a few years back. Sometimes I would see different guys way off in the distance doing likewise and we would wave at each other even though we had never lay eyes on each other before. It was an acknowledgement that we were part of the Nation’s hurling family. After leaving Ciaran in the Spar shop that night little did I know that his bloodline was going to produce an even greater player than him.

I believe that the Limerick management team have studied the Dublin football set up. Their mindset is similar. ‘We play our game and we perfect it’ seems to be the identical motto.They don’t deviate from it and no matter what other teams contrive up to disrupt it they stick with their own game. The movements of their forward line is similar.

in other words you are constantly moving and creating the space, if not for yourself then for your team mates and that your first line of defence is your forward line, as it proved for Cork as they spilled ball after ball trying to get it out of defence such was the ferocity of tackling from the Limerick forwards.

There was no thirty yard pass across the pitch from Cork to switch the play, there was no corner or full back joining in the breakout to give them that option. Instead they were between two stools and they fell embarrassingly between them. There is one obvious difference in that you can’t kick a football over the bar from 80 or 90 yards. So other measures, some quite boring and tedious have to be adapted to get through packed defences..

But alas there is also another obvious difference. As I Iisten to and read about this fantastic Limerick team there is universal acknowledgement of just how great they are.When Dublin footballers had won their back to back All-Irelands and three out of four All-Irelands and in the exact same position as Limerick are today the punditry and journalists were already a long time in place with suggestions of splitting Dublin in two, the money that Dublin receive and a host other negative commentary. No matter how many times one points this out it can never ever be accepted outside Dublin that there is an inherent bias towards Dublin in Gaelic Games.

For a long time now I have held the view that this bias is deep rooted. Dublin was the centre of British Rule in Ireland.. The entire country paid their taxes to this unpopular county. The shocking laws imposed on them (and us) were initiated from Dublin etc. And despite suffering some of the worst slums and deprivation under British Rule, despite so many of them starving during the 1913 Lockout in trying to break the British system, despite so many hundreds of them from tenament housing turning out for the 1916 Rising, the County was still branded as a separate British colony within a colony.

It has never eased and despite the obstacles that the British type set here in Dublin used to prevent it gaining a hold in the “Second city of the Empire” it succeeded beyond expectation. Of course its Gaelic football I talk about as Dublin Hurlers have not succeeded since 1938 and when only one Dublin man, Jim Byrne was on the team.

God forbid if they do indeed make the breakthrough in Hurling but I doubt that they could even win one when the naysayers would begin to begrudge them that victory. In the meantime many officials, both inside and on the pitch are making sure they don’t have to deal with this headache in the first place.

A mighty well done to Limerick on your brilliant achievement and performance. It will take some team of class, strength and guile to dislodge you as All Ireland champions, even if you did give up too easily to Cromwell forces in 1651 in the Siege of Limerick!. At least us Ringsenders ordered Cromwell to move on or else when he first landed here in our small village in 1649!! Gwan the Raytowners…

Shay Connolly is a writer/songwriter, a Ringsend resident and a former Dublin Minor Hurler.

Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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