Croke Park Finds Its Heroes

Published in The Journal Newspaper – Edinburgh 10 Oct 2012

Two counties per year get to boast winning the ultimate title in Irish sport. They secure that privilege for one year only, then they must start from the bottom once again, everyone an equal. Neighbouring counties pitted against neighbouring counties. All must take to Croke Park to fight it out on the playing field for that revered crowning of All Ireland Champions.

Last week, Galway stepped forward to attempt to tame the Cats in a glorious All Ireland Hurling Final. In front of 82,274 supporters, it was Kilkenny who returned home with the McCarthy Cup to place once again upon their mantelpiece where it has sat seven times since 2000. Incredibly, this is their 34th All Ireland title. The final score read Kilkenny 3-22 to Galway’s 3-11.

Galway had their head in the game from the early stages, leading 2-2 to 0-5 at one stage. But the ever capable Kilkenny machine retaliated quickly. Donnellan got a straight red card for a dirty pull in the 49th minute and the tragedy for the Galway supporters transpired from there. A nice nine points from the legendary Henry Shefflin as well as a goal and three points from Walter Walsh in his championship debut meant that with 20 minutes left, Galway were goners.

In the All Ireland Senior Championship Football final, Donegal finally laid their hands on the Sam Maguire Cup after a twenty year fast, defeating James Horan’s Mayo squad. Donegal obtained three scores in the opening eleven minutes with a goal-a-piece by Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden. Donegal played a superbly smart game with wing-back Anthony Johnson at the core of it. Donegal’s manager McGuiness is praised for creating a new style of play that critics are saying will be difficult for other teams to replicate.

As for the ladies, Wexford triumphed over Cork in the All Ireland Senior Camogie Championship. They made it three in a row, with the score card reading Wexford 3-13, Cork 3-6.

In typical Irish fashion, with the season barely over it is straight back to the grind and time to plan for the 2013 season. Thirty-three teams will compete for the Sam Maguire Cup, while fifteen line up in the race for the Liam McCarthy.


Toronto Camogie Club

An audience is gathering. People are pointing.  Fifteen women belting each other with sticks. It merits a few stares. As they run by in their pairs, the Irish shout;“Keep the hurling alive ladies”, while the Canadians inquire politely into the name of this strange sport. Camogie is back in Canada and Toronto is one of the first to jump on the bandwagon.

The last time ladies trotted around High Park caman in hand was back in the 70’s. Anne Loughnane former centre forward recalls; “There were two teams in Toronto back then. We mostly played each other and travelled to tournaments in the States. We got to play New York at the CNE and several feis in Hamilton. It is great to see it making a comeback.” However, it is early days and this year will focus predominantly on getting a team established, recruiting players, naming the club, securing sponsorship and purchasing helmets.

“Our plans for this year include competing in the International Camogie Tournament in New York on October first and there is a possibility of amalgamating with Atlanta Georgia for the North American finals to ensure sufficient numbers. “says Leanne Fitzgerald, the person credited with the idea to start up a club. Fitzgerald was brought on in the men’s hurling game at the seven aside GAA tournament in Cleveland in May and it was there that the idea was first planted.

The response so far has been overwhelming. PK O’Kane Hurls, a Derry based company shipped over a batch of thirteen hurls and twelve sliothars within two days of placing the order. The men’s side, Toronto Hurling club have being incredibly supportive. The turnout of players is solid with newcomers showing up every week. At the moment it is mostly Irish girls with the exception of five Canadians but that will change as the sport begins to take root.

 Training takes place  at 7.30pm Tuesday evenings at High Park. For more information regarding membership or sponsorship, contact Leanne at . Here’s hoping that camogie in Canada will return and surmount its former precedence.


The Gaa Presidents Award

He may not have graced the green fields of Croke Park in his youth but he will grace its very walls. He was present on the Canadian pitches in its boom time and he is still there now on the sidelines and behind the scenes as history repeats itself and GAA abroad once again explodes, encasing the hearts of Irelands homesick emmigrants. His name, Mr. Brian Farmer.
This year the work of Farmer for the GAA is celebrated with the presentation of the Gradam an t-Uachtaran, the Presidents Award. This is a tribute to the 25year old Armagh man who left the Irish pastures for his career with the company Powersgreen, Dungannon in 1975. He had a choice; Toronto, Canada or Johannesburg, Africa. Which was the lesser of two evils? “I decided to try it for a year because if you want to get ahead these are the things you have to do. After three months I was homesick, I didnt know anyone, I was about to decide to go home when my friend’s brother told me about St. Mikes.”
In the late 1980’s Brian broke his leg at training which curtailed his days of playing. To fill the void, he took to managing and was elected chairman of the Toronto board. He played a hand in the founding of the Toronto club Durham Robert Emmets and in its name was a tribute to his old Armagh club Clonmore Robert Emmets. “At one stage I managed St Mikes with Seamus O Keane and then Durham. It kept me in touch, ensured the passion and competitive feel didnt fade. If you havent got that then you shouldnt be there.”
Mr. Farmer has led a life which is inextricably intertwined with the Gaa.His debut began at seven years old with Maghery McDermotts football club, back in times long lost where a football consisted of a newspaper tied up with string.  He recounts the highlights of his glory days with fierce pride, recalling the year 72/73 when he won Junior footballer of the year with his club Clonmore in Armagh. Another milestone in his life was the resulting product of the sweat put into the organisation of the A&P Skydome Games and the memory of the battle twixt Dublin and Tyrone, a match of beauty which he questions if the likes of it will ever be seen again. Then there are the titles; Durham winning the senior championship in 1993 and 2005 where Brian was co manager. He adds; “simply seeing the Gaa grow, the enthusiasm of new clubs and the new players coming over from Ireland. The Gaa is a hive of activity and it’s not just in Toronto, the progress in the West is unbelivable.”
For now, the gaa in Canada is in good hands, younger people are constantly coming in and the leaders ropes are being passed down; “New blood means new ideas. It is evolution and it is essential.” The only mistake been made in his view is the outlook of some that see the gaa as an irish game for Irish people; “That is counter productive and it stunts the development of the games.” Farmer believes that if the games where showcased to all nationalities, they would take to it and see it through the same passionate eyes as the Irish do. The prospects for the future are exciting. Farmer hints that there is a floating idea to establish a GAA world cup of sorts. There are international units of the gaa scattered across the globe; in New York, San Francisco, Shanghai and New Zealand. It would be a first class tournament with a potentially controversial restriction, you would have to be native born to play. St. Mikes man Paul Loughnane was one of the first to suggest it and since then it has spiralled. Meetings have been set up and there is global interest building. Another possibility is bringing out the All Star Ladies for another round of the Skydome extravaganza.

On March 16th Brian Farmer became one of the latest recipent’s of the GAA President’s Awards in light of his phenomenal voluntary contribution to the GAA.The Award was set up eight years ago to honour those who have exceeded what was expected of them in their commitment to the Gaa.  Farmer was flown home to attend a special banquet in Croke Park to recieve the Award which is presented to a mere 16 recipents, making Brian one of an elite group. “The Gaa is a community, the people you play with when you first start are the people you play with and are friends with for life. Everyone is connected and I am delighted to be a part of it.”