Ballymacward children have experience of a lifetime

By Kevin Herron

Ballymacward principal Hugh Kennedy believes that his school children’s experience dispells the myth that you don’t meet your heroes.

Children from the small primary school on the Rock Road- not far from Hannahstown- were treated to an audience with the Tipperary hurlers on Saturday morning before the challenge game at Davitts.

The pre-arranged meeting was set-up through Micky McCullough- who is working at the school and his links with Tipperary logistics manager Billy O’Shea.

The Ballymacward students – who ply their trade with Lamh Dhearg were treated to breakfast with the Tipperary stars at the Ramada Hotel Shaws Bridge and left with a token of appreciation from the All-Ireland hurling champions as their principal explained. 

“We were exceptionally proud when the opportunity came along through Mr McCullough – who works with the school” said Kennedy.

“He coaches Ballyboden St Enda’s and he had contact with Billy O’Shea (Tipperary Logisitics) and the Tipperary management team. It kind of all happened last minute, Mr McCullough asked if there was any chance the kids could meet the team. It was back and forward and the Tipperary management team had offered us the chance to come down in the morning and have breakfast with the players, meet them and get photos with the Liam McCarthy – so we were delighted to accept that”

“We got there in the morning and it got even better – Billy O’Shea had said to us, they had presents for the children- which was jerseys that the team had worn during a match. He was actually quite embarrassed that they were worn jerseys but I said to him- it made it even more special for the children and he said they would be presented to the children after breakfas. It was an incredible gesture by the team.”

 “We were waiting in the lobby to go in and have breakfast with the players and they brought out the Liam McCarthy. We were able to get photos with all the families and their parents and older siblings were able to get photos and Billy brought us in to meet the players- they couldn’t have been nicer, the hospitality was just second to none”.

“There was couple of children at each table and the Tipp players looked after them, they actually got the children their breakfast for them – brought them over pancakes and made them toast. You wouldn’t actually believe that those players are who they are ! The day went really well and they couldn’t have done any more for the kids. At the end Seamus Callanan and Liam Sheedy brought the children up one by one and presented them with a Tipperary jersey. It was a brilliant day and dispelled the myth that you don’t meet your heroes- they are exceptional people- all of them from the logistics manager, to the players to Liam Sheedy himself- they’re just exceptional people”.

The Tipperary stars were also treated to a rendition of the ‘Two Johnnies’ song ‘When I play for the County’ by young students.

Kennedy revealed that one of the children began singing it in school during the week and was encouraged by their heroes to sing a few verses – despite their initial nervousness.

“It started during the week – they sang the song by the two Johnnies (When I play for the County)” recalls Kennedy.

 “I wasn’t aware of the song myself, it was one of the kids from Lamh Dhearg (Ruairi Mulholland) had been signing it in class all week and told us he was going to sing it for them. Ruairi was actually sitting at a table with Noel McGrath and a few others, the presentation was happening and a few of the players shouted up that the kids have a song for us. They got up and were a bit embarrassed at the start but they started singing the song about being a County player – they got confident and started singing away”.

“They’d been practicing all week and the Tipperary fellas really enjoyed it and appreciated the kids singing for them and gave them a round of applause after. The kids were delighted, the players were delighted and Liam Sheedy himself – was over the moon with it and we’re very, very proud of them”.

Kennedy was delighted with the publicity that his ‘small’ school of 79 children received over the weekend- with Tipperary stars liking and retweeting them and Noel McGrath personally completing with the children.  

“We’re a small school and have very strong ties with Lamh Dhearg” Kennedy revealed.

“All the children there yesterday were from Lamh Dhearg and we have one or two kids from St Pat’s Lisburn but 95% of our kids are all Lamh Dhearg. We’re a small school with 79 kids so they don’t really get much publicity. The whole day, meeting the Tipperary players and even on twitter- we had Tipperary players liking our tweets and retweeting”.

“Noel McGrath in particular, contacted  Mr McCullough afterwards to say how much of a credit the children were to the school. They all had Lamh Dhearg tops on and the players were chatting to them about their gaelic club. They were a credit to the school, their club and their families- we’re a small school and we’re trying to expand as much as we can. It’s a good bit of publicity and it was just a great event all round for the school”.

Leitrim too strong for Saffrons

Lidl National Football League Division Four

Leitrim 7-10-0-02 Antrim

From Kevin Herron at Ballinamore

It was a long afternoon for Antrim ladies who suffered a third straight league defeat at the hands of Leitrim in Ballinamore today.

Despite surviving a double scare inside the first two minutes when Emma Guckian and Leah Fox struck the upright, the Saffrons fell behind to a point from Aibe Clancy- though quickly responded with Nikki Jones conjuring an angled point to equalise.

The hosts hit the first goal on eight minutes as Leah Fox atoned for her earlier miss with a fine finish past Anna McCann.

Aibe Clancy popped over her second point of the afternoon and Ellen Morgan converted a free in response.

But just before the break Leitrim extended their lead with a quick-fire double of goals – Michelle Guckian bustled her way through and rifled to the net and Carla Le Guen slipped in Leah Fox- who doubled her goal tally.

A further point from Ellish O’Dowd before the break gave the hosts a commanding 3-03-0-02 lead at the end of a first-half where conditions could only be described as testing- owing to storm Ciara sweeping over the hills.

In a show of sportsmanship Leitrim donated a spare kit to Antrim as both sides returned with a fresh set of jerseys for the second period.

Leitrim picked up where they left off at the end of the opening half as Michelle Guckian added two points from play and another two from frees.

Charlene Tyrell added his side’s fifth second-half score on the spin before Leah Fox secured her third goal of the afternoon with a neat finish to make it 4-08-0-02.

Full-forward Fox added her second in quick succession and points from substitute’s Laura O’Dowd and Muireann Devanney followed before the midway point in the half.

The dominant hosts completed a convincing victory late on through goals from Vivienne Egan and Devanney as the Saffrons fell to their third straight league defeat.

Leitrim: M Monaghan, S Tigh, M McCawley, E Quinn, C Owens, S O’Rourke, K Connelly, S Mc Loughlin, E O’Dowd (0-01), E Guckian, A Clancy (0-02), C La Guen, C Tyrell (0-01), L Fox (4-00), M Guckian (1-04, 0-02f). Subs: L O’Dowd (0-01) for L Fox (42); M Devanney (1-01) for C La Guen (42); R McLoughlin for E Guckian (53); V Egan (1-00) for A Clancy (58); M Heslin for E O’Dowd (58); E Quigley for C Owens (62); A McKeown for S McLoughlin (63).

Antrim: A McCann, K McConville, E Kelly, N Killen, N Webb, M Hanna, G Shannon, L Dahunsi, A Tubridy, C Taggart, E Morgan (0-01f), M McGarry, N Jones (0-01), E Rocks, A Taggart. Subs: E Bradley for N Killen (HT); D O’Reilly for C Taggart (36); E Rocks for M Hanna (46); D Boyd for E Kelly (50); A Carleton for M McGarry (53).

Referee: Paul Clifford (Buncrana)

Antrim should get back on track in Ruislip

Allianz NFL Division 4

This week’s trip to London takes on greater significance for Antrim following last Sunday’s one point defeat to Sligo at Marcievicz Park. The Saffrons performed well in Sligo but it was the home side who pipped them in a thrilling game of football which finished 0-15 to 0-14.

Lenny Harbison’s side had Kevin Quinn black carded shortly after his half time introduction with Sligo moving three ahead in his absence but they came back strongly and points from Odhran Eastwood and Paddy Cunningham’s  eighth of the day in injury time saw the visitors close the gap to the minimum.

However, referee McKenna blew the full-time whistle after Aidan Devaney’s kick-out with the Antrim players venting their anger at the full-time whistle, claiming that the Monaghan whistler had indicated a further 30 seconds play prior to Cunningham’s score.

Whatever the merits of those protests Sligo move onto four points from two outings while Antrim find themselves on two from the same number of games but a win in London would keep them very much in the chasing pack and with three of their remaining four games at home, all still to play for.

Antrim opened their league account with a win over Wexford in Glenavy on day one and then travelled to Sligo, buoyed by the news that Wexford had beaten Carlow on Saturday night, the Connaught side undoubtedly taking heart out of that result as well.

It was Sligo though that enjoyed the better of the exchanges for long spells against the Saffrons but Antrim will never the less feel that they should have taken something from this game.

Sligo recorded a facile victory over London in Ruislip on day one scoring 5-9 in reply to 0-11 from the home side but the exiles showed a lot of improvement when they travelled to Limerick on day two and led for a time before losing 0-8 to 0-7 and they will certainly have taken a lot of heart from that performance if not the result.

Manager Michael Magher will hope to build on that improvement and London born captain, Liam Gavigan will see Sunday’s encounter at Ruislip as an opportunity to get their first points of this year’s campaign on the board so Antrim must not take the exiles for granted.

That is highly unlikely however and despite last week’s defeat Antrim have been performing well this year and the return of Paddy Cunningham to the panel after six years away has given them a genuine scoring threat.

The Lamh Dhearg man scored 0-6 on day one against Wexford and added 0-8 at Marcievicz Park and his free taking could be a key factor this Sunday. A greater spread of scores would certainly help the Antrim cause and after hitting three goals against Wexford the Saffrons only threated the Sligo goal briefly on Sunday past.

Their failure to push up on Sligo’s kick-outs allowed the home side to find a man with relative ease while at the other end the Sligo high-press made it difficult for Oisin Kerr to find a man. Antrim also struggled for long periods at mid-field but I wouldn’t expect there to be too many changes, if any for the trip to London.

Ricky Johnston, Paddy Gallagher, Declan Lynch, James McAuley and Peter Healey were solid at the back while Conor Murray, Paddy Cunningham and Niall Delargy performed well in attack while Odhran Eastwood’s cameo appearance, which resulted in a fine mark and point may have put him in the frame for a starting spot.

The Saffrons have played with confidence and belief this year and while they were not at their best in Sligo they showed enough resolve and determination to make them contenders for promotion at seasons end and I would expect them to win with a bit to spare in Ruislip.