MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Honouring a fallen hero

What struck the men from Crosserlough GAA club last Thursday was how close everything in Lordship was.

As the men from Cavan joined members of St Patrick’s GAA club to form a guard of honour at the funeral of Adrian Donohoe, they could see the guiding landmarks of the slain Garda’s life.

His house. The church. The clubhouse.

“You could see it all from the cemetery,” said James Smith.

“It’s all within a mile radius, I’d say. All interconnected with each other.”

Donohue grew up an underage star with the Crosserlough footballers; Smith was a teammate coming up through the ranks.

“I went to school with Adrian and played with him up to minor, but that was where my talent ended,” said Smith.

“He was a fabulous footballer, though. Very tall for his age compared to us but well able to carry it, unlike some lads who can be a bit awkward if they’re very tall for their age.

“From a very early age it was apparent that he was going to go far. He was a born midfielder.”

In one U21 county final, though, Donohoe found himself far from his post in the final minute, and he produced the fairytale ending for Crosserlough.

“He got the goal that won it with time nearly up,” said Smith. “That was the kind of player he was. Even if he wasn’t going well you’d leave him on because he was always liable to do something like that.”

For a year after moving to Dundalk he played on with Crosserlough but a round trip of about 120 miles was a forbidding obstacle. Donohoe did what people all over the country do when they want to assimilate in a strange place. He joined the local GAA club.

“Just a pure GAA man from a GAA family,” said Frank McCann of St Patrick’s GAA club in Louth, the club that Donohoe joined. McCann said the Cavan man pitched in with training underage teams, right down to the level where tying laces is more of a challenge than getting men behind the ball for a mass defence.

“He was looking after the under-sixes and under-sevens,” said McCann.

“He had a good way with them, but sure if you didn’t you wouldn’t be looking after them.

“A couple of years ago he was over the junior team. Last year he fell in with the under-16s as well and we were wondering about this year, but now...

“He missed our last game, the Leinster club championship quarter-final there last November and I know he was going mad he couldn’t get off to go to it.

“He was a very nice guy — he wouldn’t be around the place getting in your face as a garda, either. You’d hardly know he was a garda — that wasn’t his way at all. He was just big Adrian.”

McCann was speaking the day after the funeral, and the emotion of saying goodbye to a clubman was still audible in his voice.

“It was just a very sad day. Hard to see the family like that, you know.

“It’s very hard to get your head around it, but talk is cheap, isn’t it?”

James Smith said recent comments about his old clubmate had been accurate.

“He was big in personality, had a great sense of humour. Everything you read about him in the last few days, those weren’t empty platitudes. That was the truth about Adrian Donohoe.”

College players now realising their worth

You may not be a big fan of American college sports — all those bizarre nicknames, like Minutemen and Razorbacks — but something occurred last week which may interest you.

A judge allowed former college sports people — American football players, basketballers, etc — to proceed with a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, the governing body for college sports. The former students want a slice of the vast TV revenue, as they’re the people who generate it.

You’re talking about a lot of money. In dozens of US cities there are no professional sports franchises, and the biggest show in town is the local college. With vast broadcasting contracts come healthy salaries for the top coaches. The head honcho with a big football college like Alabama can pull in $5 million a year.

His players, however, get nothing. Zero.

Some former players are a little dissatisfied and they’ve gone to the law as a consequence.

“Now the (NCAA and its co-defendants) are facing potential liability in the billions of dollars instead of tens or hundreds of millions. It’s a more accurate context for what the players deserve,” said Michael Hausfeld, interim lead counsel for plaintiffs was quoted as saying last week.

(Reports suggest Hausfeld and his associates have spent $20m (€14.6m) on legal costs advancing the case since 2009; just to give you a little context).

There are complications: the former players have moved the goalposts with their lawsuit once or twice, which won’t help them when the case eventually makes it to court. That’s not scheduled to happen until the middle of 2014. A lot can happen before that.

But if the former athletes win, it signals the end of what one American economist has described — with tongue in cheek — as the “the best business model in the world”, a description based almost entirely on the fact that the NCAA doesn’t pay those athletes.

Television contracts. Unpaid players.

Remind you of anything?

Drico has redefined the voice of a hero

Travelling to Miltown Malbay yesterday, with the radio on, all the talk was of Simon Zebo and Brian O’Driscoll as you hopped between the talk shows.

If there was a slight inclination to laud O’Driscoll, that was probably understandable. He’s a bit closer inage to most of the speakers on those Sunday morning/early afternoon chat shows after all (and speaking of which, is there really a pool of about nine people who rotate between those shows?).

As the tendrils of mist curled out from around the trees of west Clare – and there were a lot of trees, and a fair amount of fog – it struck this listener that one thing O’Driscoll has done is to redefine the voice of a hero in this country.

We tend to associate a deep-bass authenticity with grit and guts, but O’Driscoll’s well-modulated middle class Dublin tones are the perfect disguise for someone with the competitive instinct of a cranky wolverine.

Lately I stumbled across a book at home about great American boxers of the thirties and forties, and the thumbnail accounts of their childhoods read like the Yorkshiremen sketch in Monty Python – one trying to outdo the other in awfulness and deprivation.

O’Driscoll might not have been reared in a cold-water tenement in the Bronx, but he would clearly concede nothing in competitiveness to one of those ferocious middleweights of the Fritzie Zivic/Jake LaMotta era.

In his stunning career, O’Driscoll’s polite articulations have served first as a cover for someone who clearly would break your fingers to get that last Rolo, and now should free people in all sports to speak as they wish.

And the link between the O’Driscoll and Zebo?

Anyone remember Paris all those years ago, and the young O’Driscoll’s celebration? Compare with Zebo’s celebration last Saturday for another example of the Dublin man’s influence . . .

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