The day the tide turned for Garnish GAA club

When Michael Moynihan heard that one of Ireland’s remotest GAA clubs had put together an account of its last 70 years, he set out to find Declan O’Sullivan - the man who wrote it.

The day the tide turned for Garnish GAA club

Who said history belongs only to the big battalions? When I heard that one of Ireland’s remotest GAA clubs had put together an account of its last seven decades, nothing would do me only to find the man who wrote it, Declan O’Sullivan.

When is the Tide Turning? Garnish GAA 1950-2015 was launched last month, and Declan started with the geographical particulars.

“We’re at the very tip of the Beara peninsula, the last few miles out by Dursey Island, the furthest club from Dublin in Ireland. When we go to Dublin Mitchelstown is halfway for us, and there’s another 130 miles after that.”

O’Sullivan, the youngest in his family, had four brothers, Frank, John L, Cormac and Tadgh, and the club was everything to them: “Rugby and soccer weren’t heard of and in Beara, I’m afraid, hurling was a bit of a mystery. I played from the late sixties to 1981 and was always interested in the history of the club. I started collecting things and it turned into a book, much to my surprise.”

In his book’s seven chapters he covers from 1950 to the present day, covering games and incidents such as the three men from Dursey who played for Beara in the county senior final in 1940: “They rowed across the Dursey Sound that morning, won the final and were back by 1am the following morning.”

Journeys are a recurrent theme for the west Cork club. Like every remote outfit Garnish are reliant on men making long trips home to fulfil fixtures. O’Sullivan was a teacher in Dublin for decades (“I came up for a year in 1976 and I’m here since,”) and can remember the time before motorways, when it might take a car full of Garnish players a long time to get from the capital down to west Cork.

“Now with the good roads it might take four hours, but when you had to go through Naas and Mitchelstown and every place in between it might be five, five and a half hours.

“After a match you’d be chatting to people you hadn’t seen and so on, so you can imagine what time you’d see Newland’s Cross on the way back up. Like a lot of small rural clubs we’d have been up and down. Over the years we would’ve struggled for numbers, like most small clubs in the west of Ireland. It’s competitive enough in Beara, too. Castletownbere have had great teams over the years. “The likes of Adrigole and Urhan would be the same. But in every community people row in behind the club, they support it fantastically. It’s a great focal point, we have a lovely pitch now, and a great clubhouse.”

And Garnish have provided players for the county: “When people get that bit of recognition it’s great, obviously.

“Aine O’Sullivan on the Cork ladies team, for instance. Beara won the county senior football title in the nineties again and we had a few on the team, the two corner-backs and the captain, Oliver O’Sullivan.

“All those families brought the club on a good bit in the nineties, even though we’re gone down a bit since. In fairness to Oliver he’s still playing a bit, at 44. He’s living in Ballincollig but he still goes down to help out.”

O’Sullivan did the research in the National Library and in the archives of papers like this one. It was a labour of love, he says, much like playing for the club itself. It was worth it for days like the 1978 Beara final, which Garnish won.

“It was our first win in 25 years and it was like an All-Ireland to us. It still is. You couldn’t explain to people what it felt like.”

Maybe. Though a book like this does a good job conveying just that.

How will 3D be hijacked by sport?

In Dept of Heartwarming News, good to see American seven-year-old Hailey Dawson given the chance to throw a pitch in every Major League Baseball stadium.

Hailey suffers from a rare disease, Poland syndrome, which means she’s missing fingers on one hand. So she’s throwing those pitches with her... 3D-printed hand.

Obviously it’s great that this little girl has this technological marvel to help her, and fair play to the professional sports clubs facilitating her tour.

But if, like me, all you know about 3D printing is that the message PLEASE ADD TONER is unlikely to figure, what are the implications of this development in mainstream sport? Just as plastic surgery developed to help burn victims and steroids’ original purpose was medicinal, it can’t be long before the science behind this development is hijacked for far more selfish reasons.

So remember the name Hailey Dawson when you’re complaining about the opposition scoring that last-minute goal thanks to a 3D-printed foot implant their star forward slipped on surreptitiously. She made the process famous for the right reasons.

Sharapova’s service break

Above, you can read about Declan O’Sullivan’s history of Garnish GAA club, a project the author himself describes as a labour of love, and with good reason.

If you want to see what the reverse image of that looks like, check out the new book by Maria Sharapova, who was recently banned for using performance-enhancing drugs.

In a flash of wit you wouldn’t have associated with someone caught taking a banned substance, Sharapova’s book is called Unstoppable.

I was hoping it was a flash of wit, but if the simpering coverage is anything to go by, it may not be. Vogue magazine — yes, Vogue magazine — referred to her focus by saying that “...a 15-month service interruption, or the very vocal disapproval of her peers, come between her and her ambition.”

For “a 15-month service interruption”, of course, most of us would read “justified punishment for cheating”, but even allowing for Vogue magazine’s ability to breeze over the main milestone in someone’s career, there’s a disappointing normalisation at work here.

There is, of course, the argument that once someone has been punished appropriately then everybody should move on, but it’s hard to swallow here. Whether it’s the sourness of her comments about Serena Williams, or the instant forgiveness from reputable magazines, I can’t say, but the most frightening possibility is that many people just don’t care that Sharapova was caught red-handed.

Florida still calling

My nightstand is currently occupied by Sunshine State, a book of essays by Sarah Gerard.

Very good it is, too — particularly the sense it gives you of Florida, where most of the pieces are set.

I have to confess that my notion of what Florida is like derives totally from the works of Carl Hiaasen, which may not be strictly accurate (though they may also be scrupulously true-to-life). Gerard’s depiction is a little more challenging far fewer erotically determined dolphins — but I remain keen on visiting.

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