Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

When family pride is winner

Moving moment: Mark McHugh and dad Martin’s emotional embrace

Maybe it's because local sport has, in the last while, been overshadowed by stories of such awful tragedy - the deaths of the Spence family members, of Brian Og Maguire and last year the terrible murder of Michaela McAreavey that I found a small scene of celebration after the Donegal All-Ireland win so very moving.

It was that scene, captured by the BBC, of Donegal player Mark McHugh being congratulated by his da, Martin.

McHugh senior had been commentating for the Beeb. With his headphones still on his head he signalled to his boy as the team celebrated on the pitch.

The son ran over and the two hugged and kissed and danced around in a moment of joy that was both extremely public and deeply personal.

They were all love and pride and bursting with emotion. And when Martin McHugh walked off the pitch wiping away the tears I was weeping with him.

I know little about any sport. I don't care a whole lot about any sport.

But sometimes sport gets it just right.

The game is important, yes. But that little exhibition of father-son love and pride is a reminder of what really matters in life.

And that was also in evidence at the weekend when the rugby family here gathered around the Spence family to acknowledge their great loss with dignity and words of heartfelt solace.

Rory Best summed it up when he talked about how young Nevin Spence "loved rugby, loved representing his province, the fans, his neighbours, his church, his family".

Sometimes sportsmen get it just right.

Stand up for the Ulstermen.

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