Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

A day for the young and light of heart

After the game had been won, St Brigid's goalkeeper Shane Curran grabbed his old friend Frankie Dolan and kissed him. Full on the lips.

If this is the last we see of Curran as a footballer, then we will remember this about him; he was a gas man. In fact, he had more gas about him than the entire North Sea. Whatever he did, 'Cake' did it his way.

At the age of 41, he won an All-Ireland. There's something wonderful in how a man like Curran approached the game and still managed to achieve almost everything.

There was a period during the start of the last decade that his kind were viewed with suspicion. There was a po-faced quality to much of it. Their thinking was that if you were enjoying yourself, then you couldn't possibly be focused on winning.

People like Curran were losers. People like Frankie Dolan, who was exposed after some high jinks of playing 'naked pool' in a hotel (Shock! Horror!) were losers too, who didn't take themselves seriously enough.

This became a Connacht thing, with Mayo as the poster-boys for underachievement.

Even recounting their stories in later life – as the current St Brigid's management of Kevin McStay and Liam McHale would be invited to do – was to invite scorn for daring to say anything honest about that famous incident in the goalmouth against Meath in the 1996 All-Ireland final.

Yet when Dolan rode that tackle from Conor Weir, his momentum carrying him forward as he instinctively slotted over, the gates of heaven opened up. He made them all winners.

McHale, McStay, Curran and Dolan are great characters of the sport. Yet McHale's record of losing 10 All-Ireland finals as a player and coach was the cause of mirth for some – even taking into account his incredible achievements with Ballina in basketball and testimony from the American players of the time that he would have made it in the NBA.

But as the saying goes, they got knocked down. And they rose again.

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