| 5.7°C Belfast

McBurney/Declan Bogue

Pictured Declan Bogue

Date: Thursday 12th April 2012

Location: BT Offices

Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Copyright: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney - RAZORPIX


+44 7837 68 57 67

This crisis gives kids a chance to hone their sporting skills against a wall like we did

Declan Bogue


Taking aim: Clare’s Tony Kelly pucks a sliotar against a wall

Taking aim: Clare’s Tony Kelly pucks a sliotar against a wall

�INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Lenny Harbinson

Lenny Harbinson

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Taking aim: Clare’s Tony Kelly pucks a sliotar against a wall

So now, in this age of quarantine, who among us is brave enough to venture that we might just have a favourite child after all?

With families huddled together at close quarters, it is interesting to note how children step gracefully from one pacifier of a dummy straight into the world of screen time.

At the risk of plunging headlong into Monty Python's 'Four Yorkshiremen' sketch, 'twas all different in my day.

The Bogue children might as well have robbed out of the Chapel poor box than to make an admission of being bored. Boredom was a sinful indulgence but there were ways and means of getting around it despite being brought up in a particularly damp part of rural countryside.

We had a Commodore 64 for the rainy days, and even the sunny ones too. I'd love to say that something came out of the hundreds of hours spent trying to conquer Shinobi, World Cup Soccer and Kung-Fu Master - something other than to be hastily researched and recycled in a column decades later - but it's all I got.

For a few families around us, our chief means of transport was three-wheeled motorbikes that we called trikes. These were piloted around country roads and down to the shop, sometimes without a helmet.

A disused field up the road was commandeered and we flattened a track around the perimeter of the fir trees until it was serviceable for racing.

The worst thing was to be seen idle. The sensible thing was to have something in your hand and look as if you were going about your day with purpose, lest you were put to work in domestic chores or in father's workshop.

But of all the pastimes available, the one I spent most time at was hammering balls off walls. In an accidental triumph of architecture, our home had three gable walls.

One was used for basketball. An actual basketball or a backboard would have been seen as having 'notions' - we made do with a hoop bolted to the wall. The biggest wall was perfect for hurling, and tennis balls would be horsed as hard as I could manage.

On the other side of that wall was the family television and I happily interrupted hundreds of episodes of Neighbours and Home and Away with the loud pop you could get when you caught it on the sweet spot.

The third wall was the smallest and used for football purposes. A smaller target for closer-in stuff. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, just as I was instructed in those soccer and Gaelic football manuals up in the bedroom.

It was also the tallest gable so you could pelt it up towards the aerial - later to become a satellite dish as we morphed into a swanky family - and try to catch it as it plummeted. 'Catch it at the highest point', read the manuals. 'Spread your hands like a W'.

And the array of footballs. Small, plastic efforts that went egg-shaped the first night they were left out, leather 32-panel black and white retro ones that were only gorgeous but with the lawn swimming in water, too much to resist kicking against the wall. Soon, they affected a careworn, flawed charm. The panels would tear and curl away from the stitches. Once you peeled your first one off, it felt like the psychopath making his first kill. Others would inevitably follow.

Hours and hours were spent doing this. Hundreds, thousands even. Sometimes in the dark, jumping up the odd time to try and trigger the sensor light. No company, save for a series of dogs we would have until they would meet their demise on a country road that many mistook for a circuit on the Donegal Tarmac Championship.

Those days came flooding back this week. With this damned thing (I'm determined to get through a column without referring to it by name) making us prisoners in our own homes, the GAA have done what they can on a national and local level.

Island-wide, the opening of Croke Park as a testing centre for Covid-19 (damn it) shows we are on a war footing.

Locally, the WhatsApp accounts of parents have buzzed with messages from coaches. With time on their hands and stimulus required, clubs have outlined drills for children. All they need is a wall and a ball, or a hurley and smaller ball.

Whenever a genius of a ball game is talked about, there is a chance they will be referred to as a 'street player', such as a Cian Lynch, Tony Kelly, Colm Cooper, George Best or a Paul Gascoigne. The assumption is that they played so much casual football or hurling, their skills never let them down.

This is a chance for children to develop their skills, to get some air into their lungs, to immerse themselves in skills development years before they get swallowed up and tamed by structured coaching.

When Tyrone's Cathal McShane was a young boy, he received some pocket money and it all went to young lads around his club who retrieved his footballs as he practiced endlessly. It pays off.

We are in crisis. This is a small opportunity.

A decade on, St Gall's All-Ireland kings still fondly remembered

You'd almost forget about anniversaries and landmarks, but one caught the eye on the most peculiar of St Patrick's Days yesterday.

Ten years ago, the footballers of St Gall's won an exceptionally rare All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, beating Kilmurry-Ibrickane of west Clare in the final.

As it happened, it came in the centenary year of the club itself. The final was a let down. St Gall's opened the scoring with a Kieran McGourty point and their opponents replied instantly as Stephen Moloney buried in a goal.

From then on, St Gall's exerted a kind of choking influence that allowed them to practically own possession and score at will. The final score was 0-13 to 1-5 but on the day the Belfast lads were like a basketball team in how they moved the ball around the field, how deep they went to defend, how they never, ever did the selfish thing.

In some ways, it was a portent of how football would be played in the future. Under their manager Lenny Harbinson, they were already building something special when Rory Gallagher landed at the club to join his brother Ronan, who had been there for several seasons.

After not venturing his opinion for their first year, Gallagher opened up when Harbinson asked him to. They couldn't shut each other up.

"Once I got to know him better in year two, and certainly in year three (2011) which was my last year and Rory's last year, we would have talked on a regular basis about tactics and how football should be played," said Harbinson, the current Antrim manager.

"It was very obvious from an early stage that he had lots of great ideas. He is very knowledgeable and thought-provoking.

"It doesn't surprise me at all what Donegal, with Jim McGuinness and Rory there, achieved.

"People who don't know Rory might underestimate his contribution, but it's a combination of Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher."

Gallagher aside, that was a team that brimmed with character. You had the feminist corner-back Paul Veronica, an avowed fan of Andrea Dworkin radicalism, the three McGourty brothers, CJ, Kieran and Kevin, all brought slightly different but brilliant qualities, each of them dripping in class. The athleticism of Aodhan Gallagher, the brain of Terry O'Neill, composure of Sean Kelly, cuteness of Kevin Niblock, Mark Kelly, Anto Healy and Sean Burke, the captaincy and leadership of the excellent Colin Brady. Even Karl Stewart, a talented forward, had to make do with a place on the bench.

It was a team for the ages, but as soon as they hit their apex, they were eclipsed by a third coming of Crossmaglen. No shame. They were great champions.

Belfast Telegraph