Belfast Telegraph

Garda stars sparkle

By Jonathan Bradley

Director-General of the GAA Paraic Duffy enjoyed a chuckle after he presented the Gaelic football winners medals to An Garda Siochána, conquerors of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service at the Queen's Dub complex.

"It was the first time I heard at a GAA match someone shouting 'Come on Northern Ireland'!" said Duffy.

Boosted by stellar inter-county talent such as Leitrim's Emlyn Mulligan, Westmeath's Denis Glennon and Cork's All-Ireland winner John Miskella, An Garda Siochána ran out winners on a 4-21 to 2-10 scoreline, but the Northern Ireland firemen made life difficult.

Peter Turley was a human battering ram and goalkeeper Tim Harney pulled off many memorable saves, and they drew level with 10 minutes to go until the superior conditioning of so many county players told.

It was a fitting end to a competition played in brilliant spirit and the skills in the senior final were an impressive showcase for the many athletes gathered in the social quarters right beside the location for Gaelic games.

The PSNI had two teams taking part, and there's a chance that some spectators might have been attending their first Gaelic football contest as a result of that.

In the bar, it was all "Oh my gosh!" and "You guys" and that kind of chat. Americans. Of course, they were there for the softball, naturally.

Elsewhere Aussies, Italians and Kiwis knocked back glasses that looked cold and frothy as they occasionally gave a glance at this curious spectacle outside.

A man and woman who appeared to have dropped straight out of 'Eurotrash' central casting, wearing Doc Martens and T-shirts emblazoned with 'Antwerp Fire Brigade' appeared bemused by it all, while on the sidelines a character with 'Deputy Sheriff' on his baseball cap took dozens of photos.

A strange, wonderful and peculiar day for sport in this corner of the world. Good to see. Great to see, in fact.

There was the poignant sight of Peader Heffron on the sidelines.

Three and a half years ago, the Irish-speaker and keen Gaelic footballer was caught in a booby-trap bomb and his life, and body, was altered forever. To see him encouraging the PSNI team here was to witness a triumph of the human spirit.

The shield final featured the Western Fire and Rescue Service who were comfortable winners against the PSNI, while Cavan and Monaghan Gardai beat another PSNI selection in the Bronze Medal Match.

The senior final was a marked improvement in standard with some fine score-taking and plenty of big men thumping into each other in the sunshine, before the Garda side eventually pulled away at the end.

Paraic Duffy added: "It was a very competitive final, a very enjoyable game and fair play to the Fire Service team for their performance against a star-studded Garda team. It was played in a great spirit.

"You could also see the enjoyment all teams got out of representing their organisations.

"It was very well run and the whole mood and spirit of the day was extremely positive.

"It was great to see so many people from different countries watching it, people who would never have been exposed to Gaelic games before.

"I think they will have enjoyed what they have seen."

Senior semi-finals: Garda 10-16 PSNI 2-5

NIFRS 11-12 Cavan/Monaghan Garda 2-12

Senior final: Garda 4-21 NIFRS 2-10

Shield final: PSNI 0-7 Western Fire Service 11-10

Bronze medal match: Cavan/Monaghan Garda 6-7 PSNI 1-8

Belfast Telegraph


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