Keeping The Flame Burning
For me it's hard to believe that it's 2007 since Sligo's last major GAA success when Noel Maguire raised the Nestor Cup after a famous victory over Galway.
A lot has happened over the past decade.
As Lar Corbett famously observed, when he was 'banging in the 3rd goal against Kilkenny in the 2010 All Ireland senior hurling final against Kilkenny, AJ Chopra and the IMF were touching down in Dublin airport', about to launch the country into a period of financial austerity.
Young people left Ireland in their droves in the midst of the economic downturn as companies closed and general prospects looked grim.
Fast forward to today.
Things are seemingly 'on the up'.
However the question remains how does a county like Sligo fit into a GAA world order that has a well oiled, well resourced Dublin GAA squad at the apex of the game today?
As it happens the Gaelic Players Association have revealed an apparant sea change in the thinking of inter county footballers.
It seems the majority of Ireland's gaelic footballers are now in favour of a tiered Championship.
GPA Chief Executive Paul Flynn has revealed the findings of their latest survey of their members indicating a major shift since 2016, when squads from Division Four unanimously voted to boycott a proposed 'B' Championship.
Now almost 60% say they "would support a change to a tiered football championship."
Other notable findings included that almost 75% of their members were "not satisfied with the amount of off-season time they get.''
And the overwhelming view of players appears to be that the April off month isn't working.
In the midst of "a very significant and growing prevalence of hip and groin injuries among county players." 40% say they received no time off at all ahead of the 2018 season.
It looks like there will be a lot of winter soulsearching to be done by both the powers that be and the Association's grass roots.
There is a burning question though.
If you are not a Division 1 hurling or football team why play GAA?
Is it for the winning of Liam or Sam?
Or is it for something more?
Instilling the value of team sports and camraderie into your sons, daughters, nieces or nephews?
Enhancing the sense of identity and pride about where you are from?
Which brings me back to Sligo.
My late Mother Moira was a native of Yeats county, raised in the shadow of Benbulben in Knocknarea.
Working as a tailoress in the town before joining that generation's economic exodus.
She found herself in London working as a bus conductor working on a London Transport route with a man called Martin Collins from Kilkishen in County Clare.
Eventually this happened.
When I came along, visits to Strandhill generated memories for a lifetime.
Many more families who have visited the seaside there will have similar images in their camera roll.
Strandhill - where the best memories are made!— Strandhill Beach Apt (@StrandBeachApt) February 25, 2018
We don't think any kid actually passes by our cannon without climbing & exploring it!
Book your preferred date, for your family now & create those precious memories! #Strandhill #Sligo #WildAtlanticWay #KidsWorld pic.twitter.com/K1BcuNFi2A
Given all that, when Seamus Hannon came calling looking for a hand with the Eastern Harps fundraising drive as part of half a million-euro investment in club facilities, how could I refuse?
The Harps GAA club are about to embark on Phase 2 of a major development at their club HQ.
The development involves the replacement of the existing dressing rooms with a state of the art new building which includes, four dressing rooms, referees room, store/plant room, office, and a large upstairs area to cater for meetings as well as a gym and kitchen.
With a completion date planned for early 2019 the club and community will benefit greatly from this development.
Commenting on the project Chairman Padraig Henry said “The club is very excited about this project. The GAA has strong roots in the area and this investment will serve our club as well as the local community for many years to come”.
To raise funds for the completion of this development the club is holding a monster Race night in the Fox’s Den Keash on Sunday night 28th October next (Bank holiday weekend).
This is typically where the next generation of Irish people proud of who they are and where they are from are fashioned.
There won't be any All Ireland medals given out this Sunday night but does this make them any less GAA people than in the big smoke?
You know the answer to that.
See you Sunday.
Excited about heading back to the Mothers native county this weekend. Great memories of easters and summers in Sligo. If you're in the area drop in. Reasonably good chance of a bitta craic! #giddyup https://t.co/NsSENlrDOW— Paul Collins (@paulcollinstipp) October 23, 2018