Mike O’Halloran: Reflections On The Sporting Year

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Mike O’Halloran reflects on his highlights in the world of hurling and rugby in 2016…

AT this period of year there is usually a time of reflection before we face into a new year.

We reflect on all aspects of our life events while some of our reflections are on resolutions we made or hopes we had for 2016.

Every media outlet will have a feature on a wide and varied list of Top 10 subjects.

• Sport is one of those areas where the highs and lows of teams, players and sporting occasions are pored over and every bone picked to death. I cannot come up with a top ten but there are a few sporting moments that stand out for me.

I never make New Years Resolutions, but I hoped that I would be able to attend as many Munster Rugby games as possible.

I have been attending Munster Rugby games since the early seventies and I have never had a day at a Munster Rugby game that I did not enjoy, even in defeat, home or away, Munster Rugby always entertains.

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This year was an important one for Munster Rugby, after a couple of years of a very hard struggle to try to keep afloat in the shark filled waters of The European Champions Cup, where the moneybag clubs of France and England were in danger of gobbling up all the rest.

There was a little hope that the fortunes of Munster might take years to revive. Then Munster travelled to Paris for their first outing in Europe. In the early afternoon, news came through from Paris that Anthony Foley had died.

The whole rugby world was in shock, the game was postponed and a very emotional period of mourning followed.

Then came the first game in Thomond following Anthony Foley’s passing. This was a day filled with sadness, joy, pride and hope.

Sadness for his family’s loss, joy at a win against the odds with only 14 men on the field, pride at a win fashioned in the spirit Foley forged in the red shirt and hope for the future as it looked like Munster was rising.

I attended that game and a video of the crowd singing Stand Up And Fight was posted in TraleeToday.ie.

Another rugby highlight was the progression of Darren Sweetnam in the red of Munster. I saw him play for Cork in a pre season game in Pairc Ui Rinn a few years ago and he was very impressive as a hurler.

When he joined the Munster academy I followed his progression, his game against Leicester Tigers showed he had arrived. A huge loss to Cork hurling and proof, if proof was needed, that a good hurler can play any game.

That day in Thomond is my stand out sporting highlight of 2016.

• In early 2016, Ballyduff Hurling and Football Club found it hard to elect a committee and there seemed to be an air of doom and gloom about the future of the club.

Contrast that with the senior hurlers contesting a county final and coming within a whisker of winning the The Nelius Flynn Cup later in 2016.

Liam Boyle blasts the ball to the net for Ballyduff’s second goal in the drawn county final. Photo by Dermot Crean

A memorable moment from the drawn game was the vision of Liam Boyle gathering the slioter on the terrace side of the field, he shrugged off a couple of Kilmoyley boys and rattled the net. A couple of minutes later his younger brother Padraigh splits the posts with a placed ball from distance. We live to fight another day.

The next day Kilmoyley were the victors, a win that gained them a shot at the Waterford Champions in the Munster Intermediate Club Championship.

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Kilmoyley came up short on that day and the exploits of Collins, Murnane, McCabe and Paudie O’Connor are well publicised, but another young man stood out for me and that was Colman Savage. He held Big Dan to one point.

The sight of young Shane Conway playing for the Kerry Minor hurling team during their run to a five in a row All Ireland B Championships also stands out.

Also in the Championship there was a memorable day for Abbeydorney when they defeated Kilmoyley.

I seldom write on a game or event that I have not attended, but I have to mention Pat Joe Connolly of Ballyduff who won a Clare Senior Hurling Medal and later went on to win a Munster Champ medal.

Sport is filled with ups and downs which is what makes it interesting. One of the downs this year was the retirement of the great Marc Ó Sé, a great servant to the west and to Kerry football.

Let’s hope 2017 bring more ups than downs, Happy Christmas and New Year.

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