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Triumphs and trials of clubs and individuals will be played out again in the year to come

A time to reflect on the year gone by and prepare for 2012

By Liam Murphy

This is the time of year when we pause to take stock of what has occurred in the year just past. Sports clubs do this as well. What were the highlights? What went wrong? What lessons can be learned for the incoming year? Errol Hall tells me that I concentrate too much on GAA so I’ll give a mention to his beloved Cliftonville. An incredible run of 14 victories is overshadowed by a few hooligans encroaching on the pitch.

North Belfast’s GAA clubs had mixed results as well.  Pearses celebrated their 60th anniversary with a glittering function in the Europa Hotel in November. Over 250 guests attended the black tie dinner. This is in itself is a remarkable achievement in these times of austerity and organisers Marty Hill, Brendan McGhee, Stevie Cash etc deserve great credit for their superb work in making the dinner so successful and memorable.

Both Ardoyne and Pearses are severely handicapped by lack of playing facilities. Both clubs will be heartened by the news that work is soon to begin on laying a 3G surface on the Cricky pitch on Cliftonville Road. I’ve been told that this work may take up to two years so both clubs face an uphill battle until the facilities come on-stream. Let’s hope they both can keep her lit!

St Enda’s will look back and covet the All Ireland title won by the under 14 footballers but because of an altercation in a hurling game against McDermott’s in Ballymena the Hightown pitch is closed for virtually three quarters of the season meaning that no-one can get  to watch any Gaelic games at senior level in North Belfast this side of the All Ireland final.


A sad farewell

It’s also a time to look back and remember friends who departed this life. One who is greatly missed is Joe Magill from the Whitewell. I first met Joe about 20 years ago when he was introduced to me by the late Ted McCormick. Ted had come to the Bellevue Arms to have a quiet word with Joe, no doubt about a little job he needed done in a hurry. Ted told me there were only two skilful heavy crane drivers in Belfast, Joe and Patsy Collaluca, two lifetime buddies. Patsy was reared in Glengormley and played for St Enda’s in the early days – as did Joe – and now lives in Turf Lodge. His health has deteriorated and he was unable to attend his best buddy’s funeral.

I hope he’s having some respite for like Joe he has a powerful sense of humour. Joe became ill and died in May 2011.

The funeral was held in St Mary’s Greencastle and the church was packed with many unable to get inside. A man who was liked by everyone who knew him, Joe was a devoted supporter of Liverpool FC. He had requested that the anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone be sung at his funeral. The priest on duty allowed this but in his wisdom insisted that only his close family remain in the church while it was being sung. This seemed to me to be a very strange decision at the time. Normally the congregation follows the remains out of the church but this time, at the priest’s insistence, the congregation were asked to leave first.

As the strains of Joe’s beloved song rang out there was hardly a dry eye as his friends listened outside. Joe was laid to rest in Carnmoney Cemetery and a reception was held in the Bellevue Arms. It has been said that an Irish funeral  reception is like a massive mother and father of all parties except that the main man is missing. It was certainly true in this case.

Joe liked to have a bet on the horses so Mickey McGreevy scoured the racing pages of all the papers and confidently announced in mid afternoon that a horse called Mossy Joe was running in the 7.35 at Cork and that he would win the race for Joe. No one doubted him and everyone had a bet. You would have heard a pin drop as the race started but  by the time Mossy Joe jumped the last fence in front the noise was incredible with the “Yee Ha” (Joe’s Shout) raising the roof. It was an absolute incredible finale. Mickey’s Divine Providence.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam uasal.


New Year celebrations

We’re on the run in to the New Year. Many prefer this to Christmas with house parties arranged everywhere. I’ve given up going to parties – well, no-one asks me anymore. All it means is that I don’t have to listen to all my tone deaf neighbours sing! I used to go to the pub. When closing time was 11.30 you would be home before the clock struck twelve. Now they stay open until 1 am.

Last year in the pub one of my friends went to the bar at 11.45pm for a round of drinks. He was astounded when the bar staff ignored him and trooped out from behind the bar, each with a drink in hand.  As the New Year rang in they toasted each other while we looked on empty handed. They kindly returned to their post the following year (12.15am) so the pub is out this year.

Then there is TV. At least we’re now spared all that Scottish rigmarole which used to be the staple diet. However, I’m not going to subject myself to another stupid countdown on BBC or RTE  10, 9, 8………

Know what! I’m heading to the scratcher at 11.30.

A happy New Year to all our readers.

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