Letter published in the Evening Echo, Wednesday 28/1/2009
"Below is a letter my club have sent to the Examiner at the weekend for publication along with one from another club in Down, I think this gives a better understanding of the type of hurling people that Donal Og, Sully and their colleagues are than any of the snide remarks being made to try and indulge in character assasination."
"In Newry's experience Cork's Senior Hurlers are true Gaels."
I hope you will permit me a few lines to publicly thank members of the Cork Senior Hurling team of 2008 for their continued support for hurling development in Newry and indeed Co Down in general. At the outset I want to state that I'm no apologist for the GPA or with an axe to grind with GAA officialdom as I sit myself on both the Down Hurling Board and Ulster Hurling committee thus I'm fully aware of the valuable role that administrators play within the GAA. However,I have been prompted to write this in the wake of continued attempts, bordering in some cases on character assassination, to portray this group of players as self-centred, interested only in themselves and on some type of ego trip to destroy the fabric of the GAA. I want the Cork hurling public to get some understanding of the true nature of these players and the often unseen efforts they make to promote hurling in the "backwaters" that have been continually ignored by the powers that be whose job it should be to develop hurling! Only last week we had the pleasure of once again hosting Diarmuid O 'Sullivan in Newry for our annual juvenile hurling awards and to launch the building of our hurling wall as part of our continued progress on our ten year development plan. In the past four years Donal Og Cusack and Diarmuid O'Sullivan have been regular visitors to our club, helping to launch our schools coaching initiative four years ago which has proved to be the springboard for the rejuvenation of juvenile hurling in Newry. Before their first visit hurling in Newry was on its last legs but over the following years with their continued support we have reached the situation where our juvenile hurlers are meeting and beating the Ards clubs at U12/10 level and matching the best in Ulster ,not for one moment am I suggesting this is the sole reason but the publicity they create coupled with hugely increased numbers attending training in the wake of their visits to the local schools is a significant factor. When you read all the press reports about senior Cork players being egotistical, interested only in themselves and in some way seeking to undermine the ethos of the GAA I can assure the public of Cork that the reality as borne out by their efforts is Newry couldn't be further from the truth, indeed I genuinely believe that if the GAA hierarchy was as interested in promoting and developing hurling in weaker counties as these two players and their colleagues hurling would be in a significantly stronger position across the country.
Not only have they helped promote hurling in Newry but throughout Down. I have had the privilege of coaching the Down minor hurling team in the past and both players have taken time out to help coach these players on more than one occasion particularly on our visit to Cork in 2006. This visit was almost singly organised by Donal Og, he organised the challenge match for us, the talk with Sean Og who also arranged to take time out to speak to the players along with a training session which Donal Og conducted himself, basically he gave up his whole weekend to help a group of hurlers from over 200 miles away, those actions say more about the true nature of this fellow gael than any number of press statements or media interviews to the contrary. Anytime we have asked Donal Og or Diarmuid to visit they have always agreed often at short notice, last week was a case in point where at very short notice Diarmuid agreed to travel north again not only to visit schools in the locality and conduct our awards night (with over 70 juveniles attending our U14-U8 awards on Saturday) but on the Friday night he also went to Ballycran an additional round trip of a hundred miles to present the medals at their juvenile awards, surely those are the actions of a player genuinely interested in helping promote hurling and what is best for the game we all love.
It is always simple to look at the headlines in the papers or the spin being created by others for their own agenda without looking beyond this at people's actions on a regular basis away from the glare of the cameras and certainly if you asked the young hurlers of Newry and Down their opinion of the Cork Senior hurlers and in particular Donal Og Cusack and Diarmuid O'Sullivan it would be one of fellow gaels committed totally to the promotion and good of hurling who are always willing to take time out for the people that really matter, not administrators or all stars but the youth of Ireland who want to play the greatest game on this earth. Like all genuine hurling people I hope to see these great servants of our game return to the arena they belong in and ensuring that Cork regain their rightful place at the top of the hurling role of honour.
Is mise le meas
Cumann Iomana Iuir Cinn Tra
Finally catching up on emails and text messages. I was sorry I missed Diarmuid because the feedback from all at the club was that they thought him an absolute gentleman and everyone enjoyed meeting him. They were particularly appreciative of the interest he took in all the kids and his willingness to chat and to pose for photographs.
I've copied Eamonn and Paul in to this note because of the kind offer Diarmuid made to spend time with the County Development squads in the Spring/Summer. We will galdly take him up on that offer.
My personal thanks to you for helping arrange the visit.
Seamas O hAonais
Naomh Sheosamh Baile Crann