Last Friday night, Balls.ie and Sports Direct presented Clubhouse Live live from the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone. We were there in conjunction with St Dominic's GAA club in Roscommon to look back on the absolutely brilliant hurling and gaelic football championships in 2019, and to discuss the enduring power of the club for GAA people.
First up was our hurling panel, which featured hurling legends Anthony Daly and Brendan Cummins, who were both in rare form. The lads are savage storytellers, and Dalo regaled guests with a story of an earlier visit to the Hodson Bay for Ollie Baker's wedding, when Roscommon legend Francie Grehan lead a convoy of Clare hurling men to the hurling-mad village of Four Roads. Cummins talked in detail about Liam Sheedy's greatness as a manager and Tipp's phenomenal All-Ireland winning season. Both men are pundits and described the challenges of discussing hurling on TV or radio. Daly shared a fascinating story about his first Sunday Game appearance, after Semplegate in 2007. It was a baptism of fire for the Clarecastle man, but he eventually figured out that if he was going to be successful as a pundit, he'd have to just be himself.
There was also extensive conversation about gaelic football, with an All-Star panel that included Marc Ó Se, Eamon Fennell and Liam McHale. The drawn All-Ireland final replay was on everyone's minds, and there was an extensive preview of Saturday's replay between Dublin and Kerry. Ó Sé was of the opinion that Tommy Walsh had to start the match, and proposed that Peter Keane use him as Mickey Harte used Peter Canavan in the 2005 All-Ireland final, subbing him on and off. Either way, Ó Sé seemed certain the Dubs would not be caught off guard when Walsh arrives on the scene.
I still think Dublin will have the answer for him. Bringing back James McCarthy, for me, I was delighted when I saw James McCarthy being moved back. Liam mentioned the physicality of Dublin. He's one of their go-to guys. All of a sudden now, there's a different scenario, he's back in the full-back line, and Kerry were still able to put good ball in because David Moran was working very well out in the middle of the field, and Kerry were still able to get good ball into Tommy Walsh.
The next day I don't think James McCarthy will go back. I think it might be Philly. I think if Philly's fit, I think he's going to come in. But I certainly think that James McCarthy is going to stay out the field the next day, so maybe Tommy mightn't have the same influence if that's the case.
All five guests on the night spoke of their strong connections to their club. Fennell in particular shared a moving story about being dropped by Jim Gavin in 2013, hiring a personal trainer, losing loads of weight and winning an All-Ireland with St Vincents in 2014. He said receiving a post-match handshake from Jim Gavin was one of his proudest moments in the GAA.
Also there on the night was famous Roscommon fan Paddy Joe Burke. No one loves the Rossies as much as Paddy Joe Burke, and he and his barber shop have featured in many viral videos over the years. Roscommon enjoyed a tremendous 2019 Championship, beating Mayo, Galway and Cork and Paddy Joe delighted all with his love for the Rossies. He even told the story about attending a Clare-Tipp game in Cork so he could watch two teams in yellow and blue go head to head.
All in all, it was a brilliant night of GAA talk. We hope to see you at the next one.