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A GAA journey from Poland to Dublin coach, a beautiful tribute to a late star and the week's best sportswriting

Get the kettle boiled, there are some brilliant pieces be to read.

1. TO MOST, THE light sunshine of May 13th, 1990 in Castleblayney had little enough to distinguish itself from a lot of Ulster Championship openers. Monaghan served up Antrim a 3-17 to 0-8 tanking and the summer was off to an underwhelming start.

The intrigue, however, lay in the forensics. A crew of riggers disassembled a scaffolding tower. The cherry pickers behind either goal were lowered and brought away. Miles and miles of cable was being rolled back up. The age of television had finally caught up with the Ulster Championship.

For the first time, BBC Northern Ireland were filming an Ulster Championship match for their brand-new Sunday nights highlights show ‘The Championship.’

‘Fenian games’, letters from Sinn Féin and the birth of GAA on BBC NI, as Declan Bogue remembers the golden days with Jimmy Smyth, Peter McGinnity and Jim Neilly for The Irish Times.

2. The way in which social media has publicised campaigns such as Black Lives Matter has meant sportsmen can no longer plead ignorance as Jordan and Scottie Pippen once did. When Hodges tried to get his team-mates to read more about black history, Pippen supposedly said: “What do I need education for? I make six figures.”

chicago-bulls Michael Jordan and some Bulls team-mates, including Scottie Pippen. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Hodges harbors no animosity towards Pippen or even Jordan. “Michael didn’t speak out largely because he didn’t know what to say – not because he was a bad person.”

The Guardian’s Donald McRae on Craig Hodges, who is still fighting the good fight, and Michael Jordan.

3. “I’m Irish,” he smiles. “And I have joined an amazing association where I have learned so much about this country and met so many great people. But Paddy Christie is the man. This guy helps everyone who needs it. If I need help, Paddy is always friendly and always says no problem.

“Declan Small, our late chairman and father of John and Paddy, once said to me in my early days at the club that my family were most welcome. He said, ‘Krzysztof, it doesn’t matter where you are from, or what the colour of your skin is, none of that matters. Here, we are all Ballymun Kickhams people.’

“That meant so much.”

Dublin minor football backroom staff member and Polish native Krzysztof Jendrulok retraces his incredible GAA journey with Damien Lawlor for RTÉ Sport.

4. Anyone who hears the tale agrees it should be made into a film. It could well be, soon enough. The script needs little in the way of embellishment…

It’s 1964. Moville and Buncrana are in the midst of an arms race. The neighbouring Donegal towns are making preparations for their summer cup football competitions. 

‘How Celtic players in disguises won the day for a Lanarkshire church,’ by The Herald’s James Morgan.

5. I first saw ‘Lewie’ playing with the Cavan minors about five years ago and was struck by his dashing play, his speed and his class on the ball. And there was something else about him, too, something hard to define but easy to pick out.

ball-general-view A general view of footballs on Croke Park.

It was there in his almost military gait, which belied his breezy manner, his handsome appearance, the princely way in which he carried himself. Later, on meeting him, it was immediately apparent that he had charisma and he was a leader, despite his tender years.

The Anglo Celt’s sports editor Paul Fitzpatrick pens a beautiful tribute to late Cavan club star Lewis Fay Cooper.

6. “I want to be remembered for my sporting achievements. Real heroes are others, those who have suffered in their soul, in their heart, in their spirit, in their mind, for their loved ones. Those are the real heroes. I’m just a cyclist.”

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The world has been plunged into a pandemic. There are no sporting events for now, and governing bodies are working tirelessly to find a new time to get the show on the road – as our key workers battle to help saves lives.

Everyone else, athletes and non-athletes alike, have found themselves with time on their hands…

On this day 20 years ago, the iconic Italian cyclist Gino Bartali died of a heart attack. Nearly 80 years ago, the three-time Giro d’Italia and two-time Tour de France champion, too, found himself with time on his hands after cycling’s biggest events were interrupted by World War Two. The Giro was on a five-year hiatus, Le Tour on a seven-year break. It robbed him of his best years in racing.

Instead, Bartali saved the lives of more than 800 people – information which only came to light in the years following his death.

BBC Sport’s Niamh Lewis delves deeper into how Gino Bartali’s work saved lives.  

7. Many used another word: “special”. 

That wasn’t just the English saying it either. Czech Republic and Croatia were playing their first ever tournaments as independent countries, and enjoyed national events of their own. Germany won. That raised one of a few dramatic ironies that only enriched England’s great summer of football. Perhaps the biggest irony was how it started: a long way from home, with the same old downbeat stories from off the pitch.

soccer-euro-96-england-v-spain-wembley Teddy Sherringham. Source: EMPICS Sport

That is the start of the story of Euro 96, a story that Teddy Sheringham says “just escalated and escalated”. 

The Independent’s chief football writer Miguel Delaney pieces together the complete oral history of Euro ’96 — England’s greatest summer of football — which is told by 16 people from eight different countries.

8. It’s slim pickings in the nostalgia department since ’94. Everyone remembers the sights and sounds of ’94. It barely needs to be gone into again.

Leitrim recovering from the calamitous first minute goal, the jubilant fans invading the pitch as Aidan Rooney’s irrelevant last second free slid wide.

The very elderly 1927 captain Tom Gannon – quivering with old age but still looking the picture of happiness – holding up the base of the Nestor Cup alongside Declan Darcy after the game. 

Micheal Muircheartaigh on the radio crying that “there’ll be many a Leitrim man looking down from the veranda of heaven right now!”

And so on.

RTÉ Sport reporter Conor Neville traces how Leitrim ascended the steps to heaven in the 1990s.

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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