Songwriter-turned-miner Dónal Kearney hopes Mournemen can strike the right note against Donegal
FOLLOWING in the footsteps of a winning team from all over Ireland, Dónal Kearney had the chance to live a childhood dream by donning the famous red and black jersey during his game show.
In 2005, a minor Down team with the emerging talents of Marty Clarke, Paul McComiskey and Peter Fitzpatrick won the Tom Markham Cup, signaling what many hoped would be a bright new era for Morne County.
An All-Ireland sixth crown shot came and went five years later, but, beyond that unforgettable run, Down fans have had little to cheer since – and Paddy Tally’s men enter the round. Sunday’s Ulster Championship prelims as huge underdogs against Donegal.
For Kearney, however, there are still plenty of reasons to sing the praises of his hometown before this critical clash.
Now a singer-songwriter, during the St Peter’s era, the Warrenpoint clubman was part of the 2006 Minor Down team tasked with building on the success of the previous year.
Kearney secured a spot after proving himself as St Colman’s College vice-captain in the MacRory Cup – including a game against a certain St Louis’ prospect Kilkeel whose name was on everyone’s lips.
“I scored Marty Clarke – he was just something else back then.
“He was tall and lean and so fast… the most unpredictable player I have ever scored. You didn’t know which direction he was going to run, he could just do something nonlinear out of nowhere and make you look silly.
“We ended up doing a rerun before they won Game 2, but it was an interesting experience playing against him.”
Although Ballymartin midfielder Fitzpatrick and Burren’s Gerard McCartan remained, Down still fell short against a Cian Mackey-inspired Cavan.
It may have marked the end of his days in the county, but Kearney’s career in the GAA continued further as he became captain of Cambridge University footballers before leading Madrid Harps to the championship. Iberian 2010.
And although based in Dublin these days, the bond with the home has rarely been stronger, especially after a year in which personal relationships and return visits were kept to a minimum due to the Covid pandemic. -19.
As a result, his band TRÚ – whose new album, No Fixed Abode, was released last month – recorded a tribute to their home country.
Originally published by Tommy Sands in 1992, County Down was taken over by traditional Irish band Danú but got the 2021 treatment courtesy of Kearney and his band mates Michael Mormecha and Zach Trouton.
“County Down is a song about leaving the house and remembering all that you left behind.
“There’s a really striking verse – the fish are jumping in the River Clanrye, the fields are playing in old Glenvale, my heart can’t direct the cheers anymore, when you’re not playing it’s a different game. Oh , can you hear me? Oh, can you hear me as you walk through the lonely city of London? When evening falls you will hear me calling: Come home now to County Down.
“When I sing it, I think of all the players who have emigrated, like me, leaving behind their family and friends. But it also makes me think of the club championship on a summer evening somewhere in Les Mournes. , taking some mountain boy’s shoulder and feeling it for days.
“That’s what the song means to me.”
And Kearney believes County Down should become a hymn for followers of red and black.
“Every time we play it the response is just amazing.
“I remember a few years ago people would talk to us about having short performances before GAA games, basically a form of pre-show entertainment, which you see in other sports. It makes sense, especially on big league days.
“When you left Ireland, you realized the enormous importance of GAA. I grew up playing football, then you go, you become a member of another community because of the GAA.
“No matter where you are, people play with passion – although it’s a whole new sport for them – but no matter where you are from on the planet.
“I learned a lot about being Irish living abroad, sharing my culture with GAA players from all continents; discover their cultures and listen to their songs. A lot of those stories ended up on our album. “
And, despite the odds against them, Kearney remains hopeful that Down can hit the right note when they run out at Pairc Esler this weekend.
“I followed their fortunes from afar and can’t wait to watch the game.
“My son Tadhg is three months old, I recently gave him his first Down jersey so we will all be equipped on Sunday. You never know in football.
“Things tend to come in waves, and you see other counties moving in the right direction because of years of planning and preparation to get there. I have no doubt that Down’s time will return.