Wednesday 24 January 2018

Smokey lit up Iveagh with a bag of tricks

HARD to believe that it's over twenty years since the Herald Floodlit Cup began.

St James's Gaels were the hosts. The Iveagh Ground on a Wednesday night was the place to be.

The old Crumlin Road tingled with excitement. Playing Gaelic football under the lights was quite rare back then.

The crowds showed up week after week. They got to see some novel rules.

For a start, there were two referees, one in each half.

Among the regular refs were Jim Turner, Senan Finucane and Tony Clarke.

Then there were two points awarded for a free.

That rule decided many a game late on. And wise observers would like to see it being implanted into the modern game.

There was a crew of dedicated officials - referees, umpires and stewards, all falling under the command of John McNicholas.


The competition had the best teams in Dublin, and some from outside the county too.

Players loved to take part. The tempo was sharp.

Some top footballers decorated the competition. But one in particular, the great Joe McNally, turned the Iveagh into his own private garden.

Sometimes, on those raw winter nights, Joe would wear a hat. And, over the hour, he was able to pull out many a trick.

He thrived on the electric atmosphere, and he was the heart-beat of a very good St Anne's team. The Nipper was also on board.

Joe was always seeking possession, and it didn't seem to matter how closely he was marked. He was able to find a yard, and get his hands on the ball. And once he had possession, anything was possible. A clever, simple pass to open a window. Or indeed a shot on target.

Yet the one abiding memory is that he never wasted the ball. He treated it like a gold-bar.

He didn't need the lights for vision. He could spread the play like a Des Kelly carpet.

So many could learn from watching him. He was simply a master at work. With the advent of floodlights to more grounds, the Floodlit Cup came to an end. But the memory of those wonderful Wednesday nights under the bright lights of the The Iveagh will never go out.

E-Mail: niallscullyfootball@eircom.net

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