Final Day of the GAA World Games 2016

The ball was wet. It had been raining all day. No surprise for an island known for its precipitation. Both teams had waged an epic battle and were deadlocked at five points a piece. Oisin walked calmly over to collect the ball, most likely planning to kick it into his teammate. However, McGinley, the ex-county player from Tyrone, had other ideas. 

“Let Hennessy kick it over.”

The point, if scored, would put Na Fianna up by one to beat Middle East with seconds remaining in the game. It was not an easy shot. 

The free kick was on the sideline 10 feet away from the end line. The distance to goal? Approximately 44 meters. Also, at this angle the space between the goal posts, normally 2.5 meters wide, shrank to less than 1/2 a meter. Take the angle and the distance of the shot, combine it with the rain and wind and you have an extremely difficult shot. Then add the weight of the situation, the pressure of performance, and for many that shot would be impossible. 

Despite all of those variables, it was without hesitation that McGinley called for his teammate to take the shot. And it was without further hesitation that Hennessy took the ball out of Oisin’s hands and kicked it through the uprights. Cheers rang out from the sideline as the game ended moments later. 

Two days later, on the final day of the GAA World Games, the Middle East team would have their restitution, as they bested Na Fianna in extra time by a heartbreaking one point in the Cup Finals. As tough as the loss was to handle, my mind kept going back to Hennessy’s kick two days before. 

McGinley is an amazing footballer. Arguably one of the best performances in the entire world games. He had every reason to take that shot himself, but he didn’t take it. Oisin had every reason to take offense that his teammates would choose another over himself. Yet he didn’t. And Hennessey had every reason to miss that kick. And yet, he didn’t. 

You see, that small moment on Wednesday  exemplified what these games were all about. Trust in one another, confidence in your abilities, humility in winning and in defeat, it was all there. I was hugely upset that Na Fianna didn’t win yesterday’s finals. I hate losing. Hate it. But in the end. We move forward. 

Not a minute had passed after yesterday’s final whistle before the grounds crew at Croke Park were out on the pitch readying it for the next game. Because there is always a next game. There is always another point to kick and goal to score. What matters are the relationships we forge and the character built along the way.

As for this freckled traveler, I am leaving Ireland a better man. 

Na Fianna Abu!!!