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In The Irish News - August 23 1997: Cavan keeper Paul O'Dowd aiming to put best foot forward

SAFE HANDS ....Cavan keeper Paul O’Dowd will be hoping for a clean sheet when he keeps goal for Cavan against Kerry tomorrow

CAVAN goalkeeper Paul O’Dowd admits he’s a bit of a maniac.

There was that time early in his inter-county career when he conceded the softest of goals in a National League game against Tipperary.

“It was a high ball in and the full-back Gavin Harton and I both called for it and the ball ended up in the net. The worst goal I’ve ever conceded.

“Well, I took a run at the post and gave it an almighty kick and broke my foot. I had to be taken off at half-time and nobody could understand how I had broken my foot.

“So I made up some sort of excuse about how I had turned my ankle.”

O’Dowd told himself afterwards that there would be no mention of the story until Cavan had won an Ulster title.

They did that and now they face Kerry in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final on Sunday.

“That’s my skeleton out of the closet. If people had known that I’d have been dropped off the Cavan panel as people would have thought I’m a complete lunatic.”

Martin McHugh joked recently that he knows O’Dowd is “mad”.

The Donegal man and his players have become used in recent years to the sound of the Baileboro keeper playing his guitar in the dressing-room prior to matches.

And unlike the hordes of youngsters who have followed Cavan’s every move this summer, O’Dowd was no football fanatic in his youth.

He enjoyed playing though and won two All-Ireland Vocational Schools medals with Cavan along with current county team-mates Philip Kermath, Adrian Lambe and Gerry Sheridan.

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WITH the exception of two years’ ago, both St Gall’s and Dunloy, tonight’s Antrim Senior Football Championship semi-finalists at Casement Park, have figured prominently for quite a considerable time.

This season’s contest has seen both perform magnificently.

The Milltown men took out St Enda’s by six points in round one and Lamh Dhearg by four in the quarter-finals while Dunloy have been equally impressive in disposing of Davitts by five points and, against the odds, putting an end to Rossa’s hopes by a couple.

While St Gall’s reputation would set them up as favourites the outcome here is far from clear cut.

Certainly Seamus McGoran, David Smith, Aidan Shortt and Lenny Harbinson in the St Gall’s attack are all match winners with John Rafferty, Pat O’Connor and Mark McCrory other most dependable components.

Dunloy’s big guns are recognised more for their hurling achievements and, in all senses, their players perform a dual role.

Gregory O’Kane and Conor Cunning, recognised hurling attackers but ace football defenders, along with Colm McGuckian, Sean McIlhatton, Gary O’Kane, Nigel Elliott, Chris Kearns and Benny McGarry have all the necessary credentials to make life most difficult for the Milltown side.

But perhaps it may just end there.

The experience of recent years has taught the Light Blues invaluable lessons and, at the end of the hour, they should have booked a final placing.

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ANTRIM teenager Dermot Hamill, who last season scooped the junior Olympic title in Michigan, tonight faces another top American, this time in his own Ballymena back yard.

Hamill (16) steps in against Chicago flyweight champ Sean Mulkerran in one of the main events on the Northern Ireland Boys’ Clubs versus Mayo Daley’s Youth Boxing All Stars in the Tullyglass Hotel.

The dinner, boxing and cabaret evening is the third bill in seven days for the visiting American side. Last Saturday they defeated a strong Belfast squad 5-3 before drawing 4-4 with the pride of Derry in a mid-week encounter in the Creggan.

Mulkerran was involved on both occasions – won one lost one – and could find Hamill, a four times Irish and former British boy champion, quite a tough terrier to tangle with.

Hamill, nephew of former Commonwealth gold medalist Gerry, is one of four young All Saints boxers on tonight’s showpiece.

Barry Johnson (42 kilos), Joe Rea (48 kilos) and light middle Andy Gibson are also in action and fireworks are expected when 17-year-old Gibson clashes with Rudy Cisinors, a teak tough Mexican-American.

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LIFE must seem good to the average GAA fan in Cavan with success on the handball court going hand in foot, so to speak, with the success of their footballers.

Raymond Cunningham must be having the year of his young life, playing senior handball and football for his county, although he and Michael Finnegan lost out to Pat Hall and Seamus Ahern in the quarter-finals of the senior softball doubles at Kells on Tuesday night, the experience gained will bring success in the future.

The 21-16, 21-11 defeat may have ended Cunningham’s dream of appearing in All-Ireland finals in both football and handball, but his hunger for All-Ireland glory will still take some quenching when he faces Kerry in the football.

For Finnegan the loss in the singles to Kilkenny’s Eugene Downey last week was a disappointment but he put up a credible performance in his first year in senior handball before losing 21-12 in the third game.

Paul Brady, who followed in Finnegan’s footsteps when winning a world title in Canada at 17 and Under is another Cavan handballer who continues to impress.

He should progress to another All-Ireland final when he meets Galway’s Paul McHugh in the minor singles next week.

 

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