GAA Football

Sam Maguire to make an appearance at 'Run for Anto' event at the Falls Park

Past and present Antrim GAA stars pictured with former football captain Anto Finnegan. (Back row L-R) Emma Kelly, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jane Adams, Patrick McBride and Conor Murray. (Front row l-r) Declan Lynch, Anto Finnegan and Conor McKinley ready for this Sunday's 'Run For Anto'

THE Sam Maguire will be in the Falls Park on Sunday for Antrim GAA’s ‘Run for Anto’ 5k event. Dublin manager Jim Gavin confirmed to former Antrim footballer Anto Finnegan that the coveted piece of silverware will be an eager spectator at the west Belfast venue this weekend.

Over 600 people have already registered to take part in the colour run with all proceeds going to deterMND – the Motor Neurone Disease charity that was set up by Finnegan after he was diagnosed with the life-limiting condition in 2012.

“I was speaking to Jim Gavin on Monday night and the Sam Maguire will be coming up," Finnegan revealed.

"Jim is hoping to get up too but if he can’t make it a couple of Dublin players will be there.”

The ‘Run for Anto’ is the latest fundraising drive of deterMND since the charity was established in 2013.

Antrim PRO Sean Kelly came up with the idea of a family fun run to help raise awareness of the disease.

“Sean did all the work which is fantastic from our point of view,” said Finnegan.

“He came back with the date, sponsors and volunteers and all we needed to do was get people registered and launch it, and that’s where our involvement really began.

“All the talk around the road has been about the fun run on Sunday.”

The Upper Springfield Development Trust has also been integral to getting the event off the ground. 

The annual St Paul’s Over 35s Sevens tournament, organised in late 2013, was the first of many fundraising events set up by DeterMND.

In 2014, the charity raised more money for MND research through taking part in the Belfast Marathon while the Irish News-sponsored 'Game for Anto' in November of that year was a massive hit.

Since then, Finnegan has taken part in the Camino walk and is now looking forward to the latest fundraiser this Sunday.

Last Friday, the Saffron Business Forum generously donated £1,000 towards the event, while the North Antrim and South West Antrim Divisional Boards presented £500 cheques on Monday night.

Since its inception DeterMND has raised over £300,000 and Finnegan says the money is making an impact.

“We kicked the trust off at the end of 2013… The Motor Neurone Disease Association do phenomenal work and we raise funds for them a couple of times per year. That money goes into patient support, equipment and research, a wide range of things.

“From our point of view, we’ve really only two objectives and they are to raise awareness of MND and to raise research funds.”

Last year, deterMND made a $50,000 donation to the MDN Research Clinic in Duke University, Massachusetts.  

Over the last three or four years, Finnegan has been hugely encouraged by the progress researchers have made in trying to identify the causes of the debilitating disease.

“Genes have been identified as markers in people with MND,” Finnegan explained.

“Over the last three or four years they’ve probably identified more than they have in the last 60 or 70 years or more.

“The next step is trying to isolate that gene and treat it so that it doesn’t break down and lead to the cause of MND.

“So it’s small steps but all it will take is one key thing to be identified and then finding a way of treating that. Hopefully that will lead to future preventative treatment rather than treating it after the the condition emerges.”

Finnegan added: “Given the progress that’s been made, they will at some stage in the future be able to treat the condition. Whether or not they’ll be able to eradicate it is a longer battle but certainly the treatment and slowing its progression, I absolutely believe they will do that in the coming years.”

Finnegan said he is always “absolutely humbled” by the support the various charity events garner.

“I can’t say it’s just a GAA thing because I wouldn’t have enough experience of other sports,” he said.

“But the thing I’ve noticed about the GAA is, no matter how high profile a player or a manager is, I’ve always found if they’re in a position to help you, they will. And they’re not doing it for any self promoting reasons; they’re just doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

“When other people within the GAA ask for help or assistance or support I have found 99 times out of 100 they’ll do it.

“When we were organising the ‘Game for Anto’ we had to start knocking players back because so many of them wanted to be involved – and that was on a wet November night.”

The ‘Run For Anto’ event this weekend is also close to reaching its ceiling, with more people expected to register over the coming days.

“I’m always surprised when you see what people are prepared to do, no matter how many times you ask them. It inspires us to keep going knowing that we have that support behind us.”

The 'Run for Anto' event is open to all ages and abilities with 5k, 3k and 1k runs. The run will take place at 10am on Sunday at the Falls Park. Registration costs £10 per person with a £5 discount offered to children under 16. For further information log on to @deterMND


Anto on the modern era…

I don’t think I’d like to have played in today’s game. I played a lot just for the enjoyment of it. Today, the players are phenomenal athletes, they are professional in everything but name.

I probably would have preferred playing in the eighties, to be honest, because when I’m talking to ‘Whitey’ [former Antrim manager Brian White] and the likes of Charlie McStravick, they talk of the enjoyment they had and the friendships they made, friendships that withstood the test of time.

I’m not quite sure there is as much of that any more. I really enjoyed playing through the 90s and early 2000s. I suppose if you’re playing at the top level you will always enjoy playing.

I’ve read a couple of GAA autobiographies and what comes through more recently is the intensity that play at and train at the nutritional aspects of it and going to yoga classes, and I’m thinking: ‘Where do they get time to work 40 hours per week?’ and your family time. It’s just at another level now.

Anto on rebuilding Casement Park…

If things aren’t going to be moving at Stormont soon, you’d like to see some decisions being made by the Civil Service or Westminster – and hopefully Casement would be one of those things at the top of that agenda.

It’s gone on too long now. If we don’t know what the plan is over the next six months to a year, why can we not have a feasibility study and see what it would take to open the ground, and keep it open until they’re ready to lay the first sod of a new stadium?

I know there are people working tirelessly to make it happen.

Anto on receiving a replacement of his GAA Writers’ Monthly award for December 1999 at last week’s Saffron Business Forum lunch…

My young lad was learning to walk at the time and he knocked it over. I was talking to John Martin [GAA Writers’ member] a while ago and he got another one made, which was good of him. It was a really nice touch.

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