Hurling and camogie

Lockdown Digest with Arron Graffin: Web toes, whiskey, McManus cutting turf, barbecues and some Springsteen

Cushendall club-mates Neil McManus and Arron Graffin on the mountains of Sapa, Vietnam. McManus features in Graffin's best sick-note excuse


Arron Graffin




Cushendall Ruairí Ógs

Your lockdown routine:

Alarm goes at 7am. Coffee, light stretching and breakfast. Log on and start ‘Working from Home’ at 8am to 4.15pm.

Most evenings would include getting out for a walk with my wife, a bit of wall ball to keep the eye in or a HIIT/running session. I’ve also used my spare time to get out and about to explore some of the stunning Mourne mountains as I live in Hilltown.

Best thing about the lockdown:

A chance to slow things down from the normal rat race. Less time spent in the car commuting to/from work and training.

Worst thing about the lockdown:

I miss the face to face interaction and craic with my family and friends. Having no sport to play or watch is brutal and I miss the odd night out too.

Favourite training drill:

Any drill working on ball handling and first touch.

Least favourite training drill:

Two players in the middle fighting for the ball - Terence McNaughton’s favourite.

If you didn’t play hurling which sport would you be playing:

Gaelic Football, golf or swimming.

Five dinner guests and reasons why you’d invite them:

Lebron James - Basketball legend; Michelle Keegan - For obvious reasons (winking face with tongue); Gerry Cinnamon - Brings the craic; Bruce Springsteen - Brings the tunes; Will Smith - Funny man.

Arron Graffin is a big basketball fan and would invite LeBron James for dinner

Best sporting memory:

All my Antrim Senior Championship wins have been special but it has to be the All-Ireland Senior Club Semi-Final win over Sarsfields of Galway in February 2016. What a day, our club finally got over the line!

Worst sporting memory:

The final whistle at the end of the All-Ireland Senior Club Final 2016 in Croke Park. The proudest day of my life but my biggest disappointment.

Best sick-note excuse:

Neil McManus - he missed training because he was stuck up the mountain doing the turf.

Favourite film:

Step Brothers

Tell us something we don’t know about you:

I’m a big NBA fan, I’m half decent at table tennis and I also have web toes.

Toughest opponent:

I’ve had a good few over the years - John Mullane, Damian Hayes, Richie Hogan, Graham Mulcahy, David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan, Shane McNaughton and Paul Braniff. But I would say Rory Jacob from Wexford. He was a tricky customer. Very smart, very quick and very sharp. He showed me a clean pair of heels on more than one occasion. The lads still slag me about him plenty.

Fastest team-mate:

Sean Delargy – 37-years-old and would still smoke any of the younger lads.

Favourite GAA player:

Tommy Walsh from Kilkenny – the greatest wing-back ever to play the game.

Guilty pleasure:


Best pitch you played on:

Casement Park on a summer’s day.

Ideal day off:

A round of golf, a dip in the tide, a nice BBQ and a few beers.

Any match-day superstitions:


Most annoying team-mate:

Eoin ‘Bouncy’ Gillan – because he doesn’t hit me short puck-outs anymore or Marty Burke - a complete wind up, always has something smart to say, fond of the odd white lie.



“At the start, the teams came out in single file, substitutes making their way to the stands in gloves and masks, occupying a handful of rows and sitting apart as the starters made their way to the pitch – a walk that looked a little lonely without the roar that’s supposed to accompany them, especially on a night like this. Giant lettering spelt out EL GRAN DERBI but there was little of what makes this game grand: the people.”

- Spain-based journalist Sid Lowe sums up La Liga’s eerie return to action on Thursday night, the Andalusian derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.

Played with artificial crowd noise with ‘virtual supporters’ painted into the seats and several hundred of the home fans congregating – against government wishes - outside the famous Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, Sevilla ran out 2-0 winners


MICHAEL Murphy has been revisiting his youth in trying to be ready for Gaelic football’s much awaited return. Speaking to Donegal sports journalist Chris McNulty earlier this week, the big Glenswilly man said: “I’ve been back out revisiting the areas I was until I was 14 or 15, out the back kicking between two apple trees.”

So those two apple trees are the reasons for his surefooted genius on the big stage over the last 10 years.


WHILE some Gaelic footballers have enjoyed their time away from the training field, three months of lockdown have merely reaffirmed to Rory Grugan how much he loves the game.

“From my perspective, football is important to me,” said the Armagh playmaker, “and I’ve realised how much I love it and miss it. So I’d be loath to say I’ve loved the break and I’ve been glad to be away from it. I don’t think that’s my perspective.”


WE take our hats off to Jemar Hall after his powerful interview with Andy Watters earlier this week about the racist abuse he’s suffered on the field of play. Two years ago, he took justice into his own hands when he was abused during a match for Forkhill.

“It was a heated game,” he recalls.

“It was the last 10 minutes and there was a couple of points in it. I had the ball, I was soloing and I lost control of it. I made a tackle, a high tackle, and I caught the boy around the neck.

“Someone from the opposition dugout shouted out: “You black bastard.” My mate was standing outside their dugout and he heard it too, the whole place just went silent.

“I was that frustrated, because that sort of thing had happened to me before; that I went over and I decked the boy who said it. I got a straight red card.”


FOR a game that remained buried beneath the new Windsor Park stadium for 30 years, it was no surprise Argentina football fanatic and my colleague Neil Loughran spent three months in his attic researching the weirdest friendly game ever played, between Linfield and Argentina.

At the time, Argentina were world champions and needed some practice games before defending their crown at Italia ’90 a couple of months later.

The great Diego Maradona didn’t play against the mighty Blues at Windsor on April 3 1990, but manager Carlos Bilardo was still able to field some World Cup stars from ‘86, including Nery Pumpido, Jose Luis Brown, Sergio Batista and Jorge Valdano.

A mere 6,500 supporters watched the game, while a few days earlier over 50,000 watched them play Scotland at Hampden.

“It wasn’t a very competitive game, I remember that; I don’t think we were allowed to tackle,” recalled Roy Coyle, who was Linfield manager then.

Nestor Lorenzo opened the scoring just four minutes in and that’s the way it stayed as the world champions left Belfast with not so much as a whimper.

You can check out Neil’s article at

The night Argentina turned up at Windsor Park 30 years ago

Compiled by Brendan Crossan

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