IN the early hours of Sunday morning, clocks will spring forward an hour, marking the official start of summer time.
Having endured months of shorter days and longer nights, we can all look forward to more hours of daylight for the next six months or so and, who knows, this summer might even be a proper summer, with some sunshine to bask in.
Summer time also tends to co-incide with the start of the All County Football League in Donegal and if last weekend’s opening round of fixtures are anything to go by we’ll soon see temperatures rise – both on and off the field of play.
One man for whom the long evenings can’t come quick enough is Donegal and Ardara defender Paddy McGrath.
An engineer by profession, Paddy (27) spent countless hours last summer in his car making the commute from his Dublin base to training with the Donegal squad before driving back to the capital – often in the ‘wee’ hours.
This year it’s different though. Paddy is back living at home which overlooks the beautiful Loughros Bay and, as a result, we’re seeing a supremely fit and, more importantly, happy athlete on the football field.
Paddy’s working with Mayo based Wills Bros Ltd., a civil engineering contracting company, on a multi-million euro project along the main Ballybofey to Donegal Town road.
There’s a real pep in his step and he’s looking forward to what he hopes will be another long, successful summer for Donegal.
“I’m back home again. I’m loving life and living at home,” he smiled.
“It’s a big commitment travelling from Dublin down to training and stuff and I suppose when you get out of a car after a three hour journey you’re just not quite right and it’s tough on the lads still doing it.
“It’s a pity we haven’t the luxury of all the lads being around home but it is what it is. I had to move to Dublin to get work but I’m absolutely blessed to be back living at home and, please God, I’ll never have to move away again,” he said.
Working Monday to Friday, McGrath is back working more ‘social hours’.
“Listen, it’s great to be able to spend some time with your family and friends in the evening and there’s no better place in the world to wake up in the morning than The Point. To be able to drive up the road to work in the morning and home again in the evening when the days are getting longer..there’s nothing better,” he enthused.
McGrath had just helped Ardara edge past the challenge of Glenswilly in the opening league game of the new season and he’s still full of energy. He believes that the club game needs serious surgery to enable county players to play more, but of more immediate concern is the small matter of facing current All-Ireland champions Dublin under the Croke Park lights tomorrow night, Saturday.
“We’re looking at the Dublin game as a chance of getting two points. We have to go looking for them now to make the semi final. It’s a pity we didn’t already have the points to make the semi final but it is what it is. We had a good start (winning all three of their opening games) before losing out in the last two league games which is a bit disappointing but we have to pick ourselves up now for the Dublin game,” he said.
McGrath was part of the Donegal team who won the All-Ireland title and brought Sam back to the hills in 2012 while also played in the 2014 decider, a game they lost out to Kerry.
“It’s still a dream to get the opportunity to run out onto Croke Park as a player. Every day you’re given the Donegal jersey is a great honour and it’s that little bit extra special to be playing for Donegal in Croke Park and we’re all looking forward to it. It’s under lights. It’s a Saturday night and it’s Easter weekend,” he smiled.
With a number of more experienced players still to play for Donegal this year, team manager Rory Gallagher has used the league campaign to blood a few of the younger members of the squad.
“The younger lads have freshened thing up this year which is great There’s a good vibe there and every man is working hard so, please God, we can stay injury free leading into the last two league games and going further, into the Championship with a clean bit of health,” he said.
The downside to the beginning of BST, of course, is having to sacrifice an hour of sleep tomorrow night but you get the feeling that Paddy McGrath really couldn’t care less.
He’s back home. He’s loving life, loving football and it’s showing in his game. The teak tough defender has consistently been among the top three Donegal performers throughout this year’s league campaign.
That can only be good news for Donegal and Ardara throughout the long summer evenings. Welcome home Paddy!
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