Irish government to honor former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson
By: Cathal Dervan | Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 3:37 PM | Updated Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 3:37 PM
|Alex Ferguson promoting his new book in London last week.|
There's a soccer man from Donegal who knows a thing or two about close scrapes on and off the field, a political footballer if ever there was one.
The man in question goes by the name of Jimmy Harte – or Senator Jimmy Harte to give him his full title.
A few weeks ago we met by chance in a Dublin pub, introduced by mutual friends on the night Manchester United played Liverpool across the water in England.
As is always the case on such occasions, we got talking soccer. And Jimmy, a genial Letterkenny man, knows his soccer. He also plays a bit of football, the leather type as well as the political type.
Last Friday night Jimmy was one of a number of politicians who beat a media team 4-3 on penalties in a charity soccer match at the Aviva Stadium. Like all good politicians, I’m fairly sure Jimmy will let the journos know about if for a few weeks to come.
The night we met over a few pints, Jimmy had a different challenge to worry about as the very Senate he sits in was faced with extinction.
The Irish public voted just over a week later to keep the Senate and keep Jimmy in his seat despite opinion polls that suggested victory for Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael
and Jimmy’s own Labor Party in their bid to abolish the Senate.
The fact the Senate is alive and kicking will help Jimmy’s plans to honor of the great names of world football, a former Manchester United manager called Alex Ferguson.
Jimmy and some fellow politicians in Leinster House have invited Fergie to Dublin to receive an honor from the Irish houses of Parliament in recognition of his services to the beautiful game in general and Manchester United in particular.
It’s a good idea for the simple reason that United have what seems like millions of fans in Ireland, and Irish players have played a huge part in Ferguson’s success.
Some of them have fallen out with him – Paul McGrath
set the precedent in that regard. Some of them were treated unfairly by him – Kevin Moran knows how that feels.
And some of them served him so well that they deserve a special place in his heart – stand up Denis Irwin from the parish of Togher in Cork.
One man, though, did more for Alex Ferguson in his United career than any other Irishman, but it is doubtful that Roy Keane will be around when Fergie is serenaded by our politicians.
Events last week removed any doubt that the relationship between the manager and his former captain will ever be healed.
As regular readers of this paper will know from last week’s edition, Ferguson torments Keane in his new book, an updated biography.
He belittles the player at the end of his United career, called him out of order in Saipan despite backing him at the time, and ridicules his efforts as a manager.
It wasn’t enough to cause Keane to lose any sleep, in his own words, but it was enough to annoy the Corkman’s many fans in Ireland. It also upset his mum and trust me, the last thing Alex Ferguson wants to do in this late stage of his life is to upset an Irish mammy.
I have to say I agree with the Keane supporters on this one. Ferguson has to have more money than he will ever need and as Roy told his mother Marie, they don’t do pockets in coffins.
He never needed to write this book and the suspicion that he is settling scores with Keano, among many others, is hard to argue with. He should never have written the book, never mind called our Roy to task in the manner in which he did.
All of which should make for a very interesting press conference if and when Fergie accepts the invitation from Jimmy Harte and his colleagues to visit our political chambers and accept their honor. That’ll sell a few newspapers for us lot and maybe even a few more books for Fergie!
By the way, Jimmy told me a fascinating story that night about a Donegal man from the village of Kerrykeel called Billy Gillespie who left the north east for English football in the early 1900s and went to become a great for Ireland and Sheffield United.
Billy was the first ever Irishman to captain a FA Cup, winning team when the Blades beat Cardiff City at Wembley in 1925. He also played and scored two goals when Ireland beat England for the first time in 1913 and on his international debut at that.
Derry City play in red and white stripes because Billy brought a set of Sheffield United jerseys with him when he became the boss at the Brandywell at the end of his player career.
The good football of Donegal honored Billy when a plaque was unveiled in his honor at Rabs Park in the village earlier this year.
I’m sure Jimmy Harte and his political colleagues will honor Alex Ferguson
just as well in the coming months. And they might get a bit more publicity!
(Cathal Dervan is sports editor of the Irish Sun newspaper in Dublin)Sideline ViewsHURLING:
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