The Game for Anto

“Great moments are born from great opportunity. That’s what you have here tonight boys.”
Herb Brooks in Miracle

Once again the GAA community has shown itself capable of great things, supporting its own, getting behind a cause and supporting one of its own. A few years ago the thought of a GAA match in Ravenhill would have been fanciful nonsense, dismissed, derisory.

Anto Finnegan was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a couple of years ago and determined to do something positive he established his deterMND campaign to do something about it. All those icebucket challenges you saw during the summer? Many were in aid of Motor Neurone Disease. It is incurable but Anto Finnegan has ensured it is not.

The Game for Anto was more than a game for Anto. The St Paul’s man captured the imagination of the public. The Irish News backed the concept from the start and had the brainwave to field their All Star team, a prestige outfit recognised each year for their exploits in Ulster and beyond. They had never fielded before. Many of the guys that played had been opponents of Anto over the years. A few were teammates.

With Casement Park currently undergoing redevelopment, the Ulster Branch of the IRFU agreed to host the event at the Kingspan Stadium, the stadium formerly know as Ravenhill, with proceeds going to the Motor Neurone Disease Association to support research into MND.

That in itself was an important moment for local sport. Much was made of the GAA allowing other sports to be played in Croke Park. It was significant and welcoming that the game was played on Ulster rugby’s home turf.

It shows that for the right reasons sport rises above a lot of the other nonsense in this part of the world. Sometimes it takes the likes of an Anto to come along and show us that. It was a fitting game, played in a good spirit. It was a great moment for local sport. And with it, perhaps there some a great opportunity.


by michael